Louise Bagshaw, novelist and newly anointed member of the Tories' A-List of preferred candidates for vacant seats wrote in The Times the other day about her path from Thatcherite Tory Party to Blairite Labourism and thence back to the Hagueite Tory Party (insert your own jokes here about how little political shift this actually involves).
A couple of things stuck out. Firstly, she burbles that the only good thing that Tony did was to give independence to the Bank of England, which hardly comes top of the list of the popular achievements of the Labour government in most people's book. What, no mention of the minimum wage? Nothing about record increases in education and health funding? What about extra support for the elderly or to get kids out of poverty? Has all that passed her by?
She blandly asserts that Gordon's 'raiding' of the pension schemes will mean that we all have to work longer, as if a former marketing person for Sony and a best-selling novelist is about to rely on state handouts for her future. Yes, Louise, some of you may have to spend a little less on the organic shiitake mushrooms, but I'm sure you'll struggle on. She's conveniently ignored the fact that we have an ageing population that has developed an awkward taste for not dying early (thanks partly to the effects of the post-war NHS) and that's what is putting the strain on pensions. The system has always been supported by those at work - it is pay as you go, not building up an individual pension pot like a private scheme. As the ratio between those who pay in and those who draw their pension shifts, so something has to give - you can reduce the benefits or increase the contributions. People don't want to pay tax, so we'll have to work longer.
'In my late twenties, I came to accept Catholic teaching, including on sexuality and marriage'
Ruth Kelly has had to cope with questions over her ability to uphold the equalities agenda over sexuality, given her membership of the fundamentalist Catholic group Opus Dei. How does Louise's attitude go down with Opus Dave and the new, touchy-feely Tory Party? She's also at odds with Dave over Europe. He's threatened to shorten the career of any Eurosceptic Tory MP, but she slams Blair's 'Eurofanaticism.' Her political treatise even finds space to dig at the traditional Tory target - accusing Blair of instituting 'chaos instead of a fair immigration system.'
She claims that she's an unlikely Tory candidate - she's a rich, Oxbridge graduate who worked for a multinational and hails from the Home Counties where her mother was a councillor. You were always a Tory, Louise - when you weren't gloryhunting with the Labour Party in the late 90s. Louise seems less of a New Tory than an old Thatcherite.
Aside from that, it seems that other clouds are gathering on the horizon for the A Listers. A few unlucky enough not to be amongst the chosen few are reported to be gathering material to challenge the whole thing legally. In any case, Central Office admits that it can't force constituency parties to select from the priority list - the only restriction is that candidates must come from the full candidates list. Increasingly, this is bearing all the hallmarks of the New Tory leadership - this has nothing to do with a real change or policy, but is all about glossy publicity.