Sleaze adds to Tory turmoil, says Chris Moncrieff

[STANDFIRST] Who can rescue the Conservative Party from its present woeful plight? Effectively in turmoil since Theresa May’s ill-starred general election last June, Chris Moncrieff believes the sleaze hysteria has just made things worse

No speech for
seven years Gavin?
No speech for seven years Gavin?

The Conservative Party is in a mess. It is seriously fraying and tattered at the edges and is in urgent, very urgent, need of repair.

But is it now too late to get the darning needle out to do what is necessary?

But it’s not just the Tories. Parliament itself has been caught up in the hysteria over so-called inappropriate behaviour. Even innocent acts of flirtation are being ridiculously magnified to the level of social crimes shunned by all decent-thinking people. Absurd!

As journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer has said, we could be entering a sterile world where men hardly dare even talk to women for fear of the consequences.

But while this goes on, the Conservatives have their own problems – most springing from the Prime Minister’s woeful and disastrous decision to hold a General Election last June.

It cost more than a few Tories their seats, gave Jeremy Corbyn an unexpected boost, and engendered a feeling of resentment among Conservative Members.

The Tories were transforming from the nasty party to the nasty-to-each-other party. And then with the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon, she gives his job as Defence Secretary to Gavin Williamson, the Chief Whip. This, too, caused unrest among the ranks. Williamson has not, as Chief Whip and before that as David Cameron’s principal aide, made a Commons speech for about seven years. This appointment therefore to such a key role is a huge risk.

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It will take a good deal more than make-do-and-mend or sticking plaster to repair the damaged Tories. But they could at least start by demonstrating more unity, particularly within the Cabinet, which is not exactly showing much of an example to the rank and file.

Meanwhile Theresa May is grimly clinging on - but her long term future at Number 10 is by no means assured.

Theresa May’s political future is by no means secure, but what of Andrea Leadsom, the hugely ambitious Leader of the House of Commons?

Mrs Leadsom has found herself at the centre of the storm which led to the resignation of Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

She is said to have complained to 10 Downing Street about an allegedly lewd joke that Sir Michael told her six years ago. That, it has been claimed, was the deciding factor in the downfall of Fallon.

Some have alleged that Mrs Leadsom acted in this way because she felt her own job was insecure in any imminent reshuffle the Prime Minister was contemplating, and also because she resented Fallon once having described her as a ‘dud’. All very childish, you might think. But pundits claim that by reportedly blowing the whistle on Fallon, Leadsom has made herself unsackable.

Bunkum and balderdash. I am sure Theresa May would not regard Leadsom’s actions as making her immune for the chop if the Prime Minister wanted to dump her. nd anyway, the Tories detest what in another context might be regarded as fourth-form tale-tellers. Leadsom’s prospects of being given her marching orders remain no less than anyone else’s.

So there would be no wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Tory rank and file, should Leadsom suddenly find herself warming her backside on the back-benches rather earlier than she had planned.

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It is a shameful fact that some murderous members of the IRA, with the blood of innocent people on their hands, are walking around at liberty, while unscrupulous legal eagles are seeking ways to prosecute men now in their 70s who, as servicemen, served their country and risked their lives at the height of The Troubles.

No wonder the Tory peer Lord Tebbit is feeling bitter. He was maimed by the IRA bomb attack on he Grand Hotel, Brighton, while his wife Margaret was paralysed – and has remained so ever since – in the same outrage.

Some people feel that Lord Tebbit should forgive. But why should he? It is galling for most people – and it must be far worse for the Tebbits – to think some IRA terrorists were let off the hook by being released early from prison where they were serving sentences for paramilitary activities, as part of the deal to achieve a shared, devolved Government in Belfast.

Right-thinking people were appalled by this arrangement – and the passage of time has not mellowed it in any way.

I remember Margaret Thatcher once virtually rejected the concept of a ‘political crime’. She told a press conference in Riyadh: “A crime is a crime is a crime.”

That did not seem to have entered the heads of some of her successors.

:: Whoever thought Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair’s feared spin doctor, would ever even consider working as Theresa May’s press officer?

However the question was put to him on radio the other day.

To everyone’s astonishment Campbell, a confirmed and un-budgeable Labour supporter and an EU Remainer, said he would. But he entered a strong condition - he would do it, so long as he was given carte blanche to turn round the whole idea of Brexit.

I think that probably makes the proposal a total non-runner...

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