While our free and fearless press made great play of seven Labour MPs leaving the party earlier this week - that number then increased to eight and will be nine when Ian Austin decides to admit what Zelo Street has already revealed - it was so very different when just three Tories - two more than crossed the floor to join the SDP in 1981 - decided they had had enough yesterday. The language used by the press is totally different.
Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston may have thought they would get the full sympathy treatment after being messed around by a party leader of a magnitude more inept than Jeremy Corbyn on a bad day. They were sorely mistaken. Walking out on Labour is not a problem for those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet; for those who leave the Tories, it is A Very Bad Thing Indeed.
And after Ms Allen had said in response to being asked whether she could ever return to the Tories “I can’t imagine it, not least because if we do our jobs right, there won’t be a Tory Party to go back to”, the press establishment knew that meant only one thing - she and her pals were out to destroy the Tories. That meant it was serious.
Hence the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph telling readers “Tory defectors march out with a vow to destroy the party”. The Mail was on the same page, thundering “I WANT TO KILL OFF TORY PARTY … Astonishing claim by rebel MP as trio face backlash for deserting Mrs May”. Treeza is still the Mail’s heroine.
The joke newspaper still known as the Express was also unhappy, sternly admonishing the three MPs: “At the 11th hour, these Remain MPs abandon the Tory Party as May faces critical Brexit talks. But what on earth is there to smile about? This is … NO LAUGHING MATTER”. But it was the Murdoch Sun which went in with both feet.
Under the by-line of non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn - a staunch Remainer - readers are told “Brexit Haters Quit Tories … SPLIT HITS THE FAN … Turncoats crisis”. And the paper’s editorial today unleashes the full spite of the Murdoch mafiosi.
“Defected Tory MPs’ claim the party has been ‘captured’ by far-right is baseless … IN some parallel universe the Tory party may have been ‘captured’ by the hard right, as the three turncoats alleged yesterday. It sure as hell hasn’t in this one. So forget their paranoid and baseless fantasies about Ukip infiltrators. Or about the Tories, under their most left-wing leader in a generation, in fact being ruled by compassionless brutes”.
There was more. “It’s window dressing aimed at disguising their sole obsession, a catastrophically divisive second Brexit referendum … At least, though, we now know the new Independent Group’s only policy: to reverse Brexit … The Tories rightly aim to be a ‘broad church’. But these three shameless defectors, puffed up on sanctimony and epic self-regard, were irreconcilable. They have betrayed their party and their voters. And they’re not done yet”. All of which confirms the clear conclusion.
Leave Labour and the press will egg you on to the inevitable political oblivion. Leave the Tories and you will never be forgiven. Anyone might think there were double standards at work. Another case of “You might wish to think that - I couldn’t possibly comment”.
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