Archive for the 'Tories' Category

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After the weekend break welcome back to the coalition of chaos

Monday, October 16th, 2017

It shouldn’t be able to go on like this but it probably will

The cartoon just about sums it up. Time is running out under the Brexit extraction process and it is hard to say with any certainty who will be the senior members of government at Christmas.

TMay is now a diminished figure and in spite of the apparent turmoil within her party she simply does not have the authority to try to reshuffle her cabinet.

One side of the Tory party calls for the Chancellor to be sacked while others want Foreign Secretary out. The fault lines that were exposed during John Major’s 1992-1997 government are still there and seem wider than ever.

    Meanwhile Labour, which looked finished after losing the Copeland by-election earlier in the year, has now got its act together and can smell blood.

On top of this the Tories have put back the committee stage of what was called the Great Repeal Bill because of fears of rebellions, splits and defeats.

Even when it gets through the Commons the battles will be resumed in the Lords where the numbers situation is even worse for the Tories.

On the face of it it shouldn’t be able to go on like this but most likely it will.

Mike Smithson




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If it gets to a confidence vote then timings will make it harder for the Whips to defend Theresa

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Although the media has moved on she isn’t out of the woods yet

No doubt the Number 10 PR team is absolutely delighted that the media has moved on from speculating about TMay’s future as PM but it was a story that dominated the news for five full days.

She’s still there and showing resilience. But having been party chair at the time of the last move by CON MPs to oust a leader she’ll be acutely aware of the process that happened fewer than four weeks after the 2003 conference to the then leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The process then was brutal and incredibly fast. Letters from more than 15% of the Parliamentary Party were filed in the afternoon and the following morning MPs were voting on whether or not they had confidence in the leader. So there was a tight time-line.

So far TMay’s Whips have done a good job protecting the leader. It was said that they leaked that Grant Shapps was plotting which helped forestall it. But the period of danger is far from over. At any time the chair of the 1922 committee could be presented with the necessary letters from 48 CON MPs requesting a confidence vote.

This makes it much harder for the Whips to influence the outcome and is a point, no doubt, that those wanting her out are telling fellow MPs that they are trying to persuade to send letters.

What surprised me in 2003 was that IDS was ready to tough it out and go through with the vote rather than resigning beforehand. My guess is that TMay would do the same.

Mike Smithson




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The real loser in all of this is the Tory reputation for competence

Monday, October 9th, 2017

It has long been argued by myself and others that the key characteristic that voters look to when whey make their choice is their desire for competent government. We might not like what a party is proposing but most of all we want politicians who are ready to take unpopular decisions which are right for the country.

One of the characteristics which has always been a strength of Tories has been the reputation for providing just this. The Thatcher government is a classic case. It did many things that large number of people were opposed to but it gave the impression of being competent.

The long period of Tory rule which had begun with Mrs. Thatcher’s GE1979 victory ended in 1997 because the huge divide by then over Europe allowed Blair to portray it as incompetent and that the Labour he led was able to provide a competent alternative.

Clare Foges, a Number 10 speech-writer during the Cameron era sums it up well in the Times this morning.

” The Conservative Party does not need to worry about being likeable. Its currency is not likeability but respect. For decades there has been a belief that while you might loathe the Tories, they get the job done. Yes, they could be arrogant, high-handed bastards but at least they were competent bastards. They were capable. They could envision and see through big, nation-changing projects. This is the fatal thing about the current state of the Conservative Party. The reputation for competence is gone — and with it the grudging respect that brought millions of people to vote Tory.

Looking back I think the moment Tory reputation was lost during this year’s election campaign was the Monday after the controversial manifesto launch and the U-turn by Mrs. May on the dementia tax.

My initial reaction to the proposal was that it showed a government that was willing to make highly unpopular decisions on what is one of the biggest issues of the day which other governments of all shades had been avoiding for decades. I thought it was an election winner because of the messages it sent out about competence and willingness to take tough decision. which would be unpopular with core Tory voters. Then the policy was watered down and TMay has suffered ever since.

Mike Smithson




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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




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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





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Tory membership reported to have dropped by 40k since GE17 and might now be below the LDs

Friday, September 29th, 2017

A report tonight by the former political journalist of the year, David Henke, says there’s been a huge reduction in Tory members since GE2017 and that the total is down to 100k. In an interview John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy is quoted as saying “the real membership of the party has plummeted to around 100,000” a figure that is well below the 149,500 used by the party in 2013.

“The party is facing oblivion. If you take the fact only 10 per cent of the membership is likely to be very active they will not have enough people on the ground to fight an election – they won’t even have enough people to man polling stations on the day. They are keeping council seats because often the families of the councillors are campaigning with party members to get them re-elected. They simply don’t have the local resources to do this in a general election.”

Stafford says that the membership in in 300 of the Parliamentary constituency parties – nearly half the MPs in Parliament – membership has dropped to 100 people or fewer.

This compares sharply with the 500k+ members that LAB has and the 100k+ that the LDs have now achieved following the big decline in the coalition years,

A particular problem was the rushed nature of the last election which was called, as TMay has admitted, without any preparation. This meant that in seats where candidates hadn’t been selected contenders, in many case, were imposed on local parties. What’s the point of being a member if you are prevented from having a say in candidate selection.

This will all be discussed at a fringe meeting in Manchester on Monday.

Mike Smithson




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New YouGov CON members poll finds fewer than a third wanting TMay to carry on till the General Election

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

And Boris back as top choice of members



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Looking at conference rhetoric – the politics of fear and the politics of hope

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

A guest slot by CycleFree

It has become a truism that political campaigns based on fear are doomed to fail. Positive visions, hope and excitement are what we want, apparently. And there is some evidence to support this: Corbyn’s genuinely inspiring campaigning for what he has said and believed these last four (five?) decades, the increasingly desperate Remain campaign and, of course, May’s abysmal GE campaign, which wholly failed to explain why Corbyn’s choices and what they say about his character, judgment and, therefore, how he would govern would affect voters and in ways which resonated with them.

But is this entirely true? Labour’s campaigns have always stoked fears that the NHS will be destroyed if the Tories are in power. Leave’s campaign last year was based in very large part on fear of foreigners, specifically fear of Turks and young male migrants/refugees from unsavoury parts of the world. Corbyn would likely never have won as many middle class/middle aged voters as he did were it not for the latter’s fear that the Tories would take their homes and savings in old age if they fell ill, a fear skilfully exploited by Labour with the “dementia tax label. In both the latter cases, the campaign which won (the referendum or argument) was the one which best exploited people’s fears as well as presenting an appealing vision of a better way (No University Fees! Keep Your Home! Freedom from the EU!) however unachievable, superficial or lacking in detail that vision may have been or, in the case of Brexit, is now being shown as being.

And so to this week’s Labour conference. Forget the now inevitable argument about whether Labour is tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks (it isn’t and it won’t). Forget the ignorant insults aimed at a 96 year old man and his grandson (take a bow Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington. That’s just what your Grenfell Towers constituents elected you for). Forget Shami making a fool of herself yet again suggesting laws one doesn’t like can be ignored. After all she is only following an earlier Baroness and Attorney-General who thought laws were only for others. Forget even Corbyn’s speech: undoubtedly well received in the hall and elsewhere.

No. The most significant thing said this week was McDonnell’s statement that the next Labour government would not be a traditional” Labour one. We would be well advised to take this statement seriously. Traditionally, Labour governments have all sought to reassure as well as be radical: reassure voters that the economy would be safe, if more fairly run, that taxes would only be on the rich, that public services would be nurtured and valued, reassure business that Labour would invest, reassure the markets that Labour would be a sensible custodian of the nation’s finances.

McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s primary aim is not to reassure, other than as a tactic. It is to change very radically Britain’s economic and political settlement. And the “run on the pound” and “war gaming” remarks are not an error. They are an indication that they intend seeing their measures through and taking whatever steps may be necessary to do so. The fact that these may be unprecedented or harmful or have unintended consequences or hurt those who have voted for them may count for little or nothing. So what might these measures be if, say, money starts flowing out of Britain the day after McDonnell gets made Chancellor? Capital controls? Temporary bank closures? Limits on how much people are allowed to take out? A tax on all savings held in banks in the UK above a certain limit? Conversion of savings into bonds or shares? Seizure of savings above a certain limit?

Alarmist? Improbable? Why? All these things happened to ordinary people in Cyprus a mere 5 years ago. Sure they happened as part of a bank bailout and were blessed by the EU and there were special circumstances: the fact that so much Russian and other “dirty” money was in Cyprus made it easier for some to justify. Still, if it happened there, it could happen here and justifications would be easy for Labour to construct. No-one loves the rich or the markets or bankers, especially if they are seen as obstructing an elected government. For the past 30 years or so, the assumption everywhere has been that you can’t or shouldn’t even try to buck the markets. But bucking the markets is exactly what Corbyn and McDonnell want to do. The Tories would do well not to underestimate both the breadth of Corbyn and McDonnell’s vision nor their determination.

If those opposed to this want to make the case for why it will be harmful, they need to start some war gaming of their own. They need to explain how such measures will affect ordinary voters now, not by reference to the 1970’s: not “the markets won’t wear it” or “remember Callaghan and the IMF” but “you won’t be able to pay for that foreign holiday or buy stuff from Amazon in Luxembourg” or 20% of the money Mum had put by for her care has been taken or “the money saved/to be given to us as a deposit for a home will be in shares you won’t be able to sell for years” or “Dad has to pay a wealth tax on his house out of his pension and can’t”. They need to start demolishing, forensically, item by item, those Labour proposals which won’t work – and only those – and they need to start making the case now.

Fear of losing what you have is a powerful motivator, as the reaction to the dementia tax showed. Fear of being made worse off is equally powerful, as the reaction to university fees and interest rates on the loans also showed. It is a key part of any effective campaign. It is not the only one, of course. It won’t necessarily win on its own. So we will have to wait and see for the Tory Conference whether the Tories are capable of attacking Labour intelligently or only each other and, more critically, whether they have any positive story to tell the country.

CycleFree