If the Tory party were your fridge, your food would be rottenby Peter Hitchens / September 21, 2011 / Leave a comment
It is late afternoon in an English provincial city and you have got lost looking for the bus station. It is that sort of day, downmarket and dispiriting. Along one of those streets of uninviting, grey terraced houses, you find a dusty old-fashioned corner shop, the sort that sells quiet biscuits and soft, bendy vegetables. It displays an enamelled tin advertisement for the Empire News (“Sunday isn’t Sunday without the Empire News,” it lies). Behind the counter, you see they also sell Capstan Full Strength cigarettes. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a grey-faced customer walk in, very slowly, and ask for a packet, between wheezes.
You are not dreaming. You have not slipped into a parallel time. Capstan Full Strength are still manufactured and distributed. Enough people have survived smoking them that they persist as what marketing men call a ghost brand: a product that could never again be as successful as it once was, but is still consumed enough to make it worth turning out a few more once in a while. You can say this for them: they are exactly as described on the packet.
I expect there are also chemists where you can get the old-fashioned razor blades all men once used. Perhaps somewhere you may still be able to buy a bottle of Mackeson or even a pint of mild. I can’t imagine who would still want Bronco lavatory paper. But in a world where the Conservative party survives, it is unwise to assume that just because something is unalluring or doesn’t do the thing it claims to do very well, it has vanished from our midst. Ghost brands persist because they were once much-loved, and those who loved them cannot let go.
This sort of irrational feeling plays a huge part in our politics. When Murdo Fraser, a would-be leader of the Scottish Conservatives, proposed dissolving the whole thing on the grounds that it was a “toxic brand,” he voiced a feeling many others in the Tory hierarchy must have had and then suppressed. There are millions of Britons who hate the Tory party because it is the Tory party. Sometimes reasonably, sometimes not, they blame the Thatcher government for the disappearance of established industries and secure jobs, and for a general coarsening of life which became apparent in the 1980s. In truth, this coarsening has its roots in our long and bipartisan moral and…