It's always struck me as extraordinary how otherwise intelligent people are unable to see something that to me is perfectly clear, like looking at those dot pictures in which I can instantly recognise the hidden figure within whilst someone else squints, turns their head and tilts the picture through three planes saying "No, still can't see it". So it's with some satisfaction that I read Charles Moore in this morning's Telegraph and see the first feint glow appear in the lamp bulb. He's seen the hidden glyph for the first time.
This and many other centre right, independent, non-aligned blogs and sites have been banging on about it for many years. Politics is local but politicians are centrist. The parties are dying. Fewer than 1% of the electorate are members of the Big Three. An alien metropolitan political class has hijacked our democracy. MPs now put party before country or constituency. Politicians have more in common with each-other than they do with their electors. The parties have become consumer brands competing on the same ground for market-share. Politics should be a vocation and not a career. Voters are not apathetic - they're angry and fed up. And now these truths are dawning on those such as Charles Moore perhaps we can move to the next stage.
He's mistaken only in a supposed surge in Tory membership that he attributed to Margaret Thatcher, and here is the danger of relying on anecdotal evidence. No doubt in the immediate range of her powerful penumbra she had this effect, but the Conservative party overall actually lost over a million members between 1979 and 1997 as a direct result of centralist policies that robbed local Conservative associations of power.
Eastleigh demonstrates the circle to be squared. The parties must recognise that it is perfectly legitimate for a local MP to lead the campaign against the development of a local quarry without either the party having to adopt a manifesto position against domestic mineral extraction or taking from them the whip. The local party may support GM crops in Norfolk but oppose them in Wiltshire. And as Moore suggests, when the Chairmen of local parties write to ministers they should listen as intently as they did in the 1950s when Margaret Thatcher entered politics; had they done so, Sir David Nicholson would have been sacked many months ago, before he became an albatross around the neck of the government.