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TUESDAY 16 JULY  2024

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Blame Cameron for the destruction of the Tories and rise of the far Right

The corpse is hardly cold but already they’re fighting over the soul of the Tory Party.

 

Oh, wait, you think it’s still alive? I’m afraid not. I’ve seen the death certificate. It is signed by Rishi Sunak. They’re calling it the Conservative manifesto and there’s more vanilla in it than Mary Berry puts in her teatime treats.

 

So before we’ve even had the election, the liberal wing of the Conservative Party is trying to fight off the threat of the Right – both within the party and from Nigel Farage’s Reform.

 

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, or Dave, as we used to know him, spent the weekend pouring buckets of the nasty stuff over Farage, whom he blames for destroying the Conservative Party.

 

Now, I know politics is all smoke and mirrors, especially with a General Election in the offing, but Cameron’s attack is more like a Tommy Cooper magic trick … disingenuous, comical and bound to fail.

 

The former Prime Minister, now Foreign Secretary, has misjudged the mood again. He once arrogantly assumed that the British people would reject the blandishments of Boris Johnson and Farage to leave the European Union.

 

When they voted to get out, he left Downing Street. No toys were thrown, it wasn’t a flounce. It was an apparently dignified exit, dressed up as principled and honourable.

 

But the resentment has burned ever since. Cameron hates Johnson, his old Bullingdon Club chum from their Oxford days, and Farage with a passion.

 

Speaking to Steven Swinford of The Times, Cameron said of Farage: “What I want is robust policy and measured language. I think with these populists what you get is inflammatory language and hopeless policy.”

 

Farage, preparing to unveil Reform’s manifesto yesterday, shot back: “The Tories have moved to the left on every single social and economic issue and Cameron set the tone and pace for it.

 

“Rushing headlong into net zero regardless of the cost, the fifth manifesto in a row promising to reduce migration when it has exploded. He changed the Conservatives into a socially democratic, high-tax, big-state party. If anyone has destroyed it, it’s him.”

 

It’s true. Leave liberals like Cameron in charge for long enough and inevitably what you get is the rise of the far Right.

 

It hasn’t yet happened here. I’ve met Farage and he is not the far Right. He is a gadfly, an irritant who would be on the sterner wing of a centrist Tory party, if they’d have him. But a lurch to the Right is happening across the rest of Europe: Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Hungary, Serbia.

 

In France, President Emmanuel Macron, furious that the people were voting in their thousands for the far Right in elections to the European Parliament, dissolved the National Assembly, called a snap poll and dared them to vote for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.

 

How’s that working out for him? Well, Macron has managed to unite the splintered Left and their newly formed alliance is polling at 26 per cent. National Rally is on 35 per cent. Macron’s party Renaissance, after his petulant gesture, is on 19 per cent. He could end up as a lame duck.

 

In America, the very fact that someone as vile, crooked and mendacious as Donald Trump can stand for a second term as President with every chance of winning tells you all you need to know about the poisonous effect of the liberal elite there.

 

While the Tory liberals – and I even include Boris Johnson in that category – were governing us, the world was shifting on its axis. Migration has changed everything. It has cost billions that might have been spent on solving our own social problems.

 

For some of the past 14 years, the Tories have been diligently, if unknowingly, building a vast underclass.

 

Despite all their fine talk of “levelling up”, they have left great swathes of Britain to endure poverty and hopelessness; places such as Clacton, Blackpool, Newham, Leicester, Rochdale.

 

The worst corners of these places exist on benefits, burgers, beer and baccy. There are no jobs that pay better than the dole, no affordable homes, no sunlit uplands. Only misery.

 

It is the task – no, the sacred duty – of politicians to care for people trapped in such places. Some, a few, are feckless, caught in a cycle of despair and dependency. But recently, they have begun to include people with jobs – real jobs, important jobs.

 

Imagine working as a nurse all week to find at the end of it that you barely have enough to pay the bills, and certainly nothing left over to spend on happiness.

 

Successive Governments largely ignored the deprived areas. What sort of strategy is that? It has made people angry, yet instead of letting out a roar of rage, they simmered quietly on the back burner. Now, three weeks out from a General Election, they are boiling mad.

 

The run-up to a General Election is far too late to do much about the mistakes you’ve made. Ask Rishi Sunak. All the folk to whom he promised a bright new tomorrow are about to ensure that there is no such thing for a failed Prime Minister.

 

It isn’t all his fault. Yes, he dropped clangers – that drowning in a Downing Street downpour, his indefensible snub to the heroes of D-Day. But more recent wars, Covid and inflation all conspired to make him look like a floundering chump.

 

Sunak will eventually go back to the City. He will play no part in deciding the fate of the Tory party. Neither will Cameron. He’ll go back to his shepherd’s hut and resume his schmoozing and texting and pleading on behalf of dubious businessmen.

 

Farage, though … he and his followers will wield enormous influence, whoever becomes the new leader of the Conservative Party. He’ll be a king maker.

*****

 

The great Daily Express columnist Jean Rook was known as the First Lady of Fleet Street. That title has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

 

Rook had no idea the paper was about to bestow it. She learned of it while lying in bed one morning as her husband scanned the dailies.

 

“She’s formidable, she’s fearless,” he read aloud, “she’s every other adjective you can ever think of beginning with an ‘f’, she is in fact the First Lady of Fleet Street.”

 

Rook told author and journalist Tony Gray: “I started to say: ‘Well, she’s got to be a bit of a…’ when he interrupted me and said: ‘It’s you they’re talking about, you chump.’

 

“One of the assistant editors had done it without any reference to me. I never said it myself. If I’d thought of it, I would have, though, believe me.”

 

I don’t know which assistant editor it was but I think he earned his corn that day and helped to fashion the Jean Rook legend.

 

Rook joined the Express in 1973 after spells on Hugh Cudlipp’s Sun, the Daily Sketch and the Daily Mail after it swallowed the Sketch. The Express had upped the ante, of course – more money, a car and that plush office overlooking Fleet Street.

 

But when the Mail heard, they made her a “ridiculous” counter offer to stay. “They zapped back with money untold, a seat on the board, a trust fund for the 18 months old baby [Gresby] and an hour in Vere Harmsworth’s office drinking innumerable cups of coffee out of Royal Doulton cups,” Rook told Gray for his book Fleet Street Remembered.

 

She turned them down on the advice of her husband, the journalist Geoffrey Nash. But when Larry Lamb took over as Editor of the Daily Express she might well have regretted it. She called Lamb’s reign “the most dreadful period of my life”.

 

He had offered her a job when he edited the Sun – and she had turned him down. “He was so mortally, totally offended that I thought he was going to explode.”

 

They never spoke during Lamb’s last six months on the paper and Rook claims: “The most wonderful moment in my life was when someone came in and said, ‘Larry Lamb has got the chop’.”

 

Faced with a move from the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Rook said: “I’ll miss Fleet Street. I won’t miss the pubs or the socialising because I don’t socialise, but I’ll miss St Paul’s and the Telegraph clock and the Edgar Wallace plaque, the whole feel of it.

 

As indeed we all did.


 *****

 

My friend and colleague Alan Frame’s story of batsman David Lloyd’s unequal duel with a Jeff Thomson thunderbolt reminded me of the time I heard Bumble recount it himself. In that version, the box split, crushing his manhood in a pincer grip. He was in agony as the team doctor ran on to help. Bumble claims he told him: “Give me something for the pain – but leave the swelling.”

 

*****

 

I’ve been dipping into Bob Monkhouse’s compendium of chuckles again and came up with this headline in the Republican: “Cork school to have Ireland’s first parent-teacher assassination”.



18 June 2024