I must declare an interest here. When I published The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost Its Way (Continuum, May 2009), it contained criticisms of the Cameron scheme for obtaining office without power. Like my previous books, it was attacked by reviewers in the left-wing press. In fact, I have been scolded for my anti-Cameron position by no less a person than Michael White, the political editor of the Guardian. But unlike my previous books it went unreviewed by every newspaper and magazine of the "Right" except my own, and by every significant conservative commentator except Michael Gove, the one member of the Cameron circle confident enough to relish debate. This self-enforced silence about Mr Cameron is particularly odd because so many conservative writers — and they know who they are — must have grave doubts about Mr Cameron and his ideas. Those who endured the early pre-Iraq years of Blairism, when a horrible and destructive government met no serious opposition at all, yearned hopelessly for a champion who could fight this awful creature and his slippery, anti-British and unconstitutional rule.
Actually, William Hague performed far better than he was ever given credit for. He was, for instance, a far more effective opponent at the Parliamentary despatch box than David Cameron, regularly making a fool of the supposedly invincible Anthony Blair. On more than one occasion he ripped Gordon Brown's fraudulent and confiscatory Budgets into small pieces. But he was endlessly undermined, both by his own colleagues and by the media classes — especially by a gratuitous personal attack on him at a crucial moment, by Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper.
The tragi-comic leadership of Iain Duncan Smith, who I suspect knew very well that he was not equipped for the post but took it out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, happened because by then the bigger men in the party — including Mr Hague — were not prepared to take on the task of upholding conservative principles in a hostile world. The election of Kenneth Clarke was impossible after the turmoil over Maastricht. But Mr Duncan Smith inherited an especially unpleasant task. He either had to stand for his principles and be pelted with slime and cowpats until he quit or he had to do what Mr Cameron would eventually do. Mr Duncan Smith chose the braver course and was duly rewarded with derision and public humiliation.
Labour's main aim in the 2001 election, privately much discussed, and openly stated by Mr Blair in an extraordinary triumphalist speech at Wellingborough just before the poll, had been to force the Tories, by a second overwhelming defeat, to abandon what remained of their conservative policies. This would guarantee that New Labour's radical programme of constitutional reform, sexual and moral revolution, egalitarian education and heavy redistributive taxation would not be reversed, a major preoccupation of Labour radicals since the days of the English political theorist Harold Laski. Mr Duncan Smith would not have given in to this demand if he could. So he had to go, even if this had to be managed by a combination of media undermining and backstairs plotting, over the heads of actual Tory voters. He was ejected in an establishment and media-backed putsch, and Michael Howard was installed in his place after none could be found to stand against him. (There were, interestingly, few media complaints and jibes about Michael Howard being an "unelected" leader, compared with the many about Gordon Brown being unelected.) Mr Howard's baffling and undeserved reputation for being "right-wing", which does not stand up to any serious examination, placated or disarmed opposition. The Tory Party went into administration, where it remains, controlled by the trustees of the establishment and the thought police of the media — who ensured David Cameron's succession.
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