Friday, May 21, 2010
So Much for Nick and Dave's 'New Politics'
I recall in the sixties listening to a Soviet academic claiming trade unionists had no need to be militant in the 'socialist sixth of the world' as they recognised the objectives of workers and government were identical and were in any case being fulfilled. Thought that was a bit dodgy and similar claims by the Chinese to be equally so. Dictators and tyrants of every stripe like us to think their rule is so effective that everyone comprises one happy family.
I thought of that when I heard what Cameron told Conservative MPs last night:
The prime minister said that (Sir Nicholas) Winterton talked about "you", rather than "we". "I am asking a very sensible and serious question. I think it is much better to have one organisation in the party which has one mind and, to coin a phrase, we are all in it together."
Oh boy, that will have riled them up. The change he insisted be approved was that the Tory backbench party- called the 1922 Committee after the year in which the Tories voted to leave the Lloyd George coalition- should in future meet not as backbenchers but with ministers present as well. The effect of such a measure, according to some, is that such an influx of the party 'establishment' would neuter
free discussion and cause discontent to be suppressed. Given the party's propensity for a bit of internal dissent in the past one sympathises with party managers but if this banning of party democracy is an example of the 'new politics', then come back Gordon Brown.
118 of the party's 306 MPs voted against it. It took Labour quite a while to clock up such big rebellion but Dave has done it in just over a week and on an issue which will return again and again, given the size of the discontent. Perhaps he can have Nick sitting alongside him the next time he addresses his backbenchers to reinforce his message of unity...? Martin Kettle in The Guardian suggests this move was intended to disarm his troublesome rightwing which was about to support Graham Brady-he's the guy top left who looks like Greg Rusedski -as chairman of the 1922 Committee, someone who resigned his front bench job over the issue of grammar schools back in 2007.
Could be this is part of the cunning plan but I'm not sure Cameron has made a mistake here and angered rather than pacified that peculiar creature, the Tory backbencher. And who is the gentleman top right? Two house points to those who spotted Andrew Bonar Law, the beneficiary of that hnistoric 1922 decision and who emerged as party leader and prime minister and who is now revolving in his grave. Bonar Law only managed 210 days as PM, Dave please note.