August 27, 2001
The 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.
I 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.
This 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.
Obviously 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 credulity.
As I pointed out more than a month ago, Ken Clarke has his own dirty secret. As a student, he was a cheerleader for the leading fascist Sir Oswald Moseley. He was also complicit in an exodus of Jewish students, including the former Home Secretary Michael Howard, from his university Conservative association. If you want to talk about fascist infiltration, or even a catastrophic lapse of judgment, here is the elephant in the sitting room. The next leader of the Conservative Party having a fascist past, now that's a story, it makes the inattention to detail of the Iain Duncan-Smith campaign look like an inside page article. However, although certain members of the press showed an initial interest in my article, they decided that it was "old news" – despite the fact that few people have heard of it. So why is the press not touching it? Perhaps that is a story in itself.
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