In summer and autumn 2001, as Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Portillo, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Ancram, and David Davis slugged it out to see who would become the new leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, colorful stories began circulating about Duncan Smith, who was widely regarded as the right’s great white hope.

An ex-Army officer and the son of a World War II fighter pilot, Duncan Smith entered Parliament in 1992, in Norman Tebbit’s old seat for Chingford (on the Essex edge of London).  As Tebbit joked when he introduced his successor at a meeting, “If you think I’m right wing, you should meet this guy!”  Soon, Duncan Smith became part of the internal opposition to the Maastricht Treaty—a brave move for a new MP.  He spoke at a Monday Club meeting in 1996 and asked questions in Parliament about immigration and housing (which was received well locally, as many Chingfordians are part of the white flight from London’s East End).  He later became Tory spokesman on defense under William Hague and went along cheerfully with Hague’s sensible policies on asylum, the Macpherson Report, and homosexuality.  He seemed a dependable, if somewhat dull, standard-bearer for the right.

With such a curriculum vitae, he was never going to get good press (and never will—something he has yet to learn).  But the media campaign against him was more savage than usual, reflecting how the ideological center of gravity has shifted—or become more obvious—under the Blair governments.  Even before his candidacy was formally announced, dark tales emerged that his supporters were all very “extreme.”  The Guardian even suggested that some around Duncan Smith wanted a military coup.  Meanwhile, MPs who supported Duncan Smith were described as “swivel-eyed extremists,” “lunatics,” and “nutters” by journalists and Labour politicians—in some cases merely for meeting occasionally with Italian Alleanza Nazionale MEPs.

Leftists always find the right curiously fascinating, and the further right the man in question, the sweeter the forbidden fruit—so they have a vested emotional interest in believing the worst of their enemies.  And, of course, they love a good conspiracy, as do all journalists.

So Ken Clarke, Duncan Smith’s final rival, was not the only person delighted to discover that an elderly man, active in the Conservative Party for 53 years and whose name had appeared on a list of Welsh Conservatives who were backing Duncan Smith, was the father of the leader of the British National Party (BNP).  Edgar Griffin had also been unwise enough to answer the BNP hotline in his son’s absence when a tabloid called.  That was enough to have him suspended from the list of Duncan Smith’s supporters immediately and, two days later, expelled from the party.

The media moved into top “shock horror” gear.  A spate of stories appeared about alleged BNP infiltration of the Conservatives—superficially believable at a time when many Conservative associations are imploding (the average age of the party’s members is now 65).  So exciting was this concept that some journalists got carried away.  In at least one case, the Times had to print a fulsome apology, cover legal costs, and pay substantial damages to a man it had accused of BNP entryism.

The main target of the attacks was the Conservative Monday Club, a pressure group on the right of the party.  Predictably, Duncan Smith, although he had said as recently as September that the club was “what the Party was all about,” immediately distanced himself from the club.  The uproar concerned the club’s expressed support for voluntary repatriation of immigrants.  Ironically, voluntary repatriation is on the statute books, even under Blair—and why something voluntary could be so objectionable was never explained.

In recent years, the club has tried hard to ingratiate itself with the Central Office, but to no avail.  In a meeting that was more of a fait accompli than a discussion, the party chairman, David Davis, MP, (himself rumored to have “far right” tendencies) told club officers that they would no longer be able to espouse any policies on immigration if they wished to remain a Conservative group.  The three MPs connected to the club were ordered to suspend their membership.  On January 9, club members were asked to support a rule change that would say that the club was “committed to opposing the propagation of any kind of racial hatred” and welcomed any Conservative as a member “irrespective of their [sic] racial origin or religion.”

In themselves, of course, these aims are unobjectionable and, consequently, were endorsed by club members in the ensuing postal ballot.  The new rules, however, will be interpreted as meaning that there should never again be any discussion of racial topics.  In any case, these aspirations had already been realized within the club, which has had plenty of black and Jewish members over its 42-year history and has coordinated meetings with Muslim groups (on monetary reform, an eccentric hobby-horse for some club officers).

In the middle of the uproar, Duncan Smith’s advisors cannily released the biographical information that Duncan Smith’s grandfather had married a Japanese woman.  The clear implication was that IDS (as he had, by now, been rebranded, so that he would seem hip) could not therefore be a “racist”; he could feel ethnic minority pain.  The great white hope was becoming a one-eighth Japanese hope.  This impression was strengthened when Duncan Smith began signalling that he might end Tory support for Section 28—the legislation that prevents public money from being used to promote homosexuality in schools—and said that he “would have no truck with racists” (which, in today’s parlance, means no truck with patriotism or traditionalism).  He also suspended the activities of Conservatives Against a Federal Europe, of which he had long been a prominent supporter, on the grounds that there was no longer any need for it, as so many of its supporters were now in the Shadow Cabinet.  Yet cynics suspect that this is just another way of ditching a controversial group that has been accused of seeking withdrawal from the European Union, which is also regarded as an “extreme” policy.  (I have been at several CAFÉ meetings and can confirm that this certainly seemed to be the chief aspiration of many CAFÉ members—even some of the peers and MPs.)

With such close attention being paid to the Monday Club, it was inevitable that my magazine, Right Now!, would also fall within the sights of the modern Puritans.  Some of our supporters and patrons are also supporters and patrons of the Monday Club, and there are many similarities between the two groups, except that RN has never been a Conservative publication.

Right Now! is a stock villain in the pantomimic far-left weltanschauung, and Labour ministers have attacked the magazine in the past.  The Puritan attack, however, was a media blitz unprecedented in the magazine’s history.  Stories (derived largely from a communist magazine) appeared in the Labour-supporting Guardian and Independent.  Doubly and triply derivative pieces appeared in the Times and regional and foreign newspapers, and I had a cameo appearance on BBC Radio 4.

The articles all sounded rather similar, probably because almost none of the journalists concerned had bothered to contact me when writing their stories.  Of course, it is often a waste of time talking to journalists anyway.  Even when they do make contact, they rarely add any new information to their pieces.  For instance—to add a Pooterish note—the Independent dutifully reported that I was a supporter of Clarke rather than Duncan Smith, as I had told the reporter, but added that “this was widely interpreted as a tactical move.”  In other words, I was lying.  (I wasn’t: By then, I had seen enough of Duncan Smith’s cowardice under fire.)

Journalists are, of course, notoriously lazy, and, in a histrionic era, the most colorful angle is generally their first choice.  Most of the articles alleged that the magazine was hugely influential, said that our website was “linked” (a word beloved of leftists and journalists alike) to ”extremists,” quoted from two articles (one about eugenics and one about immigration), and made great play of the fact that I had once described myself as a “neighbourhood nazi.”

My attempts to remonstrate retroactively were mostly fruitless.  Hardly any of my letters to the editor were published, and, when they were, they were abridged greatly.  The journalists simply did not want to know about mitigating factors that did not fit in with their dualistic worldview.  Our website is linked to all kinds of groups (including  The article about eugenics was very similar to one that had appeared in the Spectator a few months before (about which nobody had complained), and it was followed in the next Right Now! by an article attacking eugenics.  The article on immigration had been written by Ezra Mishan, a respected environmentalist and economist.  If a further Pooterish note can be excused, I was joking in 1987 when I described myself so colorfully.

This kind of sly censorship can be rather frustrating.  Yet it is also darkly amusing to watch rank hypocrisy in action—journalists usually pride themselves on being liberal and open-minded.  Moreover, it is curiously flattering to be outlawed from a society so unappealing and essentially nonviable.  Right Now! has obviously rattled the moral guardians considerably.  More to the point, the publicity resulted in a torrent of inquiries from members of the public who had not previously heard of the magazine and wanted to get sample copies or to subscribe.  Nor has the publicity deterred those sympathetic people in public life with whom we are in contact; those who would be frightened by such phantoms would not be worth knowing anyway.  A letter I sent to all Tory MPs elicited many interesting responses, signaling that there is widespread disgruntlement with Duncan Smith even at this most quiescent of levels and that he is far from secure.

Of course, difficult choices between inclination and expediency will always have to be made in politics.  Duncan Smith may never have thought about the nature of the left or the long-term consequences of his recent actions.  (Tory politicians are not noted for their interest in cultural politics.)  I can also see why Duncan Smith might wish to shrug off his past and forget inconvenient friends.  It is never pleasant to be attacked for what others have said, or to have your character aspersed and your motives given the worst possible construction, or for it to be said or hinted that you are a moral inferior.  It is only human to want a quiet life.  Yet such disapprobation will have to be risked by a Conservative leader at some stage if any real defense is to be made against the forces of anti-Westernism.  Going on present form, it does not look like Duncan Smith is cut out for the job.