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Jokes, charm and woolliness: beware the Tory way

A glimpse into our political future. At a dinner held by the august book trade body, the Society of Bookmen, the shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey explained to senior publishers, booksellers and the odd author how a Conservative government would behave towards books and those earn their living from them.

It was an interesting performance, not so much for the content – which was distinctly light – but for the style of address. Imagine Boris Johnson, with the well-practised charming duffer effect taken down a notch or two, and you are not far from Ed Vaizey.

Breezy, amiable, bright and jokey, he conveys the image of a good-hearted amateur. Like other  new Tories, he has perfected the art of appearing slightly surprised and amused that anyone is taking him seriously.

New Labour has a voice: concerned, humourless, starchy and faintly sinister. The Tory default setting is that of a cheerful bungler, doing his best under difficult circumstances. I suspect that, if these people are in control for the next five years, the charm of this act will wear off quickly.

On the evidence of the Society of Bookmen speech, it is also not entirely to be trusted. Vaizey uttered all the right warm words expressing passionate commitment to the library service. Subsequently, a supporter of the Campaign for the Book  has pointed out that when, last year, a local Tory council proposed to shut down the popular Old Town Library in Swindon, he visited  the library incognito, and then supported the council’s position.

Behind the vagueness and the charm, the same old political business is going on.

To see Ed Vaizey’s response, click here.