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Heffer to seek new pastures.

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Telegraph associate editor moving on, calls for a general election.

Simon Heffer is a highly opinionated journalist of the old school, a man of letters and eloquence, he carried his pen like a sword at the Daily Telegraph where he flew the standard on behalf of its recently bewildered traditional readership. He shall be a bit of a miss to those who sought some inspiration and “attitude” from the voices of the centre right , I guess that leaves us just a handful of politicians espousing the “right” messages such as John Redwood, the ageing Lord Tebbit, and the rising stars Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell, and the occasional offerings from Fraser Nelson writing as editor of The Spectator and Jeff Randall at Sky. Heffer has announced that he is leaving his post at The Telegraph, after 25 years, to “complete a major literary project”, in an internal email to colleagues he added:

“I’ve decided not to talk to anyone about my decision, except to say it is entirely amicable and it was time I moved on. And I shan’t, I think, be entirely outside the confines of Fleet Street.”

Heffer never hid his disdain for the soft centrist policies of David Cameron either as Leader of the Opposition or as Prime Minister, he mirrored the views of his readers  over the direction and strategies chosen by the new “modern” Conservative leader and was suspicious about the coalition agreement from the very start raising concerns over its ability to deliver on its promise to eradicate the structural deficit by the end of this Parliament. He was also a robust defender of the English language and its use and nuances in journalism, he rigidly stuck to a style which was never quite “florid” or colourful in the manner of Littlejohn, but certainly plain, direct, and fastidiously correct. His style notes were so good the The Telegraph published them regularly either as reminders to their own journalists or as inspirational short essays to other aspiring writers. Perhaps he was wanting to be seen as walking in the footsteps of the great W.F. Deedes, I think his Lordship  would have admired the contribution that Heffer made to political journalism and commentary in these Isles during his long tenure at The Telegraph.

One of his final articles lambasted the performance in government of Nick Clegg and his fellow Liberal Democrats and called upon the Prime Minister to consider metaphorically a quicky divorce to seek a new mandate from the country in a general election, Heffer considers that the time is about right with a number of factors that I see coming into the equation: Liberal Democrat fortunes are at an all time low they have lost their mandate, the new Labour leader Ed Miliband has spectacularly failed to spark interest amongst the electorate generally in England, more so in Wales, and disastrously so in Scotland, the effect of the reductions in planned departmental budgets will not begin to be felt until later this year and into next year, and the planned legislation for a five year fixed term Parliament would fail (for the moment) too.

I believe more strongly than ever that Dave should call a general election. His partners have lost the confidence of the country. There is open dissent in his Cabinet. Collective responsibility is breaking down. The Lib Dems seem on the verge of civil war. The Tories would win many Lib Dem seats if they went to the country now. Ed Miliband is damaged by his support for AV. He lacks the wholehearted support of his party. Labour has been badly wounded in Scotland. There simply won’t be a better chance of a Conservative victory than now.

The Right of the Tory party must mobilise and assert itself now, for I fear Dave is more minded to make concessions to his partners than to follow the instincts of his own people. After all, he plainly dislikes most of his notional supporters, and the Lib Dems serve the useful purpose of protecting him from them. But he should learn from Nick Clegg what happens when a leader chooses to fall out of step with his party. Dave is on a perilous course if he does not work out why his party’s own vote held up so well, and seek to take his party further in that direction

Having unexpectedly gained 81 council seats in the local government elections last week as the Liberal Democrats were almost decimated, it must be a tempting thought to those of a more traditional Conservative instinct to agree with Heffer, even in South Shields I met Tory supporters who were less than enthusiastic about the coalition agreement and quite a few who were angry at the government’s apparent acquiescence to the general drift of European policies. On the other hand, I did not find anyone in South Shields who were thirsting for another general election.

So how do readers vote?

Would you favour a quick ruthless general election decision to determine if one or the other of the major parties might secure a working majority, or would you view such a strategy as a terrible breach of trust between David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg?

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2 Responses

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  1. Call an Election, and give Clegg the opportunity to stand as a Conservative MP.


    May 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm

  2. Sorry “prospective Conservative MP”…


    May 13, 2011 at 7:35 am

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