'Oh dear, I think you're a bit out of touch' Nigel Farage on Michael Portillo
'The stale prescriptions offered by the likes of Alan Johnson are the road to defeat and working class disappointment' Len McCluskey
The settled opinion of the Westminster commentariat has judged the 2 political events of the past month- Margaret Thatcher's death and Ukip's surge- as both a spur and a result of anti-politics populist sentiment. The academic world of comparative politics has rightly conjoined Farage, Grillo, Le Pen and Wilders together into a monstrous, seething political animal of rage and incompetence.
Now the 'send in the clowns' shtick has gone stale, it's now time to send in the 'political has-beens'. If either Michael Portillo or Alan Johnson remained on the front-line of British politics, their respective parties would be far more likely to win the next general election.
It seems fairly likely that those on the Conservative benches that felt a sense of schadenfreude at Farage's fortunes and the reversal, and cataclysmic collapse, of Cameron's modernisation project will be replete with shock once the votes of 2015 are collated. That a governing majority is not magically conjured from those that comment on The Daily Mail under the pseudonyms of 'THE VOICE OF REASON', 'Free England' and 'Steve the un pc' is a lesson that has been gradually and wilfully unlearnt from the abject results of the core vote strategy of 2001 and 2005.
Michael Portillo's brand of suave Conservatism has always been difficult to swallow , but his combination of a modernising social agenda with a mollifying anti-EU message is the only possible way out of a hole (partly) of Cameron's own making. It was perhaps ironic last Thursday to see Portillo remind Farage that people as smug as he had sat and pronounced a political sea-change that failed to come to pass.
Portillo's advice to ignore Ukip at all costs on immigration was, quite literally, scoffed at, pint in hand. Yet fighting the election in defence of their record in coalition and 'not being concerned' about Ukip still remains the Conservatives party's only chances of success.
Therefore, by rights, the election is Labour's to lose. Yet a score draw remains the most likely result. The stark reality is that Dan Hodges is- at least partially- right. Charlie Beckett of the LSE recently spoke of the problem and the paradox of contemporary political communication- the fact that attribute voters desire, authenticity, is 'rendered undeliverable by a professional political class'.
Yet this week saw the release of the memoirs of a man with the personal and political attributes to fight Farage, if not at his own game, then certainly one less dependent upon pin stripes, union jack cufflinks and twenty Rothmans.
Alan Johnson's formative years were spent in the 1950s slums of Notting Hill, brought up by his 15 year old sister after the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother. Johnson was a mod and his band had a regular gig at a pub opposite Wormwood Scrubs prison. Farage joined his Dad in the city and somehow formed a pathological dislike of the people of Bulgaria. Johnson's is a story of courage and conviction, a 'metropolitan politician' in the way the millions of the population is metropolitan- as aa city boy, a Londoner.
Politics needs it's vanguard and it's old guard- a political Giggs and Scholes. They are both wasted on Andrew Neil's sofa.