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
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
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
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

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Technical Manager / Lead - Mechanical.

£43000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading Br...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice