Opinion: More shenanigans from the nasty-to-each-other party

PUBLISHED: 08:24 08 November 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May listens as Andrea Leadsom responds to an urgent question in the House of Commons about allegations of inappropriate and unwanted sexual behaviour at Westminster.

Prime Minister Theresa May listens as Andrea Leadsom responds to an urgent question in the House of Commons about allegations of inappropriate and unwanted sexual behaviour at Westminster.

PA Wire/PA Images

Opinion: The latest scandal to hit Westminster is making the Tories even more antagonistic to each other, says Chris Moncrieff.

The Conservative Party is in a mess. It is seriously fraying and tattered at the edges and is in urgent, very urgent, need of repair. But is it now too late to get the darning needle out to do what is necessary?

But it’s not just the Tories. Parliament itself has been caught up in the hysteria over so-called inappropriate behaviour. Even innocent acts of flirtation are being ridiculously magnified to the level of social crimes shunned by all decent-thinking people. Absurd!

As journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer has said, we could be entering a sterile world where men hardly dare even talk to women for fear of the consequences.

But while this goes on, the Conservatives have their own problems - most springing from the Prime Minister’s woeful decision to hold a general election last June.

It cost more than a few Tories their seats, gave Jeremy Corbyn an unexpected boost, and engendered a feeling of resentment among Conservative Members.

The Tories were transforming from the nasty party to the nasty-to-each-other party. And then with the resignation of Sir Michael Fallon, she gives his job as Defence Secretary to Gavin Williamson, the Chief Whip. This, too, caused unrest among the ranks. Williamson has not, as Chief Whip and before that as David Cameron’s principal aide, made a Commons speech for about seven years. This appointment therefore to such a key role is a huge risk.

It will take a good deal more than make-do-and-mend or sticking plaster to repair the damaged Tories. But they could at least start by demonstrating more unity, particularly within the Cabinet, which is not exactly showing much of an example to the rank and file.

Meanwhile Theresa May is grimly clinging on - but her long-term future at Number 10 is by no means assured.

And if May’s political future is by no means secure, what of Andrea Leadsom, the hugely-ambitious Leader of the House of Commons? Mrs Leadsom has found herself at the centre of the storm which led to the resignation of the Defence Secretary.

She is said to have complained to 10 Downing Street about an allegedly lewd joke that Sir Michael told her six years ago. That, it has been claimed, was the deciding factor in the downfall of Fallon.

Some have alleged that Mrs Leadsom acted in this way because she felt her own job was insecure in any imminent reshuffle the Prime Minister was contemplating, and also because she resented Fallon once having described her as a “dud”.

All very childish, you might think. But pundits claim that by reportedly blowing the whistle on Fallon, Leadsom has made herself unsackable.

Bunkum and balderdash. I am sure Theresa May would not regard Leadsom’s actions as making her immune for the chop if the Prime Minister wanted to dump her.

And anyway, the Tories detest what in another context might be regarded as fourth-form tale-tellers. Leadsom’s prospects of being given her marching orders remain no less than anyone else’s.

So there would be no wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Tory rank and file, should Leadsom suddenly find herself warming her backside on the back-benches rather earlier than she had planned.

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