Archive for the 'Tories' Category

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The Conservative Party is pursuing profoundly un-conservative policies. So I’ve left it.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Ideology with no concern for consequences or convention is the business of revolutionaries

I have today resigned my membership of the Conservative Party after 24 years. While that’s a moment of some sadness for me, it’s of trivial importance on any wider scale. What isn’t trivially important is the set of changes which the Party’s undergone in the last few years and especially the last few weeks because these will have an immense impact on the country, one way or another, and are changes that no true conservative party would be advocating.

Foremost is inevitably Brexit. Unlike some who’ve left the Party recently, I am not opposed to Britain leaving the EU. I did vote Remain in 2016 and don’t regret that decision but the country chose Leave and that decision should be respected.

What is not necessary is the obsession with either the arbitrary deadline of 31 October, or the clear desire among many in the Party to leave with no deal. The latter would be deeply damaging to the economy and community cohesion, while the former makes it an all but certain outcome as there wouldn’t time to deliver anything else, even if the conditions for re-opening talks weren’t designed as if to be rejected.

In truth, Brexit has become for the Conservatives what nationalisation is for the Corbynite Labour Party: an end in itself, to be achieved irrespective of cost and with any practical benefits as an incidental bonus. It is a revolutionary ideology unworthy of the Conservative Party, not least because it fails to consider the likely counter-productive political and social consequences of delivering Brexit in such harsh manner.

Over the last 20 years, the effective policy of the Party has gone from keeping open the option to join the Euro (1997/2001 manifestoes), through to leaving the EU without a deal. This is the measure of the shift in policy and the reason why it is now unattractive to many natural supporters of a pragmatic political party interested in pro-business policies and cautious about unnecessary radical change.

The source of this new-found enthusiasm for these grossly disruptive policies is not hard to pinpoint. While I accept that Boris Johnson himself is by instinct a fairly liberal Conservative – though these instincts are far too easily overridden by his ambition and cynical embrace of populism – he has surrounded himself both in cabinet and in his Number 10 staff by people drawn disproportionately from the right of the Party, presumably because of their willingness to endorse his Brexit policy. This not only reduces the quality and capacity of the government – how many, including Johnson himself, have previously failed in ministerial office? – but sends a clear signal that the Conservatives are not the broad church they have traditionally aspired to be.

In particular, the appointment of Dominic Cummings is an indication that good, stable government is not valued: he will inevitably cause conflict and chaos and destroy much more than he can create. His appointment is what a PM with a 150-majority who wants to fight a civil war would do, not one who needs every vote. Cummings might argue that it is better to undertake a revolution than to undergo one. I would argue it’s better not to have a revolution at all: they invariably end up eating their sponsors, as well as many others.

The suggestion yesterday that the PM could simply sit out the two weeks after losing a Vote of No Confidence, and bed-block in this manner to trigger a general election and so deliver Brexit by default – even if another government could be formed from within the existing House – is grotesque. It’s one of the most striking examples yet of how little this government values the conventions of politics that keep debate within sensible bounds and ensures wide buy-in to the legitimacy of the system. We ignore these conventions at our peril: once broken, they no longer protect anyone.

The third main reason I cannot actively support this government is its irresponsible attitude to fiscal prudence. The Cameron governments did great work in healing the economic damage caused by the excesses of Gordon Brown, in eliminating the real-terms budget deficit while preventing recession and in overseeing considerable growth in employment. These achievements are now likely to be undone by the uncontrolled promises made for additional spending or new tax cuts. There are certainly many valid candidates for increased spending but those decisions have to be taken sustainably (which again argues for a controlled Brexit).

Politically, these commitments completely undermine the Party’s arguments and actions of the last decade and are not only irresponsible in themselves but will inevitably give cover to Labour to make their own unfunded promises. Labour will no doubt also take the opportunity to claim (wrongly) that the reversal of policy also proves their assertion that the austerity programme was the result of an ideological desire to cut rather than a pragmatic need to sort the nation’s finances out. The largesse is both unconservative and un-Conservative.

The changes in the Conservative Party’s policies and attitudes have left me politically homeless. Labour under Corbyn remains a serious threat to the country, while I cannot support the Lib Dems when they reject the referendum result. I know I am not alone in my dilemma and there are others on the centre-right who feel much the same. Where our votes will go in the end, I can’t say: I suppose it will depend to a large extent on whether any party bothers to court us.

David Herdson

Conservative Party member (1995-2019)
Councillor, Bradford MDC (1999-2003)
Chairman, Shipley Conservative Association (2011-13)
Chairman, Wakefield District Conservative Association (2016-18)



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Why I’ve resigned from the Conservative Party

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

 

From longstanding PBer Richard Nabavi

After five decades of support for the Conservatives, I have now resigned as a party member. Naturally this hasn’t been an easy decision; it has been a pleasure working with my MP Nus Ghani, and before her Charles Hendry, and helping in a small way in various constituencies to achieve six years of sound Conservative-led government under David Cameron, even if the past two years have been increasingly difficult. I shall miss the opportunities to take part and to meet with senior figures in the party, which I’ve always found very interesting.

However, with the election as leader of someone who is, to put it charitably, deeply unserious, and with the descent of the party into what can only be described as a political death-cult untroubled by political and economic reality, obsessed with the arbitrary and unrealistic date of October 31st, and deliberately refusing to listen to multiple well-informed warnings about the dangers of crashing out of the EU in total chaos, I cannot remain as a member any longer.

The party is no longer recognisable as the pragmatic, business-friendly, economically-sound, reality-based party of government which I have supported for decades. It will justifiably get the electoral blame for the consequences of the disastrous course it has chosen, and will probably never be forgiven by younger voters.

The election of Boris Johnson as leader is irresponsible and unworthy in itself: many of those who voted for him are fully aware that he is unfit to be PM. But, worse than that, it is a symptom of a much deeper malaise in the party, one that goes to the very heart of what the Conservative Party should be about. It is a choice of denial as well as of desperation, showing that party members have lost interest in dealing with the world as it is, not as it they would like it to be.

If the Conservative Party no longer wishes to be a serious party of government, living in the real world and striving to act in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, what is the point of it?

I hope that, at some time in the future, the party will come back to its senses, as it did in 2005, and allow some future leader to drag it back into the reality of the 21st century. Unfortunately, it looks as though I will have a very long wait.

Richard Nabavi



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If there was a betting market on the first Tory MP defecting to the Brexit Party my money would be on Steve Baker

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

In today’s Sun on Sunday reports

Tory MPs such as Lucy Allan, the MP for Telford, have openly tweeted encouragement for the Brexit Party, and dozens of others say privately they will vote for Farage.

Some have discussed defecting.

One prominent Brexiteer said: “Maybe we should all just defect to the Brexit Party. Can you imagine the chaos.”

It was sent to members of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group. A source close to Farage confirmed: “Nigel is very smug at the moment and is 100 per cent sure that there is at least one high-profile defection in the pipeline with others likely to follow.”

Farage is also promising the 28 Tory MPs who remain opposed to May’s Brexit deal — a group known as the “Spartans” — that the Brexit Party will not contest their seats at the next election.

In 2014, Farage successfully persuaded two Conservative MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, to defect to Ukip.

If Shadsy does put a market on the first Tory MP defecting to the Brexit party I’d be looking to back Steve Baker.

At the start of the month Steve Baker publicly spoke about voting against the government in a vote of no confidence.

As the Spectator noted

In response, [Baker] stressed that ‘At this point I can foresee no circumstances, while as a Conservative MP, I vote against the government in a confidence motion.’

But then went on to add:

‘But we are approaching the point where the stakes are now so very high and so transcend party politics and what this country is about, and the fundamental British value that political power rests on consent, that I think these things are coming on to the table.’

To me if you’re willing to say that publicly then you’ve contemplated leaving the Tory party and for the Spartan wing of the ERG there’s only one party to defect to, that’s Farage’s new party. Gerard Batten’s turning UKIP into the political wing of the EDL has ensured there shouldn’t be any Tory MPs defecting to UKIP.

Now there’s the Carswell/Reckless precedent that when you betray the Tory party you trigger a by election but there is an easy get out for any future defectors. Given the the Parliamentary arithmetic and Mrs May’s attempts to pass her deal every vote is crucial it would be reckless for the Spartans to be out of Parliament for around two months fighting by elections.

There’s quite a few Leavers who would be delighted to see the Spartans leave the Tory party, the defections to the Brexit party would increase the average IQ of both parties.

TSE



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Ex-CON leader betting favourite, Javid, drops sharply amidst reports of plots to block him

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019


Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

A sign of the Tory Islamophobia crisis?

As can be seen from the betting price chart six months ago the Home Secretary. Sajid Javid, was 6the favourite to succeed TMay as CON leader and prime minister Since then he has seen a steady deterioration in his position in the betting and over the last couple of days he’s moved down from an 8% chance to just 5%.

Earlier in the week BuzzFeed was reporting that Tory members were posting anti Muslim comments on social media urging one and other to prevent Javid from becoming leader The report stated that about 52 members have now been suspended over anti Muslim posts. According to the report

“On Monday, BuzzFeed News presented Conservative HQ with a list of another 20 Facebook users who claim to be Tory members and have made Islamophobic comments on the platform.

The users all publicly stated that they are current party members, and either discussed how they intend to vote in a future Tory leadership election, or are members of a closed Facebook group which only allows confirmed party members to join.

It is understood that more than 50 Tory members have now been suspended over anti-Muslim posts, though the party refuses to say which members it has suspended, or how many.”

LAB supporters often complain that all the public attention seems to be on their party’s anti-semitism crisis with very little focus on the Tory problem with anti-Muslims. There is a difference. The LAB issue goes right to the heart of the party’s leadership while nobody is saying that Theresa May is in anyway sympathetic or involved.

Mike Smithson




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April 2019: month of chaos

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

A No Deal Brexit is now highly likely in March

Nothing has changed: words that might well form Theresa May’s epitaph. Unfortunately for her, unless something does, that epitaph will be needed sooner rather than later. With less than five months until the Brexit deadline, both the parliamentary maths and the European diplomacy remain resolutely irresoluble. Nothing has changed.

Some might argue that’s a favourable interpretation; that Jo Johnson’s resignation yesterday indicated the maths are getting worse for the PM but that wouldn’t be quite right. To some extent, these resignations ought to be baked into the figures. We don’t know exactly who’s going to resign, or when, but we do know that passions on Brexit run high and that it will be impossible for the government to satisfy all its ministers in whatever is agreed. Hence, some will walk. This is just the process playing itself out.

Unfortunately, what also hasn’t changed are the other irreconcilable aspects of Brexit. The EU and Ireland still demand an open border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland; the DUP demand no regulatory dealignment between NI and GB; Tory MPs demand the ability to diverge from the EU; the EU insists that its external Customs Union border must be consistent.

The problem here is that the four demands cannot all be met simultaneously but that for a deal to be able to be signed and ratified, the government needs the agreement of all those parties demanding them. Hence, unless something fundamental changes, it’s almost impossible to see how a deal can be done.

Hence the Gordian Knot attempts to solve the problem by changing the rules (or ignoring them); the most popular of which is the second referendum. Quite how this is supposed to come about when the government is understandably adamantly opposed to the idea isn’t clear. Nor is it obvious how a second vote resolves the problem when it’s all-but certain that public opinion would polarize away from any unhappy compromise and toward the extremes of Remain or No Deal. A second vote offers nothing that parliament cannot do now except provide a little more justification for a U-turn should Remain win.

However, the clock has practically run out on the time needed for a new referendum and certainly will have done so by the December summit – and even that might not be when a deal is either done or declared undoable. Article 50 could be extended to enable the vote (if the EU agrees) but there’s a more practical deadline of late May, when the European elections take place: elections Britain would be entitled to take part in if still a member. But it’s still all hypothetical as long as the Tories are in power: no referendum bill will be introduced.

Which means that the can can’t be kicked any further down the road: March 29 really is the deadline, deal or not – and the changes are very much not.

As Jo Johnson pointed out in his resignation statement, a No Deal Brexit would not be a piece of cake. The British government would neither be bureaucratically or logistically ready. In all probability, neither would the countries with which Britain shares its closest transport links.

    It’s entirely possible that the country could see its worst disruption since the Winter of Discontent or the Three Day Week – hardly an appetizing prospect.

That assumes that Theresa May makes it that far. With incoming fire from the DUP and from both wings of her own party (though oddly, not from the Labour front bench), she may not – though the red lines and the parliamentary maths won’t be any different for any alternative Tory PM. They would of course be different for Corbyn but that’s not going to happen unless May seriously errs in her relationship with the DUP.

Ultimately, some form of deal or deals will be done. Practical politics will demand it as the logjam of interests is swept aside by the force of public opinion being confronted with the reality of what No Deal looks like. These might be micro-deals to keep individual sectors running, based on mutual recognition; it might be a comprehensive one based on something like those sections of the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework already agreed. Whichever, the talks look highly likely to go down to the wire and beyond.

David Herdson



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Given current polls the Tories shouldn’t be spooked by Corbyn but they are

Friday, October 5th, 2018

The shockwaves of June 8th 2017 continue

The Speccies Isabel Hardman has an excellent piece under the heading “Why the Tories feel so spooked by Jeremy Corbyn”. She argues that some of the messages from the LAB leader have the potential to resonate. She goes on:

I understand that the reason Labour has decided to talk so much about the way capitalism has left certain voters behind is that recent polling carried out by the party found it had strong resonance with groups of voters who feel pessimistic about the future of the country…”

Maybe this is a reflection of how LAB’s manifesto at GE2017 appeared to be so successful in bringing in new voters and driving turnout. The question surely is whether Corbyn’s LAB is able to do the same again on a more successful scale that will enable it to make the gains to get closer to Tory seat totals.

The signs from current polling is that the opposition party is struggling to hold onto to its GE2017 support and is not opening up new groups of voters. Labour is also floundering in Scotland where it was once so dominant. It is also very hard to see which new groups of voters the red team will be able to attract because at the moment they are shedding votes from last time

    The only problem here is that after GE2017 Tory trust in the polls remains badly shaken and that is going to linger right until the next election. So the Tories are going to be extra guarded and not really believe anything until the exit poll at the next election comes out.

But there is a possible benefit – Labour complacency. So many Corbynistas appear to believe that because there was such turnaround in 2017 then the same will happen again. The party exceeded expectations, many of them believe, because the broadcasting rules last meant that Labour was presented more fairly and they can look to that once again.

Maybe it will but maybe it won’t. We know a lot more about Corbyn now and his ratings have nose-dived.

My long-term betting prediction is that the spread betting markets next time will overstate Labour’s eventual seat total.

Mike Smithson




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The Conservatives must join and win the battle of ideas

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

The Thatcherite consensus is dead; the case for choice, freedom and opportunity is not

In full, the United States’ Declaration of Independence is not a very good document. It bears the classic mark of the composite motion, being too long overall and unbalanced in its structure: very nearly half of it is a list of twenty-seven grievances. Fortunately, for history and for the revolutionaries, it was drafted by someone who knew not only how to turn a phrase but where to place it. There may have been more than a smidgen of dishonesty in Jefferson’s assertion (abridged here) that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, with the unalienable rights of life and liberty; that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; and that it is the Right of the People to abolish unjust forms of government”, but that’s not the point. The point is that he defined what the war was about in words that were inspiring, simple and righteous, and did so at the outset of the document, before people lost interest amid the detail. It is the masterpiece in political framing.

Few political battles have such high stakes but whether physical or electoral, framing the question on which the contest is fought remains critical. In Britain, at the moment, it is Labour who is setting the terms and as such, are gaining for themselves a huge advantage.

The reasons why Labour is evangelising their beliefs and the Conservatives are not aren’t hard to pin down. For one thing, Labour has much more space and time in which to do so. The government is spending a huge amount of time and effort on a policy it doesn’t really want and probably can’t deliver without some – perhaps a great deal of – damage to the country. Domestic politics, where the battle-lines are being drawn, is taking a back-seat. In effect, the Conservatives are still fighting the last war, to a large extent among themselves.

Secondly, there has probably never been as big a gap between the managers at the top of the Tories and the activists at the top of Labour. Governments always tend to grey as their time in office increases, as competent administrators rise and firebrand populists who made their name in opposition fall, but May and Hammond are particularly lacking in any sense of ideological fervour.

By contrast, Corbyn has spent his entire life as an activist: decrying injustices or fighting for (or more often against) some cause or another. These were frequently fringe or unpopular causes – some of his pet topics still are – but allied to the more politically savvy McDonnell, Labour has now put together a superficially plausible critique of society and the economy that appeals to a lot of people because many of the problems he campaigns on, from housing to inequality to funding of public services, have an element of truth in them that resonates with those struggling. And Labour’s the only party proposing change.

And the third part is that the Conservatives have got out of the habit of making the ideological case. Their consensus – the Thatcherite consensus, seemingly cemented in place by New Labour’s conversion to its basic structure – was in place for so long that they have never needed to argue for why the mechanisms that underpin the Conservative model of the economy, public services and society are best. It’s a complacency that can no longer be taken for granted: that consensus is dead.

It wasn’t always like that. In the 1980s, it would be a rare interview when the likes of Thatcher, Tebbit or Lawson wasn’t advocating policy just because it was (in their eyes) effective but also because it was an ethically good thing for people to, for example, own their own homes, keep more of their income or own shares in the nation’s great industries: it gave them both a greater stake in the country and a return on its success. Choice and markets were good because competition drives up choice and quality, and drives down prices (assuming the market works effectively).

In reality, forty years of experience have produced some notorious examples where that model has failed – though usually in implementation rather than concept – and that’s what’s given the Labour left both the opportunity and the confidence to fight back. But without a Conservative leadership ready and able to take to the field on behalf of the moral and practical benefits of individual choice, regulated competition and a smaller state, the argument is in danger of going by default.

    If the Conservatives want to be reasonably confident about their chances in 2022, they need to do a lot more than deliver a satisfactory Brexit and manage the economy effectively. They need to inspire, as Corbyn has inspired.

They need to reconnect with people – particularly the 25-49 age group – whose aspiration and ambition to get on in live is being blocked by structures that the government has the power to reform. Those people need to be able to buy their own house and put down roots; they need to know that their investment in education is worth-while; they need to believe that the thrifty will not be disadvantaged in their old age as against the reckless.

To do that, Theresa May or her successor needs to frame the Conservatives’ own vision of what a fair and successful Britain looks like, what’s preventing that at the moment, how those obstacles will be removed, and – above all – why that journey is worth joining. The Tory top brass might regard those truths to be self-evident but, like Jefferson did, they need to spell them out all the same.

David Herdson



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Confessions of a door to door fireplace salesman

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

The former fireplace salesman becomes another Tory making plans to oust Mrs May.

Today’s Mail on Sunday reports that

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has threatened to sweep Theresa May from power in a bitter Cabinet row over military cuts.

Furious Mr Williamson warned the Prime Minister that if she did not commit an extra £20 billion to the Ministry of Defence then Tory MPs would vote down the next Budget – effectively passing a motion of no confidence in her.

‘I made her – and I can break her,’ Mr Williamson is said to have boasted to service chiefs. 

The furore, described by one Williamson ally as a ‘dogfight at the heart of Government’, erupted after Mrs May announced a £20 billion-a-year boost to NHS spending last week. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond then declared there was no money left for similar boosts to defence, housing or schools spending.

When Mr Williamson said he needed his own £20 billion – a minimum of £2 billion a year extra for the next decade – to avoid damaging defence cuts, Mrs May questioned whether the UK had to be a ‘tier one’ military power.

Mr Williamson hit back that after Brexit it would be even more important for the UK to ‘sit at the top table’ internationally.

Last night a formidable array of political and military figures were lining up behind Mr Williamson in his power struggle with No 10.

They were led by the chairman of the powerful Commons defence committee, who warned that Mrs May could be ‘at political risk’ if she did not ‘do the right thing’ by increasing defence spending.

And the former head of the British Army, General the Lord Dannatt, told The Mail on Sunday that he feared Mr Williamson could be forced to resign over the issue.

This newspaper understands that in a recent meeting, Mr Williamson reassured senior members of the Armed Forces that he was fighting for more funds…

…Up to 20 Tory MPs are threatening to rebel if the Treasury and No 10 cannot find more money for defence. A powerful delegation formed of Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, along with chairmen of the defence and foreign affairs committees, are planning to meet Mrs May in the coming weeks to urge her to give a generous settlement to the MoD.

One of the few things that seems to unite the current Tory party is the contempt in which Gavin Williamson is held in by pretty much everyone. One Tory said in response to this story “Williamson’s intemperate and frankly bizarre media posturing shows just how unsuited he is for any high office whatsoever. He’s over-promoted and thinks stamping his foot stops him from being found out. It doesn’t.”

So ordinarily I’d expect Mrs May to see off a rebellion from Gavin Williamson, where Mrs May will struggle is that a not inconsiderable number of Tories will find it unpalatable if the UK ceases to be a Tier One Nation on defence.

The Sunday Times says it is entirely possible within the next decade that UK moves from being Europe’s top military power to being the third most important military power after Germany and France as cuts are enacted to deliver the NHS Brexit ‘dividend’. Whilst we cut the Germans and French plan to increase defence spending.

After the Thatcher/Major defence cuts* and the disgraced Liam Fox’s botched Strategic Defence Review you’d have thought Tories would be ok with further defence cuts but this time it might be very different. Indeed a decent opposition could supplant the Tories as the party of defence, but Jeremy Corbyn, with his rich backstory, won’t be able to do that.

For those Tories with leadership ambitions making a stand on defence cuts will play well with Tory members. Mrs May needs as many allies as possible she seems keen to keep on alienating as many people as possible, this is not a viable long term strategy for her, losing her campaign manager will not be a good look.

TSE

*The 1990s defence cuts following the end of the Cold War were described as a ‘Peace Dividend’, the government offering dividends does not have an auspicious history.