Thinking about Michael Howard’s interview fart over the weekend, I done a twitter and they liked it:
Remember when politics was all about minutely planned grids, media training, and message discipline, and everyone said it was terrible?
— Alex Harrowell (@yorksranter) April 2, 2017
And then I remembered the sheer weirdness of standing in Parliament Square being addressed by Alistair Campbell the other day. I think it’s fair to say I never imagined my life would take that particular turn. But now it makes sense. One of the important political dualities is between the people who represent self-control and the public face, and the people who represent letting it blurt, as Lester Bangs titled. As with all dualities, the advanced student will notice that the point is to use them in combination, whether by presenting radical content as consensus or consensus and conservatism as exciting novelty.
You could call them the Ego Party and the Party of Id, and perhaps the civil service plays the super-ego. After all, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Here’s a party political broadcast on behalf of Michael Howard. Filthy!
Then, as well as perpetrating cod psychoanalysis I’m also doing billiard-ball realism here. Parties are not homogenous. If you realise that one of the major achievements of Thatcherism was the UK becoming a central actor in the European project – ’87, ’92, and all that – it’s perhaps worth remembering that those Normal European Countries people go on about usually have two conservative parties. Very often the divide is based on how Catholics responded to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. One party is founded on the early 20th century social theory and then NATO, the other on the Counter-Reformation and the Occupation.
The UK *gained* two conservative parties during the peak years of its integration in Europe. I don’t really mean UKIP, but rather the continuing fight over whether the Tories would be more like the German CDU or CSU. Would they be a party upholding a Euro-Atlantic multilateral order – the Ego Party – or a basically revisionist movement, the Party of Id? Howard made his choice even while John Major was trying to make the opposite choice stick.