Oh Heidi Allen your heart is in the right place, but don't become the Great Tory Baked Off
20 Oct 2015 at 18:20
Oh Heidi Allen. Your heart is in exactly the right place but please put your brain into gear! Let me give you some advice as someone who was a serial rebel against some of Margaret Thatcher’s rather more dangerous policies. You are new, you are bright, you are enthusiastic and you have a seat so safe that the Tory votes are weighed. You are the Aga Khan of South Cambridgeshire. But don’t make the mistakes that I did in my early years. If you are really, really incensed by a government policy speak to the Whips and demand to speak to Osborne. If necessary demand to speak to Cameron. They may hear you even if you think that they are not listening. What is happening at the moment is that the ‘line’ is being held. There will be no retreat from a policy where the taxpayer pays the hardworking poor in order for them to be paid slave wages by employers. It helps nobody. And it is right both morally and fiscally. However, when the IFS, David Willetts and the House of Commons Library warn that the figures don’t quite add up the alarm bells, whistles and big whooping sirens will be sounding in Number 10 and 11. There will be a plan to make the transition fairer and stomachable. The trouble is that nobody quite yet knows what it is. Yet it will happen. But not today, probably in a few weeks time when Osborne has a serious statement to make. So work behind the scenes, make your views known privately, but do not wear your heart on your sleeve. It is so easy. I am not saying you should not speak out, of course you should, but make your language less colourful until you are fighting the final battle when fools use the Thatcher ploy of ‘never explain and never apologise’. If that happens let loose the dogs of war.
But we haven’t come to that. Nowhere near it.
So what will happen next? You are now a national treasure to the press. Why? Because they thrive on division. They will fete you with lunch, dinner, drinks. You will be asked for interviews on programmes that will make your ego soar. You will be invited to write columns. Why? Because you will be the great Tory Baked Off. And all the while every word you utter will be used to to undermine a government who really care about the working poor, but just haven’t got it right yet. You really don’t want to be seen shoring up the teetering Corbyn message. My advice? Resist. A period of silence and organisation. If you don’t you will become the Monday morning political editor’s round up as a rent a quote for disaffection. I have been there and what a fool I was.
However there was a rebellion which I have no regrets about. In the 1980s I was put on the standing committee for the Health and Medicines Bill. My job was to be lobby fodder. I read the bill. It was an abomination. Thatcher wanted to save £30 million by abolishing the free sight and dental checks. Thousands of pensioners would go blind and and a key diagnostic tool would be lost. It was insane. But I played the game. I went to the whips, went to the Secretary of State and even the Prime Minister. Nobody listened. So I unleashed the dogs of war, appearing one night simultaneously on every news broadcast. I lost, but it was a close run thing. I even had minor fistycuffs with a whip. They panicked, but I lost by four votes.
And Heidi, one more word of advice, make sure you get the support of your constituency executive all the way. Then you untouchable. Although fairly fucked.
So the next problem you will have will be the Number 10 and 11 rubbish machine. It has been ruthless for every party. It is formidable. Expect a SUN headline Heidi Who? But nobody is beyond redemption.