Whoever would have thought the Conservative Party could provide such wonderful wholesome entertainment? The next stage must be that they go the same way as one of these guerrilla armies that falls apart and they all start firing on each other. Duncan Smith will lure Michael Howard to a secluded rendezvous for talks about a truce, but having secretly arranged an alliance with Kenneth Clarke, whose posse will ambush Howard's men as they leave the Commons tea bar.
Then the survivors will be betrayed by Ann Widdecombe, who fires on the lot of them on her way to appearing on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes as Lulu. And as with these guerrilla feuds, it could go on for decades, so that barely anyone involved can remember how it started. For example, one faction might train and drill in a camp in Wiltshire under a huge picture of David Davis, while an old-timer sits around the fire telling of the day Duncan Smith "had me called into the Whips' office and said I might be demoted from shadow agriculture spokesman. Since then we've been at war for three generations."
Seeing as the Tories seem determined to atone for all they inflicted by providing us with this show, I'd like to suggest one further act. David Blaine will soon be leaving his box, so why not replace him with Thatcher? The crowds would be bigger than ever.
Duncan Smith's latest contribution has been to try to sound as manly as possible, with his outburst of "Leave my wife alone or I'll fix you." Surely one of his advisers could have warned him that "hard" is beyond his range. If Al Pacino said those words they could be terrifying, but when Duncan Smith says them it's like watching The Godfather performed by a village amateur dramatics company, with the lady from the delicatessen saying, "He'll be sleeping with the fishes if he's not careful, dear. And then he'll be in a right two and eight".
It may turn out Duncan Smith hasn't done anything strictly illegal by getting his wife on 15 grand for being his "diary secretary". But it's fascinating how in cases such as this, politicians assume their behaviour is completely normal. Imagine what the Conservative press would say if bus drivers asked for 15 thousand quid a year extra, to pay their partners for keeping their diaries showing the shift patterns and ironing their uniform. But of course a Tory family would believe everything, even helping out your husband, has to be priced at market values. Maybe he pays her 35 pence if she gets up to turn out the light before going to sleep. Perhaps every time they have sex she fills in a timesheet and gets the going rate.
To anyone normal, getting your wife on the payroll is a scam. All he's accused of is a posh version of a car dealer's insurance fiddle or a warehouseman swiping a pallet of bacon. So the main thing the inquiry should try and find out is whether Duncan Smith did the decent thing by handing Betsy a roll of twenties and saying, "Here y'are doll, I've come into a few bob, so get down Romford Market and get yerself summink nice, girl".
One other explanation being offered for the apparent irregularities is plain incompetence. Duncan Smith's private secretary said that no filing was done in his office for a year, and a collection for the Queen's birthday present stayed locked in a drawer for three months. Which sounds as if he might be falling apart the way some people do when they're on the dole. In which case it would be a shame if he was sacked, as it would be fascinating to watch him carry on, turning up to Prime Minister's questions having not shaved for a fortnight, with a huge bruise on his forehead and couldn't remember how it got there. Then while Tony Blair replied, Duncan Smith could sit opposite eating a Kentucky Fried Chicken with his fingers, until Oliver Letwin came across to whisper to Theresa May, "We'd better take him outside, I think he's had an accident again."
The real problem for the Tories is they've never understood that the money-grabbing privatising philosophy they stand for lost its popularity with all except their hard core, (and the people who run New Labour). Instead, they imagine it will all go back to normal if they can find the right leader. So in a few years, their leadership rules will simply be that the chairman shouts, "Is there anyone else who'd like a go"?
Some people argue that the country is suffering because we need "an effective Conservative Opposition". Which is a point of view, though the way I'd put it is that ever since they were invented they've stood for the privileged few. They supported slavery, then sticking kids up chimneys and so on up to the poll tax, so the further they sink into an irretrievable quagmire the better. And if Duncan Smith is sacked for fiddling, seeing as he's been unemployed before and then left the Army, he'll get a hell of a grilling when the Job Centre sends him to Restart.
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- Ann Widdecombe
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- Conservative Party
- David Davies (politician)
- Michael Howard