The Sketch: Blue and red should never be said, even in the country

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The Independent Online

Off we go. Out into the glorious spring weather, away from the hot-house of Westminster. It's quite blowy out here where normal people live.

Off we go. Out into the glorious spring weather, away from the hot-house of Westminster. It's quite blowy out here where normal people live.

I'm in Arundel. Quite the wrong place to look for normal people. It's like Brigadoon. Men in the street wear ties. There is a road sign prohibiting the racing of horse-drawn vehicles. They have some spirit in Arundel, obviously, that such a sign has to be put up. We wander round the streets, the Tory candidate and I. We climb the castle keep and look at the cricket pitch where his grandfather took five for seven all those years ago. It seems a very proper thing for a Tory candidate, to have a grandfather like that.

Rural, south coast, old and affluent. The church is described as "new built, 1376". No wonder it has the fourth-largest Tory majority in the country. For a Tory MP, it's a job for life. At least, that's what Howard Flight must have thought before he was sacked. If you remember, Mr Flight had said that roses were red and violets were blue. The Tory manifesto had said that roses were reddish, or more pink really, and that violets were hardly blue at all and so, obviously, he had to go.

Young Nick Herbert got the nomination, elected by a 100-strong meeting of Conservative Association members. He told them what he believed in and what he'd done and they voted him in on the first ballot.

The poor fellow, he'll very likely be elected. I hope he's going to be all right. You should know that he is a thoroughly decent young man: honourable, reliable, intelligent, sound as a bell. He was brought up in the country and has the clarity associated with country people (when you're up to the elbow in a piece of livestock it's impossible to pretend you're doing anything else).

For the time being, he's not allowed to say anything interesting, and that's interesting. "Once the generals have decided the strategy," he says, "you don't go into battle with your own plan."

He's taken the party whip, it's what happens when you go into party politics. He has different views, not a different agenda. That's the line, a cunning distinction. And so it starts. As I say, I hope he'll be all right.

Because we know what Mr Herbert thinks - he started the think-tank Reform. He is an invigorating radical. The ideas he puts about are quite unremitting enough to have attracted the attention of Tony Blair. When it comes to public service reform, Mr Blair thinks what Nick thinks - but neither can say so, encumbered as they are by their parties. And that's what party politics is like.

After the election he'll be able to say that roses are incarnadine at their best, and violets are multitudinously blue. What a colourful maiden speech it could be.