Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 25, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

POLITICAL MELTDOWN DONE RIGHT....Democrats and Republicans have their ups and downs, but for real political theater you need to go to Britain. Over there, when a party takes a fall, it takes a fall.

During the 80s and early 90s, of course, the Labor Party practically imploded in a display of incompetence and infighting of astonishing proportions. Lately though, as if to prove that nice, normal opposition parties are now completely impossible in British politics, it's the Conservatives that have decided to commit a very long and very public political suicide. You'd think that being reduced to 25% of the seats in Parliament would be enough to focus their minds, but no. Apparently things haven't yet gotten bad enough.

Long story short, IDS (that's the FDR-ish nickname of Iain Duncan Smith, leader of the Conservatives) got the leadership job a couple of years ago because skipping lightly over some of the tedious background no one else really wanted it after a decade of bruising internal warfare. Now, however, the party is in open revolt against him. Or perhaps not-so-open revolt, since everything is happening behind the scenes but with copious leaks to friendly reporters. I especially like this from the BBC:

On Friday Tory whips took the rare step of issuing a statement stressing their "total loyalty" to the leader....Tory chief whip David Maclean said: "I have spoken personally to all the whips and they are unanimous in their support for the leader of the party."

Compared to this from the Times:

The Tory party chief whip is understood to be ready to tell Iain Duncan Smith that he has lost the support of the majority of the parliamentary party and should "fall on his sword."

That's total loyalty for you! According to the Telegraph, if it comes to a vote IDS can count on only 21 out of 166 votes.

On a personal basis, IDS seems to have few friends either. The Economist, which describes the current battle as "vicious even by the standards of Tory politics," has this to say about him:

At a more junior level, stories are rife at Westminster about his habit of leaving his clothes around his office and then barking at his female staff: Get those cleaned. Donors to the party have complained bitterly about his reluctance to show any gratitude. One complained that when he flew the leader to a meeting in his helicopter, Mr Duncan Smith addressed barely a word to him. After his request for a cup of tea fell on deaf ears, by way of protest, he is reported to have sent a cross letter to Central Office with a tea bag attached.

And to top it all off, he's also under investigation on charges that he used party funds to pay his wife for work she didn't do. His defense sounds positively Nixonian.

Anyway, I don't have any point to make except that this is theater of the highest order. Compared to these guys, the Democratic Party is a political juggernaut.

Kevin Drum 10:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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