Bill's Archived Comments

Monday, 3rd September 2001

Conservative Leadership Race - the home straight

The leadership contest has taken on a somewhat surreal tone. We have the spectacle of Iain Duncan Smith professing bafflement when people say he is 'right-wing'; we had David Maclean MP (a Duncan Smith supporter) saying, during the period immediately after Mr Edgar Griffin was expelled from the Party for assistance given to the BNP [and for revealing himself, out of his own mouth on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, to hold views which many people, including me, can only classify as 'racist'], that he was totally surprised by the revelation and did not think there was another Conservative in the whole country (ironic guffaw!) who thinks this way. Then we have Andrew Lansley, a Ken Clarke (formerly Portillo) supporter, and seemingly a sensible individual, saying that there is 'endemic racism' in the Conservative Party and that such beliefs are 'latent' in a small proportion of the people making up many national institutions. For his part, Iain Duncan Smith has stated (with some credibility it must be admitted) that he has fought racism all his life and that there is racism present amongst a small number of members of all the major political parties - and he provided examples to illustrate what he believes, which I have not so far heard repudiated. So where does all this leave us? For my part, unimpressed.

Now, to get back to Mr Duncan Smith and his 'bafflement' - I think it suffices to quote Lord Tebbit who said: "If you think I am right wing, then just wait until you hear this man."  - no Mr Duncan Smith, there is NO real doubt.

I awakened yesterday (Sunday) to hear a snippet on the news that Mr Duncan Smith had suggested that he 'may consider' changing the Party's policy on Section 28 if he becomes Leader. In an interview with Gyles Brandreth, published in 'The Sunday Telegraph' on 2nd September, he is quoted as saying:

"I am not going to come out in favour of gay marriage, Gyles, but I do have to recognise that we as a party have become identified with what we dislike and hate rather than the things we like. Clause 28, I accept, has about it a totem which is about saying to a group in the community, 'We actually rather dislike you'.

That is a problem and a party like ours has to recognise the problem and think, how do we resolve that? It is important to protect children from influences that are malign and manipulative, but, at the same time, I want to get rid of the concept that it's all about one community. So, yes, I'd look at it again."

Whilst I welcome this, it would seem to me very premature to assume that this has less to do with naked political calculation than any genuine rethinking on Mr Duncan Smith's part, or anything to do with the 'common sense' he contends it is. Today we have that well known liberal, Miss Ann Widdecombe [ironically a supporter of Mr Kenneth Clarke and herself a strong supporter, like Mr Duncan Smith heretofore, of retention of Clause 28] throwing doubt upon the genuineness of his conversion. So why has Mr Duncan Smith said this? Is it a genuine change of heart, or do his private sources indicate that support for him is less overwhelming than might be assumed from recent polls? Is it a realisation that there are more Conservatives who are gay or not antipathetic to gays than he had earlier assumed, and who are unwilling to remain silent in the face of the bigoted policies of their Party? Who knows. Perhaps it is a combination of many reasons.

The Conservative Party is at a crossroads - whether I shall remain a member once this crossroads is passed is now very uncertain.

The Real Enemy - Labour Squabbling and Opportunism

Scotland Office Secretary of State, Helen Liddell, and Scottish Executive Minister Wendy Alexander BOTH want to be 'ambassadors' for Scotland; fair enough, one might think, but these two lovelies resent the other treading on what each considers her own 'turf'. Wouldn't it be a good idea for them to talk to each other and co-ordinate their activities? Surely it cannot be that the 'New' Labour UK Government and the Labour-led Scottish Executive are at odds?

Does the Scottish Executive plan to raise additional revenue for its spending plans by using its right, under the Scotland Act, to levy upto 3p in the pound of tax in Scotland? It appears that pleas to their Labour friends in London to supplement the block grant to allow these spending plans to go ahead have been less than favourably received. Surprised?

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