Those of us of A Certain Age can recall so many jaw-dropping moments from politics past that we become immune to surprise or shock: there is inevitably a precedent case to every twist or turn. But a majority Tory Government having to plead with its Labour opposition for help with passing legislation, because of the behaviour of its own backbenchers, is unusual in the extreme.
And that is what happened yesterday: George Young, who, before Andrew Mitchell became embroiled in Plebgate, might have expected a quiet last few years in the Commons, faced the unenviable task of begging Mil The Younger for support to see off an amendment to same-sex marriage proposals which was intended to do one thing, and one alone – derail the whole process.
This is despite a majority among voters in favour of same-sex marriage, a trend which is likely to continue, opposed as it is by a coalition of older voters and religious groups. Yet many Tories remain convinced that this measure will lose them votes, which is another way of saying that they are appealing to a gradually diminishing part of the electorate, and that’s not exactly a winning strategy.
So why the dysfunctional behaviour, coming as it does on the back of all the bickering over Europe? Simples. The Tories are being panicked by UKIP, despite Nigel “Thirsty” Farage’s party being home to a number of deeply unsavoury characters (see HERE from last Friday, or HERE for a round-up by Political Scrapbook), as opinion polls continue to bring grim news.
Indeed, a new poll from Survation has the Tories down to a miserable 24%, with UKIP posting 22%. And here’s the thing: in that same poll, the Labour vote share is more or less unchanged, at 35%. Miliband is in the box seat just by ordering more popcorn and watching the Tories self-destruct. There are, of course, other factors at work in the Tory decline, one of these being Loongate.
But, again, what Andrew Feldman is alleged to have said is all too true: activists who think that same-sex marriage has to be resisted at all costs, that the electorate constantly obsesses about the EU (as they do), and that it would be a wonderful idea to ditch a party leader (Cameron) who consistently polls ahead of his party, cannot object to being characterised as “Mad, swivel-eyed loons”.
Once again, Michael Ashcroft’s warning should be noted: he has said that the Tories could be plunged into a “spiral of irrelevance”. Rather than stand well away from UKIP, they are allowing themselves to scrap over who can be the most xenophobic, authoritarian and intolerant. Whoever is in charge ought to consider the wise and forthright words attributed to Lyndon Johnson.
Never get into a pissing competition with a skunk.