Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Hague's no-hopers

From Mr Peter Ellis

Sir: We easily recognise the person Stephen Glover describes in the opening part of his piece (`Listening for the Tory case', 22 July); we, switch-voters and Spectator readers, uncertain about Major in 1992 but nevertheless giving the Tories the benefit of the doubt. Then, in 1997, we almost ran to the polls to kick the Conservatives out -- Howard, Portillo, Aitken, Hamilton, Archer, Lilley, Redwood and the rest. We had had enough. It was a case of anyone but the Conservatives - it still is!

We were not primarily motivated by a Labour victory, but we certainly wanted the Tories out, and the problem that the Conservatives have now is that nothing has really changed. This is why Blair still has a commanding lead in most of the polls. Yes, we are disappointed in New Labour but Hague - dread word - and his crew are simply clones of the lot rejected in 1997. We can envisage the first black prime minister, the first openly gay PM and the first blind PM but not a total prat as prime minister yes, we know about John Major, but we did not realise that he was such a prat until it was too late.

I realise that you chaps and chapesses at the Telegraph Group will hardly believe that ex-Tory voters can feel this way yet still read The Spectator and the Telegraph. But, believe me, we are there, and, as Glover notes, if the Tories are to have any chance in the next election we have to be won back.

Peter Ellis


From Mr B.N. Lenygon

Sir: Stephen Glover was absolutely right. We are living in political times similar to those of the Wilson/Heath era, when if one voted Conservative it was only because of the alternative - not for any positive reasons.

There is little to choose between the parties and little to choose between the government of John Major and the present opposition. Then, as now, the leader and his lieutenants do not seem to be up to the job. What a depressing and very unoriginal response from Mr Finkelstein, Mr Hague's key planning man, when he says that `In a funny way, New Labour has taken on the policies of the last Tory government', which says more about the Tories than New Labour.

Mr Glover may be right in saying that there is a chasm on Europe. It is not very obvious to the electorate, and the opposition's policy seems to be following the dithering of the previous government. Certainly little has been said since Mr Hague's last comment on Europe some time ago, when he was accused of a `lurch to the Right'. We should be so lucky!

There is, I am afraid, very little to distinguish the opposition from the incompetence and sleaze of the last government. I recall that when John Major and the Conservatives surprisingly got in, the poll experts predicted that a Labour government could never henceforth be elected. I cannot see at the present time any chance of a Conservative government. The only hope is that, like the last government, this government will commit hara-kiri.

B.N. Lenygon


East Sussex

Parson's pleasure

From Sir Richard Parsons

Sir: I enjoyed the upbeat column on National Service by Paul Johnson (And another thing, 22 July), whom I remember as an articulate, slim, carrot-headed youth in those academies of the military art, Bushfield Camp and Eaton Hall. No doubt he has changed. The Education Corps, whose arcane mysteries were revealed at Bodmin and Beaconsfield, was adept at providing a welcome sanctuary for us military duffers. We were indeed yelled at (`Parsons, you are a wit.' [Pause] `A nit-wit.' Sycophantic laughter from rest of squad); but it soon became apparent that nothing very awful was likely to happen.

I once heard our sergeant discussing with a minion whether or not to put me on a disciplinary charge. He decided against it, with the immortal words: `He's no bloody good, but he's dirt willing.' This seemed an admirable description of the posture needed for a happy period of National Service. …

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