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Home > Politics

Who'd be a Tory?

Part 32 of a 695 part series.

10 October 2003

Every parliamentary political party has traditionally had problems with its grassroots members. Not so long ago, modernisers in the Labour party were dogged by Militant*, old-skool trade unionists and the mainly fictitious 'loony left'. Similarly the parliamentary Lib Dems have always had a problem with their actual members, among whom thereís a significant contingent of barmy hardline Greens and legalise cannabis buffs.

*Bawdy Derek Hatton joke: Q: Why is Derek Hatton like a circumcised penis? A: Because thereís no end to the prick.

Perhaps of all the parties, the Conservatives have had the most painless relationship with the grassroots members. Thatcher was an incredibly popular leader, and it probably wasn't until the last days of Major that the grass roots really started losing faith, thanks to 'sleaze', feeble leadership, back-stabbing and Europe.

But perhaps more divisive is the yawning chasm between what the current, modernising Tory leadership is saying and what the ordinary members are thinking. This gap was on public display this week at the Tory conference, and was horribly entertaining to watch:

LEADERSHIP (Iain Duncan Smith): We are going to win the next election, I promise you.

GRASSROOTS: Not with you in charge, matey.

LEADERSHIP (Theresa May): The party should welcome all Britons for who they are, whether "straight or gay, black or white."

GRASSROOTS: Then put the gays in concentration camps and the blacks in prison.

LEADERSHIP (Theresa again): The party must be seen as a "party of today."

GRASSROOTS: Thatís one way of looking at it. Alternatively we could invent a time machine and go back to the 1950s. You didn't have these paedo-wotsits then, because MARRIAGE WAS FOR LIFE! And you could go to the pictures, get a fish and chip supper and still have change from a haípenny!

LEADERSHIP (Ken Clarke): Public borrowing has to be brought under control before we can cut tax.

GRASSROOTS: Tax? All they spend it on is leftie teachers forcing children to become homo-lesbians!

LEADERSHIP (Theresa May): The issues that really matter to voters are "public services and how we can deliver the improvements in public services."

GRASSROOTS: Iíll stick to my car and BUPA, thank you.

LEADERSHIP (IDS): We are the alternative and we are heading for government.

GRASSROOTS: Not unless you promise weíll never, ever have anything to do with the filthy French. And all the rest of the crooks in Brussels. Iíll tell you who had the right idea about continental Europe: Bomber Harris.

The truth is, they won't ever really be happy until they see their man take his rightful place at the helm of the party.

John Redwood.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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