Letter: Local elections: only a period of re-evaluation in the wilderness can save the Conservatives

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The Independent Online
Sir: When as a young boy living in Hampstead, a regular weekend source of enjoyment was the passage of an organ grinder along our road pushing a barrow playing tunes on his musical instrument, with a lame monkey capering around, alerting residents to bring or send out their household knives for sharpening. There was then current a popular retort to those who objected to the tunes played - 'If you don't like the music, don't blame the monkey, change the organ grinder.'

In their present plight Conservative politicians should recall, but adapt this adage, by taking note that proven widespread public hostility cannot be cured either by reshuffles or discarding the Prime Minister.

After an historically unprecedented row of four successive electoral victories, the public generally feels, as is perfectly normal, disillusioned and desirous of change. This was already apparent in 1992 and only Neil Kinnock's antics and ineptitude, and a widely felt popular belief that need for a change had been achieved by replacing Margaret Thatcher with a very different type of leader, (just) saved the day for the Tories.

If the Conservatives are going to achieve the near-miracle of a fifth successive victory, they will have to abandon any hopes that changing the monkeys or the organ grinder will be enough. In unity, they will have to realise that what the public wants is not just a change of personnel, but an altogether new-look machine as well as more popular tunes.

Yours etc,

FREDERIC BENNETT

London, WC2

7 May

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