I have a great deal of time, and a great deal of respect, for Tim Montgomerie of ConHome. I agree with him on many points — not least with his robust take on climate issues. So I was a little surprised by his recent Tweet: “Saddened by @LouiseMensch‘s exit. She was a big star-in-the-making. A big loss to Tory cause. People should respect her putting family first”. I was moved to reply “@TimMontgomerie @LouiseMenschCome on Tim. She’s made her own position untenable”.
“People should respect her for putting her family first”. How often have we seen politicians (usually men, admittedly) saying that they’re resigning “to spend more time with the family”. How often is it true? Rarely. And probably not in this case either.
I wasn’t at Louise’s Corby selection meeting. But I’d be astonished to hear that no one had asked her how she intended to balance an MP’s work with family commitments. And I’m sure she had a glib answer.
The truth is, she’s been a dilettante and a self-publicist. Of course all politicians tend to be self-publicists to a degree — it goes with the territory. But for Louise, it was not so much a means to an end, as an end in itself.
She’s been an embarrassment to the party, and a huge disappointment to the Corby Conservatives who selected her (under pressure from Central Office). And a disappointment to the wider constituency. I wrote about her recently (perhaps a touch sarcastically). / I feared that “achingly trendy” can so easily tip over into self-parody. And for good measure, I observed that “She divides her life between New York and Westminster, but still finds time for the occasional courtesy call to her Corby Constituency”. Rather few courtesy calls, as it happens.
Asked by the local press if she planned to stand in the next General Election, she gave a very defensive and ambiguous answer, interpreted by the press (rightly, it seems) as showing a lack of commitment to Corby. Local Conservatives were furious — but had little opportunity to express their concern face-to-face.
Then the photo-ops. I have nothing against women being photographed in see-through frocks. But it rather undermines the gravitas one still expects from a Member of Parliament.
David Cameron’s chick-lit choice has left him with a problem he could well do without: a by-election in a marginal constituency when the Conservatives are behind in the polls. They are certain to lose it. This is where they get to by choosing candidates who tick all the politically-correct boxes, but don’t start out as politically committed. How many honest conservatives work their socks off — in some cases for decades (like Pauline Latham, say) hoping to get to Westminster? Yet here’s someone who was handed it on a plate, and threw it away when she got bored with it, like a child tiring of a Christmas present by Easter.
No doubt if I’d given way to Baroness Warsi over the matter of my intended resignation last December, and allowed her to appoint a Cameron A-Lister to my vacated seat, instead of the man selected by Conservatives in the Region (Rupert Matthews), we’d have ended up with another Louise Mensch.