Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Head vs. Heart

Yesterday I wrote about the unspoken theme behind the Tories "not racist" slogan,and hoped this would backfire. Pleasing to see that the headline in the Guardian today suggesting that it is, and that leading Tories are becoming worried by the tactic.

All parties have their written policies and their instincts. What they put in a manifesto, debate at conferences and put across to the electorate is one thing. What they will actually do when in power and confronted by the pressure of events is something else. Often, trying to make a quick decision in awkward circumstances, with civil servants telling them that their ideas don't or won't work in practice and with newspapers kneejerk headlines pulling them in directions they may not have planned to go, they fall back on their instincts. "Is he one of us?" Mrs. Thatcher used to ask about her colleagues. Everyone knew what she meant. Labour used to have its test of whether someone was a true socialist.

My fear is of Tory instincts. The instincts that led to the introduction of the Poll tax and the privatisation of the railways. The anti-Europe, little-Britain what ever happened to the Empire mindset. The "all foreigners are scroungers and lazy layabouts who only come here to claim social security and when you chuck them out they complain about human rights violations" attitudes that underly the "you know its really quite reasonable to discuss immigration" approach. Howard Flight spoke truly when he told what he thought was a private audience that the Tories had a real agenda about tax cuts but they couldn't talk about it until they were in power. His audience understood perfectly. Michael Howard understood perfectly as well - such things must not be discussed in public full stop. So he sacked the hapless Flight as vice-chairman and then barred him from standing as an MP. But this only illustrates my point. The roots of Toryism run very deep and will keep on springing up no matter what the leadership says. There are plenty of decent people in the Conservative party - can they steer the party on a course fitting its higher ideals?

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