There’s more than one way to be the nasty party. Take this recent gem from Michael Portillo, off the frontbenches and
out of the Commons now, but for so long the archetypical modern Tory:
“We have the right to be disapproving of obesity because the
costs to public health and to national productivity are borne by us
That may be New Conservatism speaking – nothing to do with Europe! – but
it’s extremely nasty. Portillo couched his article in terms of personal
responsibility, but what he advocates is that the state has the right
to tell citizens how to live their lives.
I wish I could see it as an isolated example, but I can’t. Project
Cameron is increasingly transforming the Conservatives into a very
modern party of “No”: no to high salaries; no to cheap food; no to
foreign holidays for the poor; no to driving to the supermarket for a
convenient weekly shop.
Something has gone badly wrong. For all the talk of a citizen-centred
politics, the Conservatives seem to have lost sight of personal freedom
as the rock on which their appeal is founded. They want to use our
creative energies in the third sector, but to choose the ends to which
they will be put. Rather than seeking a smaller role for politicians,
they are staking claims on new social and cultural territory: peering
into our fridges and suitcases, and even visiting our bedrooms to look
for the marriage license.
That’s why I’m founding the Dangerous Party for Adults, a Facebook group and fantasy political party for those who like their life served with a shot of risk.
My party has drinks and a late license. It celebrates the adventure of being a free citizen, and it hates above all things over-regulation and the health and safety culture that prevents ordinary people from having fun. It is a party that says “Yes” to living life to the full and bearing the consequences. It pours scorn on those who say, with Portillo, that the State knows better and has the right to vet our packed lunches.
I know I’m on to a winner – in just a few days, I’ve already collected a small shadow cabinet of unwitting spokesmen and spokeswomen who can be heard in the press railing against the timidity and petty bureaucratic cruelties infecting our national life. Until now, they lacked political representation.
Here’s India Knight, our Unwitting Home Secretary:
"And so what if people want to run about town every now and then drinking to excess? Is it really so life-shatteringly terrible? Hardly. I had an eight-hour lunch last week, lavishly alcohol and nicotine assisted, and I haven’t had as much fun for weeks. Maybe my liver took a battering or maybe it could cope. Either way it’s my liver (although I find it pretty curious that I can court cirrhosis freely from dawn to dusk should I so choose, but have to stand on pavements if I want to light up in case I give instant lung cancer to Mr and Mrs Smug, who are sitting at dinner not exchanging a single word and looking as if they want to kill themselves)."
Daniel Finkelstein, our Unwitting Minister for Health, giving Portillo’s opinions a savaging from his professional despatch box:
"Just about any form of activity has an impact on health. So there is nothing that is immune to the NHS cost argument. Everything that you do, everywhere you visit, every bite you eat, every drop you drink, the job you choose, every road you cross is everyone else’s business. This is the road to serfdom."
And even Ewan MacGregor, our Unwitting Transport Secretary, as reported by Richard Morrison of the Times:
"I found myself murmuring “hear, hear” when reading Ewan MacGregor’s views on our “ludicrous nanny state” with its “out of control” health and safety legislation. On a trip to Africa, MacGregor said, garage attendants smoked as they filled up his motorbike with petrol. “I took great pleasure in that,” he commented."
On Education, we plan to exploit the talents of Ian Lewis at the Campaign for Adventure (Motto: Risk and Enterprise in Society).
We don’t have an Environment policy yet, but it’s likely to involve getting Southwark council to revive plans for a beach built on the Thames like they have in Paris. People need to experience the effects of global warming first hand.
If you want to read our unofficial manifesto, look at Playing it Safe: the crazy world of Britain’s Health & Safety regulations by Alan Pearce. Or why not drop in and join us on Facebook or at the Lizard Magazine?
It’s not just a joke: it’s about standing up for Conservatism as a party of light and colour. It’s about being on the side of Dick Sheppard (77), whose Christmas lights have raised £40,000 for charity and, more important, given hours of unrepentant, tacky pleasure through seventeen Gloucestershire winters. Now they’re down because of new safety laws. There’s a large constituency in this country who know that’s not right; the Right needs to remember its principles and stand beside them.
The DPfA began when I read that a firework display had been banned in Guy Fawkes’s home town on health and safety grounds. We are so desensitised to these stories now that it would have been easy to just move on and forget about it. But I like setting things on fire, and so do the people of York. We’re grown-ups, and we can be trusted on our own with a box of matches. Real politicians, take note.