Malcolm would have to admit Mark Pack came as close as anyone yet to defining why UKIP causes cringing:
Some of UKIP’s support comes from places the Liberal Democrat should leave well alone — especially those yearning for a 1950s-style society of white men at work, white women at home and gays in the closet.
Why only LibDems, Mark? And why only Some of UKIP’s support?
An agenda for retrogression
Meanwhile, there are the opening four paragraphs of Tim Montgomerie’s piece in this Monday’s Times [£]. These provide as good a check-list of the present Tory malaise as you’ll find; so let’s rip them from behind the pay-wall:
Spend most of your time as Tory leader ignoring the issue that matters most to your activist members: Europe. Launch your bid to be leader by promising to introduce a tax allowance for married couples and then, once you’ve won power, fail to deliver that pledge at four successive Budgets. Tell parents that they can set up any school they want as long as it’s not the one they most want, a grammar school.Stop Gordon Brown holding a honeymoon election in 2007 by promising to abolish inheritance tax but then put it up in office. Spend the general election campaign talking about an issue that no one understands — the Big Society — and don’t talk about immigration, an issue that three-quarters of voters do care about. Subsidise expensive renewable energies at a time when families are struggling to pay their electricity bills.
Form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats even though 80 per cent of your members want you to lead a minority government. Promise not to reorganise the NHS, then reorganise it anyway. Oppose press regulation but then embrace it. Keep pledging to tackle European human rights laws but do nothing when Abu Qatada proves again and again that Britain is run by inventive lawyers rather than democratically-drafted laws.
Insist that you want to reach out to northern and poorer parts of Britain but stuff your Downing Street operation with southern chums who attended the same elite private schools as you. And, just for good measure, insult people who normally vote for your party as clowns, fruitcakes and closet racists.
There are six policy-points there, and counting, that Malcolm, as most decent types (probably including Mark Pack) must find close to abominable; but we’re not Tories, and we’re not seduced by Farage’s forked tongue to bite his rotten apple.
Even so, as Clegg was so emphatic that Europe was his main reason for urging Gordon Brown not to resign, to allow more time to knock sense into the Tories, we might reasonably ask: “How well is that one going, Nick?”
The light of evening, 11th May 2010
No election is a “good one to lose”; but that last one came close.
Any incoming administration was going to have to spatchcock a programme out of nowhere. Alistair Darling had already gone a fair distance in sketching one out. That Gids Osborne, not Darling, was the recipient of the poisoned chalice will tax future historians in finding enough ordure to chuck.
Instead we got Alec Issigonis’ (attrib) horse is a camel designed by a committee. The committee being the now-infamous “quad” of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, and Alexander. Read that as an interior decorator’s otherwise-unemployable son, an EU apparatchik, a huckster for a Scottish ski-lift, presided over by the:
PR man for Carlton, the world’s worst television company. And a poisonous, slippery individual he was, too.
No! No! Who was spawned was even more hideous! The ConDem creature came straight out of Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein:
The Monster: For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself.
What could possibly dissuade us from confidently predicting a quick ride to Hell in a handcart? Who could doubt there was something even more horrible and unprincipled waiting in the wings, stage right?
And then all our fears were doubly underlined: it was going to be gothic Dickensian as well:
- Veneerings in 10 Downing Street: bran-new people in a bran-new house in a bran-new quarter of London.
- Thomas Gradgrind for education minister: A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over.
- Josiah Bounderby slashing-and-burning what was left of local government: A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of humility.
- Culture courtesy of the Dodger: as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; … all the airs and manners of a man. … He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.
- Health in the claws of Quilp: … his complexion was one of that kind which never looks clean or wholesome. But what added most to the grotesque expression of his face was a ghastly smile, which, appearing to be the mere result of habit and to have no connection with any mirthful or complacent feeling.
- Bumble the Beadle for welfare:
Oh yes, this is looking distinctly due for disaster.
Let’s change the literary media and revert to Young Frankenstein for Gids Frankenstein’s economic experiment on the British body politic:
[after failing to bring the creature to life] Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Nothing.
Inga: Oh, Doctor, I’m sorry.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No. No. Be of good cheer. If science teaches us anything, it teaches us to accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace. [starts beating up the creature] Son of a bitch! Bastard! I’ll get you for this! What did you do to me? What did you do to me?
Laugh and the world laughs with you
At least one is allowed to laugh at, and with Mel Brooks. The imperial and imperious Cameroonie ukase has gone out that UKIP are no longer “clowns”. Well, respectable thesps do tend to look down on lesser theatrical species.
And that is a shame.
For, if there is anything more ludicrous than the pantomime camel that rules us, it is the troupe of performing Kippers.
What other “party” has been so prone to splits and harbouring frauds? How many kipper MEPs have cast themselves adrift, unable to stomach any longer the overweening pump and pomp of Farage?
And, what — may we ask — are kipper policies? The next mile-stones are the EU-elections (in which the kippers expect to do well) and the Scottish referendum (on which they might be expected to have an opinion). Try the Scottish UKIP websites and you find:
The requested URL /scotland was not found on this server.
UKIP have a “Scottish chairman”. He is one Mike Scott-Hayward, a former Tory councillor … a former army major and ex-coastguard officer. And then we have the amazing political-chameleon,
UKIP’s first Scottish spokesman is Mike Haseler, an energy sector researcher from East Dunbartonshire. He was a Liberal Democrat candidate in Watford in the 1990s and stood for the Greens for the Holyrood elections in 2003.
Haseler has a blog, which explains what a well-rounded specimen he is: a self-proclaimed expert in physics, electronics and some philosophy, studying archaeology, learned Danish to understand the competition, worked in the wind industry (surely, a given for a politico) but is now a climate-change doubter. According to his blog, he joined UKIP as long ago as March, 2013. A “March violet“, indeed. Yet, a person of outstanding merit, to have risen so quickly from aspirant member to “first Scottish spokesman”.
As for “policy”, the aim seems to be to render Scotland into an administered colony:
Although UKIP wants to scrap MSPs, it says it would hold on to the Scottish Parliament, with MPs handling affairs on their doorstep three days a week and UK matters at Westminster the other two.
Presumably, some Tory presence would be required in Edinburgh were there ever to be a Tory government in Westminster. So we can confidently expect the Dáil Éireann solution of a nominated “taoiseach’s eleven” to keep the natives in order.
Slugging it out
Much of this came together in Malcolm’s recent recollection of Julian Critchley.
Critchley was a close buddy of Michael Heseltine, a dandy, a bon-viveur, a man-about-town, possessed of considerable wit, a sharp pen and a waspish tongue. As the Tory MP for Rochester between 1959-64, then retreaded for Aldershot for 1970-1997, that absence cost him promotion in the interim. He was a “country member” of the Westminster club, commuting for whipped votes from Ludlow. He was , by any contemporary standard, wringing”wet”, as the Guardian obituary summed him —
a liberal Tory, supporting one-nation social policies, membership of the European Community, and a defence policy based on Nato and a nuclear strategy. He would have been a natural and able young ally for Edward Heath, campaigning for him against the Conservative right, which was increasingly hostile to the Rome Treaty and current levels of public spending.
Everything that the present Tory tendency is not.
His saving grace was as a gad-fly to whom Thatcher never took (and whom he mocked disgracefully — it was he, not as frequently-cited Denis Healey, who stuck on her the moniker, “the Great She-Elephant”). As a result the ministerial team was denied one of the brighter sparks in sight.
Malcolm’s reason for this memory is that Critchley deplored the dumbing-down of the Tory Party, and the arrival of the “garagistes” (we stand correction on that spelling, though we can be sure Critchley would have made it as effete as possible). The “garagistes” were the golf-club nineteenth-holers, the wide boys, the “Essex men” who came to infest the Tory Party under Thatcher.
So, three decades on, and the change of a single initial letter F for g, we are fulfilling his prophecy, with Nigel of the cheesy grin and the ever-ready pint, as the apotheosis of all things garagiste.