Conservative Home – Wednesday, 9th November 2011
Louise Mensch (née Bagshawe) has achieved a huge amount of airtime recently. She is of course the very model of a modern Conservative MP. Young(ish), a woman, a successful author, sitting on a small fortune made from her chick-lit ventures, married to the manager of a successful heavy metal band. She divides her life between New York and Westminster, but still finds time for the occasional courtesy call to her Corby Constituency. She is the ideal Cameroon — achingly trendy, utterly with-it, resolutely on-message. Not for her the revolt over the EU referendum, despite previous Party promises.
The trouble is, “achingly trendy” can so easily tip over into self-parody, and I fear that for Louise, that’s a real threat. We have all seen her press pictures, posing imperiously in her partially transparent party-frock.
She advises wives to make themselves attractive for their husbands, and she has been criticised by unreconstructed feminists for shaming the sisterhood. I should have reservations, however, on different grounds. She seems to be saying “Look at me. I’m so liberated, so confident, so independent that I can get away with saying things that would have scarified the Sisters in the Seventies”. Not much political content there, but a great deal of self-promotion.
She once flirted briefly with the Labour Party. Some might see this as showing a lack of political commitment, but that’s a very last-century point of view. Today, it merely signifies a pleasing political eclecticism that fits perfectly into the narrative of the Conservative modernisers. After all, did not Dave himself speak of being the “Heir to Blair”? (Although we’ve heard less of that recently).
She also reportedly said that she couldn’t remember if she’d ever taken drugs. Some might find this less than credible. After all, surely taking drugs for the first time is a significant and memorable moment? With a husband in the music industry, she might well be supposed to move in circles where drugs are available.
It’s as if someone came along and said “I can’t remember if I’ve lost my virginity”. They don’t need to tell us if they’ve lost their virginity — we didn’t ask — but we could scarcely believe they’d forgotten. After all, it’s not like losing a bus ticket. For myself, I’ve never taken illegal drugs (how un-cool is that?), but I am convinced that if I had, I should remember it.
More recently, in a tell-all interview, she admitted taking drugs and warned others of the damage they caused her.
But the thing that really struck me, and led me to write about Louise, was her remarkable recent Tweet: “If only other media outlets had the Guardian’s guts. Truly, they are best paper in Fleet Street bar none. Progressive, beautifully written.” (Ouch! That “progressive” word again!). I responded “If only other media outlets had the Guardian’s guts? I’d like to have their guts for garters”.
I suppose I ought to declare an interest. Various Guardian journalists have taken pot-shots at me from time to time. But I have to admit that the quality of their journalism is generally good (not that I read it very often). Their writers can craft a well-turned paragraph. But they’re relentlessly leftist, remorselessly politically-correct, absolutely committed to green zealotry and euro-federalism and all the other modish nonsense. In fact, about as un-conservative as you can get, and certainly amongst the conservatives I meet, a proverbial no-no.
I suppose that Louise’s admiration for the Guardian is on a par with Cameron’s blessedly-brief flirtation with Polly Toynbee, a momentary attempt to go the extra mile in demonstrating compassion and inclusivity. But it doesn’t play well with the Party. Guts? Courage? Now if the Guardian invited (say) John Redwood or Lord Lawson to do a regular column, rather as the Telegraph allows the dreadful Mary Riddell a counter-consensual column to challenge the comfortable preconceptions of its readers, then we might talk about courage.
Back in 2010, before the General Election, I went to Corby several times to help in Louise’s campaign, and had I been an elector in Corby, I should certainly have voted for her. But today, I might be wondering why I had done so. I just hope for her sake that the good people of Corby take a more positive view.