Somewhere in a parallel universe things are going brilliantly for me and Britain right now. What’s happening is this: the Conservatives, led by my old Oxford puffing partner David “Dave” Cameron are slashing the debt like you would not believe.
First thing they did on gaining power was to cut spending in every government department by 20 per cent. This meant that there were no special favours, no horsetrading. It was also a signal of the seriousness and intent which Cameron had first promised in the bravura speech that had helped win the Conservatives the election.
“Do you realise how fucked we are?” he declared, in what commentators subsequently christened the Fucked Speech. “We are fucked beyond your wildest imaginings. Now you can either take my word for it and accept the strong and necessary medicine I propose over the next four years. Or you can vote Labour for more of the same of what got us into this mess. Your choice.”
And the electorate, because the Conservatives had been clear and honest about how fucked the economy was decided to go with him. What’s more, when he began – as promised – introducing this strong and necessary medicine, they took it because they could see it was being administered fairly across the board. Someone even coined a phrase for this: “We’re all in this together.” No one scoffed because it was true.
Actually it’s not quite accurate that all government departments were cut by 20 per cent. Some – such as the Department of Energy and Climate Change – were scrapped completely. So too, of course, were the majority of New Labour’s pointless quangos such as the Carbon Trust. “Hey, it’s like we’re having a bonfire of the quangos” someone quipped. And no one scoffed because it was true.
Meanwhile, in this parallel universe, my career is going from strength to strength too. I’m a regular at no 10 and Chequers and Dorneywood. I’m a trusted member of Dave’s inner circle. (Sometimes – it’s OK, now that the ban has been rescinded – we hunt together with the Heythrop) This is partly because we go way back, of course; but mainly it’s because we think as one politically.
In this glorious parallel universe – and God, don’t we all love living in it! – the Prime Minister understands as I do that government is not the solution to the problem because government IS the problem. He wants out of the EU because there’s no point being shackled to a corpse. He wants cheap, clean energy – shale not wind. He believes in honest money, not QE. He believes gay marriage is none of the government’s business. He wants to restore rigour and discipline to the education system, which is why he has got Michael Gove in charge and doing a brilliant job. He wants to reform welfare – and again Ian Duncan Smith is making great strides here: as big as Owen Paterson is making in his much needed reforms of DEFRA.
As editor of the vigorously free market and libertarian leaning website Conservative Home – and also editor of the comment pages of a reinvigorated Times, my job is to explain and applaud these measures. Which is a piece of piss, really, because everything this government does is so sensible and right. Occasionally, for comedy’s sake, I’ll employ a Tory wet or a closet Lib Dem – Tim Montgomerie, say, or Danny Finkelstein – to write me a piece on “Why the Conservative party needs to abandon more of its core principles in order to reach out to those voters who’ve always hated it and always will”. Mostly, though, I just give my crack team of columnists – Guido and Fraser Nelson and Douglas Murray and Allister Heath and Toby Young and that young whippersnapper Harry Cole and the rest – their head. I’m afraid I’m not one of those editors who believes one should run asinine bollocks just for the sake of it. I prefer columnists who write well and talk sense.
Obviously I’d like to go on with this fantasy but I can’t because some tosser has just pinched me and I’ve realised it was nothing more than a delicious dream. The real world I live in is not remotely like the one above. But it could be worse: UKIP could have come third instead of second in the Eastleigh by-election.
UKIP’s result gives me enormous hope for it makes me realise how very much not alone I am in my analysis of British politics. Cameron has had his chance – he’s had many, many chances, in fact, and he has gone and blown every one of them. So that’s plan A – a right wing coup within the Tory party – scuppered. Now it’s time for plan B.
I don’t wish in any way to demean UKIP by calling them Plan B. I’ve long admired their policies and I’m a huge fan of Nigel Farage who seems to me refreshingly free of the bullshit that envelops most politicians. The only reason Plan A was preferable is because, had it worked, it would have worked on a much shorter time scale – which meant that we could have been out of this mess much more quickly.
Clearly, that isn’t going to happen. I realised this over the weekend, at dinner with some influential Tory types. What astonished me was their mix of arrogance, defensiveness and epic complacency. In the bubble occupied by the Tory high command, it seems, it’s like the last three years just never happened.
The general attitude was: “Look, we didn’t win a majority at the last general election. If we had it would have been different. But we didn’t. So get over it. We’re in a Coalition with the Lib Dems now and that’s the deal.” And also: “So you want Ed Miliband to get in? Is that it? Because it will happen you know. If you don’t vote for us you get Labour, so you’d better jettison that fancy idealism of yours because it’s going to get you nowhere. Go on, who would you prefer: Cameron and Clegg or Miliband and Balls, eh? Eh? EH?”
Well when you put it like that, I’ll vote for neither of the above. The only right answer to the question is UKIP.