By Iain Martin.
Follow Iain on Twitter.
One of the great underutilised voices of Fleet Street is Bruce Anderson. His grasp of history, peerless prose style, rapier wit and attempts to grapple with the perpetual struggle between principle and pragmatism in the conservative mind, make him a joy to read.
Happily (mostly happily) for me, Bruce is a good friend. I not only get to read him, but I can enjoy his company at lunch and dinner (although I do not recommend trying both in one day).
It is a pleasure to hear him talk about art, Venice, the latest exhibition he has seen, American politics, Scotland or wine. Not only does he “know his claret from his beaujolais”, as the Blur song has it, he knows his first-growth claret from his second-growth claret.
But, like any of us, he has his weaknesses. Bruce’s worst vice is a desperate desire to be cravenly loyal to whichever individual happens to be leader of the Conservative party at any given moment. He only made an exception in the case of Iain Duncan-Smith.
I understand his attachment to the current Tory leader. He started life as a Marxist (Bruce not David Cameron) and he prizes devotion. I can remember, from a lunch party in Edinburgh in August 2005 when David Cameron looked like an also-ran in the leadership race, the mocking laughter that rose to greet his assertion that his man would make it to Downing Street. Bruce has a good claim to have helped invent Cameron, being the first to identify him in print as a future Tory leader long before there was a vacancy. He did similar with William Hague and John Major.