The Sketch: Tories are on the move - downhill, just like swine

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The Independent Online

Something so odd happened in a press gallery corridor it would be frightening to think too much about it.

Something so odd happened in a press gallery corridor it would be frightening to think too much about it.

A friend of mine pointed to a handsome, triple-pointed window in the corner outside our office and said: "You know there used to be a corridor there before we went on holiday?"

Where? There? Was there? A corridor? Hang on, yes, there were some steps now you mention it, leading up to a door, yes it used to be a corridor and now it was a gothic window, fitting in cleverly with the old masonry.

How little, how very little missed you are when you go. No, let's try not to think about it.

Tory MPs attended Foreign Office questions in extraordinary numbers. Perhaps they were hiding from their Chief Whip (it would be the last place he'd look for them in normal circumstances). What with the plots and rumours of plots, they were buzzing with a nervous excitement. It rather suited them.

Behind the scenes, MPs said how dejected, how dispirited by their conference, how riven with discord they were. The party was stumbling forward, only moving because going downhill, rather like the Gadarene swine (I hope you like pigs as much as I do).

On a completely different subject, we have a new reason to admire Michael Ancram. The sheer, bulky courage of the man. We don't often see courage in politics because it is not needed to attack the enemy. No, it's defending your friends that takes courage, and what stout loyalty Mr Ancram has displayed, offering almost to die in a ditch for his leader.

In a similar vein, we have at last discovered a reason to admire the poor fork'd thing who leads the Conservative Party. Mr Poor Fork'd Thing has shown - if not steadiness - at least tremendous sturdiness under fire. Almost no one wants him in post but he's damned if he's going. His defence of his fragrant wife has been gallant. Right or wrong, you can feel constituency opinion rallying to the Things. If he can get through next week, he might make it through to Christmas. If he can make it through to Christmas he can make it through to the election and then we'll be getting out The 300 Spartans on video. Then we'll be reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade". Then can start work on a new Bayeux Tapestry depicting the smashing, trashing and virtual annihilation of the Conservative Party.

Every now and then I make constructive suggestions (I don't know why I bother, frankly). But here it is again. Raw aggression isn't going to play in this strange and febrile environment.

Mr Thing must praise Tony Blair for those Tory-like things the Government is doing. He must lavish praise on the good, solid Tory values on which the principle of foundation hospitals is based. He must promise his party's vote to get the Bill through the House.

He can then delight in the sight of half of the Labour back bench going white with rage, squirming with distress, and detaching themselves from their radiant leader in favour of that eminence brune, the restive Chancellor.