Thoughts on the Tory Leadership

I shamelessly commented on the Conservative Leadership contest on the Facebook page of a correspondent who happens to be a member of the Conservative Party, and another friend suggested I share what I wrote more widely. I’ll never be a Tory, and in the family we try to avoid talking about the No. 1 Black Sheep, James Alexander Rentoul, the family member who turned his back on Home Rule Liberalism and became the Liberal Unionist M.P. for East Down…

Not when we can number William Megahey, Belfast socialist and art teacher, and designer of the Citizen Army’s Starry Plough Flag amongst the ancestors, or John Pinkerton, Home Rule Liberal M.P.  for Galway City. Not being a Tory runs in my blood.

Some friends are Tories however, and I recognise that at one time the Conservative Party was a sensible pragmatic party that gave us sensible pragmatic people like Paddy Crotty, who drove through the introduction of comprehensive education in Leeds. Every year in Leeds some wag in a branch Labour Party meeting would put Paddy’s name forward as Labour’s nominee for Chair of Education. And of course people like my friend Pete’s wonderful dad, who was Mayor of Ramsbottom. So here goes, with some additions.

“Richard, as Labour Party member, maybe I should say nothing. But, while I work hard to get expelled for pointing out that my Party’s Leader is the most important anti-Semite in British politics since Oswald Mosley, I can’t help intruding in the misery of others…

I’m unimpressed by any of the candidates on offer, bar potentially Rory Stewart. The Conservatives haven’t anointed a proper leader since Sir Alec Douglas-Home. Whilst Heath successfully brought the country into Europe, the most significant achievement of any Conservative Prime Minister since the war, his social gaucheness and lack of bottom opened the floodgates for the horrors who’ve followed since. Instead, the country needs some peace and quiet. As a non-Conservative, I’m looking for a Conservative leader who doesn’t scare me with zealotry (Thatcher, Howard, IDS) or laziness (Cameron). I also don’t think serious people wear baseball caps, ever (William Hague). I’m also looking for a Conservative leader who is comfortable enough in their own skin to be able to tell Conservative M.P.s and Conservative members to go hang.

Leading the Conservative Party should be a hobby for someone with significant landed interests dating back well before the Hanoverians. In other words, someone consensual, intellectually able, and irredeemably patrician; someone who has actually done something with their life previously; and crucially someone who regards the proper role of Conservative Party members as running fetes, signing cheques and keeping quiet. An M.C. after their name would be a bonus, or at least a D.S.O. And never repeat the mistake of electing a party leader without the grey matter upstairs to pass the Captain to Major cull, at which stage Her Majesty’s forces consign the brainless to early retirement. That way lies IDS, the kept man of a rich and obviously not very discriminating wife, who brought the brains of Bertie Wooster to British social policy…

So given those on the list, who? Not Johnson (bounder, bonkers, too few acres, and never tested by real life). Not Gove (took the axe to school sport, probably because he was too weedy for rugger at school). Not Leadsom and McVey (arriviste, lightweight, and garagiste). Not Malthouse (too few acres, no old money). Not Raab (too few acres, charmless, bonkers, no old money). Not Javid (too few acres, too prone to dog-whistle politics, wants to be loved by Conservative Party members). Not Cleverly (lack of estates, and his TD doesn’t pass muster as a proper decoration. – I was taught by someone with an M.C. and someone with a T.D. As a 13-year-old, I could tell the difference.) When someone talks to the class about dropping into Arnhem, you take him seriously. Not Hancock (no land, married to an ‘osteopath’, a brand of medical charlatanry not quite on a par with chiropractic). So at the moment you lot are left with Stewart…

The ideal Conservative Leader never wasted time on the drivel of Ayn Rand, but read all twelve volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time (again) whilst pinned down in a sangar in Bessbrook, Basra or Lashkar Gah. Get looking for a suitable Earl or a close relation…”

And get looking for someone with an arboretum, preferably with a decent amount of specimen Eucryphias, like those at the ancestral home of the Annesley family in Castlewellan. A family commitment to an arboretum demonstrates some seriousness and long-term thinking, and gives some intimation that you, and what you do, aren’t going to disappear…

There was a time when Conservative Leaders didn’t scare the rest of us, weren’t zealots on a mission, and were actually conservative…


1 thought on “Thoughts on the Tory Leadership

  1. Johnny

    Love it ,Bring back days of politicians that had real jobs first .Plato recommended experience first and only go into politics at 50


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