Bill's Archived Comments

Monday, 18th June 2001

Cardinal Thomas Winning Dies

It is reported that the Leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland died early Sunday morning 17th June. Good riddance!! I hope that the new Cardinal for Scotland will be in the mould of Cardinal Basil Hume, not the person who replaced him in England. I have nothing more to say on this subject.

Conservative Leadership Contest

In the wake of a second disastrous result in a General Election, the Leader William Hague resigned quickly and, it must be said, with some dignity from his position as Leader of the Party.

At the time of writing, only one candidate to replace Hague has declared himself - Michael Portillo. I hope that Kenneth Clarke will declare himself a candidate also - he is the person I would feel most comfortable with, for many reasons, even though his credentials on matters gay are not entirely clear, or perhaps satisfactory. Michael Portillo sounds as if he could be a viable candidate, although his views on Europe remain a problem for me; he does seem to have moved to a slightly more moderate position on this matter, but whether from expedience or conviction is not clear.

Ian Duncan Smith, despite his efforts to moderate his extreme views (for public consumption) in recent days, would be a disaster for the Conservative Party - I will at the very least feel constrained to cease all active work for the Party if he were to be elected leader, and more probably would resign completely. It appears, thank goodness, that even right-wingers think Anne Widdecombe is too 'idiosynchratic' to be elected so, unless the Party undergoes the political equalivent of a stroke, I am hopeful we can discount any serious likelihood of her standing or being elected.

The Conservative Party needs to conduct a pretty unsparing dissection of its policies and an objective analysis of each major policy area to identify those which are making us unelectable and to identify those which are valid, and there are some of those, too! My views on Europe differ from the current orthodoxy within the Party (I'll vote for Kenneth Clarke without a second thought if he stands and gets through to the final two candidates), but I think also that the Party is now seriously out of touch with a major part of the population on social matters and, on balance, I think this is the more serious problem. I think it is possible for compromises within the Party to be reached on European issues which would both satisfy most Party members (other than perhaps those who hold very extreme views on either side of the argument) and touch appropriate chords in a sizeable proportion of the population. My real worry is, however, that on social matters the Party is now so seriously out of touch with Britain as it now is that the vast bulk of the Party membership do not even realise the extent of the problem and are unwilling to countenance any change in the Party's basic positions in these areas. Both Michael Portillo and, curiously, Ian Duncan Smith (not my favourite person, usually!!) seem both to recognise the need for some movement in this area, if their recent public utterances in the past few days are a guide. One has only, unfortunately, to look at recordings of those parts of Portillo's speech to last Autumn's Party Conference at Bournemouth, which dealt with 'social inclusion' and 'acceptance of diversity', greeted in almost stony silence by delegates (in marked contrast to the rest of his speech), to realise the gulf that exists between the core beliefs (or 'prejudices' - let's call a spade a spade, shall we?) of too many of the Party's loyal supporters and the population as a whole. Lord Tebbit's utterances concerning Michael Portillo's suitability to be Party Leader have been condemned even by Ian Duncan Smith - but it is probably true to say that many/most Conservatives think Lord Tebbit is absolutely correct, even if they consider it imprudent to state this too loudly - Lord Tebbit, whatever one may think of him and his views, could never be called a coward or a person who dissimulates what he genuinely believes.

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