No. 4: Schismism

ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties

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"There is no contradiction between the views of my Right Honourable friend the Chancellor and those of his colleague, the Secretary of State for Employment, on Britain's future in Europe. It is just that one thinks Europe is a good thing and the other believes it is a disaster." This - almost - represents the view of the Prime Minister today. But never mind, says Mr M, we're really very united on most things. Only on the marginal question of Britain's future as a nation state are we hopelessly sundered.

Actually, of course, Mr Clarke and Mr Portillo loathe one another. Clarke likes cigars, jazz and brothel creepers. He is rumpled, cheerful and bluff. The Chancellor is an extrovert. Portillo is Jesuitical and committed. His hairstyle is a narcissistic confection which probably takes more attention each morning than the entire Clarke wardrobe in a year. Oh, and they do not agree about politics, either.

To point all this out is always to risk the appearance on television and radio of the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Marcus Fox. Sir Marcus, all vacuous northern breeziness, will remind everybody that the Conservative Party has, throughout history, been a "broad church".

But there are limits, surely. A broad church may, perhaps, be one in which both modern and ancient hymns are sung, or where the new version Bible and the King James version are both tolerated. What it is not is the place where evangelical Christian and devil-worshipper kneel down together. Archbishop Carey, a broad churchman if ever there was one, is not to be found straddling a goat with a sacrificial knife poised.

Tories who realise this are schismists. And schismism is the growing understanding that many of these rational Conservatives have that they hate each other, cannot live with each other and must divorce each other soon.

Indeed, were there no political parties and new ones were just being invented, they know that Ken, Sir Edward and Hezza would not be in the same one as the Michaels and the Normans. Their co-existence would be as likely as the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan ice-skating combo, Terry Venables opening the Amstrad casino or Andrew Neil and Peregrine Worsthorne having dinner at the Garrick club.

Whatever John Major says, increasing numbers of Tories are now schismists. It is just that, as with everything else, they cannot agree on who should leave home. Somebody needs to follow the example of that professional schismist, Lord Owen, and walk out, slamming the door. Those who advocate that they should do so are, of course, schismismists.

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