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Dialectical weaponry: Michael Gove delivers a speech at the launch of The Good Right (image: Legatum Institute)

How odd to find oneself listening to a speech by the Conservative Chief Whip. That dignitary used to operate behind a façade of impenetrable silence, which was supposed to increase his air of menace. Michael Gove is the first holder of the office to invade, as it were, his own privacy. He was speaking at the launch of Tim Montgomerie’s new outfit, The Good Right, at the Legatum Institute, a think-tank accommodated in a house in Mayfair which feels like a posh hotel: brand new, expensive and deracinated. While looking up its address on the internet to check where it was, I came across a house in the same street for sale with a guide price of £39.5 million.

Gove urged the Conservatives to “affirm that we are warriors for the dispossessed”. Festooned with dialectical weaponry, the Chief Whip stormed the moral high ground and dug himself in. His speech constituted a defence of those commanding heights against all-comers, and especially against any self-righteous, pseudo-progressive socialist who presumes to claim moral superiority over the Conservatives. There’s an election to be fought, and here’s a man ready to take on the sanctimonious Left.

So why did I feel unable to follow Gove over the top, as it were? It’s partly that this kind of conservatism is so hectic, strenuous and utilitarian. Life is presented as a series of obstacles which can only be surmounted if we all work like maniacs. Perhaps for a modern politician, who may hold high office for only a few years, such puritanical dedication is inescapable, but must they inflict their unbalanced work ethic on the rest of us too?

One of the foundations of Western culture is leisure, understood in a high sense; and some of us are weak enough also to hanker, every so often, after the life of a rentier. I confess to having suffered quite frequently from this unheroic feeling ever since leaving university in 1979.

The Conservative Party exists, surely, to defend property as well as to help those who start out in life with nothing. In their electoral programme, the Conservatives do, as it happens, make one immensely expensive concession to this kind of sentiment: they promise to protect the rights of pensioners.


The opinion polls seem, at the time of writing, to have moved very little, and to be stuck at a level where neither of the main parties has a realistic chance of getting an overall majority. At the start of January, I found myself at a lunch of pollsters and other experts, where a sweepstake was organised on the question of how many seats the Tories would end up with. Flown with insolence and wine, and because I expect the Tory campaign to be more formidable than Labour’s and also because I reckon that when people look at the Tory record over the last five years they will conclude that it merits a second term, I shouted “330” before anyone else had a chance to corner the high end of the market.

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March 30th, 2015
12:03 AM
What is the point of Gimpson's meandering, mazy, musings on a host of disconnected topics except to put a vague question mark over Michael Gove for the crime of saying something definite with clarity ?

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