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Jerry Hayes

I would be amazed if Tory & Lib Dems didn’t stand as Coalition candidates at the next election. Just don’t try it at the local elections; they should be fought on local issues not national policies.

July 31st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Downing Street officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the health of David Cameron. Each morning, when being briefed by his press chiefs on the stories of the day, tears begin to well in his eyes, his chest begins to heave and terrible noises emanate from his chest. This mad, hysterical laughter at each report of another right wing plot, is just not good for his health.   Well, I hope that yesterday’s bizarre report in the Financial Times about The 92, Cornerstone and No Turning Back  right wing dining groups that  are to meet to decide how to deal with the Coalition, was not shown to him. The reaction of him and Cleggy would have been akin to when the aliens in the old SMASH adverts spied that the Earthlings peeled and boiled potatoes and then actually mashed them.

So what will this last, desperate, supper be like? A growling and grunting meeting of the survivors of the Klingon Empire lamenting the ascendancy of that handsome and personable, captain Kirk. Or perhaps they will plot  to build their Orc army to defeat the Elves and the Hobbits who are now running the show. I suspect neither. The young Turks will want to a fight a guerrilla war, whilst wiser heads will counsel a wait and see approach. Wait for the cracks to appear in the Coalition, crowbar them open and then detonate some serious explosives and watch the whole edifice blown to pieces. Cameron should treat the right like political haemaroids. When they are really irritating and inflamed, smooth them over with gentle and soothing ointment. But don’t try and cut them out, as this can be bloody and very painful. So, at the moment Francis Maude is administering the suppository of,  ”our policies are more radical than Margaret Thatcher’s” . It should work for a little while.

The problem they have is that there are no really big issues of contention that have yet emerged to be likely catalysts to open crack in the Coalition.  The referendum on AV is about fair votes and the public can smell the political dishonesty of those who oppose on a confection a mile away. The Trident argument is only about saving a fraction of the £100bn touted by the likes of Abbott and will disappear with hardly a wimper. Academies are a potential problem and some Lib Dems have serious concerns. But their manifesto commitment of a Pupil Premium to help the disadvantaged has been accepted and should head off any real rebellions. And, at the moment, that’s about it. Of course, there will be unexpected and totally horrendous issues that will appear from nowhere and cause serious worries to the stability of the Coalition. But provided Cameron and Clegg continue to tell people how it is, consult and act with pragmatism, common sense  and honesty, this government will last. And that is what terrifies the right. They want the Lib Dem vote to sink so low that they will be wiped out at a General Election. They want to lure them into a false sense of security and then pull the plug and allow the Tories to romp home in the polls at a snap election. But this is the politics of the madhouse. Not only is it dishonest it is totally counter productive. The electorate would never forgive the Tories and the beneficiaries could be an alliance between the Lib Dems and the sensible wing of whatever is left of Labour. Then it would be the Tories in the wilderness — forever. This is not a plan that would flicker across the Cameron mind for a nano second.

I haven’t got a clue what the Cameron Master Plan is. But I know it is not to destroy the Conservative Party. It is adapt or die. The Tories have always been very good at this and the Lib Dems are learning fast, whilst poor old Labour is stuck in a time warp, a black hole from which it may never re emerge.  And for those who think of this Coalition as a temporary fix; think again. What would amaze me is not that the Tories and Lib Dems would stand as Coalition candidates at the next election, but if they didn’t. Unless there is a major fallout in policy, it would be bizarre not to. In fact, it would make no sense at all, as both parties would want to show that the government was a success. This could not and must not be tried at a local government level. There would be mutiny. Let local parties fight on local issues. I’ve always thought it was fairly stupid to fight local elections on national policies and totally meaningless. So let local government be really local for once.

Even Michael Portillo is saying nice things about the Coalition, so I suppose we should be roasting the fatted calf. Today, he even said that Cameron was civilising the Conservative Party. Years ago, when I was angry with him for his betrayal of John Major I stood at the Member’s taxi rank berating, “that cunt Portillo”. I hadn’t noticed that the diminutive Ann Widdecombe  was in earshot. “Oh, I’m so sorry Ann”.  ” No need to apologise Jerry, the only word I objected to was ‘Portillo’ “. Well, I’m happy to withdraw the insult. Welcome home Michael.

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The Lib Dems, as well as being a welcome conscience to the Tories, have earned power by understanding restraint

June 25th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Despite the fact that some Tory MPs pay good money for it, discipline is not all that popular in the Commons and has never been fashionable with the Lib Dems. But without it, government is paralysed, and leadership is merely running just ahead of the mob. You just have to have a strong Whip’s Office with an effective intelligence service. Gone are the days of the thuggery of the Labour strongmen like Michael Cox and Bob Mellish. They had to deal with tough working men from the Unions who would think nothing of flooring a colleague in argument and would give as good as they got. I can remember, before cctv was installed in the chamber, witnessing the delightfully deranged Ron Brown smashing the mace. In mid debate, Deputy Chief Whip, Don Dixon, an enormous man built like a bull, looked him straight in the eye, thumped him hard in the stomach, threw him over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and took him into a corridor to give him a good talking to. Nobody batted an eyelid. And then there was the legendary Walter Harrison. He thoroughly disapproved of drunkeness and sexual shenanigans on overseas trips, locking MPs in their hotel rooms after eleven. He once exploded when he heard that someone was abroad when he should have been voting. “Get me the bastard” he screamed. The MP eventually phoned him. “And where the fuck are you son?”   “Well, actually”, said the quivering wretch, “I’m in Crete”. “Well, if you’re not back for the vote lad, you’ll be in fucking concrete”. He returned.

The Tories had their moments too. Sir Spencer Marchant, a delightful and very wealthy drunk, spied one of his charges creeping out of the Stephens, before an important vote. Puce with rage, he chased after the fellow and kicked him down the stairs with a, “don’t you think I don’t know what you’re up to you little shit”. Sadly, it was the Peruvian Ambassador on his way home from dinner with the Foreign Secretary.  And then there was the wonderful, twenty five stone figure of David Lightbown, known as the caring whip. There was a much exaggerated account of fisticuffs between us after I had led a rebellion on a standing committee. What really happened was, after a salty altercation involving talk of sex and travel, he gave me a gentle dig in the ribs and in return I gave him a playful knee in the groin. All very grown up.

But it is all much subtler nowadays. There will always be a Beria like presence at every meeting, every department, the Tea room, the dining rooms, the bars. These shadowy figure will be soaking up the mood, noting the little betrayals, listening to the weasels, flattering the vain and bribing the ambitious. And watching the political Meercats sniffing the air for advantage. There will always be those who will sell their souls for a red box.

I would be lying if I did not admit to stunned amazement at how well The Coalition is holding together. Of course, it’s early days and Labour  is leaderless. My greatest fear was that the Lib Dems would be totally unwhippable and as unpredictable and capricious as Terry Wogan’s toupe . The first real test was newly elected Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes’s bit of bonkery in saying that they could make amendments to the Budget. Well that didn’t last for long. You could almost feel the Chief Whip applying the pressure to his left gonad as, the “clarification” was written within a couple of hours. All a terrible misunderstanding, “No plans to amend…….purely hypothetical….blah, blah,blah”. The Kremlinologists should inspect this with  care. It shows that the Lib Dems are in for the long haul. Not only are they becoming a very welcome conscience for the Tories, but they have shown that they have earned power by understanding the importance of restraint. The Labour leadership contenders should be very, very, worried.

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