“Every time a friend succeeds I die a little,” said Gore Vidal. I predicted last week that this wasn’t a sensation I would be feeling today towards my old mucker David Cameron. And so it has come to pass. I’m not feeling remotely jealous of the poisoned chalice he has just inherited.
But what I am is seething.
Britain did not want another Heir to Blair. The Mk I version was quite bad enough.
Britain did not want a faux Conservative whose role models were grim lefty termagant Polly Toynbee and Satan-worshipping leftist agitator Saul Alinsky.
Britain found itself – quelle surprise – oddly reluctant to get in any way enthused by Dave’s bouncy new “Big Society” plan for teenagers and grandmothers to be compelled every other week to whitewash their local community centre.
That’s because what Britain really wanted – and definitely needed – was a charismatic leader more akin to Margaret Thatcher. Someone capable of restoring Britain’s economic efficiency and rolling back the state; someone who, instead of wittering on about how much they cared about the NHS, might understand the needs and aspirations (which Cameron doesn’t and never has) of the hard-working middle classes; someone who valued the principle of liberty and realised just how much of it we’ve lost in the last 13 years; someone unafraid to address issues of concern to so many people such as immigration and the growing power of the European Socialist Superstate.
Cameron would have been quite capable of doing all this. But because he has no real personal ideology – as is the way with rich toffs in Conservative safe seats – what he badly needed was advisors capable of pushing him in the right direction. In this he has been badly failed.
Some of us have been warning the Conservatives about this for years. I remember going to a dinner party four years ago with Steve Hilton’s wife Rachel Whetstone and saying to her: “But when are you going to do something Tory?” Her response was almost as dismissive as the ones I used to get from Nick Boles whenever I raised the subject with him. We old school Conservatives, who believed in nonsense like tradition, low taxes and a small state, were now part of the problem not the solution. It was Guardian readers the Cameroons were courting now….
The person I feel perhaps sorriest for in all this is Michael Gove, whose schools policy was the one genuinely Conservative thing in Oliver Wetwin’s otherwise dismal manifesto. For four years now – this is only an inference of mine; he has never actually told me as much – he must have been sitting as part of Cameron’s inner circle, gnashing his teeth at all the Steve-Hilton-inspired centrist drivel the party was being forced to adopt in the name of being elected, kidding himself that if only he kept schtum and bided his time at least one sector of Britain (and possibly the most important one, too: education) could be saved from ruin.
There were precious few consolations in this grim election. We never got to see the appalling Ed Balls defenestrated. We never got to see the idiot voters in Brighton twig to the fact that a vote for a Green is probably more dangerous than a vote for a Marxist. Nothing.
But I do think we are now entitled to ask ourselves whether Steve Hilton was worth the £200,000 plus he has been paid this last five years to act as the chief architect of this stunning Tory victory. And whether next time, they might consider asking someone more red-bloodedly Tory than Oliver Letwin – Yasmin Alibhai Brown, maybe or Johann Hari – to take charge of the manifesto.
And also to dwell sadly on what might have been – if only the Conservatives had gone into this election offering us some clear blue water, rather than a mish-mash of libtard platitudes.
They detoxified the brand all right. But in doing so they also destroyed it.