The memory is clear from the revival of Close the Coalhouse Door. Malcolm was a bit rusty on the exact Alex Glasgow lyrics, but help was at hand:
“— When its ours, Geordie lad, when its ours:
There’ll changes bonny lad, when its ours!”
“— Are you sure we’ll be all right? Is the future really bright?”
” — (Oh, for God’s sake, man) We’ve won this bloody fight!
An its ours, all ours!”
So, on 1st January 1947, the miners of the North-East (and across Britain) sincerely believed nationalisation would change the nature of pit-work. For many it did: the very next year, Malcolm’s Uncle Ernest Copley was leading the stay-down strike to keep open the Waleswood Colliery. That campaign failed. Today the only mine in the South Yorkshire coalfield is Maltby.
The message, as always, remains: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it —
“— When its ours, Geordie lad, when its ours:
Man, the wife’ll be reet glad when its ours!”
“— Tell me Jackie, whats in store? What will she be grateful for?”
” — Why, I’ll stop in bed, wi’ her,
When its ours, all ours!”
You’d find a similar bubble cruelly popped by Malcolm d’Ancona in the Torygraph, as he suggests:
Westminster’s Tory tots must do some growing up
The mutineers are living in a Hogwarts fantasy world – where all it needs to achieve growth is a wave of the magic wand
“The Tory century”
The Conservatives have a do-or-die decision to make before the next general election – and it is not about the identity of their leader. They must decide if, having dominated the 20th century, they are serious about being a party of government in the 21st. They must decide if they want to retain their reputation as the nation’s crisis managers. They must decide if they want to be seen as political grown-ups, or a bunch of overgrown kids using Westminster as a playground.
At this stage of the Parliament, Ed Miliband was expected to be the tribal chief facing a leadership crisis, and the Lib Dems the party answering hard questions about their commitment to office. Yet, in February 2013, it is David Cameron who is being undermined by talk of a leadership contest, and the Conservatives who – in some garrulous cases, anyway – are more deeply preoccupied by internal party intrigue than by the governance of the country.
Well, well: that must make Asquith, Lloyd George, Clem Attlee — not to mention Beveridge and Nye Bevan — all makers of 20th century Britain, equally all natural Tories.
As for being the nation’s crisis managers, there was that 1946 business when Hugh Dalton had to despatch J.M.Keynes to Washington. Or the other one, 1974-9, when Denis Healey was coping with the economic ruins of the Heath administration. Odd how, in the parallel universe populated by the d’Anconas, “clearing up the mess left by the previous government” is persuasive only when it falls from Tory lips.
As for the c-word, we could have a good’un cooking right now, as even the Torygraph‘s James Quinn recognises:
Sterling caught in a quiet crisis
It’s only “quiet” until the screaming starts. That could come along very soon; and — as Quinn glosses George Soros (and even the IMF) — the fault is not longer “the previous government” but:
austerity was the “wrong policy at this time”
Have the Tories lost the plot?
Well, some most definitely have — which is d’Ancona’s beef, following that excellent, if mischievous, Guardian editorial earlier this week
Meanwhile, Andrew Rawnsley takes the argument a step further into the shrubbery — and has something very nasty stirring in there. He emphasises the chasm between Tory myth and Tory reality:
There are few things so forlorn as a cliche that has turned into the opposite of the truth.
Ah, yes, Andrew: the miners of ’47 had just that experience. But, sorry to interrupt, pray continue:
One such is the aphorism of Lord Kilmuir, the Tory grandee, who declared that “loyalty is the secret weapon of the Conservative party”. If you were to tell this to David Cameron, he’d surely laugh. So would all his recent predecessors as Tory leader. It was not even true in Kilmuir’s day as he discovered when he was summarily sacked from the cabinet by Harold Macmillan in the 1962 “Night of the Long Knives”.
The trademark of much Tory history is that the party frequently kills its leaders and its leaders often betray their friends. Ted Heath was toppled by Margaret Thatcher. She was defenestrated and replaced by John Major. That saved the 1992 election for the Conservatives, but the Thatcher regicide injected a virus into the party’s bloodstream that has made life hell for every leader since. His party so tortured Mr Major that he felt compelled to reapply for his job in the “put up or shut up” contest of 1995. They re-elected him and then promptly went back to torturing him. After their 1997 defeat, the Tories went through three leaders in eight years before they arrived at David Cameron. Just half way into his first (and possibly only) term as prime minister, they are at it again. His party swirls with talk of knives being sharpened, signatures on no-confidence letters being collected and assassination plots being hatched.
Much as Malcolm likes and admires Rawnsley, a piece by Peter Franklin for ConHome, over five years ago, ran on remarkably similar lines. Franklin concluded:
I’ll leave you with another cliché, but one that’s as true as it’s ever been:
There’s no ‘I’ in team.
There’s no ‘I’ in loyalty either. Disloyalty, however, is another matter.
For once, Rawnsley isn’t taking us anywhere, and his perceptions are as mundane as Malcolm’s too often are. We can forgive him, however, for fingering the guilty (as the dissident Tories would see it): Cameron himself —
… his unforgivable crime for many of them: not winning a proper Tory victory at the last election, which fuels the growing fear in Conservative ranks that the same will happen next time. Mr Cameron’s enemies within are absolutely correct that this was a big failure, but they are quite wrong when they go on to say it was because he did not offer enough right wing meat to the voters. The party tried that in 2001 and 2005. In 2001, after four years of Labour government, the Tories made a net gain of just one seat. In 2005, after eight years of Labour and the Iraq war, the Tories made a net gain of less than 1% in the share of vote. There has been some fascinating analysis of voters who thought about voting Conservative in 2010 but in the end didn’t. The conclusion from these studies is that swing voters were unpersuaded by the Tories not because they were insufficiently right wing, but because they were not detoxified enough. Mr Cameron is now paying the price for that.
The “detoxification” cliché
Rawnsley doesn’t need to spell it in full. The poison in the Tory blood will be evident again next week.
We learn — depending on your source — that 130 or even 180 Tories will vote against the gay marriage bill. That’s more than half the non-payroll vote, even half the parliamentary party.
To what end?
The bill will pass. Nobody outside a small group of the politically-committed will notice the passing. Tim Montgomerie gets that one:
There’s lots of nonsense emanating from certain pollsters, notably ComRes, about gay marriage having a disastrous impact on Tory fortunes. YouGov’s Joe Twyman has Tweeted an important link which shows that the effect might well be negative in the short-term but that – AT WORST – it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%…
Joe’s numbers don’t account for the generational issue. Younger voters really cannot understand the opposition to same-sex rights. The Conservative Party rebels on gay marriage are putting themselves on the wrong side of history.
As of now, the ConHome comments on that article run to some two gross: far too many are defiantly, aggressively the wrong side of the generational issue and the wrong side of history. Yes, many of those can be dismissed as the usual rants from UKIPpers and (by the sniff of it) escapees from the local tin tabernacle.
Then the mainstream Tory press is reporting a new grassroots campaign, and here things may be a bit more serious. Despite protestations:
… along with many faithful, local Conservatives, we have become increasingly concerned at the policy direction of the Party and the apparent rejection of cherished Conservative principles.
This appears, for now, to be a single-issue campaign:
We are particularly disappointed at the manner in which the leadership is seeking to push through the redefinition of marriage, squeezing out the debate, scrutiny and accountability that Conservatives so value. Yet we fear that this experience is symptomatic of a wider problem – of a leadership that is out of touch with its grassroots.
This campaign is mighty mysterious: no address, a mobile ‘phone number and contact only via an anonymous web-site. But that’s how guerrilla warriors work. A cynic might wonder if this is another front of that dubious Coalition for Marriage, or, if not, why a parallel fifth column was required.
No, Mr Cameron, your future is none too bright. Is it?