By Gordon Greig, Political Editor
Daily Mail – 25 January 1990
The man hired to give the Tory Party teeth (Rottweiler teeth, some would say) was holding court yesterday in the House of Commons, telling with relish a story about his old arch-enemy.
"It was the heyday of the CND,"
said Dr Julian Lewis, who was yesterday appointed the next Deputy Director of the Tory Party research machine.
"They held a rally in Hyde Park and a lot of people turned out. They started with a claim that 250,000 attended. By the afternoon, that had gone up to 400,000 and there was even a whisper being circulated about half-a-million supporters. But we hired an aircraft firm which specialised in map-making and landscape pictures, and from the photographs we were able to show that there were only about 100,000 people there.
"The point is that we had to get the size of the demo nailed down, because if we had allowed them to get away with it, people would have gone around believing there were half-a-million CND supporters."
Lewis, the 39 year-old Oxford graduate who specialises in defence studies – both literally and metaphorically speaking – is a rare and remarkable species. In fact, it is probably true to say that the Tory Party has never seen anyone quite like him.
That explains why his appointment by Tory Chairman Kenneth Baker was greeted with consternation in the Labour Party and total apoplexy in certain Conservative quarters.
For those who may not remember his appearance on the political scene last time around, Lewis is a byword for bashing the extreme Left. He is the Tory who adopted the methods of the Far Left and beat them at their own game.
It was certainly a new approach to Conservative politics. A sleeves rolled up, pugilistic approach which horrified some of the gentler members of his profession.
Back in 1977, he became famous when he moved into a bed-sit in London's East End to join one of the most extremist constituency parties in the country.
The idea behind his sudden membership of the Newham North-East Labour Party (he's been an ardent Young Conservative) was far from any political metamorphosis. In the tradition of the best spy stories, he was infiltrating – with the purpose of stopping the sitting MP, Reg Prentice, from being thrown out by extremists.
"What was happening was that a small unrepresentative minority were making all the running," he explained. "I wanted to beat them using their own tactics."
What he actually ended up doing was to wrest control of the constituency from its Trotskyist caucus before the High Court – aided by a stunned Labour Party, amid much embarrassment – finally blew the whistle on his enterprise.
Since then he has switched to exposing the Kremlin hand behind phoney "peace" movements, and revealing the Reds under the beds in the trade union movement as part of the successful campaign to clip the power of the union bosses.
His objective, he'll tell you with a wicked smile, was to rescue Labour from the Left – loosely interpreted by the Labour Party to mean a destructive exploitation of its divisions.
So why have the Tories hired him now? It has long been said that the Conservatives miss opportunities time and time again to smash the Left.
So, bring on a man who enjoys a really good political dogfight.
"I don't like being called an agitator,"
retorted Dr Lewis yesterday.
"That leaves out all the hard graft that goes into our research. Actually, I think I rather resent that reputation."
The thick, hardback cuttings book on his achievements as one of the very few street activists the Tory Party can actually boast about, contrasts disconcertingly with the quiet but articulate voice, that dark sober suit and looks reminiscent of film actor David Tomlinson. Evidently looks can be deceiving ... which is another advantage for the Tories.
Lewis got interested in the politics of Left-wing extremism after listening to student leader Andy Bevan belting out slogans at the Swansea grammar school they both went to.
"It was just after 1964 and Harold Wilson was beginning to spout about the cause of disarmament and the Left was beginning to jump up and down. I just thought: are we going to have to go through what happened in the 1930s all over again?
"At Newham two of us teamed up to see what we could actually do on the doorstep by joining the local Labour Party and adopting the canvassing tactics of the Left, where they could pack meetings with their own supporters.
"We used and exploited the rule-book. Unlike them, we didn't break the rules. But they soon found out whose side I was on. I have,"
"seen the enemy at first hand".
Lewis's family belongs to that sect of articulate talent that fled from a Europe shadowed by Fascist and Communist takeover – an exodus of brilliant men and women which has been such a bonus for British politics.
"The Communists couldn't call me a Fascist, because I just had to point out what happened to my family – five were left out of 50.
"And I don't think I can be called a fanatic either. I would claim I've played it as tough as we need to. I've countered propaganda with hard facts."
One of his favourite campaigns was to make sure that every time his old enemy, the CND, had a letter in the Press he had a letter or article to counter it.
"Every time they had a demo, we commissioned a poll to show what the silent majority really felt. We would call it mobilising the silent majority. And poll after poll has shown that most people do believe in strong defence."
He is indignant at suggestions that it's all just dirty tricks when what he actually does, he claims, is some very diligent research into the Communist and Trotskyite names and organisations behind a lot of innocent-looking fronts.
He would rather regard himself as a troubleshooter – someone who understands the way the enemies of democracy think.
"I am one of a small number of people who take an interest in extremist and Left-wing propaganda.
"I don't go in for smearing people, as some claim. But I do show people just how easily they can be hoodwinked by the devious minds of the Left."