While some papers are still in why-oh-why mode over the Bradford West by-election, the Maily Telegraph, which despite its long ago ceasing to be a paper of record is still firmly Conservative in its politics, has started quoting the usual off-the-record sources as it pushes the narrative of Young Dave potentially being on his way out of the Tory Party leadership.
In fact, there is rather a lot of this on offer today, which suggests that rather more than one or two of those “sources” have been briefing the Tel’s hacks. And, while there is much talk of “losing control of the narrative”, the dropping of the ball at Budget time by the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, and being out of touch, nobody has pitched a name.
Nor has anyone from the Tel any big idea or grand plan, save that of former Wall Street Journal (WSJ) man Iain Martin, who talks of “Muscular Conservatism”. On a similar tack, Janet Daley asserts that the Tory Party has been snatched away from the followers of Margaret Thatcher by the “wets”, a very early 1980s term. These two together are the first stirrings of something I’ve observed before.
And that is the idea that the Tory Party needs to be properly Conservative, which in plain English means turning to the right. Partly this is because of the idea – repeated incessantly by right leaning pundits – that those rotten Lib Dems are stopping the Tories from getting on and being really radical, of reforms that will, well, prove to the electorate that they are proper Conservatives.
Hence the idea that Cameron is perceived as exasperating the officers of the 1922 Committee, which should surprise no-one, as he has lost the services of both Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton, and his inner circle has never had to worry about picking items off supermarket shelves and then worrying if they have the money to pay for them. On that, Nadine Dorries was spot on for once.
But banging on about Young Dave and his jolly good pals being out of touch and not prepared to be really, truly and properly muscular Conservatives – quite apart from failing to explain how this is rectified without a General Election which the party would be likely to lose – fails to identify a successor, or why a change of leadership would accomplish what Cameron cannot.
Leadership should not be about holding parties together at the expense of governing: that is what did for Harold Wilson and “Shagger” Major. Leadership is about addressing the concerns of the people. If lurching to the right does not help the Tories achieve that, then they will be toast, whatever the purity of their ideology.
The Telegraph pundits talk the talk, but cannot put forward a credible alternative for the Tories. And until they can, they might as well not bother.