David Cameron must be wondering whether his Thatcherite peers, or putative peers, are really worth the bother. Last week Lord Young caused embarrassment in the way he appeared to suggest that, at this time of austerity, we’ve never had it so good. Now, the soon-to-be-Lord Howard Flight has echoed that old Josephian error of condemning the breeding habits of the lower classes (the FT has a measured judgement on his remarks here). Flight, of course, has form on inappropriate comments – it was an earlier one on the level of possible budget cuts that forced former leader Michael Howard, no shrinking violet himself, to remove him from the parliamentary candidates list.
There is no end of right-wing commentators rushing to endorse Mr. Flight’s comments (take the Telegraph’s Ed West for example). There was no end of right-wing commentators rushing to endorse Lord Young last week. It is possible that the views they have each indelicately expressed have intellectual merit, although this is a very arguable point in each case. What is inexcusable is their inability to recognise how their comments can be reported and interpreted for the nation’s 24 hour news dialogue, and by definition their apparent belief that they do not need to offer David Cameron their judgement in weighing their public comments carefully and responsibly.
The furore surrounding the views of Lord Young and Mr. Flight reminds us how the Thatcherites used to almost delight in alienating majority opinion in the country. It may well also be leading David Cameron, who has done so much to de-toxify the Tory brand, to wonder whether reaching out a conciliatory hand to the unreconstructed right is really worth the effort.