Saturday, 23 February 2019

"We Were The Mould-Breakers, They Were The Mould"

So Margaret Thatcher said of the SDP. And so Jeremy Corbyn might say of the Independent Group. With rather more cause, in fact. Not that the mould is quite broken yet.

Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke have not been sacked, or reprimanded, or even corrected. Therefore, it is their position that is Government policy, and it is any departure from that position that would be a breach of collective responsibility.

Put simply, the Government has taken to the pages of the Daily Mail to rule out a No Deal Brexit. The stocks are sold; the Press is squared: the Middle Class is quite prepared. 

Any other approach would have proved the splitters right. You see, support for Brexit is classified as Far Left if you are on the red team, but Far Right if you are on the blue team.

Now, Labour has never denied being left-wing. Even Tony Blair used to talk, however absurdly, of being "Centre Left" and "a modern social democrat". But the Conservatives do not regard themselves as right-wing, and they are mortified at the suggestion that they might be going that way.

They accept that there is a British Right, of course. But they regard it as those funny-clothed and funny-voiced people who occasionally put up against them and lose their deposits, who very occasionally have to be swatted away when they seek selection as Conservative candidates, and who, on the rare occasions that they do make it in Parliament, become known as "characters" rather than as serious figures.

Every Conservative Prime Minister has marginalised the Right. The likes of the No Turning Back Group regularly and bitterly complained to Thatcher's face about her failure to promote them, whereas Ken Clarke was a Minister on every day of the Thatcher and Major Governments. 

Whatever the view of others, the Conservative Party, no less than the Liberal Democrats, sees itself as a party of the Centre, conventionally defined. It feels its honour affronted at the suggestion that it is even so much as beginning to turn into anything else. And it has already begun in earnest the process of halting any such drift. 

As is its wont, it will be merciless. There are going to be deselections, all right. The "hearty middle-stumpers", as Betjeman called very much the same people in a different but related aspect of their lives, are going to deselect the right-wing "characters" who have delighted them for more than long enough.

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