things can’t be easy right now. But then, when were they ever? You’ve spent your whole life grafting away, and what have you got to show for it? Nothing. You’ve been the nearly man so often, and that’s got to hurt, Iain – you wouldn’t be human if it didn’t – but you’ve put a brave face on it, and you’ve soldiered on. And I respect that.
You’ve made a virtue out of being the quiet man. You’ve been solid, you’ve been dependable. And you’ve been passed over. Always the bridesmaid, and never the bride.
God knows it’s not for want of trying. You’ve always tried. You became leader of your party, and must have believed that great things beckoned, and then you found yourself brought down by lesser men. Small men who couldn’t see the bigger picture, who whispered tales of public money paid to your wife for work she hadn’t done, quibbled about your false claims to have studied at university in Italy, who muttered about the unbecoming nature of male pattern baldness in a leader. They chose Michael Howard over you, Iain. Michael Howard. In a free vote. What were they thinking?
They were intellectual pygmies, Iain, nothing more. The same pygmies who rubbished your one and only novel, who called it terrible, terrible, terrible, who damned it and didn’t even offer the faintest of praise to soften the blow. Pygmies, every last one of them.
But you rose above them, as you surely knew you would. You rolled your sleeves up and you grafted. You prepared the ground. At last you’re poised to take your place in history, to make your mark as the man who reformed our welfare state, who rolled back the benefits system and saved us all from a world where the underclass grows fat and lazy on Sunny Delight, chicken nuggets, and plasma TVs. Fat and lazy at our expense, Iain. But they hadn’t counted on you. The quiet man. The nearly man made good. The turning worm. This was your moment.
So what in god’s holy name were you thinking?
You haven’t a prayer of getting by on £53 a week, Iain, and that’s not just because you’re used to struggling through on £1500 every seven days, it’s because no-one can live on £53 a week. Not week after week after week. Not when the government’s cutting housing benefit and bringing in bedroom tax and setting the dogs of ATOS loose on the disabled. You knew that. All you had to do was keep your big trap shut and the deal was done and dusted, the welfare state was rolled back, the blame was on the poor for being poor, and your future on the after-dinner circuit was secure.
But you’ve blown it.
There’s a petition signed by half a million people demanding that you put your money – all £53 a week of it – where your mouth is, Iain. And we both know you can’t. And so do they. The moment you became the story, the moment you stepped into the limelight out of the shadows where you’d been making the story, you fucked things up so royally that even your rabid cheerleaders at the Daily Mail can’t save you now. History’s going to remember you, but it’ll be as the man who made a Paolo di Canio press conference look like an intellectual triumph. That takes some doing.
Perhaps that’s why Michael Howard won that vote.