Justin time

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The Independent Online
What will you miss most about the Tories when they are gone? As people, I mean. Perhaps it will it be that mesmerising, unfilled moat that runs between John Major's nose and his mouth - the one that prompted a female acquaintance of mine to speculate - vulgarly, I thought - about its relation to other parts of his anatomy (she says this may explain his enigmatic confidence in the face of adversity).

Personally, I will miss Norman Lamont. He is bright, but nowhere near as clever as he has led himself to believe. And he is vain in a wonderfully obvious and revealing way, what with his waistcoats and extraordinary hair. Sensitive and easily wounded, he is still able to dish it out to others in good, uninhibited fashion. Finally (and this sets him apart from most of us), he is occasionally willing to think the unthinkable, such as maybe Britain should get out of Europe and stuff like that.

Yet on Thursday night the Tory Masons, JPs, golf enthusiasts and squadron- leaders of the newly-formed Kingston-upon-Thames and Surbiton constituency passed over the interesting Mr Lamont in favour of Richard Tracey, his antithesis. Co-author of Hickstead: The First 12 Years and The World of Motor Sport, Mr Tracey's sole claim upon posterity is that in the mid- Eighties, when Margaret Thatcher let most male London MPs have a turn as sports minister, he got one, too. For a decade since, his talents have been passed over - in much the same way that at dinner one ignores the cold sprouts. Mr Tracey does not think the unthinkable, for, like many of his colleagues, he has by no means exhausted his struggle with the thinkable. There are no sex therapists in his basement. Just a broken Black and Decker power saw and some dusty back copies of Motor News Monthly.

You cannot stifle a groan at Tracey's triumph. Imagine a Tory party from which the Norrises and Lamonts have disappeared, leaving only loyal ex-sports ministers to oppose the tyranny of Young Britain.

But just as you begin to despair, up crops hope in the pale, adolescent form of Justin Hinchcliffe. Justin, a 14-year-old delegate to next week's Tory conference, is one of life's rebels. Staring into the camera with the implacable self-confidence of extreme youth, Justin has revolted against his left-wing teachers ("But I don't want to do my own thing!"), told his single-parent mum that he thinks her benefits should be cut (presumably there is still time for him to be forcibly adopted by, say, John Redwood) and though living in Tottenham, is a Chelsea fan. In a tribute to John Gummer's policies on the environment, Justin urges the homeless to stop living off the state and feed themselves with fish from the Thames and fruit from road-side trees. His love for animals, particularly pit bull terriers, marks him out as being a young man of sentiment - one who wears other people's hearts on his sleeve. Justin has never thought the thinkable.

But where did he come from, to give succour when all seemed lost? I think that this is what happened. In the early Eighties, in the maddest paranoid days of pre-Falklands Thatcherism, a group of her most off-the-wall advisers met in a country mansion to discuss the issue that concerned them all - what would happen when She was no more? Who would lead the perpetual crusade? One, who had the ear of Eysenck and Charles Murray, explained that this was a genetic problem. A second knew a scientist who was sympathetic, if only someone would get Simon Wiesenthal off his back. Eventually, the project bore fruit. Starting in late 1980, 100 Thatcher clones were planted on unsuspecting parents throughout the country. By the late Nineties, the mad advisers hoped, the first crop would be ready.

And they will be. Soon, titanic battle will commence for the soul of the beaten Tory party between Dick Tracey and Justin Hinchcliffe. Like a dyslexic Wuthering Heights fan, I for one will be rooting for Hinchcliffe.