October 19, 2003


Tory fears as IDS probe widens its net: Investigation will dig deeper into funding of opposition office (James Cusick, 10/19/03, Sunday Herald)

The parliamentary investigation into allegations that Iain Duncan Smith’s wife was paid a salary from public funds for work she did not do, will now dig far deeper into the overall financial running of the Tory leader’s office than initially expected.
With IDS’s hold on the leadership already suffering from a widespread whispering campaign to unseat him, loyalists fear the wider inquiry only offers the prospect of further damage being inflicted on the Tory party itself.

Sir Philip Mawer, the parliamentary standards commissioner, has begun looking at the running costs of the opposition office – including the roles, functions and expenses of all key staff – in order to discover precisely what work was done by Betsy Duncan Smith as his diary secretary following her husband’s jump from back-bencher to Tory leader. [...]

The inquiry – which was initiated after a dossier of evidence on IDS’s office was handed to Sir Philip last week by the BBC journalist, Michael Crick – appears to have left dissident Tory MPs in a mood of temporary retreat.

Last week, it was widely expected that “substantially more than 25” Tory MPs would mount a formal challenge to Duncan Smith.

Many are now hoping that would no longer be necessary as even a mildly critical report from Sir Philip will be enough to leave IDS wounded and with little option but to resign.

As one supporter of IDS said: “The plotters, these cowards, are clearly hoping Sir Philip does their work for them. We shall have to wait and see.”

At least it gets the BBC back on Labour's good side.

Can anyone save the Tory party?: They admit their great days are past, that even Disraeli and Churchill couldn’t run them now. James Cusick, Westminster Editor, asks if the Tories can ever recover (James Cusick, 10/19/03, Sunday Herald)

Relegated to being not one of the great parties of today, but simply “one of the great political parties of history” ... this was the sad lament for the Conservative Party delivered last week by the former Tory leader and prime minister John Major. “Heartbroken” at the current state of his party, and almost reaching for the Kleenex, Major said that unless it stopped its internal feuds it would be condemned to the electoral wilderness.
At the end of the 19th century, Benjamin Disraeli, fearing much the same outcome as Major, put his case more succinctly. Disraeli told a feuding Tory friend: “Damn your principles. Stick to your party.”

Actually, what the Tories need now is the opposite advice: Damn the Party. Return to principles! It has been obvious for almost fifteen years now--since Margaret Thatcher was tossed over--if not more, that the future of Britain's conservative movement lies in three things: re-privatization of the State; traditional morality; and defense of British sovereignty against Europeanists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2003 11:11 AM

In other words, actually being a conservative party.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2003 12:46 PM

Labour's managed to adopt enough of the Conservative's policies to virtually qualify as a centre-right party the public is willing to keep in office although there's rising dissatsfaction about rising taxes and the party failing to deliver on all their high-blown promises regarding improvements in transport, schools, hospitals etc.

This current probe into IDS is something of a joke since loads of MPs have their wives on the payroll. The thing is he's widely regarded by the other Tory MPs as being ineffective, uncharasmatic and unlikely to win an election unless Tony Blair is found dead-drunk in bed with an underage rent-boy. Most of the major donors dislike him too and since the party's almost bankrupt I can't see him lasting long.

I can't say I'd be too displeased to see him go since the man's virtually the Pentagon's European goodwill ambassador and doesn't have anything special about him at all besides which he's shown an appalling tendency for doing and saying the wrong thing.

As for traditional morality, social conservatism is pretty dead around here so that's a non-starter. Labour's already proceeding with as much privatisation it can get away with and Blair knows the public won't stomach further integration into Europe so he's not pushing that either.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 19, 2003 1:36 PM

I may have said this here before, but I think the Tories could have a winning issue if they adopted what might be called a "Tony Martin plank" in their platform: make self-defense legal again, forbid criminals from suing for injuries sustained while committing crimes, etc.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 19, 2003 2:31 PM

It wouldn't hurt but the public is far more interested in seeing paedophiles get tough punishment which the government is already doing.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 19, 2003 2:51 PM

But as soon as Blair is gone the party will revert to form. The Tories need to re-establish themselves as a party of the Right, one based on ideas, so they're ready when that happens. There's nothing sillier than a British Party relying on the personality of its leader--what do you do without a Disraeli or a Churchill?

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2003 3:26 PM