The most surprising thing about the comments attributed to Lord Feldman last weekend was the surprise. The vague reports that David Cameron himself has said something similar in the past should also be greeted with only the merest flutter of surprise. This divide between the Prime Minister and some on the Party right is becoming more and more visible and damaging. It is time for Mr Cameron to be bold and choose the side on which he stands; otherwise the crack will become a chasm that swallows up his leadership.
That a journalist supposedly overheard these comments typifies this Government’s media haplessness. But - and I say this as a Party member - the comments have an element of truth. Take a trip into an isolated, rural constituency; press your ear against the door of a local council meeting. The phrase “swivel-eyed loons” may just come to mind.
I am not for one moment suggesting that this lunacy exists across the board. However, recent events have given the loonies an increasingly prominent voice in Parliament. The Party has been visibly shaken by UKIP’s impressive results in the recent local council elections. But Cameron has allowed the Parliamentary Party’s response to panic and accept the Farage line that “the results represent a sea-change in British politics”. Calm and perspective are desperately needed. 23% of 31% of the electorate voted for UKIP, and they still do not have overall control of any council. This was a mid-term protest vote in which all the main parties suffered. Of course political leaders should take note; the electorate’s concerns should be addressed and questions answered. But answering the questions posed by UKIP does not mean becoming UKIP.
The recent Euro-frenzy has shoved out other important and useful political stories, like Mervyn King’s relative optimism over the economy last week. When 114 of his own MPs continue to drown out the government’s main economic message with an amendment to the Queen’s speech, Cameron should certainly not be “profoundly relaxed”. Where was his impassioned defence of gay marriage, something he clearly believes in, when it returned to the Commons last week? At the moment it looks as if he’s following the Party and not leading it. Every week he looks weaker and weaker.