For some reason, this story reminds me of this joke (the version of this joke that I know replaces the ‘blonde’ with a Labour MP and the voice in the earphones is Peter Mandelson – which probably shows my age).
I’m really starting to wonder. Readers might recall earlier in the year that I pointed out that Cameron could not command majority Tory support for their manifesto commitment for a substantially elected House of Lords and failed to persuade them to back his stance on the Sexual Orientation Regulations. This week, we find party’s MPs running riot over the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, and going bonkers over David Willets repudiation of Grammar Schools.
Most bizarrely of all, Cameron has chosen to take a firm line on the latter, but go all soggy and wet over the former. He might not have deliberately set out to make the showdown on Grammars a “clause 4 moment” but he isn’t backing down. Nor should he: neither Willets nor Cameron are arguing for anything that is particularly distinctive from views of the Blessed Milk Snatcher and the fact the Tories are so ready to go to war over such a totemic change is ludicrous.
In terms of Freedom of Information, he has firmed his position up to the extent that he is now, cautiously, suggesting that he wouldn’t vote for the Maclean Bill and that he “will act to stop the bill in its current form in the House of Lords,” (my emphasis), but he has given himself enough wriggle room to fit an aircraft carrier inside.
All this despite the fact that the Lib Dems and pretty much all of the media are roasting his ass on the fire on the subject. Why won’t he simply stand up to Maclean and slap the more reactionary elements of his party down?
The answer is, it seems, his Parliamentary Party would just laugh at him. Those cynics among us who always thought this “change to win” guff was empty rhetoric are finding new evidence that the Tories are still the same old reactionary, swivel eyed loons on a nearly daily basis. Cameron’s great achievement of the last 18 months has been to distract the public’s attention from this, not to introduce meaningful change.
It all bodes pretty ill for these disparate policy reviews that are now just weeks from being published. I don’t believe that the edifice that Cameron has constructed can survive many more weeks like this one before coming crashing down, and I’m not at all clear what he can do to prevent it. Will the Conservative Party pull themselves back from the brink and, at the 11th hour, sign up en masse to Cameronism? The portents don’t look good.
Having read Polly Toynbee’s spiteful article attacking the Lib Dems and Tories for opposing Home Information Packs, I took no small amount of pleasure to find Ruth Kelly capitulating and putting the scheme back.
What annoyed me most about Toynbee’s article was that it stuck religiously to the rote of “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done”. In short, if you oppose HIPs, you oppose tackling climate change. The truth is though, while the energy reports are a step in the right direction, they will only scratch the surface in terms of promoting the energy efficiency of homes.
Unreported by Polly, Chris Huhne and Andrew Stunell have published their own details proposals for what to do about greening the existing housing stock (pdf). If she thinks these are terrible plans, she should say so. Instead she has simply attacked them for failing to back the government’s woefully inadequate proposals. Whatever you might have thought about her in the past, she used to be an independent thinker: now she’s become a polemical government speak-your-weight machine. It’s sad.