August 27, 2001
They Really the Stupid Party?
Will the Conservatives really sacrifice principle
for power? Stupid question.
FORMALITY OF THE VOTE
bookmakers have already decided. The next Conservative leader will
be Iain Duncan-Smith, not Ken Clarke. The right is already jubilant.
Their man is going to win. They seem to have forgotten that there
is the formality of a vote coming up. And there may be a surprise.
do not feel particularly pleased to predict a Clarke victory. I
hope I am wrong, and God knows I have been before. Iain Duncan-Smith
may be an American lap dog, but Ken Clarke as recently as 1994 said
that his happiest day would be when Parliament becomes a council
chamber of Europe. When worrying about quaint ideas such as independence
and democracy you obviously have to look at the most pressing threat,
and that threat is Europe. A Clarke victory would be a big, if not
fatal, blow to the Eurosceptic movement.
is not in the script. According to most of the media, Iain Duncan-Smith
is sweeping the Conservative activists before him. And he is. In
one notable (self-selecting) poll
in the Daily Telegraph, Iain Duncan-Smith got an astounding
80% of the vote – a third of his voters said they would leave the
party if the hard-core federalist Ken Clarke won. It is true that
the activists are behind Duncan-Smith. However, there is a deeper
Conservative Party; one that many activists seem only aware of during
the dues collections in January. Most of the voting membership pay
their dues for the year and do nothing more. This annual donation
is their whole involvement in the process, and they have never heard
of Iain Duncan-Smith.
some people are worried about Iain Duncan-Smith. In a classic sting
operation, the fascist British National Party (BNP) got one of their
supporters, the father of the BNP's leader Nick Griffin no less,
to insinuate himself on to the Duncan-Smith campaign. While this
shows how badly organised the campaign is, it also shows that there
is seen to be something worth wrecking. This has been tried before.
The BNP are now trying hard for respectability, portraying themselves
as "Euro-nationalists" and a "radical working class
alternative." No mention of jackboots there. The central part
of this campaign is to move into the territory of the respectable
right, opposed to high taxes, gay rights and Europe. This plan will
be stymied if the Conservatives stay on the right, with a leader
who if nothing else is certainly not of the left. This tactic was
tried a couple of years ago, against the then-rising UK Independence
Party (UKIP), which campaigned against the European Union on a non-racist
platform. The BNP infiltrated
Michael Deavin, a sometime academic who was at the time described
as "Nick Griffin's number two," into UKIP. The mistake
was to boast about this cunning plan to undercover reporters for
the left-wing authoritarian magazine "Searchlight." To
UKIP's credit, the man was expelled – although photographs of Deavin
meeting with prominent UKIP officeholders were later taken. That
the "professionals" in Iain Duncan-Smith's campaign should
fail to spot this, or that the press should not see the similarity
is not a surprise when our political classes need the memory of
a goldfish to stay sane. Maybe it will even work, as the BNP nudges
slightly closer to respectability and creates a vacuum on the respectable
right. However, to ignore another fascist association seems to stretch