THE BLOG

The Political Lessons of the 1990s, Part One - 'Swearing and Traffic Cones'

17/11/2014 10:45 GMT | Updated 14/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Once again a (barely) ruling Conservative party looks set to self-implode over arguments about Britain's role in the EU.

One defector has already been returned to Parliament a fully fledged member of Nigel's Barmy Army, and if the polls from reckless Rochester and Strood are to be believed, another will soon follow.

To anyone over 30, it's all a little familiar, for much of the 1990s John Majors Government seemed in a perpetual state of civil war over the issue of Europe.

And here we are again.

Still if the Westminster Village want to embrace the politics of the past, why stop there?

After all in fashion, music and pop culture we are forever mining bygone days; frankly, it's high time our MPs get retro.

So, here, in the first of three blogs, are several other aspects of 90s politics the Westminster class of 2014 should consider reviving.

Leaders publically swearing about their own colleagues.

The main problem with this compromise, and compromised, coalition, is everyone has to be, for the most part, all nicey nicey.

Yes you get the occasional walk out, but in nearly 5 years, we're yet to even seen a minor Tory/ Lib Dem fist fight. The mac remains disgracefully unswung

For instance, when roly-poly Tory funster Eric Pickles appeared on Desert Island Discs, he conjured up harmonious tales of filling up Vince Cable's water galss at the Cabinet table

Whilst, we learned, in kind, the Lib Dem grandee is prone to pass around the biscuits.

Eric made governing sound like a sickeningly stilted, overly polite, dinner party between new in-laws.

It wasn't always thus.

Though hardly renowned as a political bruiser, in 1993 Prime Minister John Major was caught on camera, describing euro rebels in his own cabinet as "disloyal bastards"

Refreshing honesty, even if it was never meant for broadcast, and we all thought better of him for it.

If only Dave would just come out and label Michael Gove a 'massive shit' on twitter, or George Gideon Oliver Osborne dedicate the next Mansion House Speech to offering Nigel Lawson out, all the Tories recent troubles would be sorted.

After all, from there on in, everything worked out fine for Majors government.

Ok it didn't, but surely swearing it up and scrapping is preferable to a nauseating rerun of the Rose Garden?

The Cones Hotline

1992. The year of Black Wednesday.

Britain has quit the E.R.M.

Interest Rates are at 15%.

Norman Lamont is singing Edith Piaf in the bath.

Britain is staring down the barrel of an economic blunderbuss

And what's the PM doing?

Well in June that very year his government launched 'The Cones Hotline'

Though sounds like something Ben Elton would have invented to antagonise and enrage the titular 'Elf and Safety' inspector in his pathologically unfunny 2013 sit com 'The Wright Way', this really was an actual proper policy

The thinking behind this long scrapped scheme was, presumably, once you remove the petty irritations of modern life, the 'green shoots of recovery' must surely follow.

So, as far as I can remember this landmark in British legislation worked as follows.

If you saw some traffic cones on the British highways, but no actual roadworks, you could call the hotline and they'd explain what the offending orange irritants were doing there.

Though presumably, this being before most people had a mobile, you couldn't call until you got home. By which point you'd no doubt have forgotten where the offending cones had been, and why you'd got so het up about it in the first place.

Oh look, I've no idea how it was meant to work, it wasn't my idea.

So why revive it?

Well back in the day the 'Cones Hotline' earned itself something of a reputation as the stock butt of political jokes, an early 90s Nick Clegg if you will.

The Cones Hotline was a terrible idea then and it would be a terrible idea now.

However resurrecting it would at least distract from the political divisions at the heart of the Tory party, and Westminster Village gossip might concern something other than the rise of UKIP.

At least until Mike Read writes them another song.

Next time, in THE POLITICAL LESSONS OF THE 1990s, 'Sleaze and Celebrity'.