David Aaronovitch's column

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The new politics takes some adjusting to. Yesterday, the extant Lord Rothermere went and sat on the Labour benches in the House of Nobs. I fear that soon we will see newspaper photographs of Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley slipping into Number 10 in the wee hours, carting a crate of Bollinger. The world has turned upside-down.

Fortunately, there are some natural Conservatives who are prepared to resist the tug of fashion. Writing from their last bastion, the Telegraph titles, they have been at pains to tell their readers two reassuring truths. First, that the defeat wasn't so bad; and, second, that ere long the electorate will rue its impetuous choice and return to the Conservative fold.

Thus the editor of The Sunday Telegraph, writing the weekend after the general election, made the following soothing observation. Yes, he admitted, the first-past-the-post electoral system had given Labour two-and-a-half times more seats than the Conservatives. "But look at it another way," he enjoined his readers. "For every four people who voted Labour, three voted Conservative. If your favourite football team lost a match 4-3 (after extra time), you would not feel that your team had been destroyed." Yes, but if (to complete Mr Lawson's analogy) it happened in every single match, and you were relegated with zero points, perhaps you might feel the heaviness of the defeat.

Later in the same week, Mr Stephen Glover wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the scale of the Tory defeat had been exaggerated. We "should not forget that according to some estimates about two million people who voted Tory in 1992 stayed at home. Many of them may well vote Conservative next time" (these are my italics). I was immediately reminded of Mr Tony Benn's sunny celebration of the "eight and a half million socialists" who backed Labour in the catastrophic election of 1983.

However, it has gradually dawned, even on these rather unworldly men, that 1 May 1997 may have been a bad day for the Tories. So the tack has been changing from reassurance to prophecy. Demented Israelites such as Lord Rothermere might now be dancing round the golden idols of New Labour, but mark their words (the staff thumps, the grizzled locks shake) - there will be a reckoning.

I have now begun to collect such articles, so that I can read them when life seems otherwise devoid of laughter or when I am unwell. My favourite so far is yesterday's article by Mr Glover comparing Tony Blair to Laurent Kabila, conqueror of Zaire. Apparently, Mr Glover read about how the residents of Kinshasa had greeted the entry of Mr Kabila, shouting "Liberator! Liberator!" He goes on: "It was impossible not to make some comparisons with what is going on in our own country."

True, the author admits the occasional inexactness of an analogy between the fall of Mobutu and the defeat of Mr Major. Even so, most of his readers may have thought that it was entirely possible to get through an entire Zairean revolution without thinking about Tony Blair.

So what were the similarities Mr Glover drew on? Well, Major's government was a teeny bit sleazy, and Mobutu's regime was the most corrupt kleptocracy in the world, so there's one. Mr Kabila has moved away from Marxism to the free market, and so has T. Blair (except that he was never a Marxist). Oh, and Mr Kabila is austere and humourless, banning black leggings, while "the New Labour cohorts of Twiggs and Mandelsons and Browns" have an equal reputation for "humourlessness and discipline". Not down at the Ministry of Sound, they don't.

It is too late, of course, for Mr Glover's warnings to affect the outcome in Zaire (or indeed prevent the French Revolution, which he also deplores). Those few Congolese who were able to understand the awful truth (that this nice Kabila chap might turn out to be as bad as Mr Blair) were almost certainly shot before they could warn others. But it is not too late for us to cast aside our palm fronds and our illusions, and to realise that, in the real world, as Mr Glover concludes, "if some things really do get better, others will almost certainly get worse". How very true.

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