I DID not receive the e-mail sent out yesterday to the media by Conservative Central Office asking journalists to stop using the word Tories and, instead and correctly, to refer to Conservatives.
Perhaps Central Office had noticed that I almost never use the offending word, or perhaps there was some other reason. Never mind.
The e-mail, from a Mr Michael Salter, said: Just a quick thought. In the run-up to the election is there any way people could call us Conservatives rather than Tories? It will be Conservative candidates people are voting for and they will be Conservative policies rather than Tory. I know that both terms will always be used but it would be nice if in reports people could remember to call us Conservative(s) at least once! This cri de coeur suggests that the Conservatives (OK?) are in more trouble than I thought.
They wake up in the middle of the night imagining that on election day their supporters will go into the polling booths and look for the candidate with Tory against his or her name but, when they can't find one, will choose another or walk out without putting their cross anywhere.
It's possible, I suppose, but surely anyone inclined to vote for Mr Howard's party would know that Tory and Conservative are synonymous.
The new sensitivity about the use of Tory apparently derives from the worry that it is an old-fashioned word denoting old-style policies out-of-tune with today's needs. But as recently as Ted Heath's time Tory was used to describe the members of the left wing of the party, the people who became wets when Margaret Thatcher took over. And Harold Macmillan once claimed that Toryism has always been a form of paternal socialism.
I think Conservative Central Office would have been wiser to delay their e-mail until today when no one would be quite sure whether or not it was intended as an April Fool's joke.
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