Sketch: Dinosaurs, Philip Hammond and the Tory party conference
The Tory conference sees the Chancellor channel Jurassic Park in an effort to reach out to young people
Philip Hammond has no problem with young people. He thinks young people are great. Some of his best friends are young people. Or his kids are, anyway.
But the problem with young people, as far as Hammond sees it, is that they don’t know what’s best for them. Then they vote.
Now the Chancellor’s appearance at Tory conference would suggest he’s not the most engaging speaker. In fact, he seems to approach charisma the same way an extractor fan approaches smoke.
But still, someone had to try to get through to the youth vote. So what’s the problem? The answer, it seems, is the success of the Labour Party. Or as he put it, “the resurgence of hard-left socialism.”
Hammond’s worry is that the young, who have grown up in an era of national decline and with no realistic prospect of owning their own home, react to the Conservative Party with the same suspicion as a cat being offered food laced with veterinary pills.
“I can almost hear the warning bells going off in Conference Control Centre: ‘Don’t talk about the ‘70s!’” he bantered. Young people love banter.
“Look, I have kids, I understand we will not engage them simply by droning on about some previously fought war,” he said, before adding, somewhat inexplicably, “I remember the Winter of Discontent!”
Smart. After all, there’s no point in giving young people a patronising lecture on history from atop a conference stage. Droning on, Hammond turned directly to Labour, which he described as “a party taken hostage by a clique of hard-left extremist infiltrators”.
Well, yes, and it would certainly be a worry to see one of the UK’s major parties taken over by a deluded, hard-line fringe.
“We need to understand why we are having this argument again,” Hammond said. “An argument that both we Conservatives, and politicians of the centre-left, thought we had won so decisively that the one or two remaining proponents of hard-left socialism in Parliament, like Corbyn and McDonnell, were for years treated almost as museum pieces. Dinosaurs, worth preserving for the sake of historical curiosity.
“But last week at Brighton the dinosaurs had broken out of their glass cases, their political DNA apparently uncontaminated by any contact with the reality of thirty years of global economic development. There they were, ready to wreak havoc, fighting the battles of the past, using the language of the past, all over again. A sort of political version of Jurassic Park.”
Jurassic Park. It was excellent stuff, and there really is a lot to focus on there – not least the fact that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park didn’t come to life and break out of glass cases. That’s actually the plot of Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum.
Maybe Hammond hasn’t seen the film, or maybe that particular analogy didn’t appeal. But it was a brave move, not least because Hammond actually looks quite a bit like a friendly dinosaur who has been photographed in black and white.
But it’s an image which resonates in the current political context. An irresponsible capitalist who ignored every warning and insisted on blindly ploughing ahead with a disastrous, ill-planned international experiment.
An isolated island that everyone is too scared to visit, dominated by cold-blooded cloned reptiles which spend their days tearing each other apart rather than engaging with the outside world.
Was Hammond definitely talking about Labour? Jeremy Hunt has always looked like he might have a bit of frog DNA about him. And tell you who else had had enough of experts – John Hammond, the eccentric park owner. Whether Philip and John Hammond are related is currently unclear.
But (Philip) Hammond had more to say. The far-left, he explained, “are preying on people’s worries, manipulating their fears, luring them with false promises”.
Of course, some would question if a conference hall filled with people who campaigned for Leave is the best place to start throwing around accusations of manipulating people’s fears, but it was an interesting point, not least because if dinosaurs are going to prey on anything, it would usually be other dinosaurs.
In Jurassic Park they liked eating goats – not people’s worries. It was a speech that really made you think.
Finally, though, he moved on to thanking the party’s campaigners. “I want to thank our financial supporters as well: we need your support more than ever as the Union Barons mobilise behind Corbyn.”
A shudder ran around the hall. With the Union Barons backing Labour, who’s left to back the Tories? Just the regular Barons.
Still, it was powerful stuff. “We must listen and we must respond. Not by embarking on reckless experiments that would put at risk all the progress of the last decades.” The party will not embark on ‘reckless experiments’. The man is completely obsessed with Jurassic Park.
But who knows, maybe Hammond’s right. Maybe Corbyn does want to take the UK back to the 1970s, and if that’s true then Hammond was showing real vision. After all, going back 150 million years is much bolder.
Keith Brown will become the party’s standing campaign director, with responsibility for policy development and preparation for future elections
Exclusive interview with the SNP’s new depute leader on the Growth Commission report, indyref2 and how he interprets his role
The increase will apply to all NHS staff in Scotland working under Agenda for Change and earning up to £80,000
The SNP will announce its new depute leader at its spring conference later this week