This blog is pleased to note that our old comrade Peter Hitchens has been in Manchester this past week, taking in the sights and sounds of the Tory conference. As Peter has long been calling for the destruction of the Tory party, you might have expected him to be unimpressed with the performances of Dave the Haircut and his Unconservative front bench. And lo, Peter’s midweek dispatch did not disappoint:
There is absolutely no enthusiasm about this conference, a weird coalition between the Tory Party’s left-liberal anti-British leadership and its conservative, patriotic membership. You would have thought the membership would have spotted by now that the leadership doesn’t like them. But no, they come back each year to be patronised some more.
I have attended some of the actual debates, which required major physical effort, not least because of the actual tears of boredom which poured down my cheeks in rivulets on more than one occasion, and I have genuinely sat through Congresses of the Soviet Communist Party, so I am hardened – as most are not – to extreme tedium… These ‘debates’, in which no questions are tested, are plainly designed to produce a passive somnolence (hence my jest about Rohypnol) rather than to rally anyone. Enthusiasm is only really allowed for David Cameron himself, the new Dear Leader, and to a limited extent for the astonishing George Osborne. Why astonishing? Because it is impossible to work out why he is Shadow Chancellor, or how he has risen so far, so fast.
In general, during these events, one struggles to retain the will to live.
Don’t hold back, will you, Peter? Anyway, after that, one hoped that Peter’s Sunday column would be suitably grumpy. And indeed it was. I would speculate that even John McAnulty would be hard pressed to match it for grumpiness:
Standing ovations are almost always demonstrations of insincerity. No sane human being really thinks that a politician’s speech is so good they want to stand and simper, batting their palms together for several minutes, at the end.
Often the applause is all the longer when the party involved is rallying round somebody it hates or mistrusts, for the sake of its image.
There’s some truth in that. I find it hard to recall the last time I heard a really good political speech – it may have been Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh, who has a fine line in invective – but I can’t say one has ever inspired me to stand up. One has of course given ovations to especially admirable individuals, people of extraordinary courage, but this is rare. And Cuddly Dave, reasonably accomplished speaker as though he may be, doesn’t fill me with an urge to restart the cult of personality.
David Cameron’s speech on Thursday was a wasteland, empty of original thought, bare of serious policy, punctuated only by rather revolting appeals to gross sentimentality.
I watched Mrs Cameron afterwards, as she was conducted through the falsely ecstatic throng. Her pretty, intelligent face was an extraordinary picture of honesty battling against loyalty. She would force a smile, for the sake of her husband. But after a second or so, it faded away into a blank, embarrassed expression. Then she forced another smile. Then that, too, faded away. And so on, several times. She simply couldn’t keep smiling, as she knew she ought to.
And why should she? Why should anyone?
Well, the interesting point there is not so much does Sam believe in Dave, as whether Dave actually believes in himself. Or what, in fact, does Dave really believe in? We had a dozen years of this sort of ham acting from Mr Tony Blair, and it is extraordinary how many well-informed observers seem determined to place their faith in Blair’s heir. There must be a psychological need in there somewhere.
Elsewhere in his column, Peter takes aim at Liam’s favourite tax-dodging gombeen musician:
Those present at both party conferences had to endure glutinous video-screen lectures from the Irish millionaire popular singer with the surgically attached sunglasses who bizarrely calls himself after a well-known dog biscuit.
If this sort of thing continues, especially after the lunch interval, they are going to have put sick bags out in the hall. But I think his presence and endorsement at both gatherings tells an important truth about modern British politics. The growing millions of us who loathe the pretensions of rock-music moralists and everything they stand for are completely unrepresented at Westminster.
Tory and Labour alike are in the grip of some sort of endless Age of Aquarius, where the only music is guitar music, the only good opinion is a belief in man-made global warming, the only religion egalitarianism and the only orthodoxy is multiculturalism and sexual liberation. Let’s have a new party
where videos of Mr Dog Biscuit are shown only so they can be heartily booed, and everyone can laugh at him.
I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that – Peter is a thoroughgoing cultural conservative where I am not – but it’s always nice to see Mr Dog Biscuit getting it in the neck.
Finally, Peter bigs up an old comrade:
Not long ago, I received a call from a BBC Radio 4 person. It was not very flattering. They were having a big debate about Afghanistan. And, as they were having great difficulty in finding anyone else to support Britain’s immediate withdrawal, would I please, please, please take part?
I said yes. Several days later, the same functionary called me and said they had now found a ‘female person’ to do the job instead – as if that person’s femaleness was a clinching argument. Curious, I asked who this ‘female person’ was. ‘Erm, Lindsey someone,’ she replied. I’m still not sure if she was embarrassed or genuinely didn’t know who she had hired.
Had I been the producer, I would have stuck with Peter. He’s much more entertaining.