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New concepts for the Nineties; No. 17: tenism

Tenism n, the political philosophy which advocates that the over- riding creed of party leaders should be an address in Downing Street, London. Would-be tenants n, as the creed's followers are called, were once expected to deny publicly their tenist leanings. This is no longer the case. Where once the phrase, "This is your starter for 10" was simply associated with a university television quiz, it is now regarded, tenistically, as the opening day of an election campaign.

Tenism is now beginning to assert itself among modern historians. The recent evaluation of Lord Wilson's years in No 10 heavily emphasised his tenacity n, the determination of respected tenants to refuse to call in the removal van. His resignation in 1976 seemed to some to indicate a sudden dramatic conversion away from tenism.

Margaret Thatcher's tenacity was never questioned. Indeed, recently published comments from the now Baroness Thatcher indicate that she would like nothing better than a renewed tenancy.

Although subsequent Labour leaders have attempted to deal with disruptive extremism through mass expulsions, the rise of tenism is now producing a new strain of extremists known as the militant tendency n, also a description of the behaviour pattern of desperate would-be tenants. Islington in north London is said to be a hive of such militants. Militant tendency is, however, not just confined to the left in British politics. Tenism's influence has long been felt in the Conservative Party. Indeed, some hard-line tenist Tories regularly mistake the television programme News at Ten as a reference to ministerial briefings.

It is important to note that a tenor (the highest ordinary male voice) has no association with tenism, whereas a tenner (pounds 10) is the price sometimes jokingly quoted by backbench tenists as the price of tabling a parliamentary question.

Tenism, in its Nineties form, has adopted a complex underground language to disguise its followers' Downing Street-or-bust philosophy. Getting rid of political opponents is tactically called tenpin bowling.

Although the use of the word tenets might be expected to have been adopted by tenists to describe their core beliefs or principles, this is traditionally rejected in favour of contents n, a shifting package of beliefs designed to ensure guaranteed tenancy.

As with any political creed, tenism requires an army of rank-and-file workers who will spread the word through doorstep campaigning or slavish attendance on the "rubber chicken" lunching circuits. Tenism refers to such messengers as tentacles n. Canvassing tentacles are expected to first ask what a constituent wants, and then promise to deliver it, regardless.