Tim Beaumont on the Christian's ejection choice
A STRAW vote only shows which way the hot air blows," said the American writer 0. Henry and, in spite of the polls, there is still time for public opinion to change dramatically before you put your Xs on the ballot paper. Bin, the way this campaign is shaping, It does not look as if there will be any dramatic upset to present expectations.
The Conservatives will retain an overall majority. Labour will increase its vote North of the Trent and decrease it in the South, thus taking one step further the present tendency of Britain to lose cohesion. The Alliance will poll a large number of voles and probably on balance lose seats although the Liberals should gain a few.
It will not, on the face of it, be an election to go down in history. The enthusiastic politician (whether amateur or professional) always likes to think that this General Election is going to prove a landmark. This time his party is going to break through, return to power with a new programme, consolidate its gains and stamp its ideology on the nation. This time . . .
In the event history judges by results; 1945, 51, 64, 79: these are the key moments of modern history. In each case there was a change of government but a change of government alone does not mark an important election; 1970 is conspicuously missing from the above list.
The reason is that it can now be seen to have been a false start. The Conservative Party had in Mr. Heath a new leader drawn from a new stratum of society — it won the election on a platform of tough abrasiveness: Seisdon man — remember him? — was going to bring order, not to mention law, back into our lives. This time there was more determination from the start, more clarity of purpose and fate, in the shape of General GaWert, was on Mrs Thatcher's side. It is too soon to analyse the effect of the Falklands expedition on the British psyche (which does not stop commentators, myself among them, from trying) but it quite clearly got rid, at least temporarily, of a feeling of purposelessness among the British people.
The effect on the Tory Party was decisive. From being a deeply-split party on the verge of revolt, it changed overnight into a party with a single governing ethos, however many variations and minor reservations there might be. The Gi!mous are out in the wilderness; the Heseitines and the Walkers are no more in agreement with the basic economic strategy than they were before but they realise that it is a subject no longer on the agenda.
The question is not whether to implement Mrs. Thatcher's strategy. It is merely how . Or, as you might say, Howe.
But If this is the kind of Conservative Party we have now got, how are the voters who used to vote for a different kind of Conservative Party going to cast their ballots? John Elookham Frere, one of the disciples of my ancestor George Canning, described a Conservative as "only a Tory who is ashamed of himself".
That is too harsh; shall we say that a Conservative Is a Tory with added sensitivity. But where are such voters going to find their home?
One of our troubles Is of course that under our present system of voting we have got to buy a package. We might, for instance, want unilateral disarmament and free enterprise but the two do not come in the same basket. We will have to do without one or the other. So we are not so much discarding one object and choosing another as awarding plus and minus points to various packages and totting up the results.
My first minus goes to any package which offers me a withdrawal from the EEC. This is not because I am an unqualified admirer of that peculiar animal. It has many faults and I think that we joined it for all the wrong reasons. But it also has a number of virtues and we have joined it.
It would be untrue (and unChestertoniart) to suggest that we could not put the clock back; you can always put the clock back but the snag is that you get the wrong time. The world is moving towards closer co-operation and this cannot he anything but good.
Another minus goes to anyone who offers me one evil as the means of throwing out another. I am well aware that Paradise is not on offer in the political world and that the mere fact of "the Fail" entails having to settle for second best in the short term.
Nevertheless, if you tell me the only way to fight inflation is by fostering unemployment or that the only cure for unemployment is high inflation, I will tell you that you are a liar.
But minuses are too easy. There are also pluses. I will back the Catholic Herald in its leader of May 13 when It suggests that we should "vote in such a way as to try and put an end to the
unacceptable and often repulsively arrogant monopoly of power by one or other of two monolithic but often totally insensitive political parties."
Then there is poverty. It is not sufficient that we should vote for those policies which we tfre told will bring us jam tomorrow unless we are assured that as a community we will adequately care _ for those who are short of hread today.
Lastly there will be a plus for any government which assures me that it 11 straining every effort to protect me and the rest of Christendom without threatening to end life on this planet in the process.
Even when we have added up our pluses and minuses we may have to give a weighting depending on whether we think that in our constituency our preferred candidate has a chance or whether it would be more prudent to vote for someone not quite so pure but with a better chance of winning.
So, having added it all up and reached a grand total, I will retire to my armchair and open a good book. You see, I am a Peer of the Realm and do not have a vote; you, on the other hand, have no such excuse!