Don’t look now Dave and Damian – but your crew is mutinying
Published: 12:18 BST, 28 August 2012 | Updated: 19:04 BST, 28 August 2012
Damian Green, Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
Apart from the Essex Lion, one of the more bizarre silly season stories I heard over the Bank Holiday Weekend was the tale of the Australian billionaire who wants to build an exact replica of the Titanic – the super liner whose short life ended so tragically on its maiden voyage a century ago.
Half-listening to this on the radio in an early morning state of slumber, I thought at first that the reporter was filing a state-of-play feature on how David Cameron’s grand plans to re-make the Conservative party in his own image were going. But even after I awoke to the truth of the matter, it still struck me that Titanic II was an apt metaphor for where the Tories are heading under Captain Cameron’s leadership.
For the maiden voyage of the Captain’s Coalition, a joint venture undertaken with his co-skipper, Captain ‘Calamity’ Clegg, is steering straight for the iceberg – and his crew have started to notice, realising that unless it changes course very soon the Tory Titanic will meet with disaster.
Discontent on a whole host of issues – from the fumbling over the Green Belt, Heathrow expansion, and rail fares and franchises, to Lords reform, electoral boundary changes, the decimation of our armed forces and the arrogant interference of the European Court in our affairs – is crystallising, and when politics resumes next month, the autumn promises to be as torrid for the Government as the troubled months since Osborne’s bungled Budget have been – if not worse.
Above all, it is the over-arching issue of Europe that worries the restless Tory crew, and those concerns must have been redoubled by the Survation/ Mail on Sunday poll this weekend which showed that the ever growing UKIP (on 12%) had overtaken the Tories’ Coalition partners, the Lib Dems (on 10%).
Signs of the gathering mutiny below decks must have penetrated even Cameron’s iron-plated yet totally misplaced self-confidence, for he has sent one of the pettiest of his Petty Officers down from the Bridge to give the mutinous crew a stern talking to. Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, a notably obscure and inept member of a team in any case woefully deficient in political talent – (How’s that pledge to cut Immigration going, Damian?) – was the hapless choice of No.10 to tell Tories aghast at their party’s decline under Dave that it was all their fault. They, not the leadership, were out of step with the times.
Immigration Minister Damian Green during a visit to Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport. The opening of terminal 5 was controversial, but the idea of a third runway has got many groups up in arms
I knew that Green’s plea was a Downing Street plant when I heard the BBC news bulletin bigging it up. BBC news would only feature a newspaper article by a Tory if it contained an attack on the ‘Right’, and Green was happy to oblige. In a piece notable, despite its brevity, for mystifying incoherence, he prayed in aid for his dripping wet Leftism the unlikely figure of Sir Keith Joseph, the bone-dry Guru of Thatcherism before even Mrs Thatcher herself discovered it.
But the main burden of Green’s song was that Tories should pass what he ludicrously called the ‘Danny Boyle test’, though why sucking up to the left-wing film director architect of the spectacular Olympic opening ceremony, – with its distinctly Marxist take on British history – should be a Tory duty was not made clear. I wondered where I had heard Green’s whine that ‘If we don’t like modern Britain then it is very unlikely that modern Britain will like us’ before – then it all came back to me.
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In his frantic hurry to prepare his piece, Damian Green had plucked from the files an old speech from circa 1998, one made by Michael Portillo, erstwhile darling of the Tory Right turned pouting poster boy of the Tory Left; or possibly by Francis ‘Flipping’ Maude, Portillo’s former leadership campaign manager; or maybe by Green’s current chief, Home Secretary Theresa May, in her self-hating ‘Tories are the nasty party’ phase. Or possibly by Dave himself. Then, after changing a few names, Damian rushed into print.
In other words, Green was firing a shot from an old battle long since fought. Telling Tories to stop being Tories and abandon their old-fashioned ‘Right-wing’ values and verities of patriotism, the family, a stable society, decency, rewards for enterprise and punishment for crime; and embrace the right-on, anything goes, brainless Nihilism of Blair, was the trope of the booming early Noughties in the wake of New Labour’s 1997 Labour landslide, and before Cameron took over a party shell-shocked by three election defeats in 2005.
Sorry, Damian, but your old song can’t be sung any more in this time of bust. Why should Conservatives ‘like’ a modern Britain in ever deepening debt, stripped of its defences, awash with illegal immigrants – that it should be your job to keep out or kick out, – and dancing towards disaster to the tune of your real boss : the European Union? Away from your Metropolitan fantasies, Britain has changed alright, but for the worse – and it is the task of true Tories not to embrace the mess, but to put it right, which requires the sort of leadership that you and your Cameroon clique are utterly unable to provide.
It’s no wonder that Tory MPs, with UKIP, not the Lib Dems, breathing down their necks, are mutinying; no wonder that party membership is crashing; no wonder that betrayed voters are staying at home in droves: there was a time when they looked to you to save them, but you have only led them deeper into the mire.
They want no more condescending lectures from your ilk. Desperately needed political change will come, not from those who ‘like’ modern Britain, but from those who dislike almost everything that you and your colleagues at Westminster have done with their beloved country, and who have had more than enough.