I’ll be almost sorry* to see the exit of Ian Duncan Smith as Tory leader.
The man may have done nothing for his political party, and less for the political scene in Britain, but, paradoxically, he’ll be remembered for being a non-entity. Hence the curious fact that he is publicly known as “the quiet man”.
For me, his best moment is the one that is also likely to be seen as his political nadir; that awful speech at the recent Tory party annual conference. There he managed to utter a very rare example of a anti-mimetic political statement.
Mimetic political statements are a stock-in-trade. When a politician says anything starting “I am fully confident that…” they make damn sure they sound confident. Similarly “I am not worried about…”, “I care passionately about…” and all the rest get delivered with their relevant emotions overacted for the benefit of the audience.
IDS, the dear, managed the complete opposite. He completely fluffed his headline-grabbing soundbite from the conference speech, grinding out the desperate line “The quiet man is getting louder!” without any discernable increase in volume. He tried, oh he tried, but there was just nothing there. He just sounded more strained, like someone engaged in an increasingly forlorn stage whisper, increasingly furious, but unwilling to risk waking up the kids.
We might accept such incompetent performance from our friends and associates; it might even appear charming from the leader of a minor party or pressure group, but the Tories are traditionally stocked with barristers; professional speakers who could deliver a stinging rebuke with a raised eyebrow and an undertone of moral outrage as soon as they could sneeze (or, perhaps, cough). Every time he stumbled out his put-downs or snarls in parliament, IDS’s backbenchers must have groaned inwardly, for any one of them could have done better in terms of delivery.
I suspect that, in the end, they decided that a man who can’t control his own voice had no chance of controlling the snake pit that is the modern Tory party.
* Rhetorical ploy. Obviously not true. I’m deliberately not discussing policies or ideology.