Friday, February 23, 2024

Conservative Extremism

In a recent article in The Guardian -  lamenting the Conservative Party’s drift towards populist extremism, and the ascendancy of Braverman, Patel, and Jenrick – Simon Jenkins wrote: “The Tories were once a party of clubbable middle-class professionals, bonded together by loyalty and competence rather than ideology”. While broadly agreeing with Jenkins, I find this a rather sanitised view of Conservative Party history. I am old enough to remember the Monday Club, a once-influential faction in the party, who supported apartheid South Africa, white rule in what is now Zimbabwe, repatriation of immigrants, and so on. Their role call of members included Duncan Sandys, Julian Amery, Norman Tebbit, Alan Clark, and – scraping the barrel - Neil Hamilton. Then there was Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech in 1967, and, a few years earlier, the election of Peter Griffith in the Smethwick by-election in 1964, campaigning under the slogan: “If you want a nigger as a neighbour vote Liberal or Labour”. The Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, declared Griffith a “parliamentary leper”, but just over a decade later he was re-elected as a Conservative MP as part of the Thatcher intake in 1979 (although perhaps one ought not to be surprised by that). Thatcher, friend of Pinochet, described Nelson Mandela as a “terrorist” and entertained the Afghan mujahadeen commander Abdul Haj at Downing Street in 1984 describing him as a “freedom fighter” (in 1984 he was responsible for a bomb at Kabul airport which killed 27 people, mostly children). If we go further back we can read the diaries of Chips Cannon who, between describing his frequent visits to brothels and assiduous sucking-up to royalty, gushes with praise for Adolf Hitler. It would be wrong to say all Conservative MPs shared these views, but they were certainly widely held. If we go still further back we find the Conservative Party threatening armed rebellion to defeat an Act of Parliament (the third Irish Home Rule Bill). Speaking outside Blenheim Palace the party leader, Bonar Law, said “there was no length of resistance” to which he would not go to defeat the Bill. Leading Conservatives colluded in smuggling arms from Germany into Larne (near Belfast) and in the establishment of a paramilitary organisation (the Ulster Volunteer Force). 

Of course, there were Conservatives who were less unbalanced. The Monday Club’s bete noire was Harold Macmillan, and the occasion for the establishment of the Club was Macmillan’s Winds of Change speech in South Africa. Enoch Powell and Richard Griffith cannot be taken as typical of Conservative MPs. Ken Livingstone was local councillor at the time of the “rivers of blood speech” and so also was John Major; and Livingstone’s recollection is that Major was staunch in his opposition to Powell. The pro-Nazi faction is the Conservative Party was – as Cannon’s diaries shows – virulent in their opposition to Churchill, Eden, and others (although Churchill had earlier enthused about Mussolini). In passing that Churchill was a racist is beyond doubt, the only question being whether he was especially racist for someone of his age and social background, and here the evidence suggests – for example in his attitude to India and his phlegmatic attitude to the Bengal famine (in all fairness shared by Attlee) – that indeed he was. 

But there has always been this extremist element in the Conservative Party.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A new housing boom?

Here is a note of caution from Jeremy warner in today's Telegraph:

According to official estimates this week, more than a quarter of net new job creation in the UK over the past three months has been among estate agents. Britain needs another house-price bubble like a hole in the head, yet with an election to win a year and a half hence, government policy seems hell-bent on creating one.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Liam Fox - both sides have CWs

Liam Fox on The Daily Politics said that both sides in the Syrian conflict possess chemical weapons (Brillo looked a little startled, but didn't follow up).

Earlier this year Carla Del Ponti - a member of the UN Commisssion of Inquiry on Syria -claimed Syrian rebels had used chemical weapons, but this was off-script and she has been side-lined since then.

Was this a slip by Fox?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Theresa May

It is perfectly obvious what the rather odious anti-immigrant campaign ("Are you a foreigner? Fuck off back home or we will arrest you) is all about. May thinks the Tories will lose the next election, Cameron will be toast, and she is bidding for the swivelite vote in the leadership election.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Portillo and the EU referendum

Michael Portillo on BBC's This Week had an interesting take on the EU referendum. He is, of course, a Eurosceptic.He thinks that no Government is likely to take the UK into the Eurozone (or agree to any substantial transfer of powers to the EU) without a referendum; and in any case there is now a legislative "referendum lock". He also thinks a referendum on joining the eurozone would - not just now but in the future - produce a "No" vote. But he thinks that in an in/out referendum on the EU, it is likely that voters would vote to stay in, and then that a future Government (of whatever stripe) would use that as a "green light" for further integration, even joining the Eurozone, without another referendum. As a Eurosceptic he wonders whether the strategy being pursued by Conservative Eurosceptics is wise.

As a pro-European Politaholic thinks a referendum is probably now inevitable. It may not be a bad thing (if it produces a "Yes" vote). This festering xenophobic Eurosceptic boil needs to lanced. And once it is, as Portillo fears, the Eurosceptics won't have a leg to stand on. Risky, for sure; but it may be the way to go.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Personalities in Politics and the Pint Test

It is sometimes said there are no characters - no large personalities - in politics. But there are a few: Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Alex Salmond. And even Nigel Farage seems affable on a personal level. Interesting that with the exception of Boris they are all outside the established parties. Within the main parties it is more or less a personality-free zone. Marina Hyde in The Guardian on Saturday discussed the "pint test". Who would you go for a pint with? Boris, certainly. Ken also. Alex Salmond, yes I think so. Even Farage. But Clegg, Cameron, Miliband? Dear God. Like Marina Hyde "... I would cross continents to avoid taking even a fluid ounce". It wasn't always like that. Politicians of the past (and recent past) who pass the pint test are  John Prescott, Denis Healey (not Tony Benn who, apart from not drinking, has always been a bit too unctuous for my liking). Not Roy Jenkins (too pompous and self-important) or David Owen (ditto). As for Tories that is tougher. Ken Clarke, perhaps. What about PMs who pass the pint test? Can't think of any since 1945 except perhaps MacMillan (not a pint man, I should think) and Wilson. Definitely not Heath. And absolutely not, in any circumstances, Thatcher. I'd rather have my fingernails extracted (her friend Pinochet could have arranged that).

Friday, April 12, 2013

That funeral invitation list....

Terry Wogan
Joan Collins
Jeremy Clarkson
Jim Davidson
Freddy Starr
Bob Monkhouse
Hughie Green
Green Hughie
Augosto Pinochet
Adolf Hitler
Martin Bormann
Jean Marie Le Pen
Jimmy Saville
Spit the Dog
Pierre Poujade
Osama bin Laden
Nick Griffiths
Ian McEwan
Frank Josef Strauss
Kevin Keegan
Nav from the pub
Bernard Manning
Norman Tebbitt
Hadji Abdul Haq
Rupert and James Murdoch
Rebecca Wade/Brooks
Duran Duran
Cliff Richard
Dick Cheney
Ku Klux Klan
Andrew Lloyd-Weber
P.W. Botha
Oswald Mosley
Eoin O'Duffy
James Anderton
Lester Maddox
Richard Littlejohn
Ruth Dudley-Edwards
Paolo Di Canio
Pol Pot
Pope Benedict
Mary Whitehouse
Tony Blair

A great idea

Former Prime Minister's Funeral

The former Prime Minister was buried at a "simple, even austere" ceremony at the Temple Church, ending with the singing of Jerusalem. Fewer than 150 people were in attendance.

The former Prime Minister?

Clement Attlee, who died in 1967.

A far cry from the vulgar display planned for next Wednesday.

(see Martin Kettle in The Guardian 11/4/13).

Bravo, Glenda Jackson

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thatcher's Death: Rejoice, Rejoice

There has been a lot of po-faced sermonising about how unseemly it is to celebrate someone's death. Indeed. This was the woman who after hundreds of young men died horrible deaths on board the Belgrano trimphantly chanted: "Rejoice, Rejoice". And despite the unanimity yesterday - that she was "right" - about the Falklands - that was a totally unecessary war in which about as many people were killed (and certainly more were killed or maimed) than the number of people living on the island. Each of them could have been given a million pounds to relocate to Buckinghamshire and it have cost less and avoided the carnage. But no, had a compromise been reached - leaseback, for example - it would have cost Thatcher her premiership. The war was fought to ensure her re-election.

And that it to leave asise what she did to the inner cities, to mining communities, to the most vulnerable and least advantaged people. The Camerons and Osbornes loved her, and called her "Mummy". Of course they did. The identikit, look-alike, sound-alike personality-free Blair-clones who populate the frontbenches on both sides yesterday mourned their heroine, as they will next week. The funeral next week is really a £10 million Conservative Party political rally, or perhaps an all-party Thatcherite rally. The street parties and protests are necessary to show that not everyone shares the view that Thatcher was a new Messiah, although I gather Spooks and Plods are monitoring emails, Facebook, blogs, Twitter etc and may be making pre-emptive arrests, so I may be in clink by this time tomorrow. Ah, democracy.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Iain Duncan-Smith's Days on Bread-and-Dripping

In that esteemed organ - The Daily Mail - Iain Duncan-Smith records his days of unemployment. He and his girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife were " in one room with a one-ring gas tatty, carpet threadbare...". That's Iain the ex-Guards officer with an army pension and "Betsy" Freemantle, daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe (and former High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire). Eh by gum lad twere tough. No shoes on their feet. Nowt but bread-and-dripping to eat and soup made from his army boots. Aye but we were happy then...

Have you noticed how he loses his rag when he is out of his depth? And poor IDS - thick as two short planks - is often out of his depth.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hunt the ****

So, James Naughty was right about Jeremy Hunt after all...