The Sketch: That strange noise is the Tory party dying

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The Independent Online

They're doing that Tory noise again. Yesterday, it sounded stupider than ever, like animal indigestion. Some midsize farm animal has eaten unwisely. It's not what you expect in Parliament, especially when it's to satirise or deprecate their own side. I've asked around a bit. The finger has rested on... Bercow.

He sits where he's always sat but that ass Binley sits with him, and they may be collaborating in this comic disloyalty. It's comic, I hasten to add because they think people find it attractive and amusing.

The noise originated as collegial support. "Hear, hear!" Or "Here, here!" Then it degenerated into a knowing, semi-ironical dying fall, as the party lost confidence in itself. As if to say, "Yes, we know it's no use, but we're still in the game." Then it became even more self-defeating when it was taken up by Bercovian modernisers whenever the great shire horses raised their heads (Peter Tapsell and Nicholas Winterton particularly).

Whatever you think of those two, covertly jeering at them in public will not advance your cause. It's too sneaky. It's like an anonymous letter. It's calling across the floor to the Government, "We all think he's an idiot" while saying to Tapsell, "But I'm supporting you, old boy!"

He has another problem. His career broke its back some years ago when he realised his brand of conservatism was going nowhere. I heard him at a party conference addressing a fringe meeting towards the end of an evening. He was giving a speech that wouldn't have gone down too badly (how can we put this?) in a beer hall of skinheads.

The next thing we knew he was wearing autumnal colours and talking about special educational needs. He's doing penance but not in the East End.

Now he asks these long, long questions that the Speaker can't interrupt because they're a single sentence. They have ellipses and parentheses and sub-clauses and secondary provisions. They very often come in at 60 to 70 words (yesterday, he nearly hit 80).

But his style has overwhelmed him. He talks about everything in the same way. In this classic from last year you could substitute some of the words with "tragic" "genocide" "torture" and it wouldn't have sounded any different.

"It would be an irony indeed if the displacement of appropriate business premises on the one hand and the paucity of wider infrastructure on the other proved to be the lethal cocktail that discouraged enterprises from taking root in Aylesbury."

He's on the Chairman's panel and so is a mini-speaker. I'm not sure he has realised he isn't Speaker material. He has obliged Labour but they won't vote for him; and for the same reason, neither will his own lot. And hence, perhaps, the indigestion.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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