Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cliffhanger in the Mendips

This week's Economist to my surprise has an election piece about Wells. Here's an excerpt.

"Tessa Munt, the Liberal Democrat candidate ... tramps the constituency in a bid to unseat David Heathcoat-Amory, its Conservative MP since 1983. In 2005 she got within 3,040 votes of him. This time, because of boundary changes, she reckons she needs only 1,200 more.

She may just get them. Mr Heathcoat-Amory is something of a Tory grandee, with a career in government and shadow-cabinet jobs. But he was obliged to pay back nearly £30,000 in parliamentary-expenses claimed for manure and other gardening costs at his house in Pilton (which he counts his second home). Although he was within the prevailing rules, some former Tory voters in his constituency profess themselves scandalised and ask why a fresh candidate was not selected."

This prospect has made me determined to get down to Wells on voting day and cast my lot in with those seeking to unseat Mr H-A.

My rational core shakes its head in disbelief: I'm not a bureaucratic-centrist, more of a libertarian really. I like the idea of a minimal state which gets out of the way of capitalist dynamism (yes, I used to be a Trotskyist but they were realists too in a different paradigm). So I should be in favour of Tory philosophy against Labourist political correctness and over-regulation and Liberal wishy-washiness.

And yet ... there is something viscerally awful about Tories; their smugness, their pretensions to a mediocre upper-class clubbiness, their sheer identification with everything that was disgusting about the England of the 1950s which I loathed in my childhood. The Tories were the establishment which drove me to revolutionary politics: something tells me they still represent the same caste, the same frame of mind.

No, I can't vote for them and I will be delighted to see Mr H-A vanish from sight if it can be arranged. But if only we had a small-state, market-friendly, technophilic, professional, optimistic party in this country - something not unlike the image Tony Blair projected before it all went so horribly wrong ...

Clare is immune to the argument above. In her view all the parties have betrayed the people by shoving their snouts in the public trough. She will join the great band of principled abstainers.

I sure hope H-A doesn't win by one vote.