The Angela factor floors Poor John

What a shame that Heseltine is silent and that the party has not had leadership on Europe

Share
Related Topics
The Tory party could do without the two Angelas. First, Mrs Browning, a junior agriculture minister, disregards the agreement reached on the matter of a European single currency, that the party should "wait and see". Unable to resist playing the "patriotic card", she embarrasses the Prime Minister, who is forced publicly to give her the benefit of the doubt.

No sooner has one Angela lapsed into obscurity than yet another, this time Dame Angela Rumbold, no less, the Tory party's vice chairman in charge of candidates, comes out with a resounding attack on the whole notion of a common currency. "Poor John" was sheepishly obliged to let her off lightly. He found a form of words to claim she did not quite mean what she all too clearly said.

What would happen were John Redwood, Michael Portillo, Michael Howard and Peter Lilley to write in the same vein? Will their election addresses contain a patriotic defence of sterling as an essential pillar in the British way of life? Leaving aside the debate on Europe which has been permitted to go by default, John Major cannot sack members of his Cabinet half way through an election campaign. He will quite simply have to grin and bear it. He would be made to look a fool, and the party's divisions made even more apparent.

Yesterday's papers were full of exultant headlines. The Daily Telegraph: "Major defied as ministers break ranks"; The Times: "Tories rush into ranks of Euro-sceptics"; and The Guardian: "PM ducks sacking rebel ministers". Even Michael Forsyth, a cabinet minister, has lined up with the Euro-sceptics. But he is likely to lose his seat.

If it has not been "sleaze", it has been disunity. Sexual misbehaviour is of no importance, save to the families of the MP concerned. If Piers Merchant was a fool, then the editor of The Sun was a knave in offering a 17-year-old "night-club hostess" pounds 50,000 in order to ensnare him. What is more important is the activity of public relations companies like Ian Greer Associates in recruiting various officers of the Tory backbench trade and industry committee to do their dirty work for them.

What has happened to the old Tory party? Did it vanish with the coming of Margaret Thatcher?

In the 1960s, Profumo and Lambton made love for fun, not money. Today, David Mellor takes the media by storm. It used to be remarked when I was first elected in 1959, that Tory scandals were sexual; Labour ones, financial. Eighteen years of office have seen a series of Tory MPs embrace them both with cheerful alacrity. Why?

There are several reasons. In the first instance, the old ballast of the party is long dead and buried. MPs who entered Parliament as an extension of their sense of social obligation, or who had distinguished wartime records, were honourable men. They would not have touched the Greers of this world with a barge pole. If they wished to influence government policy, they went to see their whips, or the minister himself.

Secondly, the long years of government have seen a sea-change in the kind of Tory who gets himself elected. The upper and the educated classes have withdrawn, by and large, from constituency activity, leaving the choice of candidate to the second-rate. It is hardly surprising that the "new Conservatives" looked into the mirror and plumped for their own reflection.

Thirdly, it is now the case that almost every Tory MP wants to become a minister, which was certainly not so in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, when unpromoted, they get bored. Although the parliamentary salary and allowances have increased steadily over the years, most MPs attempt to double their income, some by writing (as I have done), others by taking advantage of the blandishments of lobbyists.

The same might be true of the Labour Party, but no lobbyist would hire a Labour MP to influence a Tory minister, and the media seems to have turned a blind eye to the peccadillos of members of the People's Party. If Labour is returned to office, the situation will quickly change.

The saddest thing about the Tory campaign is not the gimmickry - chickens stuffed with out-of-work actors - but the way in which the case for European integration has been permitted to go by default.

We threaten Europe with non-cooperation yet still expect them to meet our point of view over fish and beef. Not since the Prime Minister said in 1992 that "Britain should stand at the heart of Europe" has there been a concerted effort to make the case for a common currency. Only Ken Clarke can claim credit for a robust defence of a development which it must be in Britain's interest to join. Could a Britain isolated from Europe stand alone as a trading nation in a world dominated by the euro, the yen, and the dollar, to say nothing of China and the countries of the Pacific rim? The question has only to be posed for the answer to become obvious.

What do we get instead? A defeatism reminiscent of Vichy. In which spa will a Portillo-led Tory opposition make its headquarters? Will it be Leamington, Bath or Cheltenham? We are treated to those two old buzz-words "identity" and "sovereignty". Even were there to be a United States of Europe, France would remain French, the Netherlands Dutch, Italy Italian. England and Wales were joined in 1536. Has any Eurosceptic ever been to Cardiff Arms Park to see England play Wales?

And as for sovereignty, it is a commodity like any other. By joining Nato we relinquished our power to decide between peace and war. By transferring a proportion of our gold reserves to a central bank in Frankfurt, we will share sovereignty, not lose it. What a shame it is that Malcolm Rifkind has replaced Douglas Hurd, that Michael Heseltine remains silent on this issue, and that the Tory party has not had the leadership over Europe that it deserves.

Sir Julian Critchley was, until the Dissolution, Tory MP for Aldershot.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£30000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Pea...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator / Warehouse Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fast-paced award winning company based in...

Recruitment Genius: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: We Are Not Syriza; and the riddle of an imitation Sphinx in China

John Rentoul
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable