Saturday, May 03, 2008

Will Tory triumphalism be their undoing?

Martin Bright writes on his New Statesman blog:

I was sitting on a panel in the Sky News studios at 2.30am this morning when something horrible flashed up on the giant screen in front of us. Not the tally of lost seats or the projections of what the night's results would mean if reproduced at a general election - though these were bad enough.

No. It was the sight of the Tory leader and Francis Maude enjoying a smugfest at their Millbank headquarters, all specially filmed for Webcameron. And this was just the local elections. Imagine what a general election victory would be like.

And there are plenty examples of such smugness about already. Here are a couple.

Iain Dale has floated the idea of Stanley Johnson succeeding Boris as MP for Henley, and Jonathan Isaby at the Telegraph has enthusiastically taken it up:

The man himself does nothing to suppress the idea.

"Put it this way, I'm still on the candidates' list," the 67-year-old grandfather of eleven and former Conservative MEP has just told me.

"Obviously it would be up to the Henley association as to whether they invite me for interview, but I don't see why I shouldn't put in for it."

Johnson Senior stood in Teignbridge unsuccessfully at the 2005 general election and would be a delightful addition to the House of Commons.

Maybe this is all tongue in cheek, but by-elections where the sitting member has voluntarily walked away from the seat are always difficult for the defending party. (That is why I will believe in Boris's resignation when I see it.) Even in Henley, the idea that Stanley should be the next MP because he is a Sound Chap may not go down well.

And over at the Independent Simon Carr, usually so healthily cynical about all politicians, has come over all floppy and Brideshead about the new Tory leadership:

Some years ago, just before the last general election I was watching Boris performing in the Oxford Union, doing well in his natural habitat.

Later, in the street, among the criminal obesity and facial metal, I couldn't see how Boris could ever appeal to such a world. And I wrote that the Conservative Party didn't have a chance of being elected while Boris was a member of it.

I eat those words, and very nice they taste. Whoever wins in London, the ultimate amateur has made a fantastic breakthrough. It must shatter the world view of Ed Balls and other class warriors that the concept "Tory toff" no longer has the power to move mountains.

It's Gentlemen vs Players, and for good or ill, for the first time in a generation, the Gentlemen are in the game.

We must make allowances: Carr was himself a star of the Oxford Union as a young man and we are all entitled to our personal nostalgia. And the idea that describing someone as a "toff" is enough to dismiss their views is pretty silly. Where would it leave Tony Blair, Nick Clegg or Ed Balls himself?

But come off it, Simon. The idea that the self-important pups of the Oxford Union are too civilised for the rest of us is nonsense. Evelyn Waugh may have gloried in the exploits of the Bullingdon, but he never presented them as moral exemplars.

Nor would anyone who has read Andrew Gimson's biography of him easily describe Boris Johnson as a gentleman. There is something shabby about his act in all senses of the word.

Returning to Stanley, one in the 1970s the Johnson family - boys and girls - all had long blond hair. And Stanley's was the longest and blondest of all. Seen en masse, they resembled the Midwich Cuckoos run to seed.

So Tories beware. Your revival under David Cameron has been based upon at least the appearance of modesty. Much more of this nonsense and the public will remember how much it hates what you really stand for.


Paul Walter said...

Excellent post, Jonathan

Anonymous said...

I don't exactly get this post. The only real triumphalist attitudes I sensed last night (I was outside City Hall) was from bobo pseudo-socialist Labour supporters, snarling "The fascists are back in in London" at the Tory supporters [this was before the list result, after the Mayoral].

I don't get how Stanley Johnson being blond and a bit of a "bluff cove", or Francis Maude understandably being pleased at some good Tory results, translates as triumphalism (which is a very different things).

Anonymous said...

"(That is why I will believe in Boris's resignation when I see it.)"

Perhaps he should follow precedent; Ken waited until the next general election to reign his seat.

Anonymous said...

maybe it's too much of a Conservative in joke for you to appreciate Francis Maude looking pleased. He is famously gloomy about the party's chances of success. It's no wonder someone made sure a smiling Francis Maude was recorded for posterity!

Curmy said...

It makes a change from watching Nu Labour being smug for the past eleven years !

Anonymous said...

Oh for goodness sake - after what Tories have been through since 1994is it surprising that we are celebrating for a few days!

Not to mention the sheer relief of not having to go out canvassing/leafletting etc this weekend. We can enjoy a sunny alfreso Sunday lunch today instead - like 'normal' people.

We will all knuckle down to work now and build on the results of last week. No Tory I know is complacent or triumphalist - just happy and relieved.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Mayoral election isn't using a a proportional representation electoral system. It is a preferential voting system, but that's not the same thing, unless there will be several winners (in the same constituency). The GLA election, on the other hand, is a PR election.

I wonder, if the Liberal Democrats would have done better, if there would only have been the GLA election. The mayoral election polarised voters, and they seem largely not have been sofisticated enough to vote a different party in the GLA election than what they did in the mayoral election.

Anonymous said...

I do see what you mean about the inner circle at the top of the Tory party looking very pleased with themselves.

Funnily enough I don't really include Boris in this. There was a particularly nauseating scene of Cameron and a possy of mainly beautiful young CCHQ workers clapping very demonstratively the Boris result. Funnily enough there was no sign of any other big guns in the scene.

It will all end in tears of course. It always does.

However for now there is a sense of change and hope. There is some smugness too.

However I don't see anyone else really offering anything else so Dave seems destined to fill the vacuum.

I don't think there is great enthusiasm for Dave- it is more a case of him being half decent and everyone else being pretty dire...

Daniel said...

This seems way off-target to me - there has been a conspicuous absence of triumphalism. Look at Boris's speech, or Cameron's immediate admission that it was probably still more a protest vote than a positive endorsement.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder, if the Liberal Democrats would have done better, if there would only have been the GLA election... (the)...voters... seem largely not have been sofisticated enough to vote a different party in the GLA election than what they did in the mayoral election."

What an unlovely mixture of bad spelling, poor grammar and Steve Richards-esque patronisation of the electorate! Maybe, dear fellow, the voters actually didn't WANT to vote Lib Dem rather than being, as you seem to think just too dam' stupid! Has that occurred to you? This attitude is not one that will help the party learn from the London debacle (tip: pick a candidate who, firstly, is a Liberal (Liberals don't vote Left List second preference) and secondly, who is not a grey and characterless pompous ass.

ps and if the Lib Dems were targetting the South West Assembly seat, as has been alleged, speaking as resident, it didn't show at all.

I usually vote the ticket, but really, not this time.