A glimpse at the dark heart of Toryism

David Evans embarrasses other Tories like the breaking of wind in a public place
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The Independent Online
Oops! The veil slipped a little yesterday and we glimpsed the underbelly of Tory Man - David Evans, motor-mouth MP for Luton, naked as nature intended. In an unguarded interview to sixth-formers, he talked of black bastards and his Labour opponent's bastard children. He said that the Birmingham Six had killed hundreds, and that Virginia Bottomley, dead from the neck up, only got her job because she's a woman.

No, no, that's only "dear lovable David" or "that perfectly horrible little squit" at it again, said assorted Tory voices hastening to explain away his "incorrectness". Come, come, every party has its buffoons, all part of the rich warp and weft of Westminster life - where's your sense of proportion? Where's your sense of humour? These mainstream Tory voices imply that I am a typical boring blue-stocking humourless Independent type - "You Islington chablis socialists," said one, "you are far too sensitive about politically incorrect language." Of course they deplore every word that Evans said - disgusting, disgraceful, but, well, that's Evans for you: "Salt of the earth - has his finger on the working-class pulse. They love him."

Imagine if some Ken Livingstone had said anything a fraction as "off message". Think of the outcry at some mild heresy such as putting a penny on the income tax to pay for the NHS - Mawhinney would have it up there on posters faster than you could say loony left. A cry would go up that the militants are creeping out from under the Blair bed. As for Labour, they'd have had anyone a quarter as outrageous as Evans out on his ear by yesterday: the Tories will do nothing about their Militant Tendency.

No, it's just silly old David. But is it? In the lobbies and the corridors, the bars, clubs and conferences, and all the places in which Tories meet you hear the words, the phrases and above all the ideas that those words reveal. Wogs and bimbos, tarts and nig-nogs, chinkies, bits of skirt and bits of fluff (they are old, remember - average age of Tory members is 64). We all know ... that Caribbeans are lazy dopeheads and everyone on benefit's a scrounger. We all know ... fatherless children all grow up deliquent and teenage girls get pregnant on purpose to get flats. We all know ... all asylum-seekers are frauds and all young blacks are muggers.

Now none of us talks in private the way we speak and write for public consumption. Jokes, shorthand, slang, there are a hundred things we say to our friends that we phrase differently for strangers. But not those words, not those ideas.

Interestingly, every Tory I telephoned yesterday, even on the liberal wing, used the phrase "politically correct" at some point in the conversation, as in "We don't want to be too politically correct, do we?" or "I know he's awfully politically incorrect but ..." - and there you have it. The right-wing press, right-wingers of all kinds bandy about the "politically correct" epiphet because it has become a portmanteau cover-up for the unspeakable. Those who mock non-racist or non-sexist language as "politically correct" actually mean, but dare not say, that racism and sexism is OK with them. They pretend that it is the language of equality that they detest - but actually it is the idea of equality they deplore.

So have we glimpsed into the dark heart of Conservatism - or is it just "maverick", "one off", "our man on the terraces" Evans? Take immigration, for instance. By chance yesterday in the Commons Nicholas Budgen urged the Prime Minister to attack two liberalisations of immigration law promised by Labour - but John Major snubbed him, determined not to play the race card (his last remaining loincloth of genuine decency - though after him, what vileness comes next?). When I talked to Budgen, he was angry: "Strict control of immigration is important - but it only comes on page 480 of our election guide. Go and ask my people in Wolverhampton what they think. It was very silly of the Prime Minister to give in to the politically correct lobby."

John Carlisle MP, never knowingly outflanked on the right, praised Evans yesterday: "More of that kind of talk would get us back the working-class vote. Let's call a spade a spade. When Margaret Thatcher spoke of immigrants swamping us, she struck a chord. You should have heard my taxi driver talking about the Huns and being pushed around by a load of foreigners. Ask the chap in the public bar and he'll tell you about asylum-seekers ..." and lots more on those lines.

On the other wing, Edwina Currie (whose chances of re-election are vanishing by the day) was in free-talking mood yesterday, scathing about the wrong tone her party strikes: out of touch, out of date, with no notion of human rights, race, gender, equality or gay issues. "MPs think social issues don't count. Their tone and attitude is 1947, not 1997. They think women are all wives and mothers, and the only ones they tolerate in the Commons are unthreateningly stupid, like Dame Jill Knight and Lady Olga Maitland. They don't understand the world has changed, and they cause offence whenever they talk about single mothers, marriage or divorce. The Tory party has driven the voters away."

Yes, there are decent Tories who will not talk race: black bastard talk is vulgar and loutish. But you don't have to scratch them to find that they are all indeed conservatives, and conservatives are not liberals. David Evans embarrasses them like the breaking of wind in a public place, because it is what so many of them do themselves in private. And if the more fastidious of them do not, then they tolerate talk and jokes like that in virtually every dwindling Conservative club full of old, sour, mean, white faces up and down the land.