Quentin Letts: I came, I saw, I was ejected: why, David, why?

Heavies blocked my way. They were chewing biscuits, hard

Share
Related Topics

Into this drab scene last Tuesday morning strode the two would-be saviours of the Conservative Party. Before them sat 400 polite party members, the men mostly in dandruffed blazers or tweed jackets, the women wearing brooches and slightly dilapidated perms. Perhaps 50 people in the audience were under retirement age.

David Davis and David Cameron may have many things going for them, but their hustings for the Tory leadership election are an atrocity of bad presentation and paranoia. The uselessness of the operation should make us question the way political parties run themselves and the way they spend millions of poundsof public money.

Non-party members were unwelcome outside the meeting. The press was barred. Anyone without an invitation who tried to find out what was going on inside was treated like an enemy agent, subjected to shifty glances and an indignant hauteur. The whole thing had the air of a trouser-rolling meeting at a Masonic lodge.

I arrived 10 minutes before kick-off, just in time to see Cameron scuttle away from some creaky well-wishers to retreat into a "comfort station" (the Ridley Suite). He and Davis took shelter there until it was time for them to speak to the crowd. Good God, you don't expect them to mingle with hoi polloi, do you?

With no other newsmen on parade I inquired if there might be a chance to stand in silence at the back of the room while the two Davids strutted their democratic stuff. "No!" declared a portly young man in a black suit. "How about if both candidates agree to me listening to their words?" I asked. Some pink-shirted plonker, aged about 14, said it was "out of the question". Both these lackeys, I understand, are paid handsome salaries by Tory HQ. We taxpayers annually give about £4m of "short money" to the Opposition, ostensibly to help the democratic process. It should be spent on intelligent research. Instead, it helps to pay for interfering busy-bodies whose only job justification is to prevent access to their political masters. Maybe it is time for short money to be stopped.

The Tories are trying to present themselves as the champions of open-minded amiability, at one with modern Britain. What do we get? Bullet-skulled paranoia. It is madness. The Tories need, desperately, to speak to the public and win their interest. The leadership contest is a brilliant opportunity for that. Instead, the party that once opposed closed shops has been operating one itself. The control freakery evident on Tuesday was as bad and idiotic as that operated by New Labour.

Some relic of a bygone age called Anthony Braithwaite, chairman of the party's North-east region, almost swallowed his front teeth when I sought his opinion about the Davids. At first he would not utter a word, merely shaking his head like a child refusing a spoonful of cod liver oil. "It's about getting the right chap," he finally stuttered, shaking like a Dresden chandelier. With that he bolted for safety.

Once the doors to the meeting hall slammed shut, it was not even possible to eavesdrop by placing an ear to the keyhole. Two heavies blocked the way. They were both chewing biscuits, hard. When I asked what their problem was, the reply was lost in a blunderbuss scatter of custard cream crumbs.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

King's College, Cambridge: Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships October 2016

£20,100 (pre-award of doctorate) rising each year to a maximum of £25,869: Kin...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Back End

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: Online Lettings Negotiator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Unlimited quantities of alcohol were served at the party. File photo  

Ohayo is the hangover cure from heaven. What will stop us from drinking ourselves into oblivion now?

Olivia Acland
From left: Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham at a televised Labour leadership debate  

Jeremy Corbyn wouldn't be so far ahead in the Labour leadership race if his rivals weren't so awful

Ash Burt
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'