October 7, 2005


The Conservative Party conference: a report (David Pryce-Jones, 10/04/05, Arma Virumque)

In the wings of the Winter Garden, in the nearby Imperial Hotel where people are staying, are all manner of talks, cocktail parties, receptions, and fugitive occasions for lobbying and spinning. As in some nineteenth century melodrama, figures long gone reappear like ghosts – for instance Michael Heseltine, the man who engineered the downfall of Margaret Thatcher and is more responsible than anyone else for the death-bed scene around him. A passionate Euro-enthusiast, he is present to support Kenneth Clarke, his adjutant in the Thatcher fiasco, and who has spent the last twenty or so years advising Britain to join the euro and accept whatever the European Union wants, or face all the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Without missing a beat, certainly without any explanation of why the fearfully predicted horsemen of the apocalypse aren’t actually galloping through this reasonably prosperous and euro-free land, Clarke asks everyone to believe that this whole issue has gone into abeyance, at least for the next ten years when he likes to project himself as prime minister. Clarke is visibly obese and proverbially lazy – he boasted that in office he had not bothered to read the Maastricht Treaty which clamped the European Union into its present form – but he has nonetheless managed the fastest turn on a dime seen in recent British politics. His justification is that he prefers power to principle, and the cynicism and opportunism of it may very well sink him.

The one candidate already certain to go forward to the membership vote is David Davis, who needs only one more member of parliament to declare for him (although some who have declared might wobble and rescind). In his late fifties, fit and fighting, he stands for an independent Britain, a smaller state, lower taxes, family values - in short he is a classic Tory.

The Conservative Party conference: a report, Part II (David Pryce-Jones, 10/05/05, Arma Virumque)
Now the Conservatives are a Party dubious about the supposed glories of the European Union, poised to bid Brussels the fondest of farewells. Throughout his career, Clarke has proclaimed that salvation lies in the EU, and suddenly lo and behold, in a speech making his pitch to be prime minister in waiting, he has nothing to say on the subject. Not a single word. Once the standing ovation stopped, surmise set in. If really he were Party leader, he would be hard put to reconcile his views with almost everyone else’s. The likelihood is a split, perhaps a realignment of Clarkites with the Liberal Democrats, and a parody would follow of the stalemate currently obtaining in Germany. The Tories can save themselves, but they may also head for outer darkness.

The Conservative Party conference: a report, Part III (David Pryce-Jones, 10/06/05, Arma Virumque)
So there it is – the 198 Conservative members of parliament are to meet in Westminster on October 18 to choose two names to go forward for the wider ballot of all Party members. All sorts of considerations are in play – age and experience versus youth and experiment, the relationship with Europe and the United States, the Iraq war and much else. The candidates all pay lip-service to the idea of modernization, and the first person able to define what this might mean by way of specifics could at last be speaking for the nation. In a final speech, the outgoing leader Michael Howard implored everyone to unite. Listening to the repeated and lugubrious exhortations of this conference to change and to unite, the words “quoth the raven, Nevermore” came to mind, and alas, couldn’t quite be driven out again.

It's not a classic Tory party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2005 6:18 PM

Poe pitiful me?

Posted by: ghostcat at October 7, 2005 6:57 PM