2 October 2017

Theresa can’t save us from the socialists


About 10 years ago, when the Conservatives were still in opposition, I went to party conference. Finding myself at a loose end — I think this was Blackpool, and I hate conference, being entirely unclubbable — I crept into the ballroom which would host the major speeches of the week.

Like a dress rehearsal in a theatre, the stage was lit and busy but the stalls were dark and empty, and I sat unnoticed as technicians completed their set-dressing, microphone-testing and spotlight-fixing. And then Theresa May walked to the podium, and gave the opening lines of her speech.

She must have volunteered to make sure that the stage was “working” correctly, but there is something very odd about watching an actor declaim to an empty room, interspersing the oratory — the pretence that she believes in her lines — with questions about stage direction. A light switch flicking from “on” (tight grin, eyes encouraging the audience to join in a mischievous dig at opponents), to “off” (bored, tired, “Do you want me to do that again?”), and back again. Repeat until the the actor or the audience — or both — loses interest. I slipped out.

With hindsight, that was a moral error. I should have made myself critic, stood up, and yelled: “For the love of God, stop. You are no use at this.” Perhaps Mrs May would have listened, reflected, and set her career objectives in quite a different direction.

More likely she would have continued repeating her lines, auto-rewinding and droning through them again, unwilling or unable to think she might be hitting the wrong note. Her directors would fuss around their star. “This time darling, remember to look more urgent and sincere. This time the message will get through.”

If a (Tory oak) tree falls over in an empty forest … this week, in Manchester, Mrs May will robotically pound her way through her lines again, to another dark and empty room, albeit one bright with TV cameras and filled with hundreds of people. Empty of interest, dark with despair. The light will click “on” but the performance will, of course, fail. Here is what she will say.

“Conference. Let me start by thanking all of you for your hard work in the recent election campaign. [She will chunter on about this for a few minutes, talking only to the party and not the country, denying any hope of a sound-bite for the evening news] … good Conservatives who lost their seats… largest ever Conservative vote… result far from that we had hoped and worked for… still the largest party… strong and stable government… Brexit, Brexit, Brexit… country that works for everyone… you know and I know… as we heard in Brighton last week …”

Building up to the rhetorical climax, her message to the planet, when she’ll fix the autocue with that tight, tight grin, and ask of the hall, the party, the nation: “… Do you want me to do that again?”

The room will erupt to the sound of one hand clapping; somewhere between a sigh of boredom and the dry cough of resignation. What’s the bloody point, after all? Only calendar time separates us from TEE – the Tory Extinction Event — when the hopeless Mrs May finally delivers the country to Jeremy Corbyn.

Am I too harsh? She is a palpably decent woman, so let me explain my anger. Last week the Labour Party dropped any pretence of moral decency or economic sanity. Everything that millions of lower middle-class people have spent decades of our working lives saving towards is to be thrown aside in a convulsion of nationalisations, the result of which will be to destroy our painstakingly built-up, stock-heavy pension funds to nothing.

Everything you have saved for these last 30 years is going to be lost; you do realise that, don’t you? There’s no law of nature that somehow protects Britain from the economic ruin and political asphyxiation which socialism brings whenever it is implemented. The one credit I’d offer Corbyn is that he doesn’t pretend that socialism isn’t what he’s selling.

And the response of the “moderate” Left? Those principled Blairites who were as disgusted as the rest of us at the anti-semitism, the terrorist-sympathising, the bullying, the revolutionary drivel that passes for Corbynite discourse?

It turns out that there’s no end to the loyalty such “moderates” will pledge to the one who stayed the axe from their quivering necks. ”Nobody dies today, perhaps,” murmured the mild despot as he passed their prostrate flesh in Brighton. His lips barely moved, eyes and mind fixed on the kinder, gentler future, where Tories are hanged from Manchester bridges.

“THANK YOU MAJESTY!” cried his erstwhile opponents, plucking at the hem of the passing trousered leg. “THANK YOU FOR NOT SHOOTING US IN THE FACE TODAY. HOW CAN WE REPAY YOU, SIRE?”

All week at the Brighton show trial, a procession of oily fat men demonstrated their eagerness to bend over and prove their Corbynite purity, falling over themselves to protest their uber loyalty to the Leader (sorry about the “uber”, comrades!). An ecstasy of adulation, and who cares about the Jews, anyway? Them and their bloody “mood music”.

Moderate Labour — on the Parliamentary benches, and in the liberal press — have been destroyed by the Corbyn machine, in short. Which is nothing compared to what Corbyn and McDonnell will do to the rest of us, once in power. They’re only about 5,000 votes away, remember.

And the Tory response to the post-rational cult of the immoderate Left? Let’s push on with Theresa May, who lost us our majority. Let’s fiddle around with student fees, and Help to Buy: expensive tinkering with marginal effect; that’ll do the trick. Those millions of ill-educated, angry-beyond-reason new Left voters, they’ll change their minds if we rewind the Maybot and repeat her Country-That-Works-For-Everyone, strong-and-stable script from the top.

“Do you want me to do that again?” No, Prime Minister. The stakes are too high to waste the years between now and the general election with a failed PM reciting ineffectual lines to an audience that’s no longer listening. Exit stage right, please. Time for some angry young Tory men and women — you know who you are — to kick away the boring scripts, speak from the heart, and save their country from socialism.

Graeme Archer is a writer and statistician