Magazine article The Spectator

This Is the Only Exciting Start to an Election since 1979

Magazine article The Spectator

This Is the Only Exciting Start to an Election since 1979

Article excerpt

From now until 5 May, we - the people - have taken over. In practice, this means that they - the polls - have. For the next month, they decide what we say and think.

The polls on the morning that the Prime Minister went to the Palace proved it. They had the Conservatives with a chance of doing well. All conversation among the political class changed. For months, Tories had talked about the election. But by that they meant the post-5 May Tory leadership election. Outside events were incorporated into that. The runners and riders in the forthcoming papal conclave? Aha, a metaphor, a conceit.

Davidi di Davis. Theologian of home affairs. Candidate of the powerful Blocki di Bedi faction. Hated by the young modernisti.

Giovanni Redwoodi. Senior cardinal of Thatcheritania. Under the liberal pontificate of Giovanni Maggiori - Moderatus I - was leader of the traditionalist I Bastardi. Intends to stand on the grounds that the election should not be confined to those who could win it.

Boris di Giovanni. On issues of private morals, adheres to strict principles practised in last years of Moderatus I, even to the extent of getting caught. Much travelled. Since becoming MP has visited Parliament several times. Only candidate faithful have heard of. All other Tory MPs think he is heard of too often.

Dottore Liam Foxi. Joint favourite with Davis. Born and brought up in country where the state brutally suppresses Toryism (Scotland). Defies Scottish government from constituency in the west of the country, though admittedly the west of England. Admired for bedside manner, though Davis supporters interpret this as meaning he sends people to sleep.

Francisco Maudit. Not a candidate himself, but no Tory intrigue can start without him. Drawer-up of sinister lists. This time intriguing on behalf of the young contra I Blocki di Bedi candidate, Davido Camaroon who would therefore be mad to stand.

At least at the time of writing, however, those polls suggest that a Conservative leadership election could be delayed. Mr Howard could remain leader for some time to come. There could be no Tory conclave this summer.

But, as I say, we are at the polls' mercy. Those on that first morning have suddenly turned this into the only exciting start to an election since 1979. For it must be remembered that, though the 1992 Tory win was generally unpredicted, at the start it was broadly assumed that Labour would win. The next polls could have Mr Blair comfortably back on course. The Tories will resume conversation about that leadership election. In which case, to adopt the title of an old New Yorker feature reproducing newspaper conceits that had become mixed or got out of hand - Hold That Metaphor!

Not that we should agree with those who want to ban polls during the campaign. The campaign does not belong to the politicians. Politicians have four or five years in between campaigns to act without worrying about what most of us think; ingratiating themselves with the liberal media and so on. Were it left to them during the campaign, they would all say that they were winning, and we would have no means of disproving them. At the last general election fought without any newspaper publishing a regular opinion poll - that of 1935 - the prime minister, Baldwin, thought that the result would be close, and the Labour leaders thought that they would win. …

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