Robert James Leitch is a 24 year old, secondary school teacher who has worked for two Conservative backbench MPs. Follow Rob on Twitter.
As soon as the political leaders packed their flip flops and passports, relieved to make it through to their holidays on the back of a successful Olympics, the political silly season swung ever so predictably back into action.
With precious few noteworthy news stories around, one could be forgiven for hoping that the Government might at last benefit from a bit of well needed breathing space. As all activists who have been knocking on doors over the past few months will know, the disastrous period following the Budget seemed unending, hitting the Party in the polls and dismantling any remaining morale amongst the grassroots.
A remarkable Olympics, despite the emergence of renewed Boris mania, must have given the PM hope that a quiet couple of weeks would follow before Parliament’s brief return in September where a balanced reshuffle would act as the platform for a much-needed rousing conference speech. The quiet weeks of late-August could and should have provided the space, distance and time required for a fresh re-launch and poll changing winter. Wishful thinking, eh!
Any plans to tap into the wider optimism and positivity of the Olympic spirit now seem to have been completely dashed as certain Conservative backbenchers have sought instead to make hay in the political news lull. Knowing full well that their carefully timed comments and press releases would gain more traction with editors in these slow political weeks, we have had senior Tories openly calling the Prime Minister a “chambermaid”, challenging him to be a man rather than a “mouse” and demanding that he stop “pussyfooting around”. Of course, the PM has experienced such displays of attention seeking before – who can forget the outspoken MP who accused the PM of being an “arrogant posh boy” just days before local elections?
On top of the unprecedented and quite deliberate use of disrespectful language being used, the Party has also had to contend with the resignation of Louise Mensch and prepare for the subsequent by-election battle. All in all, the Prime Minister must be persistently exasperated as each news bulletin brings further reports of sniping from within his own ranks.
Obviously, there exists a very powerful and justifiable level of discontent across our Party. Activists and members have every right to be fed up with the countless u-turns, the poorly briefed statements and the seemingly wavering principles which often result in incoherence across various policy areas.
Likewise, we can’t expect MPs to be dancing with joy when they are being hit with negative headlines, plummeting polls and the prospect of their hard-earned seats drifting away. Indeed, MPs should take a stand on matters of principle and they should demand that their concerns are registered by the leadership. In truth, however, they already enjoy the tools to do so whether it be through the 1922 Committee, the Whip’s office or by making contact with the Prime Minister’s office directly. It is right that anger and frustration is vented, but why not vent behind closed doors?
I do not regard myself as a so-called Cameroon. Indeed, I have written on this site previously in opposition to prominent issues such as the NHS Bill. However, I have also penned articles in the past about the concept of Party loyalty. Maintaining loyalty within a political party, particularly one as broad as the Conservative Party, always involves a delicate balancing act. Yet, with increasing disregard, senior members of our Party seem quite willing to create needless public divisions.
There is simply nothing noble or respectful about MPs who choose to make their stand through the use of petulant language tailored, quite deliberately, towards the ears and eyes of those in the media. Careless, self-motivated attempts to play to the gallery are pretty harmless in good political times, but it is a far more dangerous game to play when strife already surrounds the Government.
When the going gets tough, steady unity, respectful restraint and robust loyalty all speak far louder than the cynical criticism which too many high-profiled Conservatives have started to adopt in public. David Cameron is far from perfect, but he is our leader – and that should still mean something. Perhaps MPs who are tempted to join the outspoken band of ego-chasing critics should take a moment to remind themselves of our Party’s woeful electoral health before Cameron took over, and indeed reflect on whether our leader deserves just a little bit more support from the parliamentary party.