I am delighted that my epistle to the bellyachers has provoked such a lively debate. It ought to be clear to the meanest intelligence that all the worthwhile thinking in British politics is taking place on the Right, which is why ConservativeHome is so indispensable, and why its vigorous exchanges must continue and expand. It ought also to be clear that there are no easy answers and that anyone who thinks otherwise has not understood the questions. There is a further point – and here I come perilously close to hypocrisy – that when debating with fellow-Tories, one should stay within bounds. In a perilously complex world, we are all seekers after truth. Disputes are inevitable – an obvious sign of intellectual vitality – but a Tory with whom one disagrees is not an Amalekite, to be smitten hip and thigh. If I have been guilty in that regard, I now have a firm purpose of amendment, which will endure…until I next address the keyboard.
But it also seems clear, at least to me, that we ought to have confidence in the current leadership, for four reasons:
First, Messrs Cameron, Hague and Osborne combine high intelligence and sound judgment.
Second, they are courageous. They all possess the brains of a Gladstone and the balls of a Munster Fusilier.
Third, in a reticent, English, understated way, they are all profoundly patriotic. That is why they are where they are.
Fourth, they are in possession of the facts and are therefore in a position to exercise their immense powers of judgment.
We should not only trust them. We should revel in our good fortune that they are where they are.
My dear friend Iain Martin pays me compliments which are as delightful as they are undeserved. They all apply a fortiori to him. At the risk of seeming ungracious, may I make one cavil? A couiple of years before the 2010 election, there was indeed an argument between the tax-cutters and the sharers of the proceeds of growth. The tax-cutters never appreciated the potential cynicism in the sharers' position. It would have been possible to allow public spending to increase by a fraction of one per cent, thus keeping the pledge on sharing – while also leaving plenty for tax cuts and ensuring that public spending fell as a proportion of GDP. The hard-line cutters wanted to go even further, but – I am ready to stand corrected – I do not think that any of them predicted the banking crisis until it was already upon us and the terms of the debate had changed.
Then there is Andrew Lilico, formerly of Policy Exchange, a man of acuity and proven wisdom. If some counting house is not already paying him an indecently large salary to advise its clients, there should be a clamour of suitors. Andrew, if I gave the impression of believing that we can achieve what we want in the EU without a re-negotiation, I cannot have made myself clear. A re-negotiation is almost inevitable. But we will need diplomacy to secure the best outcome.
Finally, Patrick Mercer. Pat is a man whose friendship I value. He took the Queen's shilling, wore Her uniform with pride and commanded his regiment at a very early age. He is thoughtful about security matters and has written a jolly. highly-readable adventure story about Wellington's army. He first won his seat with a tremendous swing; Central Office never de-briefed him on how he managed it. He seems to have a thing about David Cameron, which is unworthy of him and out of character. In his case, anything unworthy is out of character. Pat is a damn good fellow. He who has never said anything silly, let him cast the first stone.