Bill's Archived Comments

Monday, 22nd October 2001

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A Letter from Iain Duncan Smith (who he?)

I recently wrote a letter to the Leader of the Opposition (see archived comments for 1st October 2001) and have received a reply back from his office - I suppose I should be grateful to receive some kind of response, but the content is, to put it brutally frankly, less than satisfactory. It seems clear that his recent efforts to seem less of a right-wing extremist, notably in his Sunday Telegraph interview with Gyles Brandreth, and in his closing speech to the Conservative Party conference at Blackpool, were only the public face - I think it is worth repeating both again, to contrast with his letter. The hypocrisy of the man takes the breath away!!

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."

In a speech closing the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool on 10th October, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Leader of the Opposition, said in part: "We know that women, ethnic minorities and people of different life-styles must have greater opportunity within our Party. And I shall do everything I can to give this effect. Not because I am interested in ensuring that the Conservative Party is politically correct, but because I want us to be politically effective. That means drawing on the widest possible pool of talent, recruiting and promoting on the basis of merit.

And that is also why I will be intolerant of anyone who is intolerant of others."

Some might very well say the reality is that the man is a .....-.... ..... and a ......... - I could not possibly comment.

What is clear is that he seems to believe that we don't look back and compare and contrast what he was trying to have us believe only a few weeks ago, and what he is saying now - anyway, you be the judge, click here to see the text of his letter to me.

I think this letter can best be classified as a [poorly crafted] 'political' letter - it could have been sent equally to Lady Young or to Peter Tatchell, and is not really a response to my letter in any meaningful way. The letter does however, I think, shed a little more light on Mr Duncan Smith's real thinking on the matter of Section 28. I am not in the habit of publishing copies of other people's 'private' letters to me, but I have decided to make an exception this time, although in a letter to him sent on 19th October in commentary on his letter, I indicated that I would remove the text of his letter if he wishes it - developments are awaited.

Now, I mentioned above that Mr Duncan Smith seems to believe that we don't look back and compare and contrast what he was trying to have us believe only a few weeks ago, and what he is saying now - well, here is another example of the 'contrast'. On 19th October the Party Chairman (Mr David Davis), speaking one presumes with the backing of the Party Leader, announced that "we are requesting the Monday Club to suspend all links with the Conservative Party...." because of its racist and discriminatory agenda, whereas just a month or so ago Mr Duncan Smith was opining that "...the Monday Club in a way is really what the Conservative Party is all about." - make of that what you will; I'd say naked political calculation, because unless Mr Duncan Smith is a moral schizophrenic, a charge even I would shrink from  advocating seriously, I can think of no other explanation.

There are a number of things to say here - surely a statement from David Davis along the lines of  "... we are informing the Monday Club that it is suspended from affiliation with the Conservative Party until...."  or better still "... and because the aims of the Monday Club are incompatible with those of the Conservative Party, all links  with the Monday Club are hereby severed and continuing membership of the Monday Club will result in the withdrawal of Conservative Party membership from any member who remains a member of the Monday Club." would have been more appropriate, not to say logical - the phraseology Mr Davis used is somewhat peculiar, in my view. By the way, I looked today (20 October 2001), at the Monday Club website and they still describe themselves as the "Conservative Monday Club" and I can discern no amendment to their 'aims' on the page which deals with their views on various topics . Perhaps since the three Conservative MPs were required to resign if the Conservative whip was not to be withdrawn, there is no-one left within the "Conservative Monday Club" who knows how to update their site (this is meant to be ironic comment, although the tragedy is that it might well be true). On the other hand it may be a gesture of 'defiance' - I read in the press today that there is some suggestion that a legal challenge may be mounted to test the legality of the Conservative Party's action in suspending the Club. I shall watch this developing farce with some interest, not to say mirth.

It is certainly a move in the right direction for the Conservative Party to seek to distance itself from the Monday Club (long overdue, but welcome nonetheless), but are we seriously expected to believe that members (existing and former) of the Monday Club can change what they think as easily as they may perhaps be willing to change the Club's aims to comply with what the current leadership of the Conservative Party believes is necessary to improve its chances of electoral success? Now that is a long and pretty complex sentence, but it is no more complex than the line we are expected to follow - that the bigots and racists who form the membership of the Monday Club can be transformed overnight into people who no longer believe what they have believed for years. The truth is that, provided they keep quiet about their odious views, the Conservative Party is perfectly happy to go along with the charade - witness the recent change forced upon the Monday Club concerning payment to those who agree to voluntary repatriation. If they thought they could get away with it, does anyone really believe they wouldn't change their policies back? It won't wash!

We heard on Sunday (21st October) the announcement from Mr Iain Duncan Smith that he is launching an extensive review of Conservative Party policies, probably the most important such review for over twenty years - it will be interesting to learn over the coming months just what is meant by this.

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