Wednesday, March 30, 2005

We're fools to make war on our 'Brothers in Arms'

Howard Flight is now claiming that he will not back down in his fight against Michael Howard until his local party deselects him. Lord Tebbit, to whom Flight was once an aide, weighs in on his behalf. And then another deselected Tory candidate, this time from Slough, pipes up to fight to reclaim his candidature.

What do these people seriously think they are gaining from such a campaign? I understand their annoyance fully; if I had given my time and effort towards becoming a selected candidate or an elected MP, then to have it taken away would be particularly galling. Yet they were supposedly prepared to stand for election under the banner of the Conservative Party - a corporate identity totally distinct from the persona of Mr Flight or Mr Hilton. And if they are willing to be a public face for this corporate identity, then they must be willing to abide by the company line.

This is particularly so in the case of Mr Flight, who was prepared to sit on the managing board of the corporate entity. If any businessman in the City had acted against the interests of their company in the way Howard Flight did (especially after having been expressly warned by their boss about their conduct), they would have been summarily dismissed.

Such is the way of politics nowadays that this analogy really does stand up. Does Mr Flight really believe that his majority is down to his force of personality? Of course not. People voted because they wanted a Conservative government in power.

When Mr Flight intimated in public that his party were lying about their spending plans, he was immediately playing straight into the hands of the Tories' leading opponents, discrediting his own party and severely hampering their election chances. You cannot say one thing in public and another in a semi-public forum and expect to be taken seriously, especially at such a sensitive time.

And yet he refuses to take his sacking with dignity. Worse still, his grandstanding against the party leadership has encouraged another publicity seeker to come crawling out of the woodwork and damage the interests of their party yet further. If these men were prepared to fight for election as a Conservative member, why are they acting so spitefully now? Do they really think that their public posturing does anything to serve the interests of the party they claim to support?

Does Lord Tebbit really think that his right-wing agenda is going to be better served by a Blair government? Does Howard Flight really think that efficiency in the public services is more likely to be achieved under the Labour Party than under the Tories? Does Adrian Hilton believe that deliberately seeking to undermine the party leadership makes chances of a Tory victory in Slough greater?

If the answe to any of the questions above is yes, then they are all too stupid to be serving in the governmental process in any case. I may disagree quite strongly with the Tories on many issues; but these men are supposedly loyal party supporters. And yet they are doing the job of the Labour Party for them. They have shown in the last few days that they are more interested in getting face time and publicity for themselves than to get down to work and serve their country and their constituents, as they profess to want to do.

For better or worse, we have an adversarial style of politics which leaves us often with a straight choice between one party or another. For people on the far-right of the political spectrum to attack the right-wing party beggars belief. What it shows, of course, is that politicians like Flight and Hilton place their egos ahead of the country's interest. The whole issue has been a shambolic affair from start to finish. Yet both men should have had the decency to "take one for the team". The issues here are quite clear-cut ones of party presentation. The candidature of both men presented an image of the party which was at odds with the platform the party stands for. In that case, Howard was right to cut them both adrift. And both men are shooting themselves in the foot if they expected to bring respect back to the Tories.