Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tories select toff for Darlington

What is it about Darlington's Tories and the minor landed gentry? Back in 1997, they picked Peter Scrope, scion of the Bolton Castle family, to contest the seat. Peter of course is fondly remembered by Labour activists for his decision to tow a horse box around the terraced streets festooned with his placards. He also thought that putting a picture of Bolton Castle on his election literature was a great idea - as you can imagine that went down very well in the completely urban constituency.

Now I read on Darlington Future that they have selected Captain Edward Thomas Legard, formerly of the Life Guards. I stand to be corrected, but I'm assuming he's the one and the same character who thePeerage.com tells me is the second son of Sir Charles Legard, 15th Baronet. It's good to see Dave Cameron's drive to make the Tory Party so much more representative of the public at large is bearing such fruit.

Mr Legard does have a political background too, however, and is a Tory councillor in Ryedale. He most recently hit the headlines there for helping to stymie a 33 year old scheme for a sports centre in Malton and Norton. Local campaigner Stewart Frank of Norton added: "It's an absolutely disgraceful decision. These people are supposed to represent our communities. I don't know how they can look at themselves in the mirror after this."

Anyway, the first thing Mr Legard should do is get the local Tories to spell his name right - or is he really Edward Legrand too....?


Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes..

You must be delighted. The Tories do seem to be reverting back to the Grouse Moor image of the 1960s. Dave's a toff and he shoots. Don't know about him hunting or fishing.

Before Heath and Thatcher made the Tories more modern and egalitarian by coming from the Grammar Schools the Tory PMs of the day Eden, MacMillan and Home came from the landed gentry or the toffs as you call them. Educated at Eton and Oxford followed by a turn in the Guards Regiment just the thing to run the country and keep us oiks in our place.

Macmillan and Home in particular used to decant to the grouse moors of Yorkshire on the glorious 12th (August) to shoot birds out of the sky every year without fail.

Interesting choice nevertheless.

Martin said...

"Back in 2001, they picked Peter Scrope".

Anno Domini is playing tricks on you Nick! Peter Scrope was the candidate in 1997. T'was Tony Richmond in 2001.

How time flies etc...

Anonymous said...

Tom Stebbings..writes.

Nick. The Labour Party must do better than this.

Remember Winston Churchill, pupil at Harrow, descended from a Duke,(greatest ever MP in my eyes)

or Anthony Eden, son of a Baron, went to Eton.....(another great)

and then their was.

Ted Heath..son of a builder..and

Margaret Thatcher..daughter of a grocer..or

John Major..Son of a garden gnome manufacturer.

It is not their heritage than is important, rather their beliefs.

Must do better than this Nick, if you are to persuade the electorate.

Tom Stebbings

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks, Martin - correction made.

Tom - thanks for your comment. This is just a bit of knockabout, but with a serious purpose. After all, it was Cameron who made the background of his candidates an issue when he created his A list to try and broaden the basis of his party at Westminster. Selections such as this one show that the effort has hardly been a ringing success.

Of course, we'll judge Mr Legard on what he says and what he does, and not what his background might be. I'd like to know more about his record as a councillor in Ryedale, for example.

He's (another) barrister (plenty of those in the Commons already, one might say), but I'm sure he'll be no idiot, and Labour will not underestimate him.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes...

I was asked by my travelling colleague this morning where the Tories stood on ID cards. I said I didn't know and that's the heart of the problem. Under Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher there was a degree of certainty on where they stood on the major issues and who they were prepared to defend. Now we don't know and this is very important.

I also have a feeling that the middle income people with families and retired people who have worked all their days are being cast adrift by the political system because there is no one speaking up for them (us) and that includes the Lib Dems. No one party is saying this group is having hard time lets allow them to keep more of their money and allow them to spend it the way they (we) want. Instead more and more is being taken from us and we are not getting such a good deal in return.

You know Nick as well as I do the middle income and retired people are having a hard time with the rising fuel costs, increased heating bills, higher mortgates and higher council tax and yet there is no one political party which is fighting our corner.

In America Hillary Clinton is identifying herself with the hopes, fears and aspirations of Middle America and she is saying what she is going to do to help which is very refreshing. I wish we had her in the UK.

Darlington Councillor said...

You make some very interesting points there, Alan.

Firstly, as you say, politics in the late 70's and certainly in the 80's was highly polarised. It's what brought me into regular politics - a thoroughgoing dislike of Thatcher and her government.

Since then, an often-repeated criticism has been that the agendas of the political parties have moved too much into the centre ground precisely to woo "Middle England". Major tried and failed to appeal to the middle ground (mostly because his Parliamentary Party was out to lunch), and of course Blair was spectacularly successful in his 'Big Tent' approach, wooing middle class voters who had been alienated from Labour for a generation or more.

It's obvious that Cameron is trying to ape Blair, leaving the Tories looking fuzzy on a series of issues - that's why I think the charge of 'flip-flopping hurt Cameron and the Conservatives in the autumn. One of the (few) advantages of not having an early election was the fact that Cameron will have to start making hard and fast policy, and having to choose whether to alienate his party or the country. Certainly his last 3 predecessors have chosen to do the latter rather than the former, with predictably disastrous election results.

So are the middle classes excluded in today's political climate? I'm not so sure. One reason why I'm a Labour party member is to ensure that everyone, and especially the socially marginalised, have a fair say. Focus group politics don't tend to do that group any favours at all.

As for Hillary Clinton's appeal to Middle America - you're right, her appeal harks back to the politics of her husband and before than consensus politicians of left and right in the States. It's in stark contrast to the polarising approach of George W Bush, who has used the War on Terror and the coalition stitched together by Karl Rove of fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives and the evangelical right, to govern. The reason why Hillary's message is resonating so successfully is, I think, because the Americal public have become profoudly disillusioned with the devisive politics personified by Bush and Cheney, and are desperate for politics to operate in a different way.

Anonymous said...

The tories calling him Edward Legrand was obviously a freudian slip!

Martin said...

"Major tried and failed to appeal to the middle ground..."

That seems a slightly harsh judgement to me Nick. He achieved the unprecedented fourth general election victory in 1992 which in my view was what forced TB to take the Labour party so far to the right as to make it unrecognisable compared to its former self.

I'd be interested to know your view on one entirely hypothetical question which always intrigues me; if Labour had won the 1992 election would they have removed clause 4?

Ian White, townliar.com said...

Whats clause 4?

dadge said...

Contrast the selection in Darlo with that in Maidstone, which I heard about because Iain Dale applied there. (Helen Grant is the candidate--no Ann Widdecombe!)

Martin said...

Ian W - seeing as you asked...

Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution which from 1918 to 1995 read:-

"4. To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

"Common ownership of the means of production etc" was generally interpreted as meaning nationalisation.

Following his election as party leader in 1994 TB successfully persuaded a Labour Party conference to drop that clause in favour of one which sounds nice, sensible and friendly without actually containing any specific committments whatsoever!

That change was widely regarded as fundamentally shifting Labour Party policy to the right and extending their appeal to disaffected Tory voters, particularly those with clear memories of the failed nationalisation ventures of the 1960s and '70s.

Anonymous said...

nationalisation of rolls royce worked quite well, until rolls royce was sold off when it was back up on its feet again and thriving, precisely because of nationalisation.

Funnily enough this policy was put into place by Ted Heath's Conservative government!