In a discussion of the foot and mouth outbreak, he finds a string of commenters speculating hopefully about how badly this would reflect on Labour. With hard facts thin on the ground, they jump from one gleeful blame-fantasy to another. Stephen suggests that “these Conservatives appear to have developed a form of Munchausen syndrome whereby they falsify the symptoms of such malaise and revel in any misfortune the country might suffer”.
A touch unpatriotic, you might think. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t new, and a Tory backbencher once wrote that in opposition, “part of you actually starts wanting things to get worse”. He described this as “opposition disease – and it is highly contagious”, and listed some of the symptoms:
…an enthusiastic Tory backbencher like me can hardly wait to switch on the Today programme every morning in order to listen to all the bad news. The health crisis has deepened, the rail network has gone pear-shaped and Tony Blair's mania for world tourism has made him a laughing stock.
… In this topsy-turvy world one frequently has to say the complete opposite of what one means. In calling for Mr Blair to "remember his manifesto, stay at home and put 'schools and hospitals' first", you are secretly hoping that he has forgotten all about the wretched document and is on the next plane to the Congo. …
When you say: "Stephen Byers should come back from India immediately and sort out the rail crisis." You actually mean: "I hope he gets stuck in Delhi airport and there's a general strike."
Most unbecoming. And if you really need to be told who this relentlessly positive, optimism-beating-pessimism, sunshine-winning-the-day Tory was…