The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were cock-a-hoop yesterday at the news that Tory MP Tim Yeo had been deselected by his South Suffolk constituency association. For them, this was a victory, but for most outside the Westminster bubble it meant very little. And here on Zelo Street the only surprise was that Yeo’s career had lasted this long.
Yeo was first returned to Parliament in 1983, and progressed via a spell as Douglas Hurd’s PPS to being appointed Environment and Countryside Minister by “Shagger” Major in 1992. Sadly, one of those little local difficulties was just around the corner, and in the slow news period of Christmas 1993, under the headline “Yeo Ho Ho” (geddit?!?) the Screws revealed Yeo’s extra-curricular, er, screws.
The MP had a six month old “love child” with Julia Stent, a Tory councillor. It was not his only such dalliance: while at Cambridge University, he had fathered a child which was later given up for adoption. Yeo resigned his Ministerial position in January 1994: his was one of many incidents that enabled Major’s opponents to tag the Tories with the term “Sleaze”, as the party’s popularity declined.
Yeo’s predicament was not helped when his comments to the local branch of Relate three years earlier were unearthed: “It is in everyone's interests to reduce broken families and the number of single parents. I have seen from my own constituency the consequences of marital breakdown”. On that occasion, his local association stuck with him. And now he has had a pretty good innings.
By the time of the next General Election, Yeo will be turned 70. He has significant interests outside Parliament to keep him occupied and remunerated. The South Suffolk seat remained in Tory hands even in 1997 and 2001, and should remain so next time round. Any fallout from the deselection is a purely Tory problem. And that is the only party likely to be damaged as a result.
Staines is on record as saying he prefers “the blue team” to be in power: making a song and dance about South Suffolk, especially as Young Dave had invested his own authority in persuading the local party to back Yeo, will harm only them. Moreover, chucking out MPs who back the consensual view on climate change and support same-sex marriage enables the Tories to be painted as extreme.
So an “ideologically sound” Conservative may be selected to fight South Suffolk, and bring views on the EU and climate change that are diametrically opposed to those advanced by Yeo? The Great Guido and his pals may, as in Lyndon Johnson’s thoughts on giving a speech on economics, get a really hot feeling, but nobody else will notice. Except it will make the Tories that bit less electable.
What was that about preferring “the blue team”? Another fine mess, once again.