Unlike some of his more high-rolling colleagues, Eric Pickles has never been on a yacht, and is proud of the fact. "I once went on the Liverpool to Birkenhead ferry, it was quite jolly but it was a bit nippy," he says. "I have the great advantage that Mrs Pickles gets very seasick. I never take the woman on water, so it's not likely to happen."
Rather than simply attracting back floating voters who backed Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s but switched to Tony Blair in 1997, Mr Pickles says the Tories want to go further into Labour territory. Sitting in his new office at Conservative campaign headquarters, surrounded by maps of target seats, he says: "Crewe was about building a bridge that they felt safe to come across and to give us support. I set down a task, that in the chip-shop queue a couple of weeks later, they would be proud to say they voted for Edward, proud to say they voted Tory."
But how can the Tories replicate this one sensational victory, which in any case was helped by Labour's disastrous campaign to portray the Tory candidate as a "toff"? Mr Pickles says: "Look, I'm a first-generation Tory, OK? We were Labour voters. It's not an easy thing, to go for a Conservative, because we believe all this stuff, and it's sort of in your DNA...
"It's about getting through the class thing, getting through the jargon... to say look, the Tories, they really do get it. I do genuinely feel sometimes that Labour's the ruling class... who are there to administer us, but don't really understand what it's like any more."
Mr Pickles ... turns his fire on Gordon Brown, who does not "get it".
"If you asked him about the price of petrol, he would tell you the futures market of barrels, but he couldn't tell you what it was at the pump."
But surely it is Eton-educated Mr Cameron who does not understand financial hardship? "Well, David had his bike nicked... outside Tesco's. I mean, it wasn't even Waitrose. So he wasn't even shopping in a toff's supermarket."...
For emphasis which is only half-comic, he adds: "Nobody should look down on somebody just because they have the misfortune to go to Eton. Nobody should look down on someone just because they went to a comprehensive."
One thing that does threaten the party's electoral chances is the return of Mr Clarke triggering infighting over Europe, I suggest. "Ken now has the benefit of the wise words of his colleagues, and is subject to collective responsibility, and I don't expect him to be anything other than an asset on the doorstep," Mr Pickles says, but warns colleagues: "If the party talks to itself, we will lose; if the party talks to itself, we won't make it."
Great stuff. More please, Eric.
Surpsisingly, from an electoral point of view this makes complete sense for the Tories.
Daves other thinking is Govt, as Mr T said, every PM needs a willy.
The Tories have been out for so long they are lacking experience so Pickles, Hague and Clark look like the backbone team.
What a contrast to Caroline Spelperson; didn't hear from her in the press for ages. Go Eric
Eric is a truly inspirational appointment and I agree entirely with your asessment Iain!
"But surely it is Eton-educated Mr Cameron ..."
I've always considered these class-based insults about public school education unfair. After all, it was Cameron's parents who sent him there and the "sins of the fathers shouldn't be visited on the sons".
Still, what can you expect from brainless socialists?
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