Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


Ex-Tory chairman Shapps “leading the rebels working to oust TMay”

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Meanwhile YouGov finds the country divided over TMay staying

So the battle for the future of the Conservative Party is now on with senior figures ready to go on the record saying they are working to try to force her out.

In process terms the rebels need 15% of the parliamentary party, 48, to send letters to the chairman of the 1922 committee demanding a confidence vote on the Prime Minister. The Times report linked to above says that there are at least 30 names.

As I have noted in previous posts the process of ousting a Conservative leader is very separate from the process of electing a new one. Only after there has been a vote has no confidence or Mrs May quits voluntarily will possible contenders have to declare themselves.

    What is interesting here is that the rebels do not appear to be Boris Johnson backers but previous loyalists to the last Conservative Prime Minister to win a majority, David Cameron.

It was that majority that Mrs May lost on June 8th in the general election that she personally called three years early.

There have been separate reports that supporters of the former Mayor and now Foreign Secretary have their own list of MPs ready to demand a confidence motion.

Whether they are included in the 30 total I do not know. Last week I was given a figure of Boris backers of 38 CON MPs from what I regard as a reliable party source.

Whatever the battle for the future of the Conservative Party is now on.

Latest betting has Mrs May a 2/1 to survive the year.

Mike Smithson


Big danger for TMay is that the Tory process for ousting a leader is totally separate from the contest that would follow

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

There would be no identified assassin

One of the things that doesn’t seem to have been appreciated about the CON rules is that the process of ousting a leader is totally separate from the leadership election that could follow.

If 15% of Conservative MPs, 47, request that there is a confidence vote in the leader then that would happen without those behind it having to identify themselves and without the move being linked to any of the names that have been floated about at the moment as possible alternatives to Mrs May. All they would do is send letters to the Chairman of the 1922 committee who would institute a secret ballot of MPs once the requisite total of letters had been received.

It could be in the current case that MP backers of more than one potential contender would send letters.

The letters went in about Iain Duncan Smith less than 4 weeks after his 8 minute standing ovation at the 2003 conference. The assumption was ahead of the vote taking place that there would be a contest between Michael Howard and David Davis but the confidence move was not attributed to any of the potential leadership contenders.

As it turned out Davis stood aside in order that leadership continuity could continue without a disruptive leadership election and Howard got the job with effectively a coronation.

My guess is that if TMay’s team sensed that she was in danger of having to face a confidence ballot then she would stand aside on health grounds.

Mike Smithson


TMay struggles on in spite of a bad cough and having to deal with a heckler

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017


TMontgomerie says BoJo would be a massive roll of the dice but better than slow death under TMay

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

To switch or not to switch

In the end BJohnson’s much anticipated conference speech was totally on message and it was hard to find even the most minuscule of difference with the PM. For just about the first time the conference hall was packed and the delegates seemed to be enjoying themselves.

But it wasn’t one of the ex-Mayor’s greatest speeches. He had some good jokes and his close was rather subdued and almost took the audience by surprise. Maybe he had planned to say something different at the end but chose not to.

My sense was that the reaction of TMontgomerie crystallised what many were thinking. Having BoJo as leader and PM would be a huge gamble but the alternative, the wounded PM struggling on, is hardly inspiring. Mrs. May is never going to be able to skirt round the fact that she called an unnecessary election in which her party lost its majority. She knows it and it is there for all to see in every public appearance. Her confidence has been shattered.

Tomorrow it is her turn to make her conference speech and this is going to be a massive challenge. My guess is that it won’t be the reaction in Manchester that matters but how her 317 fellow MPs regard it and her prospects and that could take some time to filter though.

What is very striking is the smallish number of CON MPs who are at the conference – an indicator, perhaps, of their view of the situation.

Mike Smithson


Labour joy and Tory gloom

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Don Brind reflects on the conference season

A few weeks ago I was helping a front bencher prepare for a TV appearance and we guessed that one of the questions might be “Do you agree with Laura Pidcock?” She is the newbie MP who declared she wouldn’t hang out with Tory women because she regards them as “enemy”.

The more emollient reply we came up with was: “There are some Tories I like. I just don’t want them running the country.”

For me a perfect example of this approach is former MP and whip, Michael Brown who I lunched with recently. He is great company but the Tory government he was part of – John Major’s – made a bit of a hash of ruling Britain.

With the help of some great talent spotting by veteran lobby correspondent Colin Brown, the ex-MP reinvented himself as the Independent’s parliamentary sketch writer. He still dines in Tory circles – with among others David Davis and Patrick McLoughlin– but he sounds like a journalist.

“I told the party chairman, the longer Theresa May hangs on in Downing Street the bigger Jeremy Corbyn’s majority will be.”

“Jeremy Corbyn will save the Tory party. Young people need to find out that Labour governments always make a mess of things.”

This familiar Tory belief that they are better than Labour at running the economy doesn’t square with the facts — as the public finance expert Professor Richard Murphy of City University, has shown.

Labour government’s are more prudent than Tory governments — Tories have been the biggest borrowers since the war  and that picture holds good if you run the numbers from 1979.

The Big Lie in British politics is the one peddled by George Osborne, with support from Nick Clegg, that the Labour government – rather than American banks — caused the crash of 2007/8. Equally mendacious is the Tory claim to have created a “strong and stable” economy. The claim rests solely only on the jobs numbers, which were subjected to a searching analysis  by Alastair Meeks of this parish a couple of weeks ago.

A genuinely strong economy would be producing rising livings standards and be capable of properly funding vital public services including health and education. That is manifestly not true after seven years under a Tory Chancellor.

The economy is shaky because there are fundamental weaknesses which the Conservatives have neglected including the productivity gap of around 30% with key competitors, a failure to invest enough in infrastructure and skills where the jobs of the future come from, a persistent deficit of around £100 billion a year in trade with the rest of the world and dangerously high household debt.

The question of how a Labour government will deal with the dismal inheritance from the Tories lurked behind the rapture of fans of Jeremy Corbyn in Brighton. They understandably took the chance to celebrate after standing by their man against sceptics like me.

The mood was extraordinary. I’ve seen nothing quite like it before and I’ve been conference-going since 1972.

Despite the buzz my judgement is that Corbyn’s “government in waiting” is not ready yet. I am, however, more sanguine than some other Corbyn sceptics inside and outside the party. I offer three bits of evidence for believing the party is moving in the right direction.
Firstly, I believe that Labour is developing an industrial strategy that will deal with both the opportunities and threats created by the digital revolution. An interesting meeting organised by Labour Business and Fujitsu was addressed by two of the smartest people on Corbyn’s front bench, Chi Onwurah and Liam Byrne. They are people to watch.

Digital is already pervasive across most industries and services and the impact on the future employment market will be huge. I was, therefore, encouraged that Corbyn and his Shadow Health Education Secretary cast their “cradle to the grave” national education service as a part of economic policy – vital to reskilling workers as new jobs are developed.

My third reason for optimism was a line in John McDonnell’s speech.

“And, yes, in 1997, after 18 years of Thatcherism, when whole industries and communities across our country had been destroyed by the Tories and our public services were on their knees, it was the Blair/Brown Government that recognised and delivered the scale of public investment that a 21st century society needed.

“We should never forget that we are part of that great Labour tradition and we should be so proud of it.”

Wow. Praise for New Labour from a Corbynista.

What I take from this is that McDonnell is rightly desperate to become Chancellor and to realise that ambition he’s willing to take lessons from wherever they come.

Don Brind


If the S Times reports are correct it doesn’t bode well for TMay’s survival chances

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Mike Smithson


Tomorrow night’s C4 Boris documentary looks set to add to Tory tensions over Theresa

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Tomorrow night at 10 PM a documentary on Boris Johnson by Gary Gibbon is due to be screened on Channel 4 and judging by some of the extracts so far released it looks set to unsettle CON delegates in Manchester.

This is the start of an article on the programme by Gibbon in The I.

“Several months before the general election, Boris Johnson returned to the Foreign Office after a meeting with Theresa May, flanked by her powerful joint Chiefs of Staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. It was clear to him who was in control – and it wasn’t the Prime Minister. “That’s modern slavery right there,” he told a colleague.

More recently, he’s told allies that the disastrous general election result has left the Prime Minister a shell of her former self. Her mighty aides have been dispatched and the failed snap election hangs over every meeting. Her body language, he has told allies, is shrunken..”

Another extract provides an interesting insight into TMay’s pre-June 8th 2017 managerial style.

“At one National Security Council meeting before the election, one of her Joint Chiefs of Staff had criticised Johnson’s contribution to the meeting. The Prime Minister, closing the meeting, said the policy line was clear and everyone, including Johnson, must follow it. There were echoes of the ritual humiliations Margaret Thatcher meted out to Geoffrey Howe…”

My guess is that leadership speculation will be on the same level or even higher than in 2003 when IDS got the longest conference standing ovation ever less than four weeks before fellow MPs booted him out. The big difference with May of course is that the latter has been tested in an election at which the Tories lost their majority.

Mike Smithson


With the CON conference starting David Herdson says what’s wanted is vision

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

‘Getting on with the job’ simply isn’t good enough

“I have a dream”, said Martin Luther King, in one of the greatest speeches of the twentieth century. It was a dream he wanted to share and did share, and it was – and is – remembered not just for the eloquence of that initial delivery but for the righteousness and simplicity of the vision.

In doing so, he did what every great political leader does: inspires and reinforces confidence among his or her followers that their cause is worth devoting time, effort, money and possibly even personal safety towards because doing so will achieve a better and more hopeful world. They stand as a beacon of their movement, representative in word and deed of the shared vision that campaigners, converts and old hands alike, believe in.

Not every leader can match the eloquence of a King but that’s beside the point. What every leader can do, and should do, is set the mission, define the values and engender confidence in the journey. There are many reasons for the collapse in the Tory lead this Spring: the defensive Tory campaign set against Labour’s open engagement, the unpopular policies, and the failure of the Tories’ negative campaign all played their part. Behind that was the lack of a driving philosophy to unite and inspire activists and voters.

‘Keeping Corbyn out’ was tactically valid but nothing more; ‘getting on with the job’ – the effective mantra since the poll is almost a conscious disengagement from political engagement.

Indeed, Theresa May is currently showing all the political public leadership of an Accounts Executive making a presentation on the next quarter’s efficiency initiatives. The numbers might add up, the reasoning might be valid but frankly who cares? Who’s listening?

She presented a good case in point this week, when she gave a speech widely reported as strongly defending the free market (that language alone is significant: ‘defending’, not ‘promoting’). However, it received little coverage, not because it was a bad speech or because it was wrongly argued but because it didn’t tie into a higher driving philosophy – and also, frankly, because it was boring.

The sad thing is that when she came into Number Ten, she did lay out what might easily have become the defining tenets of Mayism, which were more or less classical One Nation Conservatism. In particular, she cited the addressing of inequality of opportunity for those from less advantaged households and communities.

There could easily have developed from that the themes of Aspiration, Opportunity and Fairness running through the government’s policies like the proverbial stick of Blackpool rock. Instead, the manifesto that the Tories cobbled together not only failed to pick up on those themes but appeared to actively punish those who’d aspired and taken their opportunities in life, when they were unlucky enough to need the state in later life: hardly fair.

Since the election, such domestic concerns haven’t even had a look in. While it’s understandable that Brexit dominates the government’s thinking, there should still be enough ministers left over to deliver a coherent set of policies that implement a vision of Conservatism in action attractive enough to persuade people to vote for the party on its own merits and not just because Corbyn isn’t trusted.

That, then, is the task before the Conservatives this next week. It will not be an easy one, with Brexit determining one media narrative and cabinet jostling producing another. But that is all the more reason to demonstrate leadership, define that vision, grab the agenda, inspire activists and persuadable voters, and put squabbling ministers in their place. The problem is that often when we wake up, it’s so hard to remember the dream we just had.

David Herdson