DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Government is looking more like a circus act
What on earth is the parliamentary Conservative Party trying to do to itself?
With a near 80-seat majority, Brexit done and Covid under control, it has a gilt-edged opportunity to build a fairer, more dynamic, more prosperous Britain.
Instead, through bitter feuding and a creeping epidemic of sleaze, the party seems bent on self-destruction. It simply beggars belief.
In constituencies across this country, thousands of Tory officials and volunteers work tirelessly to elect and support their local MP.
They tramp streets, knock on doors, stuff envelopes and raise funds. Given the recent behaviour of their representatives at Westminster, they really must be wondering why they bother.
Today, every Tory MP needs to take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves honestly whether they are worthy of that dedication.
Deputy chief whip Chris Pincher (ironically a man charged with maintaining party discipline) has admitted being roaring drunk in the Carlton Club – the high Tory equivalent of a cathedral. Instead of stumbling home to sleep it off, he is said to have groped and made lewd suggestions to two men – apparently in front of witnesses
The Conservatives do not have a monopoly on unacceptable behaviour, of course. Numerous Labour MPs have fallen just as vertiginously from grace in recent times – some more so.
But the Tories are in government. They should be leading by example, yet we have now had five cases of gross sexual misconduct within three months. We don’t have all details of the most recent alleged incident, now under investigation. But the little we do know is clearly beyond the pale.
Deputy chief whip Chris Pincher (ironically a man charged with maintaining party discipline) has admitted being roaring drunk in the Carlton Club – the high Tory equivalent of a cathedral. Instead of stumbling home to sleep it off, he is said to have groped and made lewd suggestions to two men – apparently in front of witnesses.
The alleged misbehaviour itself is contemptible enough, but we also now know he was a serial offender. Before he was promoted to the whips’ office, there had been serious complaints of impropriety against him. Yet somehow he managed to get through both Downing Street and Cabinet Office vetting. How is that possible? Is anyone in control?
We are already starting to experience the familiar fin de siècle feel of John Major’s last years in power. Critical mass has not yet been reached. But it’s dangerously close
Number 10 tried to dampen criticism by suggesting Boris Johnson was unaware of Mr Pincher’s creepy proclivities when he promoted him.
But given that every dog in the street seems to have known – at Westminster and beyond – that claim stretched credibility to the limit. And if he didn’t know, why not?
Mr Pincher has now quit and had the whip withdrawn, but that will not be the end of it. This whole sorry affair needs to be exposed to the disinfectant of sunlight before it gets any more toxic.
We are already starting to experience the familiar fin de siècle feel of John Major’s last years in power. Critical mass has not yet been reached. But it’s dangerously close.
Mr Johnson has one ace in the hole, however. Major’s opponent in 1997 was Tony Blair, a formidable campaigner with a seductive Centrist agenda. Boris is lucky enough to have the wooden Sir Keir Starmer and a Shadow Cabinet of little discernible talent.
Voters also know that opting for Sir Keir in an election would usher in a ramshackle alliance of Labour, Lib Dems, Scots Nats, Greens and anyone else they could scrape together to form an overall majority.
The result could be the break-up of the UK and proportional representation, condemning this country to the political quagmire of permanent coalition.
To avert that catastrophe between now and 2024, the Tories must offer a credible alternative. For that to happen the parliamentary party needs to grow up, park its internal differences and start behaving like a government rather than a circus act.
If it can rediscover its discipline and sense of purpose over the next two years, all is not lost. Right now, the omens aren’t good.