In the old days, perhaps even as recently as a couple of years ago, the wagons would have been laagered by Conway’s chums and the thing would have been squared in a smoke-filled room somewhere in the Palace of Westminster. Publicly there would have been references to Conway being a ‘popular MP’, ‘many friends in Parliament’, ‘good chap’, ‘sound fellow’ and ‘anyone can make a mistake with all these bloody forms we have to fill in, can’t they?’ and the soi-disant’ Old Guard’ would have smartly manoeuvred themselves to ensure that one of their own did not get the chop.
How very different it has been on this occasion. Nick Robinson was able yesterday morning to write this:
Conway is a popular Tory MP who looked set to be his party’s Chief Whip if David Davis had become Conservative leader. He was even talked of as a possible Speaker. Although David Cameron might be tempted to make an example of him he would be taking on a powerful coalition consisting of those who never wanted him to be leader plus the parliamentary old guard who regard questions about their allowances as challenging the assumption that all MPs are “honourable members” until proven otherwise (listen to Roger Gale MP’s interview on Today this morning).
Meanwhile the likes of Roger Gale were doing their best to get the wagons laagered in the approved manner.
Yet something else happened which was that there was a torrent of very hostile opinion unleashed on such as ConservativeHome (here, here, here,) and elsewhere, none of which was in the least bit favourable to Conway and all of which was asking for prompt action to be taken by Cameron. By lunch Conway was an ex-Tory parrot.
I reckon that this veritable deluge of very hostile and critical material has had a significant impact on the decision and that the ‘Old Guard’s’ way of looking after its own has just been made quite obsolete. If so, it is possibly the first sign that the grassroots is finding ways of taking back control of things by using the medium of the internet and blogging.
Notable too was a sense that Conservatives are simply not prepared to go back to the ways of the Major era and expect high standards from their MPs. It also betokens an appetite for power which may have been lacking in recent years. If so these are both good signs.
Or am I making too great a claim for the medium?