Not only does Nadine Dorries have the Tories over the barrel, but she also lights up the path many will probably tread.
Since UKIP’s success in the local elections, the Tories, especially those of a ‘so-called’ variety, see it as a serious threat. The threat would be upgraded from serious to deadly if UKIP could become a parliamentary party, and Dave is quaking in his trainers.
Should Nigel Farage have a few MPs and the LibDems form a coalition with Labour in 2015, the only way for Dave to stave off the lecture tour would be to form a coalition with UKIP. However, Farage, though not opposed to such an arrangement in principle, wouldn’t even consider it for as long as Dave leads the Tories.
The problem is that for UKIP to elect even a single MP in 2015 the party would have to get roughly the same quarter of the vote it polled in the council elections. Though the romantic in me says Godspeed to them, the realist has to regard such a development as unlikely.
Hence the best chance for UKIP to enter Parliament is for some Tory MPs to defect to the party. That scenario is as likely as it would be catastrophic for Dave. Enter the proverbial barrel over which Mrs Dorries has him.
Nadine had her Tory whip withdrawn for a perfectly legitimate reason: taking part in the disgusting TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! without informing the party in advance. This is like an employee disappearing for a few weeks without telling his boss. Such a brazen chap would be sacked, which is what withdrawing the party whip means in the political context.
The sacking was widely welcomed by the party and also by Mrs Dorries’s constituency. Under normal circumstances, she would never again be a Tory MP. But current circumstances are far from normal. All Nadine had to do was drop a hint that she might defect to UKIP – and she was welcomed back with open arms, the fingers on both hands gnarled.
This is instructive not only from the standpoint of party politics, but also as an illustration of what’s wrong with British – and more broadly Western – society. For Nadine first incurred Dave’s ire by firing a shot in the class war.
In common with most intuitive Tories, she dislikes Dave for all sorts of reasons, some of them legitimate. For example, she once attacked him for calling himself a social liberal, remarking correctly that not a single Tory councilman would describe himself that way. Personally, I would have complimented Dave for being uncharacteristically honest, but no one asked me.
But then about a year ago Nadine showed why she was ready to star on reality TV. ‘Unfortunately, I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk,’ she said, ‘but they are two arrogant posh boys… – and that is their real crime.’
This remark is, not to cut too fine a point, stupid. The dynamic duo’s ‘real crime’ isn’t that they are ‘posh’, but that they’re unfit for the job. Even the degree of their poshness is doubtful – they certainly don’t have cultivated tastes. Dave even married a tattooed woman, something no posh man of my acquaintance would consider doing in his worst nightmares.
Yet these days, the word ‘posh’ carries the same negative (if less lethal) connotations as the word ‘Jew’ carried in Nazi Germany. It’s the reliable stigma to attach to anyone one dislikes – the man’s other attributes don’t matter. Thus our comedians have their audiences in stitches simply by mimicking a cultured accent. This is hilarious by itself, and never mind the rest of the joke.
Dave’s only intelligent response would have been to point out that class doesn’t matter. The mind, guts and moral fibre that go into the making of a statesman aren’t the prerogative of any social class – they can be found (or not) in someone who grew up in a large house, like Dave, or on a council estate, like Nadine.
Alas, proledom has emerged victorious everywhere in the West – not in the sense of more lower-class people coming up in the world (more power to them), but in the sense of lumpen values having been imposed on society at large. Someone who speaks with a cultured accent has become a figure of derision, and his only claim to redemption would be to adopt a prolier-than-thou attitude.
Hence, Dave’s chosen contraction of his Christian name, his pints down the pub, his affection for pop music, his vain attempts to flatten his vowels (Tony used to drop his aitches, but only when he remembered), his tattooed wife.
Hence also his inane retort to Nadine’s accusation: he knows how much a pint of milk costs (‘just under 50p’) because he does ‘a lot of the family shopping on a Friday or a Saturday’. That’s all right then. Never mind the policies, feel the shopping trolley.
Nadine’s own politics are halfway towards being conservative, which means more conservative than Dave’s by half. As a Christian, she has problems with abortion – but only when it’s administered late in the pregnancy. She opposes same-sex marriage – but wouldn’t if it weren’t imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights. She thinks girls should be taught to say ‘no’ – but only until they’re 16.
Halfway is better than no way, but it isn’t good enough. Perhaps now Nadine can declare truce in the class war and spend the time thus vacated on figuring out what conservatism really means, other than just not being Dave.
But she’s a trailblazer in another sense. Now all a Tory MP has to do is hint he just might switch to UKIP for Dave to support a Private Member’s Bill. Every MP counts; principles don’t – that much is clear. What’s unclear is how the government can operate that way.