20 May 2013

‘Swivel-eyed loons’ Tory escapes investigation

Lord Feldman chaired the Tory party board meeting at Conservative central office until he was the next item on the agenda.

Then his co-chair, Grant Shapps, took over.

There was about 30 minutes or so of discussion about what exactly had been said before a vote calling for an investigation that was overwhelmingly defeated.

Three people sounded interested in supporting the idea of an investigation, one source suggested, but once it was clearly not getting a lot of support that was that. No additional information or evidence was provided to sway the discussion. What seems to have happened is that Lord Feldman, who is pretty popular with board members and is thought to listen to grassroots and parliamentarians, had some credit in the bank.

One who was at the meeting said even if Lord Feldman had suddenly changed his story (he denies describing activists as “swivel-eyed loons” who were driving their Tory MPs to rebellion) he would still have been backed (after an apology) because he has shown courtesy and competence in his job.

The papers looked like they scented blood on Saturday and were closing on their prey. I sense the papers are not, as things stand, ready to escalate this one to a full-scale, sustained campaign.

This morning, I met some activists in Tim Loughton’s constituency. There the “swivel-eyed” quotes seemed to wash off their backs, though their MP thought they had the authentic whiff of Notting Hill condescension about them. For the activists, journalists weren’t trusted enough to make the claims that credible and insults weren’t so unusual when you spend your spare time knocking on doors for a political party.

Same-sex marriage bill

On gay marriage, there was a readiness to engage with the idea combined with a feeling that it would probably be better if it wasn’t happening right now, a sense that it was too much for many in the older generation to handle and was too much too soon.

Outside, amongst the voters, the generation gap in opinion was striking. Younger voters were almost uniformly un-bothered. Older voters unhappy with the idea and saying it was typical of David Cameron and his “wishy washy”/”all things to all men” approach.

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