My day with the Freedom Association and the excommunication of Tim Montgomerie

9 Mar 2015 at 09:19

Travelling on the train to speak the the annual Freedom Festival in Bournemouth this weekend I had this creeping feeling that I had made a terrible mistake. After all I am a dripping wet Cameroon moderniser who thoroughly approves of the direction of the Conservative party has been driving. The trouble is that road has been mined, booby trapped and strafed by the the very sort of people I was going to spend a day and night with. And as I am not exactly a shrinking violet about my views I assumed I was going to be met with a wall of hostility and laser beams of hate. But as it was a favour to my old friend Grant Tucker of the IEA, I gritted my teeth, put on my protector and walked the green mile to my first session ‘in Conversation with Jerry Hayes’. In the Thatcher room. There was only one person there, an enormous and menacing fellow who I later discovered was a UKIP Parliamentary candidate. He looked at me in the way feral beasts with large paws and sharp teeth regard their first human snack of the day.

And then the room began to fill. Elderly gentleman in Blazers, elderly ladies in country attire, intense young men and a woman dressed in lace, pound signs and a enormous UKIP hat. It was the splendid Gloria who had appeared on the front pages of the TIMES in another striking outfit at the UKIP conference. It suddenly felt peculiarly familiar as I recognised many of the faces as attendees of Conservative Party conferences in the eighties. Their views hadn’t changed at all. Get out of Europe and worship the principles of Thatcherism. It was as if I was sitting in another dimension, in a time bubble where the clock had stopped in 1983. But although I thoroughly disagreed with most of their views, they were people of good heart, of gentle spirit, of common decency, who loved their country and were terrified of the havoc that a Labour government would wreak. They were just bemused that the party they had supported most of their lives had changed out of all recognition. Not unlike farming communities in the thirties who had to come to terms with the tractor replacing the shire horse. But with the certain exception of the UKIP candidate (who was not as menacing as he looked) a goodly number realised that a vote for Farage would be a dangerous vanity.

But if you think the Tory Right hate Socialism it is as nothing compared to how they despise the traitors in their own midst. When at the dinner, Donal Blaney embarked upon a blistering attack on ‘compassionate Conservatism’, I thought that it was time to make my excuses and leave. But when Donal started to fume about the ‘stench of appeasement…..and those doing the work of enemies like Heath, Heseltine and Neville Chamberlain’,it was not me or the family Cameroon he was going on about , it was Tim Montgomerie, who he mentioned with all the affection of something unwelcome that you have found on the bottom of your newly acquired Church’s brogues. Evidently Monty had written a piece about The Good Right, which had split the right. That it was a pale pastiche of Conservatism, and that this nonsense must be buried for once and for all. Blaney then went on to quote Thatcher when she said that when she left politics she would start a business called Rent a Spine. I have never heard such a devastating attack on anyone at a public event.

Maybe I will have to read this Monty stuff. Sounds like something I might agree with. And to his credit Blaney probably regards me as a political deviant who with a little re education and a spot of waterboarding might be turned. But for Monty? Don’t stand next to any lampposts for a very long time old chap. The Right are sharpening their pitchforks and castrating irons as we speak. And they think that you did it in return for a gong.

But……….I did enjoy my couple days with the Freedom Association. We may be on different political planets but nobody should doubt their sincerity and basic decency. All in all a delightful crowd.