Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Anatomy of a letter

By common consent Vince Cable's performance on last weeks Question Time was very impressive. Ken Clarke was also on trying desperately hard to add a gloss of common sense to the Tory profile. His further attempt to do so has caused quite a storm well reported elsewhere. Locally we have had our own manifestation of the wider problem.

My colleague Cllr Peter Hough (Victoria ward) and a psychologist by training casts his eye over the goings on:

A letter has appeared in the local press that has caused a few eye-brows to rise amongst my colleagues. It reads:

'After watching former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke's outstanding performance on
Question Time last Thursday I think we should just allow him to the run the
country on his own. The other Members of Parliament can fetch his beer and
cigars whenever he requires them.'

The raised eye-brows were caused because the writer is Tory Manor Ward councillor, Martyn Barber. Colleagues who read it were asking; but what does it mean? The editor of this webpage then asked me to cast a psychological eye over the words to extract the nuances and sub-texts suggested by the two sentences.

On the face of it the meaning is obvious. Martyn wants the world to agree what an outstanding politician Ken Clarke is. What is surprising is that while Clarke is a moderate centre-ground politician, and very pro EU, Martyn is neither. According to colleagues who know him better than me, Cllr Barber is to the right of *******, and at the UKIP end of the Tory spectrum when it comes to Europe. So what does it mean?

Martyn quite clearly is saying that Ken Clarke should be running the country. By implication he is also saying that he has no faith in David Cameron and George Osborne, and Ken should replace them. Things must be pretty dire in the Conservative party if a right wing politician (albeit on local level) is now asking for a former chancellor, cast into the Tory wilderness for years because of his uncompromising support for the EU, and twice rejected in leadership contests, be given the top job. Is Cllr Barber a lone voice in his Party, or is he the first of many brave enough to publicly speak out?

If the explanation is the former, then it hints at the bigger problem within Sefton Conservatives. Under the current leadership of Parry/Porter it has become idiosyncratic, unstable, and showing clear signs of dementia. Kangaroo courts have been convened where Tory councillors have been stripped of their positions and in one case deselected because they wouldn't toe the line. This psychosis has outwardly manifested in one councillor fleeing to the Labour Party, a stand-off with two more, and others chewing on their finger nails, wondering where the paranoia will lead next. This has resulted in a contraction of the Conservative Group, with three seats in as many years going to the Liberal Democrats. One of them was in Cllr Barber's own ward, where even he and Westminster hopeful Debi Jones couldn't stop the votes hemorrhaging.

So what does it mean? Speaking as a psychologist, I would say that in order to extract any further meaningful analysis, it would be necessary to conduct a scientific study, with certain Sefton Conservative Group members as participants, and journalists as controls. Then we would see if the results were statistically significant. As long as it didn't include the LibDem group too...

Peter Hough