Hell is a place where everyone agrees

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The Independent Online

Just a question, but what do we need a Conservative Party for? The point of representative government, as I have always understood it, is that there are interests to be represented, and the point of having an opposition is that the interests to be represented are opposing.

An adversarial political system for an adversarial people: the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate. But now that we all look and want the same - too fat or too thin, botoxed or detoxed, telly-guru to help us with our dressing and our decor, fish lips pursed in expectation of a seven-figure salary, big house with gates, big car with initials, Harry Potter on the bookshelf, laptop wherever there's a lap, plasma-superfluity wherever there's plasma-void, rapper for a son, supermodel for a daughter, football-playing toyboy for granny and the prospect of the whole family starring in I'm Not a Celebrity But I've a Right to Be - where's the argument for an opposition party?

Interest-wise there's no conflict: we are one another's equals. And class-wise - now that we are hell-bent on doing whatever the opposite is of aspiring - ditto. It's Utopia. They've shown us what will make us happy and they're providing it. Utopia, I tell you. And Utopias are never run by a two- or more party system for the obvious reason that Utopias aren't in want of parties. Utopias are like-minded.

Why we have the concept of "dystopia" when that's what every Utopia already is, I have never understood. What do we suppose Hell to be, if it isn't finding ourselves unanimous in heaven?

Gated and agreed as we are, and living in a sort of perpetual Totteridge of the mind (whether or not we have made it there in body yet), we have rendered the idea of alternative representation redundant. Representation for whom? Big-endians and Small-endians? Not even them, now we all break eggs identically.

Yes, I accept that there are people who, while not needing a second party, would prefer a touch more transparency, a little less of what is naively referred to as "spin" (which Americans call "english", don't forget) from the party they've already got. But no one works well when they're being stared at, and you sometimes have to spin a ball if you want to take a wicket. So it isn't reasonable to expect undeviating see-throughness, nor am I convinced that such a thing, even were it possible, would amount to much of an alternative platform.

Change of personalities is the best argument. It's like marriage. You get tired of the same old faces. Though anyone who has been around a bit will know the pitfalls of variety. Unless you're lucky - and no one is ever lucky in politics, no one among the governed, at any rate - you will be identically bored and disillusioned in a fortnight. Bowed and bloodied, become wise at last in their fatalism, some husbands and wives revert to their original spouses. Better the devil you know than the devil you know you're going to know. Which is the only way we can explain the Tories bringing back Michael Howard. Disgusted with the present, they have fallen into a melancholy fit of idealising the past, and hope we will do likewise. Such times we had! How we laughed, how we danced! ... all that.

Pity they didn't go back still earlier to recall that virginity was a virtue once and take a chance on Ann Widdecombe awakening all our yesterdays. As it is, the only human interest in this nostalgia-fest is the embarrassment her "something of the night" remark must now be causing her. Shame. The phrase had flourish, whatever its justice. And wasn't entirely to Mr Howard's detriment.

I wouldn't mind someone saying there was "something of the night" about me. To tell the truth, it's an impression I've been trying, without success, to give for years. A surprising failure taken all round, since I manifestly have nothing of the morning. But there you are - most of us get waylaid somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, and never make it to any later in the public imagination.

I have a dim recollection of Ann Widdecombe joking that she feared she might have got "something of the night" from porno. Bragging, I reckon. There's no imagining Ann Widdecombe with her nose in a dirty book. Besides, though it's no easier to picture her with her nose in cosmic-fantasy either, H P Lovecraft is the definitive source. H P Lovecraft, the fantasist, writing with R H Barlow, the other fantasist. The Night Ocean, penned in 1936. No doubt you know it. The sentence about the ocean "being a prisoner in a hueless vault, as if something of the night were welling into other hours".

Don't ask me how you can well into "other hours". Maybe it's a misprint for "other homes". But "hueless vault" is good, wouldn't you say? Odd, that Ann Widdecombe didn't call Michael Howard a "hueless vault" while she was at it, given its Welsh ring.

They don't write them like they used to. Correction: they write them exactly like they used to, spooky mythology having become just one more of the ways we idle through Utopia.

Whether Lovecraft prefigured other of Ann Widdecombe's colleagues in his novels - in The Curse of Yig, for example, or The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, or The Doom That Came to Sarnath, or Nyarlathotep, or At the Mountains of Madness, or The Ghost-Eater - I am not expert enough to know. "Unutterable ghastliness" has never been my field. But another sentence from The Night Ocean must surely be in all our minds today.

"There were painted women in tinsel adornments, and bored men who were no longer young - a throng of foolish marionettes perched on the lip of the ocean-chasm; unseeing, unwilling to see what lay above them and about, in the multitudinous grandeur of the stars..."

Bored men no longer young. Foolish. Unseeing and unwilling to see. Don't we have enough of those already?