Just as politics was slipping into a coma of torpor an electrifying jolt jerks it into new life.
It could not have happened without the Wright reforms. They continue to deliver. Rory Stewart was unelectable by the whips as a Select Committee Chairman. He is not biddable, has a unique hinterland of extraordinary achievements and possesses a working brain-all traits that disqualify him from promotion by the neurotically controlling whips.
The Defence Select Committee, under Rory, will metamorphose from passive collaborating cheerleaders for the war party into a critical voice of objective reason. That's if the other establishment committee members allow him to lead. The rough democracy that the Wright reforms imposed of the election of chairs produced a range of eight Tory hopefuls with a wide spectrum of opinions.
Only Tories could be candidates but all MPs could vote. All candidates had groups of backers among the Tories. Labour voters would determine the result in the same way that John Bercow was elected Speaker. The Labour whips went into overdrive behind Julian Lewis for no obvious reason. He is a whips’ favourite perhaps because of the rigidity of his opinions that are immune to fresh evidence or ideas. He is a disappointed aspirant Tory Minister whose hopes were wrecked as part of the collateral damage from the coalition deal. He has a long reputation as Mr Trident and a scourge of CND before he entered parliament. His appeal to the Labour whips is best explained by the Trident groupies amongst the ranks of Labour whips.
Most self-respecting Labour MPs clustered behind Rory in pursuit of an interesting future of incisive debate on issues long stultified by vested defence interests. The Labour Hustings were key to the final votes.
All eight candidates were asked three questions. As far as I understood it, Hazel Blears sought continuity of the status quo of obedience to the Defence Establishment. Tommy Doherty tried to Exocet Rory by asking how many questions candidates had asked Defence Ministers. His missile flew off target because neither Rory nor the avuncular Keith Simpson had put down any questions. Sensibly Rory said most parliamentary answers are vacuous drivel and questions are not a sensible use of time. My question asked, 'Has punching above our weight militarily in the past eleven years meant spending outside our interests and dying beyond our responsibilities?’
Rory answered "Yes, in Iraq and Afghanistan but not in Kosovo and Sierra Leone”. Crispin Blunt said he was against spending £100 billion on a weapon that we will never use. Bob Stewart mentioned an article he had written in Tribune but asserted the accepted unwisdom that we should spend more to secure our place in the world. So did most of the others.
After the debate the anti Rory whispers from Labour whips continued. They claimed implausibly that Rory was Cameron’s choice therefore Labour’s enemy. Another infantile jibe was that Rory is a dilettante who worked only a year in every job. His CV proves that he has a string of occupations that are heroically commendable – unrivalled by any MP.
Hail to the good sense of most Labour MPs, the wisdom of the Wright reforms and the triumphant frustration of the deadening power of the whips!