Entryism: the very word is like a knell. It conjures up the many efforts by Moscow Central to take over British politics. They had successes. In the general election of 1945, two Communist M.P.s were returned to Westminster. They were heavily backed by Moscow, not unreasonably, considering the vast numbers of Communists in France and Italy. But those two had vanished in 1951, and in a few years Moscow changed its tune. "Forget it, fellows. Just join the Labour Party. You'll do more good for the Party there." And it was so. There sprang up a class of Labour M.P.s known as fellow-travellers, one of whom had the memorable name Konni Zilliacus. Over the years the old guard of the Labour Party fought many battles with the entryists, their best man being Denis Healey, a bruiser who had been beachmaster at Anzio. He told his left-wing critics that they were "out of their tiny Chinese minds." The breed survived, and is currently governing Labour as the Momentum group—which supports Jeremy Corbyn. Always, "entryism" refers to the manoeuvres of the Far Left.
Until now. Yesterday William Hague astonished the nation by denouncing entryism of the Right! Giving grassroots Tories a greater say in electing a leader could end in entryism and the party "swamped by new recruits." There is indeed a strong movement now for new members to join the party. That is because they intend to be part of the coming leadership contest, since few believe that Theresa May can last long. They think that three months from now should do it: and that matters, because the Party constitution (drawn up by William Hague) specifies that new members should be of three months' standing before full voting rights in a leadership contest. (The Labour Party has no such rule, hence the flood of new recruits that took over as Momentum.)
What this means is a convulsive effort to Stop Boris. If Boris is one of the two candidates left at the end of the contest, and those two go to the Conservative membership, it's over. Boris is hugely popular in the sticks. He is loathed by the Establishment, in whom Hague is a full believer. Hence the new move made by Aaron Banks, a man of wealth who has heavily backed UKIP. He now calls on the public to join the Conservative Party, adding this significant detail: "When you join, pay by credit card, not check. The card means an immediate hit and your membership dates from that moment." This could be decisive in close contests for the soul of the Party. And it is an added inducement to May to get on with it. Time is not on her side. But then, what is?
Ralph Berry writes from England.