The demise of the Tory Party
The David Cameron Tory government is fast unravelling as the sleazy conduct of its volunteers, officers, members and government is exposed, mirroring the 1997 downfall of the John Major government.
This article provides (for comparative purposes) briefing, outlining a number of the unsavoury incidents that gripped and destroyed the John Major government. Similar behaviour is compromising the government of David Cameron.
Particular attention is given to the behaviour of members of, “The Conservative Future”, the Tory Party youth wing. Members are both professionals and students alike and participate in the life of the Party in many ways.
Many play a direct and active role in the campaigns of their local MSPs, MP or Councillors and others stand for election with many currently representing their local area as Councillors.
Members socialise and debate together and are active at all levels of Party structure. Others are office holders at Constituency level and some are elected members of Local Councils.
In Scotland the Tory Party membership (many aged between 50-80) at 2011 numbered around 8000. This brought problems since it was not possible to conduct any meaningful electorate canvassing without troops on the ground.
Ruth Davidson’s strategy resolved the problem raising the profile of her “shock Conservative Forward troops” so that they established and implemented her doctrine in all areas of the Party.
But there was a price to pay for creating a two tier Party and the behaviour of a number of young Tory thugs associated with an increasing number of unsavoury incidents provides warning to the electorate not to provide support to a Party closely modelled on the ideals of a National Socialist Party.
It is possible that the 2020 General Election will provide opportunity for the return of a Labour government, (perhaps in coalition with the SNP).
Another, more likely scenario might see Scotland voting to leave the UK in a referendum in which case events in England & Wales post election would no longer concern Scots.
24 July 1993: The John Major government 1992-1997 – A promising start and a dismal end
John Major’s leadership was plunged into a new crisis last night after claims that he described three Eurosceptic Cabinet colleagues as ‘bastards’ in comments accidentally recorded after a television interview. The remarks, which were not broadcast but have gained circulation among broadcast journalists, are likely to enrage the right of the Conservative Party when Mr Major had promised a truce with Maastricht rebels.
The incident follows an interview with ITN’s political editor, Michael Brunson, last Friday after the Prime Minister had won his confidence vote over handling of the Maastricht Treaty in the Commons. Private discussion seems to have been picked up on a ‘live feed’ – which made Mr Major’s conversation available to the BBC and Sky as well as ITN – and taped by technicians.
According to today’s Observer Mr Major told Mr Brunson: ‘The real problem is one of a tiny majority. Don’t overlook that. I could have all these clever, decisive things which people wanted me to do – but I would have split the Conservative party into smithereens. And you would have said I had acted like a ham-fisted leader.’
Mr Brunson asked the Prime Minister why he did not sack three rebel Cabinet ministers, to which the Mr Major replied: ‘Just think it through from my perspective. You are the Prime Minister, with a majority of 18, a party that is still harking back to a golden age that never was (the Thatcher era), and is now invented. You have three right-wing members of the Cabinet who actually resign. What happens in the Parliamentary party?’
When Mr Brunson argued that the Prime Minister had the power to bring in others, Mr Major said: ‘I could bring in other people. But where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.
‘We don’t want another three bastards out there. What’s Lyndon Johnson’s maxim?’ (The maxim is: ‘It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.’)
At no point in the tape did the Prime Minister name the three colleagues singled out for attack. Four Cabinet ministers are regarded as sceptics on Europe: Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Redwood, Secretary of State for Wales, and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.
But revelations of Mr Major’s private opinions, unless proved false, will damage his standing on the right of the party – and undermine his claims to be a sceptic on Europe himself. They also underline the deep divisions which have been created within the Conservatives by the 18-month row over ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.
Downing Street said last night that it ‘did not know if this conversation took place and if it did it would have been a private matter’.
Mr Brunson was not available for comment but an ITN spokesperson said: ‘Michael Brunson has private conversations with senior politicians all the time and he would never comment on them’.
8 October 1993: “Back to Basics” political campaign announced by British Prime Minister John Major at the Conservative Party conference of 1993 in Blackpool.
Intended as a nostalgic appeal to traditional values, it subsequently backfired when a succession of Conservative politicians were caught up in scandals. The previous year of Major’s premiership had been beset by infighting within the Conservative party on the issue of Europe, including rebellions in several Parliamentary votes on the Maastricht Treaty.
Major’s speech, delivered on 8 October 1993, began by noting the disagreements over Europe:
“Disunity leads to opposition. Not just opposition in Westminster, but in the European Parliament and in town halls and county halls up and down this country. And if agreement is impossible, and sometimes on great issues it is difficult, if not impossible, then I believe I have the right, as leader of this party, to hear of that disagreement in private and not on television, in interviews, outside the House of Commons.”
Major then changed the subject to “a world that sometimes seems to be changing too fast for comfort”. He attacked many of the changes in Britain since the Second World War, singling out developments in housing, education, and criminal justice. He then continued:
“The old values – neighbourliness, decency, courtesy – they’re still alive, they’re still the best of Britain. They haven’t changed, and yet somehow people feel embarrassed by them. Madam President, we shouldn’t be. It is time to return to those old core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting a responsibility for yourself and your family and not shuffling off on other people and the state.”
He mentioned the phrase once again near the conclusion of his speech:
“The message from this conference is clear and simple, we must go back to basics. We want our children to be taught the best, our public services to give the best, our British industry to be the best and the Conservative Party will lead the country back to those basic rights across the board. Sound money, free trade, traditional teaching, respect for the family and respect for the law. And above all, we will lead a new campaign to defeat the cancer that is crime.”
During 1993, Britain was going through what has been characterised as a moral panic on the issue of single mothers. Government ministers regularly made speeches on the issue, such as John Redwood’s condemnation of “young women [who] have babies with no apparent intention of even trying marriage or a stable relationship with the father of the child”. and Peter Lilley’s characterisation of single mothers as “benefit-driven” and “undeserving” from the same year.
Apart from some generic platitudes about families and self-reliance, Major’s speech said nothing specific about sexual behaviour or single motherhood. On 6 January 1994, Major explicitly stated that the campaign was not “a crusade about personal morality”. Despite this, the “Back to Basics” campaign was widely interpreted by the media as including a “family values” component.
A professional analysis of Major’s speech provided this:
It is true that there was little in his original speech about sexuality But what proved critical, however, was the adoption of a moral traditionalist tone, including the usual references to ‘the family’ and responsibility’, and the labelling of the Conservative Party as the party of morality.
The party was now vulnerable to every personal moral disclosure, around financial and political corruption, but also, given the press’s own agenda, around sexuality.
For editors and journalists, the high-profile espousal of morality offered additional justification for the papers’ risky stories, and a further defence against threats to introduce privacy legislation against press intrusion. It was indubitably ‘in the public interest’ not to hush up misdemeanours within the Back To Basics party, however private.
Piers Morgan, who exposed many of the sexual scandals as editor of the News of the World, wrote in his diary in reference to the Michael Brown story:
“Major brought all these exposés on himself, with that ludicrous ‘Back to Basics’ speech at the last Tory conference. It strikes me that probably every Tory MP is up to some sexual shenanigans, but we can hardly get them all fired or there will be nobody left to run the country. Still, needs must. Brown’s shenanigans will shift a few papers, get followed everywhere and ensure the NoW [News of the World] leads the news agenda again. We’re on a roll and it feels fantastic.”
The following scandals were linked to the “Back To Basics” campaign in the media:
On 24 September 1992, David Mellor resigned as National Heritage Secretary. Mellor had been the subject of intense press attention regarding his extra-marital affair with actress Antonia de Sancha. Mellor remained in office for two months after the story broke, but was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had accepted a free holiday from the daughter of the PLO’s finance director. Although Mellor’s resignation antedated John Major’s “Back to Basics” speech by more than a year, the media were quick to link the new campaign to the scandal.
Between September and November 1993, newspapers revealed that junior transport minister Steven Norris had separated from his wife and was conducting simultaneous affairs with three different women (who were not all aware of each other’s existence). A further two long-term mistresses from his past were also exposed in the media. Norris remained in office, with John Major reportedly believing that he “was entitled to act as he likes in his private life”. The revelations continued during the conference at which Major made his “Back to Basics” speech.
On 5 January 1994, Tim Yeo resigned as Minister for the Environment and Countryside following the revelation that he had fathered a child during an extramarital affair. Yeo had previously criticized the number of single mothers in Britain.
On 8 January 1994, Alan Duncan resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary after it was revealed that he had acquired a council house at a reduced price by exploiting a government programme to increase home ownership by the underprivileged.
On 9 January 1994, The Earl of Caithness resigned from his post as Minister for Aviation and Shipping one day after his wife committed suicide. According to his wife’s father, the tragedy had been precipitated by the Earl’s involvement in an extra-marital affair.
On 10 January 1994, married Conservative MP David Ashby admitted that he had shared a hotel bed with a “close” male friend on a rugby tour, but denied claims by his wife that he had left her for a man, or that he was having a homosexual relationship.
On 16 January 1994, Conservative MP Gary Waller confirmed newspaper reports that he had fathered a child with the secretary of another MP.
On 7 February 1994, Conservative MP Stephen Milligan was found dead as a result of auto-erotic asphyxiation.
On 13 February 1994, Hartley Booth resigned as a Parliamentary Private Secretary. The married father of three and Methodist lay preacher claimed that his 22-year-old female researcher had “seduced [him] into kissing and cuddling”.
On 8 May 1994, Michael Brown resigned as a junior government whip after the News of the World revealed that he had taken a holiday in the Caribbean in the company of a 20-year-old man. At that time, the age of consent for same-sex male relationships was still 21 (it was due to be reduced to 18 later in 1994). Brown subsequently acknowledged his sexuality, becoming the second openly gay MP. In his diaries, Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth wrote of this revelation: “You’ve got to pity the poor PM [Prime Minister] too. As [Brandreth’s wife] Michele says, ‘That’s Back To Basics gone to buggery’.
On 10 July, Parliamentary Private Secretaries David Tredinnick and Graham Riddick resigned after being caught by The Sunday Times taking cash in exchange for asking Parliamentary questions.
On 20 October, Tim Smith resigned as Northern Ireland minister after being accused by The Guardian of accepting cash for asking Parliamentary questions on behalf of Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. Smith admitted the allegations.
On 25 October, Neil Hamilton resigned as minister for regulation and corporate affairs over the cash-for-questions affair. Unlike Smith, Hamilton denied taking money and gifts from Al-Fayed and vowed to sue his accusers in court.
On 6 March 1995, Robert Hughes resigned as Minister responsible for the Citizen’s Charter over an affair with a constituency worker who had come to him for help from an abusive relationship. Hughes confessed the affair and resigned when he believed that the liaison was about to be exposed in a Sunday newspaper.
On 9 April 1995, Richard Spring resigned as a Parliamentary Private Secretary after a News of the World sting caught him in a “three in a bed sex romp” with a male acquaintance and the acquaintance’s girlfriend.
On 10 April 1995, Jonathan Aitken resigned as chief secretary to the treasury in order to sue The Guardian over allegations that Saudi businessmen had paid for his stay at the Paris Ritz hotel, that he had enjoyed inappropriate commercial relations with two British-Lebanese arms dealers while minister for defence procurement, and that he had procured prostitutes for a Saudi prince and his entourage while they stayed at a British health farm. Aitken’s lawsuit would later collapse, and he would subsequently be imprisoned for perjury.
Scottish Office minister Allan Stewart resigned after waving a pickaxe at an anti-motorway protester.
On 2 June 1996, Rod Richards resigned as a Welsh Office minister after his extra-marital affair was disclosed in the News of the World. Richards had been a staunch advocate of the “Back To Basics” campaign in his strongly religious Welsh constituency. Upon hearing of the revelations, John Major demanded that Richards resign immediately; this so-called “one bonk and you’re out” policy was a notable contrast with his earlier leniency towards Norris, Yeo and David Mellor.
David Willetts’s disciplining by the parliamentary ombudsman over his intervention in a parliamentary enquiry in 1996
Porter v Magill revealed Shirley Porter’s role in the Homes for votes scandal
On 5 January 1997, the News of the World revealed that Conservative MP Jerry Hayes had been engaged in an extra-marital relationship with a young man. The affair began in 1991, when the man was 18 (the age of consent for same-sex male relationships at that time was 21).
Piers Merchant’s affairs with a night club hostess, and his researcher in 1997
John Major left office in 1997. Several years later, it was revealed that he had conducted a four-year-long extra-marital affair with fellow Conservative MP Edwina Currie in the 1980s. The liaison occurred when both were backbenchers, and had ended well before Major became Prime Minister. Currie disclosed the romance in her diaries, published in 2002, adding that she considered the “Back to Basics” campaign to have been “absolute humbug”.
In popular culture: The phrase has since become used by UK political commentators to describe any failed attempt by a political party leader to relaunch themselves following a scandal or controversy.
10 May 1994: Ministers face questions over sex case MOD man Labour attacks appointment of former high-profile Conservative to Civil Service post.
Ministers are to be questioned about the appointment to the Ministry of Defence of a civil servant at the centre of allegations about an illegal homosexual affair.
Paul Martin, 36 – formerly a high-profile Conservative councillor in Edinburgh and twice a candidate at general elections – was appointed to the allegedly politically neutral Civil Service. Mr Morgan said: ‘It looks as though Mr Martin was a political appointee but given a neutral title.’
Mr Martin – a convicted drink-driver – has been suspended from his position as an official in the Nato and European policy secretariat after being named with the Conservative MP Michael Brown in Sunday newspaper allegations about a homosexual relationship with an under-age man.
Sir Michael Hirst
31 March 1997 Tory top brass covered up the gay double-life of shamed chairman Sir Michael Hirst.
Scots Secretary Ian Lang knew about Hirst’s homosexual affairs with two young Tories. But he took no action after Hirst denied the flings with former researcher Andrew Barnett and personal assistant Paul Martin. Barnett blurted out the secret at the party’s Brighton conference two years ago.
One senior Tory said: “This went all the way to Ian Lang.” Astonishingly, some party workers knew about Hirst’s gay secret for ten years. But nothing was done.
The shamed Tory chairman was in hiding yesterday with his wife Naomi and their three children. It is thought they are staying on a friend’s country estate in the Highlands. Hirst didn’t have the strength to tell his wife that his secret life was about to be made public. He was told on Friday afternoon that the story was about to break and he phoned John Major to say he might have to step down. His resignation letter was with the Prime Minister within hours.
Meanwhile the two men linked to Hirst couldn’t be contacted. Andrew Barnett, who works at the Arts Council in London, was not available. And Paul Martin was said to be abroad on holiday. His father, a former Edinburgh councillor, said: “Paul has not lived here for three years. He is abroad just now.”
Ian Lang wasn’t available for comment. But Jackson Carlaw tried to play down the stunning events. He described the resignations of Hirst and Allan Stewart as “two very personal tragedies”. He said: “Our campaign was at a very advanced stage and we have the resources and the resilience to carry that out.” He admitted that the resignations had not been the “ideal start” for any campaign. And he said many in the party were “distraught” that the chairman had had to resign. But he claimed this had hardened the resolve of party workers to win their target seats.
31 March 1997: Knives out for silent Forsyth – Top Tories last night put the boot into Michael Forsyth for dodging the latest sleaze crisis.
They’re furious that the Scots Secretary has done a vanishing act as the party tears itself apart over a series of scandals. And they warned Forsyth’s lack of leadership could affect his entire political future.
He is almost certain to be defeated in his Stirling seat because his 700 majority at the last election will be wiped out by boundary changes. But he is being warned he will not be made welcome in any other Scottish constituency if he seeks a quick return to Parliament.
A senior party insider said last night: “His failure to lead from the front has astonished and disappointed us all. “It’s almost as if he has conceded defeat in the election and is waiting for the meltdown to happen so he can be a big player and power- broker in a new ultra right-wing Conservative Party.”
Opponents have dubbed Forsyth The Phantom because he has not been seen or heard on the hustings since John Major called the election on March 17. He has even sent backbench MPs to represent him in TV debates. And he has come up with a series of weak excuses for his absence. First, it was said he was carrying on “the business of government” in London. Then he said he was attending to constituency duties – although opponents claim he has not been seen on the ground in Stirling. But he is finally expected to make his first public appearance at a manifesto launch on Wednesday. And Stirling Tories will go through the motions and adopt him as their candidate on Wednesday night.
Lang Forsyth Rifkind
31 March 1997: Gay mafia buries Scottish Tories – Homosexual links lead to downfall of Scots party.
A gay mafia of young Tory blades has all but buried the party in Scotland. The homosexual links stretch from the party’s grass-roots through to the highest ranks. Scots Secretary Michael Forsyth’s agent Simon Turner – the man running his election campaign – is openly gay. And it was two other ambitious young gays who brought about the downfall of Scots Tory chairman Sir Michael Hirst. They are his former researcher Andrew Barnett and campaign worker Paul Martin.
Barnett yesterday tried to deny any close relationship with Hirst – but a Tory insider said: “The affair was well-known.” The relationship between Hirst and Barnett ended in tears two years ago. Devastated that the affair was over, Barnett poured his heart out to Tory grandees at the Brighton conference in 1995. One Tory source said: “Andrew was made a fool. He was very upset. He is a decent man and I felt sorry for him.” Another Tory close to the debacle at the time said: “Andrew doted on Mickey. But when it was time for him to move on he, understandably, felt spurned.”
Despite the sleaze that has engulfed the party in recent years, there are still some old- fashioned Tories determined to stick to their tradition of family values. It was they who blew the whistle on Hirst because they were sickened by his double standards. The complaint arrived at the desk of Ian Lang, Scots Secretary at the time. Another party insider said: “The matter was referred to Ian Lang, but Hirst denied the affair.”
Barnett’s affair with Hirst began in the early 1990s. The former chairman of the Tory Association at St. Andrews University, was working as a researcher in Hirst’s office. It was the second time Hirst, the promoter of family values, had been embroiled in a homosexual affair with a young Tory hopeful.
He struck up a relationship with Paul Martin who worked in the campaign team in 1987 when Hirst lost the Bearsden and Strathkelvin seat to Labour’s Sam Galbraith. Martin was given the elbow when word spread that he had been talking openly about his fling with father-of-three Hirst.
Concern was growing within the constituency association and Hirst was advised that Martin had to go to avert a scandal. Instead of taking action against Hirst, they moved swiftly to ensure that he was protected and Martin was sent packing.
One source close to the situation at the time said: “The Association was alarmed at all this loose talk and Michael was told he had to get rid of Martin. “He did, but gave him a very good reference to help him get a job. Soon after he stood down he got a top post in the CBI.”
Martin, now 40, had been a Tory councillor in Edinburgh at the age of 21. Three years ago, while employed by the Ministry of Defence, he was at the centre of allegations that he was part of a gay love triangle with English Tory whip Michael Brown and 20-year-old student Adam Morris. He was quite open about his fling with Hirst and boasted about it at a Tory conference. One insider said: “Martin is trouble. He is a vindictive old queen.”
It has been revealed that the gay links with the Tory party stretch from grass-roots wannabes to the very top of the tree. Top Tories have always been uncomfortable with Forsyth’s choice of an open homosexual like Turner for such a high-profile job.
They were also critical of other gay appointments made at the Scottish Tory HQ when Forsyth was party chairman. One source told the Record: “There is always the worry that even a whiff of scandal attached to these people would reflect badly on Forsyth.”
As events unfolded in the Eastwood constituency last week, a small band of high- ranking Tories gathered to make sure Hirst didn’t try to replace Allan Stewart. It was they who tried to get Hirst sidelined two years ago when the Barnett affair broke.
One senior Tory said: “We thought if we didn’t get rid of him he would get rid of us. “No-one listened to us although we tried hard to get him moved to a more junior post. The powers that be are now reaping the inevitable result. “It would not surprise me if someone in our own party shopped Michael to the press because of his own open arrogance.”