Fourth Estate £11.99 (248pp) £10.89 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
True Blue, By Chris Horrie & David Matthews
Friday 11 September 2009
Nearly three years ago a blog appeared called The Carpetbaggers, which promised more than it delivered. Two journalists - one white, one black, using false names - had joined the Conservative Party to tell it like it is, from the inside. Our heroes ventured into the Richmond Conservative Association, met the candidate, an ageing activist named Robert, and an "elderly man in a blazer who has a military bearing and a limp", whom they called the Colonel. He was a perfect stereotype Tory, even to the point of spluttering about "political correctness gone mad".
But the blog ended as soon it had begun, with no second entry. Now it has been reborn as the opening of a book in which Chris Horrie and David Matthews set off on an anthropological quest to uncover the "Tory nation". They have had to stretch the definition of "Tory" to find enough material. Their search took them to a village cricket match in Sussex, a WI meeting in Basingstoke, the Royal Show in Warwickshire, a Country Landowners' Association Fair in Blenheim Palace, a conference of the UK Independence Party in Suffolk, and the Dagenham Town Show – all only tangentially relevant to their original mission of uncovering the heart of the Conservative Party.
They did also attend a few genuine party events, posing as disillusioned Labour voters, which allows them to write some sharp pen-portraits of George Osborne and a few minor figures, including the "chick-lit" author Louise Bagshawe, the Henley MP John Howell, and Shaun Bailey, the young black Tory candidate in Hammersmith.
Their unstartling conclusion is that the England of "warm beer, invincible green suburbs and old maids bicycling to Holy Communion", which the Conservative Party was formed to conserve, has gone, and the party "as a living, breathing part of our communities" is "close to extinction" despite the veneer of clever professionals at the top end. But, hey, what happened to the Colonel? The blog encounter with the Richmond Tories is described again with many of the same details, but no Colonel. The only plausible conclusion is that there never was a Colonel. Having invented him to spice up a pseudonymous blog, the authors fell back on the truth as they shed their pseudonyms and transferred to print.
That reveals their book's weakness. In the absence of literary invention, they have a pretty dull story to tell. Chris Horrie was co-writer of a fabulous book published in 1992 about life on The Sun. Then he was writing about funny, grotesque behaviour in an organisation that wielded alarming influence. This time, with very few exceptions, the book is about people who are elderly, powerless, and dull. Its cover promises "strange tales", but what it serves up is mostly just sad.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 #NotGuilty: Second Oxford student writes of brutal rape by two men who then threw her in a bin as part of campaign against victim blaming
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 5 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils