ModCons and OddCons

21 February 2008

Pete Jefferys

I miss the old Tory Party. I must admit it’s not in the same way that I miss Dave Benson-Phillips, pogs, Brum, Wispa bars or other happy memories of my late eighties/early nineties childhood, but how a teacher misses the class clown after the school year finishes. Alright they were annoying, unproductive and perhaps even dangerous at the time but at least there was something to laugh at. It seems that over the last decade the “newcons” have finally awoken to the notion that most British people don’t live on a country estate and play Eton Fives.This must be really frustrating for satirists and political comedians who made their living under Thatcher.

I was reminded of the value of the “oldcons” by the latest brainchild of ex-Conservative Party chairman Norman Tebbit, who is now it seems, the self-proclaimed Tory spokesman for the department of ridiculous and dangerous ideas. “Cut gun crime by teaching the thrill of shooting”, screams the headline in The Telegraph. “Teaching children how to shoot would be the best way to combat the spiralling gun crime culture, according to Conservative peer Lord Tebbit”. He thinks that teaching young people how to shoot will make them less likely to want to.

“It would give teenagers the violence and danger they crave,” he claims, clearly a subscriber to the Manhunt 2 school of child rearing. “If I was 14 years old I would want an ASBO” he adds. Give him one, I say; don’t let him anywhere near Parliament, especially if he’s with a group of young people with suspiciously large coats.

The “newcons” are an entirely different matter. Their policies are moulded onto the centre ground so tightly that “Dave” is starting to convince me that he didn’t go to Eton at all, but is actually a cabbie who was promoted to leadership after explaining his policy ideas to Michael Howard during a taxi ride. Cameron must have been a totalshock to the ‘oldcons’.

I saw a great example of this last year at Cameron’s conference speech. Sat just behind Cameron’s left shoulder was an old fashioned blue-rinser, epitomising the “oldcons” that Cameron has been trying to replace. Throughout, she sat stony faced, as “Dave” spoke about the need for progress and equality. The killer moment came however when Cameron spoke of the need for Conservatives to embrace gay rights, at which point she looked like she had just seen Graham Norton vomit onto her daughter’s wedding cake. She was certainly missing Mrs Thatcher, and not, like me, for the satirical value.

Although I might pine over a lost source of humour in the world it is probably for the best that Cameron has moved his party to the left. The Tories needed to drag themselves kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and “Dave” has had reasonable success in this.

Labour must take the initiative and move further left, attempting to make that the norm. If we can make elitism and inequality seem laughably outdated, as we have done with xenophobia and homophobia, then perhaps real progress can be made on those issues and, once again to all our benefit, there’ll be material for the political satirists.

Pete Jefferys is a first year philosopher.