The River Tiber Foaming With Much Wetness
A famous exchange in the Soho drinking scene involves a large man approaching a bar. “Get us an orange juice would ya geezer?”. A looming figure stared imperiously across at him. Tightening his grip on the wooden surface, varicose veins throbbing throughout, the barman slowly leaned across and uttered, “stop being a big poof and have a pint of beer like a real man".
As he terrified customers with outrageously bigoted remarks, Norman Balon was a man quite deserving of being called the ‘rudest landlord of all time’. Ever frank, he would hurl customers out for simply asking for glasses of water alongside their meal. Heaven forbid he catches you ordering a cocktail - as one unfortunate bugger learned when soon finding themselves thrown into the streets of the West-End being told to “fuck off home”.
Norman was an unflinching man of tradition. None of this Gusto or Wine Bar nonsense. He demanded thick ale, meat pies and sticky wooden tabletops. Besides all else, the enfant terrible of London publand never cared for how he was perceived, stating “I am by nature rude, I have no patience for nobody”.
Such candidness is a sign of an age gone by. In today’s media-fazed world we are all governed by how others see us. Think the scuffle after any group photo to observe how we ourselves look (and if we approve) the ‘ahh that is a good picture’ - despite our best friend being caught looking like some monstrous brute.
Few people are outdone in this obsession than by politicans. Of course we can allow a degree of leeway as their career is, after all, dependent on how the public view them. But this compulsion has gone into overdrive.
Take the infamous case of Angela Rayner and a Brighton shoe shop. Infuriated that a £195 pair of shoes were not laid aside, the current Labour Deputy Leader scribbled the poor business a ‘cruel’ Commons-headed letter. Likely being the first sincere note ever written on such paper, this malign act is hardly surprising from someone compelled to call her opposition ‘scum’.
But this article isn’t to moan about Labour MPs. The Corbynista’s stoic grasp on the ideology rejected at the last election shows they would rather not be in power than end their strange cult. If only I had ex-girlfriends so committed.
As I spent my last week curled in the fetal position, prisoner to my Covid-induced indolence, I took the time to search into Boris Johnson’s illustrious career as a journalist. Hearing quotations here and there for many years, my curiosity piqued when intoxicated by lemon-flavoured Lemsip. In one particular article wrote some decades ago, Boris lambasted the NHS as an ‘unimprovable universal system’, the same system he would later build himself as the messiah of while pumping it with hundreds of billions of pounds.
So what has changed? Why has Boris lurched so substantially into the realms of tory wetness?
As if partaking in the Hindu tradition of purifying one’s soul in the Ganges river – Tories, no matter how dry, soon become doused in wetness when in power. From the dawn of Disraeli and the tired idiom of ‘one nation’, all the rave within the party has been for ‘compassionate’ conservatism. Or if one is feeling a little more highbrow, noblesse oblige. To this I say non!
What is truly compassionate is allowing individuals to make their own decisions and work towards their own potential. Not big state nannying, we need the government to be a bored teenage babysitter laying idle on the sofa.
While this often is the default position for backbench Tory hopefuls, they too fall victim to the reality of wetness. Michael Gove in 2005 published ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party, in which he concluded the need for public health accounts in place of the NHS, eight years after expressing his support for capital punishment in the Times. Earlier this week Gove published the long awaited ‘Levelling Up’ white paper, adorned with highly-interventionist pledges more akin to Tony Benn than Adam Smith.
What the party desperately requires is a classical liberal revolution. As societies become ever more centralised and bureaucratic, conservatives must reclaim their natural opposition. The party needs to take pride in the individual making their own choices, and wear it’s belief in free-enterprise as a badge of honour. We must all be unapologetic in these beliefs.