The essence of the Tory approach is that there are still plenty of ways of beautifying the world and sparing the taxpayer
Fed up with feeble Labour? Only you can put the boot in
Not so long ago, there appeared in these pages one of the best letters I have ever seen. It was a letter from a retired lieutenant-colonel. I have a feeling he lived in Gloucestershire and, even without having his precise words to hand, I can still feel the incandescent heat of his indignation.
It was one of those letters that smelt of the freshly spilt coffee and still echoed to the sound of the freshly smacked breakfast table. You could almost hear the air coursing from his nostrils in a great double-barrelled parp of rage that sent the crumbs of egg and toast scattering from his moustache, over the discarded edition of the morning paper and into the lilac-scented lap of his adoring wife of 50 years.
He spoke with the authentic voice of Telegraph man and, like so many Telegraph men, he spoke for England. “Sir,” he said (and if I paraphrase or abbreviate, I hope he will forgive me), “isn’t it time the Tory party stopped pretending to be some namby-pamby crochet club?”, and he went on to wring the withers of the Opposition before kicking it smartly in the fetlocks and slapping it in the girth.
He didn’t want any more of this bunny-hugging nonsense. He didn’t want this green what-have-you. He didn’t want to see any more of Her Majesty’s oh-so-loyal Opposition poncing about on bikes. He wanted to see this Labour lot turfed out on their ear. He wanted to see Tory MPs fix bayonets and close with the enemy; or, failing that, he wanted the Government swiftly decapitated with a sharpened shovel. So would the Tories kindly cease their obsession with organic marrows and solar power and get on with opposing, which, after all, was what the taxpayer was paying them to do.
As soon as I read that letter, I not only felt a surge of pleasure at the splendour and violence of the lieutenant-colonel’s language, I also knew that across Britain thousands of Telegraph readers would be gurgling assent, pounding their own tables with approval and immediately firing off sympathetic e-mails to whichever Old Rectory in Gloucestershire he inhabited.
That brilliant correspondent had contrived, in his cosmic yawp of irritation, to express the growing sense of unreality that is felt by the voters at large. Here we have a government in a state of Babylonian decadence, with three of the most senior ministers teetering on the brink of a richly deserved oblivion. After nine years, the Blair administration would seem to lie on its back like a wounded beetle, feelers feebly waggling, and yet the Tory party seems unable to bring down the gumboot of fate.
How come they are still there, people want to know. How can Charles Clarke possibly remain in office after he has allowed more than 1,000 foreign criminals to roam the streets when they should have been deported, and when those criminals have now been shown to have used their time at large to commit further sickening crimes, including rape and, it is now suspected, the murder of a police officer?
All I can say to the lieutenant-colonel is that I know how he feels, that Opposition is deeply frustrating, and that he, and everyone who agrees with him, has their very own chance, today, to put their boots in, to vote Labour out wherever they can, and do themselves what we Tories are unable to do, since the physical task of removing the ruling party from power is left to the people and the people alone.
Of course it is maddening to see Clarke and Patricia Hewitt still clinging to power; but if anything their performance is now an electoral advantage to the Tories. And as for John Prescott, there seems no point in the Opposition trying to elaborate on the magnificent efforts of the Mail, a newspaper that pays hundreds of thousands of pounds for smut and then snarls with splendid disapproval of the pornography it has procured. What could anyone hope to add?
I urge the lieutenant-colonel to be of good cheer, and to vote Tory, because I also think there is some misunderstanding of the great green Tory transformation.
There are two ways of thinking about the environment, and taking an interest in the future of the planet. The first is to be endlessly steeped in moral disapproval, to dislike growth, spending, Ferraris, Solero ice-creams and everything that makes life worth living.
These sorts of greens don’t really care about the environment, or at least they don’t primarily care about the environment. Like those who oppose hunting, they are really actuated by hatred of the mental states of others. They want to parade their consciences, to control and to inhibit.
That is not the Tory approach – or at least not as I understand it. We don’t believe that you have to live on tofu and rear goats in order to be good to the environment. We are optimists, and we believe that there are more solutions in technology and progress than in mass self-denial and new regulation, and that you can still aspire to drive a Ferrari, except that one day it will be a beautiful clean green Ferrari powered by a hydrogen fuel cell developed in the labs of South Oxfordshire.
We don’t want to coerce and constrain; we want to help people in their very natural desire to improve the world around them, and sometimes you can achieve this by removing controls, not imposing them.
Every morning I come out of my house and am bathed by a great horrible gust of gas-smelling vapour from the boiler. Wouldn’t it be better if there were no planning restrictions on the completely inoffensive solar panels I want to install; and wouldn’t it be a good thing if these panels consequently became far more affordable for everyone?
The essence of the Tory approach is that there are still plenty of ways of beautifying the world and sparing the taxpayer. Tory councils have done it up and down the country. Vote Blue, go Green, save money.