IT was 10.30 at night when the doorbell rang and I was told my cat had been killed in a road accident. I picked the beloved moggy from the grass and carried her home. Tears followed tears as the bereaved family gathered and buried her in the back garden. Then, pouring a mournful gin and tonic, I heard the meowing at the door. There was Tabby very much alive – I had buried the wrong cat. It had been identical in every way, but it wasn’t mine.
Cats and politics are very much alike. In the 1990s, I watched in horror as Labour morphed into the Conservatives and sold out its heritage of being with the workers. For a while, the Tories battled on unchanging and losing every election they fought. Backed by a time of international prosperity, even I believed that things could only get better. However, like any late night romance the beer goggles came off and the honeymoon was over. Britain was left with coalition politics with a doppelganger of Harry “Scud” East from Tom Brown’s Schooldays as Prime Minister.
A year later and still in a time of economic uncertainty, Scud battles bravely on. He has managed to change the perception of the Tory Party from a Victorian leviathan into something that people of the centre ground would actually consider voting for whilst still preserving the balance of being tough on crime and other traditional policies.
No longer is the Tory Party the pariah of gay people and ethnic minorities. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a poster for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) supper evenings for Conservatives – now you would. Nor would you have seen a Muslim woman of the calibre of Yorkshire’s Sayeeda Warsi in high office. It has all suddenly become Tory Lite – smooth and easy to swallow.
I say this painfully as I have never been a real fan. Having met David Cameron in Leeds, I thought he was a typical toff with not much to say and little understanding about life in the North. Since that time, I have been slowly if not guardedly won over and now believe he is a good and honest politician who cannot be held responsible for being born outside Yorkshire. I was actually surprised when watching PMQs and my daughter said that he was “hot”, the expression she usually reserves for the more attractive male contestants of The X Factor.
All looks very good but there are dangers on the horizon and the spirit of Flashman, the villain of Rugby school, is all around the Prime Minister. What has to be realised is that there are certain parts of the British way of life that cannot be tampered with, even if you are the great transformer. It is no good turning up and saying that pensions can’t be paid and people will have to work longer. Neither is it ethical to try to privatise the NHS.
What Scud has to understand is that there are some things that even he must leave alone. It is one thing seeing students protesting on the streets, but when the middle aged and middle income protest then he should listen. It has to be realised and realised quickly that people don’t trust anything that is open to the baying winds of market forces. That can be seen so clearly with the demise of Southern Cross. When it comes to care, health and education we want to see the State involved. It is as if we feel we have a greater say when the government elected is part of the institution running our daily services. Scud can’t press on ignoring the demands of middle England without the threat of middle England deserting him.
The one thing that Thatcher got wrong was selling off public utilities. Gas, electricity and water should never have been allowed to fall into the hands of people who want to run them for profit. Scud has to understand that a mixed economy works well and his desire to privatise even the air we breathe has to stop. There is nothing wrong with an NHS firmly in the hands of the taxpayer.
But the spectre of Flashman doesn’t stop there. They say a week is a long time in politics. I think that this last week will be one that haunts Scud for some time and if not handled with care may possibly be his downfall. It was a gross error of judgment to have the former editor of The News of the World as a press officer. It is certain that more revelations will come out and the odious chancre will spread further. Obviously, cosying up to Murdoch was once a fashionable thing in politics. Blair was an expert. Having sat on a table next to Mrs Brooks in a fashionable London restaurant, I can understand the allure. It was as if a Greek goddess had entered the room. A woman so powerful she could make or break anyone around her.
There are, however, far more pressing things that besiege Cameron at this time. Across the sea, Europe is falling apart. It demands more money for fewer benefits. It floods our land with workers we don’t need and gives us legislation that erodes our way of life. Violent assaults against teachers are on the rise. The housing market is stagnant and taxes are at an all time high. Fuel pricing is bringing the economy to a standstill as food prices increase.
It is these things that Scud should pay attention to and he denies them at his peril. Those great Tory values of low taxation, tough on crime and scepticism of Europe are even bigger vote winners today. Scud has transformed the style of the Tory party; it is now time for him to give it some substance.
GP Taylor, from Scarborough, is a best selling author and broadcaster.