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Home > Politics

Michael Howard: the dawn of a new era?

Michael Howard, dark agent of the night, has swooped down from the rafters to rescue the Tory Party.

30 October 2003

Answer: No.

"[Norman] Tebbit impresses only by comparison, like a sausage in a sewer full of turds."

- Simon Hoggart

Itís official! Michael Howard is the saviour of the Tory party. His tough debating skills, honed by years as a barrister, will really give Tony Blair something to worry about. His hardline views will play well with both the right of the party and
constituency members. And if backbenchers disagree with him, he can always suck their blood out or turn into a scary mist.

Thereís only one problem with this exciting new development in reactionary politics: who gives a toss?

The cosy world of Westminster and its attendant media are often accused of being as far removed from the general public as Dawsonís Creek is from not making you want to end the characters' cloying psychobabble with a large axe. And this week this accusation proved well-founded: itís been Howard overload. Much like Dracula, there hasn't been any escape from him. Howard on TV, Howard in the paper - we've been half expecting to lift the toilet lid and be confronted with Howard's smarmy 'imbecile vampire' grin.

But a sizeable chunk of the population, if not the majority, just don't care whether Howard is leader or not. Heís better than IDS, but not much. Whoís the best, Little and Large or Cannon and Ball? Peter Sutcliffe or Fred West? Trinny or Suzannah? Howard is a right-wing cunt, but then again, so was IDS. And, quite often, so is Tony Blair. Itís not exactly the last word in consumer choice.

"We must respond to the urgent need for reform of our public services," sayeth Howard, in just one of many bits of liberal-sounding cant that conceal the usual Tory preoccupations: lower tax, an 'increased role' for the private sector and sideswipes at state education.

Nice to know itís business as usual.

Click here to read various first-hand opions of Howard, gathered by the Guardian. Including this one from Stephen Tumim, chief inspector of prisons (1987-1995):

"Of the five home secretaries I worked with, I thought he was the most illiberal, which is very dangerous as far as the home secretary is concerned. The phrase 'prison works' [which Howard coined] depends on what you do with the prison. I don't regard him as a wicked man; I'm simply saying [Home Secretary] was the wrong appointment for him. If you made a suggestion to him he would say 'no votes in that'."

And here's a nice grab from the famous Paxman-Howard interview - just to remind yourself. 14 questions, 14 evasions.

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

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