Lizz Truss and family values
But during the selection process, it is alleged that she concealed the fact that she had engaged in an extra-marital affair with Conservative backbencher Mark Field, which led to the breakdown of his marriage. One of Cranmer’s communicants has asked him to comment upon the matter in the context of the conservative view of family values.
His Grace likes to oblige.
Family values are utterly, absolutely, completely and irrefutably irrelevant to the case.
His Grace hopes that he has made that clear.
A matter that is all over the ubiquitous Internet is hardly a matter that is concealed. If the local party in SW Norfolk has not bothered to research the candidates before them, the omission is theirs. Whilst much which pollutes the Internet is tittle-tattle, and much of that muchness is distorted, exaggerated and/or quite unjustifiable, untrue or unfair, a Conservative association engaged in something as radical as the election of their prospective parliamentary candidate has a duty to research their candidates thoroughly, and to raise any questions or concerns through the appropriate channels.
However, there are now calls for CCHQ to intervene and prevent the local association from deselecting Ms Truss. Even the arch-defender of Tory grass roots has said that the Conservatives of SW Norfolk ‘are stretching patience to breaking point’.
It is profoundly concerning to hear that the increasingly omnipotent and omniscient CCHQ is being given such high-profile succour as they pursue their power-grab and sideline the local association to the point of irrelevance. Deficient and negligent the Conservatives of SW Norfolk may be, but who is to be the judge of deficiency and negligence?
One cannot on the one hand oppose the imposition of all-women shortlists and on the other defend the right of CCHQ to halt what is perceived to be an unjust deselection. One cannot simultaneously wish to see power returned to local associations only to oppose it when it is exercised in a manner with which one disagrees. Toryism is benign paternalism; not malignant authoritarianism.
The awkward fact is that Liz Truss is one of Mr Cameron’s most highly-favoured women / gay / ethnic candidates, and holds privileged status on the party’s List of Approved Candidates. She is approved despite the party knowing of her affair, and that approval confers an authority which a local association should not be permitted to overturn: ie, a candidate approved centrally may not be unapproved locally, though some may disapprove of him or her. However, when a candidate does something which renders them unapproved in the eyes of the local association, in terms of conduct or character, the central authority should not be empowered to intervene and to impose its will upon the local association.
But that is not the case in the matter of Liz Truss. Had she engaged in a squalid affair after being selected, that may indeed be legitimate grounds for local intervention: Boris Johnson faced more than a little scrutiny in Henley when his personal life was perceived to be hindering his performance as an MP.
But the fact is that it is utterly un-conservative to assert that what one does in the bedroom has any bearing at all on one’s ability to represent one’s constituents in Parliament. One does not need to dwell in a traditional family unit in order to uphold it as the building block of a stable society. And it is highly questionable the extent to which the morals and standards of one should be imposed upon another. Of course, one may have expectations, but the Conservatives of SW Norfolk appear not to have made them sufficiently explicit. None of us can know the personal circumstances which led Ms Truss and Mr Field to pursue their curtain-twitching assignation, but neither is it for us to judge. Whilst an extra-marital affair does indeed reveal something of a person’s character, in the case of Liz Truss there is more than a whiff of sexism: for a man to sleep around is ‘natural’; for a women to do so is whoredom. If Mark Field is acceptable for the Cities of London and Westminster, then Liz Truss should be in SW Norfolk. The hypocrisy is sickening.
But there is no rule within CCHQ’s centralised constitution that local associations may not be hypocritical. If that were the case, CCHQ would find itself subject to its own support status, for they have been known to be guilty of their own brand of hypocrisy in the capricious unapproval of what they have previously approved.
So, what is to be done?
Cranmer is persuaded that this unseemly saga has caused an irretrievable breakdown in the working relationship, as irretrievable as the breakdown Ms Truss’s affair caused Mr Field’s marriage. It has broken down to such an extent that the candidate no longer has the support of the local association, and the local association appear not to want their candidate. One cannot fight a next general election without arms and legs. But it is not for CCHQ to impose a solution or interfere with local democracy: if they were wise, they would refrain from intervention.
If they were wise.
The centralised handling of so many candidate selections and the imposition of the favoured Cameroon has so frequently ended in tears that it ought to be evident that CCHQ interference does more harm to the party than the occasional little local difficulty. And no winner can emerge from this situation.
With regret, Cranmer concludes that Ms Truss ought to do the honourable thing and resign. If she is as talented and as valuable to the party as is reported, she will have no problem finding another seat to contest. The common cry of curs in SW Norfolk appear to want an unsullied saint as their parliamentary candidate and so wish to banish Ms Truss from their rotten fens. She should simply banish them, and tell them there is a world elsewhere.