party leader. A frustrated stand-up comedian
with an extraordinarily silly voice
. He almost single-handedly succeeded in turning the Conservative Party
from one viewed by many with bilious hatred
, to one which people largely just laugh at. It is quite possible that this was his plan all along; people are much less likely to bother to vote against
a party they view with derision
than they are against one they really hate
, and they know all too well that they lost the 1997 election
as a result of droves of people turning up to vote against them.
Interestingly, politicians of every stripe seem to take him a lot more seriously than the public at large.
Following the Tories' second crushing electoral defeat in a row in the UK General Election, 2001, William Hague was replaced by Iain Duncan Smith, another bald, uncharismatic man whom nobody had ever heard of before his leadership challenge. This seems to be entirely due to his main opposition for the post, Kenneth Clarke - a fat, likeable former Chancellor of the Exchequer known as much for his love of booze and tobacco as for his politics - being too left-wing for much of his party as far as social issues are concerned. The other potential contender for the title, Michael Portillo, had once been a favourite of the right wing of the Conservative Party, but a couple of years ago he announced that he was gay - or at least had 'had homosexual experiences in his youth' - and after that seemed to shift a long way towards the liberal end of the liberal-conservative spectrum, leaving people with very little idea where he was coming from.