While Conrad Black re-entered polite society at Lulu’s in Mayfair last night, the Hospital Club in Soho saw the advent of a new political force. A tie-less Douglas Carswell, the rebellious Tory MP for Clacton, took to the stage to launch his new book The End of Politics and the birth of iDemocracy, a work described by Dominic Lawson in last week’s Sunday Times as ‘as a revolutionary text… right up there with the Communist Manifesto’.
Carswell thanked his wife Clementine for allowing him to lurk in the shed for weeks on end while writing his revolutionary tome, and then confessed that he had spent much of the time ‘Skyping with Dan Hannan’, his fellow ultra-modernising Tory. The self-deprecating Carswell said that a dinner party rant about ‘hyper-personalisation’ had been turned into book; but ‘Carswellian thought’, a term coined last night as the wine flowed, won cross-party plaudits. Labour’s poshest MP, the historian Tristram Hunt, heaped praise on his party political adversary:
‘In Douglas and his manifesto we have not as the whips office suggest a ranter, not a digger or a muggle-tonian but a true agitator with a modern Leveller tract, a 21st Century agreement of the people, and if the tools of the 1640s were the unlicensed presses of London, Douglas’ is the internet.’
Hunt, though, could not resist a dig at Tory party chairman Grant Shapps, who has been the subject of ridicule recently over his online money-making alter-egos:
‘I can think of no other politician who is more dedicated too, or has a better command of understanding how the internet is transforming our politics and our society, and I include within that ‘Michael Green’. He stalks the backbenchers with his iPad, as Lilburne stalked the parliamentary tents with his pamphlets.’
The laughs which that speech inspired should raise Cameroon eyebrows, given the number of Tory MPs present. But will the leadership listen to Hunt’s warning? It likes to believe that it is the modernising face of the Conservative Party; but a cursory glance at Carswell’s parliamentary interventions or a quick flick through his book will reveal the contempt with which he views the reactionary leadership. He asked his audience last night to decide if ‘Digital Dave got it’ by telling an anecdote about the Prime Minister’s new iPad. The PM loves the device because it allows him to see information across government and monitor every department, Carswell said. Then he asked, ‘When will they put the information out for us all to monitor government?’
Hunt was less tactful, ending proceedings with a rallying cry. He styled himself as an ‘unofficial ambassador from the Labour Party’, and said that he was on a mission to let the new Tory modernisers know that ‘the good old cause lives on, they shall not break you and we in the Labour movement will join with you in exposing to the world this most contemptuous generation of silly low spirited men.’
I expect that we will hear more about this new model army.