Opinion: Tory infighting slips out of public view

When the former Whitehall spin doctor Jo Moore suggested 9/11 was 'a good day to bury bad news', she was only saying what many PR people must have been thinking. Following the attacks on London, the news agenda has inevitably been dominated by the bombings. I wonder how many 'bad news' stories have deliberately been farmed out over the past few weeks?

You can bet that it's not just politicians who have been guilty of 'doing a Jo Moore'.

It is the Opposition that seems to have benefited most from the near blackout of non-terrorism stories - there has been little coverage of its internecine leadership war. Those who have suffered most in this battle have been in the party's press office, where some of the best practitioners have been forced out recently.

Unfortunately it's the foot-soldiers who so often lose out while their political masters squabble. For example, former Tory co-chairman Lord Saatchi is not left seeking work, but instead looking after the £1.5m he trousered for his company, M&C Saatchi. This is despite overseeing the party's third defeat in a row. And there was I thinking that Saatchi was giving his services for nothing. Equally there has been little coverage of former leader Iain Duncan Smith threatening to resign from the party if the people who stabbed him in the back are allowed to run as candidates for the Tory throne.

Likewise, the media have largely ignored the establishment of a right-wing 'cornerstone group' comprising 25 Tory MPs. In a pamphlet this group talks about the 'rampant liberalism' in the party and calls for an American Republican-style campaign based on 'faith, flag and family', something that prompted Conservative MP Alan Duncan to brand it the 'Tory Taliban'.

One can't help thinking that the Conservative Party has embarked on the longest leadership battle in its history. The smart money is still on David Davis but, incredibly, he is one of those who wants to turn the clock back and stop party members having their say in the leadership election.

This is a major tactical error because it places Davis firmly in the traditionalist camp. No real moderniser would be seeking to limit democracy in the party unless he or she thought it was in their own narrow interests.

Hopefully the media focus will soon return to the Tories' leadership battle. This may well bring the Conservatives back to their senses, though somehow I doubt it. Incredibly, it has been reported that some senior party members are talking about not winning the next general election, but the one after that.

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