Labour fingers Tory 'barmy army'

Paul Routledge on the new breed of right-wingers

It is sometimes said that, in extremis, political parties turn to extremists. If that is so, the Conservative Party may be in bigger trouble than anyone imagined. Out there in the shires, the market towns and deepest suburbia, local Tories are choosing serious hard-liners to stand at the general election.

Or so the operators of Tony Blair's expensive new toy, the highly sophisticated Excalibur election database, would have us believe. It has identified 40 of the 76 new Tory candidates at the election as "right-wingers" and Labour clearly intends to frighten the voters with their more extreme views, so confirming its own stance as the party of the mainstream and the centre. The Tories dispute the labels.

Excalibur's operators invite us to spare a thought for the voters of marginal Thurrock, Essex, who are being offered an ultra-Essex man, Andrew Rosindell. Last time round he stood at hopeless Glasgow Provan and paraded with a dog in a Union Jack waistcoat. Asked about his social life, he said he had no girlfriend, but he did have a dog.

Then we should consider the voters of The Wrekin, where Peter Bruinvels is attempting a parliamentary comeback. The man who believes that God sent him to the Commons from Leicester East in 1983, but supported nude photographs of women in newspapers, also famously offered to become Britain's official hangman.

Neither is likely to win, but others of like stripe unquestionably will. The Sixties generation of Conservative back-benchers who came in with Edward Heath as their leader are now bowing out, to be replaced by Thatcher's Children, who have come of age. Generally speaking.

Watch, for example, for John Bercow, who was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students when it was so right-wing that even Norman Tebbit had to close it down. He looks a fair bet at Buckingham, the soft-South constituency into which he literally helicoptered in his insatiable bid to become an MP. Bercow is a serious partyer (a member of the Bullingdon dining club at Oxford) who thinks the left "must be confronted, not appeased".

Then there is the daddy of them all, Dr Julian Lewis, deputy head of research at Conservative Central Office, who is still fighting the Cold War. He is set to be returned from New Forest East, a new seat in Hampshire with a notional Tory majority of more than 11,000. He is theright's Keith Flett, forever scribbling to the papers about the outrageous left-wing past of somebody or other.

And we should not forget Adrian Rogers (Exeter), organiser of the Conservative Family campaign, who told a magazine last year that working women were "fair game, because they're available, they're mobile and they're dressed to kill".

Surveying the results of Excalibur's trawl, Labour's deputy leader, John Prescott, said: "After the next election, even if the Tories lose badly we will see the most right-wing parliamentary Conservative Party in living memory - and still hardly a woman in sight. If John Major thought he had problems with 'bastards' in his Cabinet in this parliament, he won't know what has hit him after the election, when he is trying to pull the Tory Opposition into shape."

Right-wing Tories, however, refuse to celebrate what is supposed to be an impending triumph. One self-confessed hard-liner (that was all he would admit to, certainly not his name) heaped scorn on Labour's analysis. "Is this what they spent half a million pounds on?" he snickered. "Some of these people are on the Tory left!"

Excalibur said that Elizabeth Gibson, candidate at Hampstead and Highgate against Glenda Jackson, and wife of disgraced ex-Tory MP Keith Best (who made multiple applications for shares in privatised companies), was a right-winger. Absolutely not, harrumphed Mr Right. What about Shaun Woodward, the candidate to replace Douglas Hurd at Witney? Ridiculous again. "I would put him firmly on the left."

The trouble is, budding politicians are wont to paint themselves in the right colours for their audience. If a young Tory turk thinks it would be wise to take on deep blue, the colour can change. How right-wing do you want me to be, he might ask. And constituency Conservative Associations can be unbelievably fickle. Down in deepest Dorset West, where kindly Sir Jim Spicer is retiring, they were looking for a local farmer with a bit of social conscience, on the left of the party but not irrationally so. What did they fetch up with? Oliver Letwin, a north London intellectual firmly on the Euro-sceptic right, credited with parentage of the poll tax, who managed to lose Hampstead and Highgate to an Aslef-sponsored Labour candidate, the first time the seat had gone down since the Harold Wilson landslide of 1966.

The Tory right feels it has been traduced by Labour. "Yes, we have got some of our people in. But the left have got theirs in too," said the hard-line source. "Look at Damian Green. He's got Ashford." And so he has, where he is as certain as anything is in politics to take over from Sir Keith Speed. Green, a member of John Major's policy unit for two years, was closely involved in the attempt to roll back the permissive society that ended in the Back to Basics fiasco. But even Labour admits he is "firmly on the Tory left". He has tried - unsuccessfully, according to Labour - "to get more figures from the Tory left selected".

These labels are a tricky business. But David Hill, Labour's spokesman, has no doubts: "Whenever we accuse the Tories of lurching to the right, they reject that accusation. One look at the list of their candidates shows just how accurate we are."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on