Although Monty and I disagree he is a man of good heart and integrity. After the dust settles I hope he can rejoin the Tory family

18 Feb 2016 at 16:45

Some of you will be expecting me to be jumping for joy at Tim Montgomerie’s exit from the Tory party. To be honest, I am rather sad. One of the great strengths of my party is that it is a very broad church. Some might think that since the defenestration of Thatcher some of the pews have been filled with snake wranglers, evangelicals and those with the gift of tongues; some forked.

The trouble is that many MPs of the post Thatcher era believe the myths. Labour and the Lib Dems view her as a monster. And Tories see her as a saint. In truth she was neither. She shook the patrician complacency to near destruction both in Cabinet and in Whitehall. She saved the economy and democratised rather than smashed the unions. But her impatience, hectoring style and humiliation of close colleagues and spitting in the eye of common sense were the seeds of her downfall. The operation fell apart when independent voices like Stephen Sherbourne and Ferdy Mount headed for the hills. They had the courage to restrain her. For any of us to view policy though the prism of what ‘she would have done’ is a mistake. There are different dragons to be slain.

The reason I support Cameron is because he epitomises why I joined the Conservatives so many years ago. Pragmatic politics, a sense of social justice and tolerance of alternative views. In many ways these are the bedrock of Tim Montgomerie’s Conservatism. The Good Right was a brave attempt to put these principles into a sensible context. But it incensed the libertarian Tories and they shrieked ’ betrayal’. That was unfair. But hey, welcome to politics.

The Tories have always had three primal fissures. Africa, Ireland and Europe. The opposite views are irreconcilable. Where I take issue with Tim is that he seems to buy into the popular myth that the EU is an undemocratic, incompetent, soul destroying, black hole of our potential. A cyst that has to be removed to give us back our sovereignty and place in the world. I admit that the EU bureaucracy can be mind numbingly ghastly and is founded on the bedrock of compromise. But before the Treaty of Rome the continent of Europe was slaughtering their young men for hundreds of years. Despots and dictators were starving and torturing their cowed peoples. I am old enough to remember the atrocities of Cyprus, dictators like Franco, Salazar and the Greek colonels. When as a child I visited Marbella in the late fifties there was just one hotel and the villagers were in rags and bare feet sharing their homes with the livestock. I remember as a teenager hopping on the ferry to France to stock up on the sugar and butter that the Commonwealth were unable to provide. And how can I forget British gunboats at war with Iceland over fishing rights?
There is toxic myth about EU migration. Today the MAIL screamed of the horror of 3 million workers. Note the word ‘workers’, not scroungers. They pay their taxes to support our schools and our NHS.

In his TIMES column today Tim made a remarkable statement, ‘nothing registers more strongly on the social injustice front than than recommending staying in the EU. It remains the greatest source of social misery on the continent……requiring intense austerity such as Greece’. Well, let’s have think about that. Successive Greek government’s for generations have failed to pay their debts. There has been a massive imbalance between rich and poor and who avoids paying taxes. They are finding it difficult to sell of their assets because the books have been cooked. What on earth are the rest of us meant to do? And I would have thought that the greatest cause of misery is the tide of sad displaced refugees fleeing from death, torture and persecution. We cannot and must not wash our hands of this humanitarian disaster. There has to be an EU solution.

Love it or hate it, irritating as it is and bollock crunching and sphincter clenching as they are the EU institutions at least are a force for stopping the wholesale slaughter of our young, feeding the continent and slowly bringing the Eastern European countries into democracy and prosperity. There is still a long way to go and there has to be massive reforms. But the alternative is chaos. And real misery.

Tim and I disagree on many things. But he is a man of integrity and good heart. I hope that when the dust has settled he feels that he can come back to the Conservative fold. I for one would welcome him.