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Home > Politics

Ding Dong! The Witch Won't

1 September 2006

Our early morning routine is a simple one. We fall out of bed, stagger downstairs, still in the previous day's underwear, switch on the portable TV in the kitchen, key page 101 into Ceefax and slump our shoulders with disappointment. For the last 15 years, tweaking the aerial for any semblance of decent reception, we find that Margaret Thatcher is still alive. There was, to be sure, a brief moment of excitement in 2003, when charming, bumbling, exceedingly rich Denis, 1st Baronet Thatcher carked it, but it appears that the Mother of a Thousand Dead is in no hurry to join him. These Illuminati shape-shifting lizards can go on for decades, we fear.

If we didn't know better, we'd think Conservative Party leader David Cameron spends his mornings exactly the same way, the words "Hurry up and die you old trout!" rattling the family wind turbine off its mount.

There is a dawning realisation in the younger echelons of the Conservative Party that as long as the organisation remains tied to the blessed Margaret's apron strings it will remain unelectable. In fact, this has been a particularly long dawn, drawn out over years as the stuffed suits of the 1980s simply refused to go away by dying, or going senile in some of Britain's dustiest boardrooms. Some of this Old Guard have even had the audacity to stand against the young, thrusting Cameron in the 2005 Conservative leadership election, not realising that yoot is the way of the future, and pinstripes are *so* last decade.

If only they'd just *shut up*, they say, casting envious glances toward New Labour.

As it happens, Cameron is clearly trying to build New Tory based upon the thrusting empire built by his arch-nemesis, Yo Blair. The Liberal Democrats, spectacularly losing the plot, accidentally ended up with Ming in the vain hope of attracting the pensioner vote. They're in for a shock: the last three elections have swung on whoever Daniel O'Donnell told his blue-rinsed hordes to vote for. And we ask you: have you ever seen Cameron and the Irish crooner in the same room together? QED, and we'd advise you to put your mortgage on the blue horse at the next election.

Putting the entire future of our nation on the back burner for now, we find David Cameron testing the water in denying the party's past with open criticism of the Leaderene. In his recent meeting with Nelson Mandela, he apologised for Thatcher's policy of opposing sanctions on the Apartheid-era regime in South Africa over SA policy, stating that she was wrong to brand the ANC 'terrorists'.

This has, as you might expect, brought out all the old duffers... err... statesmen to defend the past. 'I wonder if David Cameron is a Conservative' blustered Thatcher's former press secretary Bernard Ingham, owner of a superb set of eyebrows weaved from the back-hair of Argentinean prisoners of war. While Norman Tebbit, adjusting his blue-tinted glasses, is of the opinion that Thatcher's support of the Apartheid-era government in South Africa brought about 'a peaceful transition of power'. Try telling that to the victims of township violence, Norman, we ain't buying it.

With Cameron openly criticising Thatcher over foreign policy and attempting to turn the party into one more focused on social issues, New Tory is teetering ever closer to becoming a New Labour clone, with only the personalities - or lack thereof - of their leaders giving any clue to potential voters.

Are we seeing a conscious attempt to cut ties with the party's past and disown the old witch? Cameron is already looking to re-brand the party by losing the old-style blue torch in favour of something more touchy-feely, like a sturdy none-more-British oak tree. Green, powerful, British, and most important of all, British. Some Shadow Cabinet ministers are wary, as the party's core is still very much based around the Upper-Middle of Thatcher's classless society, and alienating them might drive them into doing something stupid, like joining UKIP, or worse, New Right-Wing Labour.

British Conservatism finds itself at a crossroads. They made the difficult decision to allow a younger generation run the party (so Hague wasn't exactly old physically, but he was living in a happy little 1950s world inside his head), but now the old heads realise just how much Cameron intends to change the party, and some aren't best pleased. The very nature of conservative ideology is not to alter the status quo, so it is little wonder that some are finding the culture of change all little, well, wanky.

Cameron's toughest battle may actually come before the next election: the fight against his own party.

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

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