There is perhaps no more urgent a task for the Conservative Party in the present era than that of renewing democracy – to revive its foundational raison d’être; to resurrect its national framework of membership; and to reform its mode of engagement with party members. A political party that is immune to policy progression and insensitive to the beliefs of its core support-base ceases to be a movement for renewal: indeed, it rapidly becomes a fading testimony to past triumphs and a decaying monument to ancient glories. Reformation leads to enlightenment and revival – in politics as well as theology. Continue reading →
“He has not apologised to Howard Flight or to Arundel and South Downs. For that matter, he has never apologised to Boris Johnson over Liverpool, to Danny Kruger over Sedgefield, or Adrian Hilton, in Slough” wrote William Rees-Mogg of Michael Howard in The Times following the 2005 General Election, just after the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat had spilt rather a lot of blood after a tyrannical sacking spree.
You may recall that Boris had accused Liverpudlians of wallowing in their ‘victim status’ following the murder of Ken Bigley. Danny Kruger had invoked the Schumpterian doctrine of ‘creative destruction’ of the public services. And I’d had the audacity to defend the Protestant Constitution and the Act of Settlement in The Spectator two years before, in articles which had been commissioned by Boris and approved by the then chief whip David Maclean. As a consequence, we were all publicly humiliated, demoted or summarily dispensed with. Continue reading →
Back in 2009, in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal and a profound crisis in the British political system, David Cameron made a speech that electrified the Conservative Party and promised to usher in a revival of democracy. With great rhetorical flourish, he expounded his core conviction like an article of faith:
“I believe the central objective of the new politics we need should be a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power: from the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities; from the EU to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power from the elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.”
It was wonderful Whiggish stuff, which is no real surprise as it echoed (indeed, lifted almost verbatim) the words of self-professed Whig Daniel Hannan MEP and his Roundhead compatriot Douglas Carswell MP, who had co-written just months before: Continue reading →
I have never met Nadine Dorries, but I feel as though I have. She radiates the sort of plain-speaking, unstuffy approachability which is rapidly becoming rather attractive to the disaffected and disillusioned masses – if the Farage Factor is anything to go by. I listened intently to her speeches on abortion 18 months ago – in particular her plea for the utterly common-sense safeguard of separating ‘independent’, NHS-funded counselling from the profit-making abortion providers. I watched with sadness as she was predictably pilloried by the left-liberal media, but I was appalled when she was treated worse by some of her own parliamentary colleagues – simply for having the temerity to inject a little reason into the irrational consensus that constitutes our apparently immutable abortion settlement.
If I’d been in her abused shoes, I might have been tempted to jet off to spend a few weeks with Ant & Dec in the jungle myself, if only out of a preference for piranhas over politicians. Continue reading →
On Thursday of this week, the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe became Dame Ann. It is an honour well-deserved and long-overdue, bestowed in recognition of her remarkable contribution to politics and society, along with decades of tireless work for charity. ‘Dame Ann’ not only sounds good; it adds gravitas to a well-known name which will enhance the profile of her charitable efforts and increase her capacity to raise much-needed funds for the myriad of good causes she champions.
But this damehood was not bestowed by the Queen in Buckingham Palace at the behest of the Prime Minister: it was a papal honour granted after a Mass in Parliament’s Crypt Chapel. Ms Widdecombe is now a Dame of the Order of St Gregory – an honour conferred by Pope Benedict XVI himself and bestowed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor at a ceremony in Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster. Continue reading →
Much has been said and many column inches have been written on David Cameron’s first Cabinet reshuffle. The questions are profound: did it represent a tilt to the right? How many bright young things were promoted? How many women now sit around the table? How many gays? How many black or brown faces? It is as though quotas have supplanted ideas, and power-play were more important than policy.
David Cameron has only 2½ years of his premiership remaining: the reality has dawned that he might be a single-term prime minister, so by this reshuffle he had to send out a few strong messages. When you appoint a climate-sceptic to Environment, a Euro-sceptic to Justice, and an anti-equality homo-sceptic to Equalities, you’re drawing some future battle lines in terms of political direction and the tone of debate, doubtless with an eye on the fractious backbenches. But Owen Paterson, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller will soon find that their hands are tied and briefs meticulously prescribed by our overlords in Brussels: there’s little room for manoeuvre, however it’s spun. Continue reading →
Only the chosen ever attain the level of fame or notoriety which propels them to first-name familiarity with the wider public. I’m not taking about the manufactured pap of celebrity pop – those who are thrust onto the world stage all carefully processed and packaged, like Rihanna, Beyonce and Bjork (though with a surname like Buomundsdottir, I can understand why she dropped it). No, I’m talking about those whose mononymous identity emerges organically, as recognised by the people. In antiquity, one thinks of names like Galileo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dante and Raphael, not to mention Jesus and Mohammed. In modern times, there’s Cliff, Oprah, Vangelis, Diana…
How many politicians rise to such dizzy heights of popularity that the whole country knows them by their first name? Of course, you get ‘Call me Dave’ (Cameron) contempt, or ‘Gideon’ (Osborne) scorn. But mention the name of Boris and eyes dilate with visions of huggable amiability: people glow inwardly at the mere thought of his aura; they are endeared to his eccentricity. Continue reading →
It’s always good to clear out the garage or purge the attic of junk, detritus, bad memories and dead wood. There’s something therapeutically cathartic about rationalising a crowded space and establishing a new order. The only potential hazard is the sort of over-zealous purgation which hastily discards a lifetime of faded boxes you never thought you’d need, only to realise, years later, they actually contained treasures and photographs, yellow with years but utterly unique and irreplaceable. Today’s surplus and dispensable can be tomorrow’s necessary, valued and very much desired.