The impression one gets about the Conservative Party is that they are worried little bunnies. Having told themselves and anyone within hearing distance that they were the party of the future, of change and hope and were going to sweep to landslide victory next May to sort out all the problems that appeared since 1997 (there being no history before that), they are now sounding a little less certain.
There are indications that you really cannot fool all of the people all of the time and the Cameron agenda is not being accepted in the country. After all, what is in that agenda beyond getting Brown and his family out of Number Ten and getting Cameron and his family in. Enough to vote Conservative? Not for many people as recent local and national by-election results and opinion polls demonstrate.
What would change the game would be the Conservatives presenting the electorate with some positive reasons for being elected: some ideas on the EU would help; general policies on education that would at least indicate how they intend to deal with the most fundamental problem this country faces; a few suggestions on healthcare that would show an understanding of long-term development; that sort of thing. Instead, we get a great deal of whining about ... well, just about everybody.
All bad things started in 1997 and the country was close to utopian existence before that if before that actually existed, seems to be the general party line.
Too bad that many of us recall the situation under the Conservative government, including such details as the Maastricht Treaty and the way it was railroaded through Parliament. (I sat through most of the debates in the Commons and spent some time helping those peers who wanted to pass a referendum amendment in the Lords. The leading one of them was Lord Pearson of Rannoch.)
We can also recall "Baker days" at schools, the destruction of O-levels and the transformation of perfectly good polytechnics into tenth rate universities. All of that happened under the Conservatives.
Enough already. The Tories' other great strategy is to attack the small parties that might attract voters. It has sunk into what passes for brains among Conservative strategists that quite a large number of people are so dissatisfied with the party and its leadership that they might vote for someone else. Or they might stay at home and not vote for anybody. Give 'em credit: it has only taken them three election losses to begin to understand that there is somewhere these people can go.
This is not a particularly intelligent strategy. In the first place, it raises those smaller parties to the same level and encourages people to consider seriously the pros and cons of voting for them.
It conveys and atmosphere of panic, not a good idea just over six months before the general election with several by-elections of various kinds to go before that.
The panic caused by the election of Lord Pearson of Rannoch to the leadership of UKIP is palpable, as the Boss has written on EUReferendum where he analyzes the first of, undoubtedly, many attempts to smear Lord Pearson or, at least, to present him as just another corrupt politician, so you might as well vote Conservative. Or something.
He refers to the rag in question as the Daily Scarygraph, which is a good name but I am old-fashioned and prefer to use the traditional moniker of the Daily Torygraph. This is particularly appropriate as the piece is nothing much but an attempt to bolster the Tories by being nasty about the man they appear to fear most. (Which tells you a great deal about the Tories but then you knew that, anyway.)
The Boss has done all the calculations, which yield pathetically low sums compared with what MPs have been allowed to snaffle. The Torygraph manages not to mention that peers do not get salaries and their expenses are conditional on their appearing in the Chamber. Despite that it is in the House of Lords that detailed scrutiny of Government Bills takes place, not in the House of Commons.
Lord Pearson and his UKIP colleague, Lord Willoughby de Broke, are hard-working peers. From experience I know that presented with briefs and documents they read through them though nobody pays them for the time spent on that. Equally, from experience I know that secretarial and research services have to be paid by the peers themselves with very little help from the House.
Lord Pearson has, on various occasions, paid for publications he thought useful in the debate to be distributed to various colleagues of his. This, too, is not mentioned in that silly article.
Somehow I doubt that it will have the desired result. The problem, as far, as the Tories are concerned is that Lord Pearson is someone many Conservatives feel they can trust. This has nothing to do with all that nonsense about him having "servants" on his estate; this is run as a business and the "servants" are employees.
It has nothing to do with him being upper-crust, which he is not or being involved in some country sports, which is not an upper-crust pastime in the country, especially not in Scotland. It has nothing to do with him being an old Etonian or with being on friendly terms with many political, business and social animals.
What it has to do with is the understanding that with all his various faults Lord Pearson is a man of principle. He is also a man of experience, having built up his own very successful business, running his estate as another business, setting up various charities and organizations that help charities and think-tanks financially.
He has helped Soviet and East European dissidents and victims of Islamist persecution; he was involved in the fight to save country sports and country businesses, particularly those that produce food; he has taken part in campaigns and set up organizations that help disabled children, their families and carers; he has defied all to bring Geert Wilders over to this country and to proclaim the importance of free speech; above all, he has fought the Euro-Monster for many years in the House of Lords, through his contacts in the business world and via determined correspondence with the BBC that is beginning to pay off.
As against that, we have David Cameron. Need I say more?
Still, the battle to ensure that UKIP is seen in a bad light continues. The Times, which was the first one to interview the new leader of the party, is now joining the fight. Today's article is all about UKIP members threatening to leave in droves because of the offer made by the new leader with the agreement of the old leader to Lord Strathclyde: UKIP would not stand in the general election if the Tories make that referendum part of their campaign.
Or something like that, as this was a pretty easy offer. Clearly, the Conservatives had never intended to give a referendum though it might have been more courteous to respond to Lord Pearson.
To be fair, the only people interviewed are the losing candidates, Gerard Batten and Nikki Sinclaire who are not showing themselves to be good losers and why should they. Their comments need to be taken with a very large dose of salt. Anyone else would be able to see that this whole saga is harmful to the Tories as it shows that as long ago as this summer they had given up on the idea of a referendum but continued to pretend.
Yes, but it is a story, I hear some readers say and the Times should be covering stories. Indeed, it should and it does not do so often enough, though it has been more assiduous on the question of "Climategate" than, say, the main part of the Torygraph. (Bloggers are excepted, particularly James Delingpole who ran with the story.)
Meanwhile, to show that those who attack UKIP are not the only mentally deficient members of the party, we have Eric Pickles coming out fighting against .... the BNP. For most of the day ToryBoy Blog led with the story of Eric Pickles, Conservative Party Chairman blasting plans to give the BNP more time on the media during election campaigns. It seems that he reacted to a "consultation paper from the broadcasting regulator Ofcom proposes that minority parties such as the BNP be given more Party Election Broadcasts and that those broadcasts could be shown during peak viewing hours", blasting plans by quangos (and which government made them a significant part of the political landscape?) to give more air time to "extremists".
Does this mean he does not mind more air time to non-extremist minority parties or he would accept more air time for international socialists but not national ones? Does he not realize that by making this point he once again plays the BNP's game? As, of course, does the Sun and that ridiculous organization, Nothing British to which I cannot even bear myself to link. Tim Montgomerie does. The comments on the piece are quite interesting. It seems that even Conservatives are beginning to get restive.