• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

How Iain Duncan Smith came to Easterhouse and left with a new vision for the Tory party

IT will enter the political lexicon as the Easterhouse Epiphany. Iain Duncan Smith came, saw, and converted to a radical new form of Conservatism. By all accounts, his visit to a sprawling Glasgow housing estate last month was a low key affair.

Loading article content

There were no great crowds of residents to greet him, calling on him to lead them to a better world, and Mr Duncan Smith himself gave few signs to herald the changes that were to come. However, for those seeking them, there were a few hints of how the visit had inspired the new sense of direction which the Tory leader unveiled last night in the wake of Lady Thatcher's departure from public life. In February, he baldly admitted the failure of previous Conservative governments to improve the lot of people living in sprawling council estates such as Easterhouse and said he wanted to ''listen and learn'' to discover how the party could achieve that in the future. His call for the Conservatives to become ''the natural party of those who want to make a better life for themselves and their children'' may have seemed a typical vote-gathering exercise, but the effects of that visit appear to have lasted longer than the headlines on the day, both for Mr Duncan Smith and those with whom he met. Sandy Weddell, minister at the Easterhouse Baptist Church, accompanied Mr Duncan Smith throughout most of his visit, and was pleasantly surprised by the Tory leader's attitude. Speaking yesterday Mr Weddell said: ''I think the Tories have realised that they do not really have a handle on difficulties in places like Easterhouse. They seem to have a genuine desire now to work out these problems. ''As a non-Tory, my impression was that he did listen and I think that most people who met him that day thought he was a genuine person. ''It is very easy now just to pull the Tories apart, but there has always been this idea that it is a one nation party and that it sees itself as inclusive of all kinds of social strata. ''This is a re-imagining of one aspect of Conservatism that was swallowed up by Thatcher. I hope that when the day comes that the Tories do regain power that they will carry through the ideas that they are talking about now.'' However, Mr Weddell warned that there was an over-riding cynicism about all political parties in Easterhouse, not just the Tories, and that it would be difficult for any party to encourage a belief in the ability of politicians to improve lives. From the reactions to Mr Duncan's Smith's announcement yesterday, it seems a lot more will have to be done if the Conservatives want to break down that cynicism. Unused to the glare of the political limelight, and largely unaware of Mr Duncan Smith's interest in their community a month before, the majority of residents in Easterhouse yesterday were unimpressed by the Tory leader's declaration. Few would give even their first names, wary of the sudden interest in an area that politicians normally keep at arms' length. Only one admitted to voting Conservative at the last election, and then only because it was a family tradition. Anna, 60, who lives in Duntarvie Road, said: ''I prefer the Conservatives, but all these parties promise things and it never materialises. Easterhouse is starting to look a wee bit better lately, but on the whole the Labour party has not done much for us.'' Like Anna, many Easterhouse residents saw little to chose between the political parties and did not believe that the votes they cast would make a real difference to their lives. Billy Stewart, 28, said he had never voted. ''Nobody here is interested in politics,'' he said. ''All these parties just do things to get your vote off you and then when they are in power they don't do anything for you.'' John, 35, who didn't wish to give his surname, said he did vote, but added that Mr Duncan Smith's declaration would not have persuaded him to support the Conservatives. ''I think he feels he has got to come to areas like this to get more votes,'' he said. ''He says he is going to help people who have suffered under Labour, but it was the Tories that started it all in the first place when Thatcher was in power. They used Scotland as a testing ground.''

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

PARCH1.155218