Archive for the 'Tories' Category

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Lady Chope and their daughter must be so proud of Sir Christopher

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Is TMay having second thoughts about giving him a knighthood?

One thing’s for sure – the MP for Christchurch who was knighted in the last New Year’s Honours, is going to get a lot more media coverage following his blocking on Friday of the private member’s bill to stop what’s known as upskirting.

It is being argued on his behalf that this was more than about the issue itself but that he, and fellow CON MP, Phillip Davies took their action on Friday because they hate private members’s bills and the two have a long record of blocking such moves.

    It is even being said that he didn’t know what up-skirting was.

That maybe the case but that makes the optics look even worse for Chope and his party. Those CON MPs who were WhatsApping their concerns about in the immediate aftermath were absolutely right. This is bad news for the party and is one of those things that will be remembered.

Ministers have, quite rightly from a political standpoint, made clear that legislation will be brought in and that will mitigate to a certain extent some of the damage. No doubt those debates will see one Tory MP after another dissociating themselves from Chope.

As for the 71 year old Christchurch MP this looks set to be the on thing he’ll be most remembered for. More fool him.

Mike Smithson




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This interview is not of someone who will ever be Tory leader or Prime Minister, let alone the next one.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

For quite some time I’ve been advising laying Gavin Williamson for next PM and Tory leader, somebody once compared him to an incontinent puppy and his media performances seem to confirm that, wherever he goes there’s a great steaming pile of excrement not far behind.

The next Tory leader needs to have good media skills so you know you’ve got major problems when you’re getting savaged by a dead sheep Richard Madeley. All of this stems from Williamson’s non (Prime) Ministerial advice to Russia that they should ‘go away and shut up.’ Willamson’s not the heir to Theresa May, he’s the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots.

Gavin Williamson’s performance today has to be worst performance on TV since William Shatner covered ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart,’ that’s how bad it was.

TSE

 



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On another planet

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Rebel Tory MPs have lost a sense of reality if they think an election will improve their position

Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. In one sense that’s just a truism: that which happens is, by definition, within the bounds of the possible. However, this week’s shown up again that Bismarck’s aphorism is only true to a degree. There are plenty of politicians who are not interested in the possible but only in their own priorities. And there are others who are sufficiently deluded as to believe that their own priorities are possible, against all available evidence.

Dominic Cummings is not a politician, though he is hugely political. The driving force behind the Leave campaign is not a happy man at how the government is going about delivering it – or, as he sees it, not delivering it. In a blog post earlier this week, he made a lot of criticisms of ministers, Tory Leave MPs, civil servants and others about how they have gone about Brexit. Much of that criticism is fair enough but the mistake he makes is far too frequently to ignore the world outside Whitehall. He is not alone in this error.

The truth is that while Theresa May and her team have struggled both to formulate a policy and to implement it, this is only in part down to establishment resistance, poor advice, poor strategy and the other causes Cummings blames. It’s also down to two much simpler things.

Firstly, the government still wants to have its cake and eat it – or at least, it does officially. In truth, it must know that it cannot leave and retain most of the benefits with little of the cost or responsibilities but that doesn’t square with, on the one hand, the commitment to leave, and on the other, the desire not to significantly impede trade and other links.

And secondly, numbers. Corbyn might be offering the Tories a few free passes on Brexit that his MPs would rather he didn’t but even he has his limits. May is clearly being pulled in all directions in part because she hasn’t got a firm grip herself but mainly because she’s constantly having to assuage her own factions in order to ensure she retains a majority.

Which is presumably why the notion of another early election has again reared its head this week, with claims that Tory MPs are preparing for a snap poll this autumn. It may be that this talk is simply a ruse to enable MPs to be reselected for their constituencies as early as possible (if so, this will of itself work against the Boundary Review being approved – MPs with an assured seat will be less likely to destroy it than those who only assume that they’ll be readopted). However, it may be that the talk is in earnest.

The suggestion from the anonymous MP in the Metro was that an election would somehow clear the air. This is the point at which the art of the possible has become the art of delusion.

    Any strongly Leave Tory MP who thinks that their cause would be aided by an early election is on another planet.

In fact, it’s not clear whether the MP even understands the process. He (let’s assume it’s a man) says that a Vote of No Confidence in the PM would probably lead to a general election. That might be true but it’s convoluted. For a start, a VoNC in the PM within parliament wouldn’t carry any constitutional weight; it’s only such a vote in the government that’d matter. Perhaps he’s lazily using one as shorthand for the other. If so, the government would only lose if the DUP withdraw support or if at least five Tories vote against their own party – something which would immediately result in their expulsion, assuming that the government wanted to win.

In this scenario, the Conservatives would be in obvious chaos, without a meaningful Brexit policy (and unable to implement one if it did exist), losing the support of its own MPs or its ally, and suffering serial defeats in the Commons. How could it credibly run an election campaign? What would it be campaigning for? How could it say what it would do? In such a state of paralysis, it would be a sitting duck for Corbyn’s energetic campaign assertions.

On the other hand, if he meant that the Tory MPs would No Confidence the PM, then he’s talking about a party leadership election. While that could in theory be carried out quickly – as those that resulted in the election of Howard and May were – that would almost certainly not be the case if the Tories were deeply divided. We’d be looking at maybe six weeks of a Tory leadership campaign, followed by another five or six weeks of a general election, if the new PM felt, as the MP presumably he would, that a national mandate was necessary.

While under this scenario, the Tories wouldn’t necessarily be heading for the certain defeat that they would if they lost control of the Commons, it’d still take around three months out of what is already a tight negotiating timetable, meaning that the only options then would be to take the deal on offer from the EU (in which case, why bother with the elections), to reject the deal (which would be an exceptionally high-risk and potentially high-cost option), or to request an extension. These options would also be the only ones open to a Labour government, should one form in the late autumn.

So we return to what’s possible. An election this year would very likely lead to a Labour government and/or a Soft Brexit on the EU’s terms – and just perhaps, no real Brexit at all. You’d expect Tory MPs to do everything possible to avoid that outcome. Given that together with the DUP they have a majority, that shouldn’t be too difficult. What isn’t possible is to change things the other way: there simply neither the time nor the opportunity to shift the parliamentary maths towards Leave. Nor is there time to do as Cummings suggests, and ‘rewire’ the mechanics of power in Whitehall, even before considering whether such a revolution would be a wise idea in the middle of the most complex negotiation in generations.

All in all, I think that the 7/1 offered against an election this year (Betfred) is short by at least a factor of three. There is neither the need nor the desire for yet another national poll and it’d be an act of both desperation and foolishness were Tory MPs to trigger one – and while some might be desperate, they’re not foolish.

David Herdson



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A 100/1 tip to be Theresa May’s successor

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

My twin strategies when it comes to betting on Theresa May’s successor is to lay the favourite(s) and back long odds (cabinet) ministers who appear to have potential. The latter has proven a very successful approach with the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid who were tipped and backed at odds of 100/1 and 60/1.

So the latest addition to the latter list is Matt Hancock, who is currently 100/1 with Ladbrokes to succeed Mrs May. He’s proving to be a very competent minister, as exemplified by the decision this week to limit the stakes of FOBTs to £2.

He’s also certain to receive a good press because of his opposition to Leveson 2 which could have bankrupted newspapers with numerous vexatious complaints from people with politically driven agendas.

The other advantage that Hancock has is he is close to the Cameroon wing of the party who still have a substantial number in Parliament. Before becoming an MP Hancock served as George Osborne’s Chief of Staff so he knows how to work the party and its MPs.

The Cameroon wing of the party are also looking for a standard bearer since David Cameron stood down and Hancock’s views are very much in line with the only man to have won the Tories a majority in the last 26 years and counting.

Like Hunt and Javid, Hancock has all the potential to be a great trading bet, if the Tories are looking to jump a generation Hancock also fits that bill as he is yet to turn 40. A half competent cabinet minister with youth on their side really shouldn’t be a 100/1 chance to succeed Mrs May.

TSE

PS – Another Matt Hancock tip is the 20/1 Ladbrokes are offering on him to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.



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The Conservatives must again make the case for private enterprise, profit, choice and competition

Saturday, May 19th, 2018


1929 Conservative poster

The risk is an unwitting drift into a new left-of-centre consensus

Some revolutions are begun by small steps; others are revealed by them. Of itself, Chris Grayling’s announcement this week that the government was bringing the East Coast Mainline back into public ownership, was nothing unusual. It is, after all, the third time in the 20 years of the privatised era that the East Coast franchise has failed. Furthermore, for the government, the return to state-run operations is a purely pragmatic consequence of there not being another operator ready to take over, and of not wanting to hand an extension to a company which has already failed to deliver. So far, so logical.

What’s not a natural consequence of the Virgin-Stagecoach failure is the decision to change the delivery model from franchising to a partnership. That represents not just a substantial change in transport policy but a retreat from the principle that a competitive private sector – where such a market is possible – is the best means of assuring service delivery. Once a partnership is in place, it is likely to be there for the long run, without the need to worry about retendering for the franchise.

I have to say, I’m sceptical about such a model. Public-private partnerships don’t have a happy history. At least with franchising, the companies take on both the risk and the potential rewards. Too often with things like PFI contracts, the state ends up with a very poor deal.

That, however, is not the point politically. What was perhaps most significant was how quietly the change was made; how little defence there was of the previous system – and, consequently, how easily the whole system could be transformed. After all, once you have an organisation running the infrastructure as well as the trains, you’re well on the way to breaking up the system within which even quasi-competition can take place. Labour – with its commitment to return the railways (and, indeed, a good deal else) to full public ownership and operation – must be laughing.

And this is where the quiet revolution is occurring. The era of retreating state control has been over for at least a decade: the financial crisis not only brought some banks directly into partial or full state ownership but also undermined faith in the entire capitalist system. Ever since, advocates of a well-regulated market economy have been on the defensive. In Britain, that took a little time to work through: Labour was initially still wary of advocating what might be seen as post-war socialism, despite its instincts. Not now. Corbyn and McDonnell have never been shy of state ownership and are no doubt exultant at both the government’s change of tack and the polling on the issue.

An article in the New Statesman this week quoted a Populus poll from last year which showed that more than three-quarters of the public backed state ownership of water, electricity, gas and railways. That’s no doubt partially a consequence of some obvious problems in each of those markets.

Water, for one, doesn’t even really have a market and the argument for a private monopoly as against a public one is marginal and relies on the profit motive driving medium-term efficiency, and on private companies not being as subject to political whims as a state-run would be. Both arguments are contestable.

However, even if you can make a case that regulation can provide either a direct or indirect market for each of the services, the problem goes deeper and is that of a growing scepticism of profit as the legitimate return of successful enterprise – again, perhaps driven by a sense of injustice against cases where directors have paid themselves large sums out of businesses that have then gone bust – Carillion providing a prime recent example. Those cases might be high-profile but they’re not representative.

What all this amounts to is an assault, not even by stealth, on the post-1979 (and in particular, post-1987) economic settlement; one which the Conservatives are not meeting. Unless they do so, they will lose the philosophical argument by default. It shouldn’t be difficult but perhaps that consensus’ ascendency has lulled the party’s leadership into a sense of complacency. Or perhaps they just don’t particularly do philosophical argument, even when in government and doing so is setting the foundations for the policies being implemented.

Unless they do, though, they’ll find public support weak and susceptible to the sort of collapse seen at the last general election, when Corbyn’s simple solutions and slogans sound sufficiently attractive to win voters.

To prevent that, ministers need to make a sustained effort to explain why markets – when regulated effectively, a key caveat – tend to produce more choice and innovation, and better service. Those who remember the nationalised industries may well remember the kind of customer service that went with them. But fewer and fewer do remember those days, thirty years and more ago now. The Conservatives cannot assume that the public buy into their preferred model (to the extent that it still is), nor that they adequately understand all the steps that link from the policy to the customer outcome. They have four years to turn that round.

David Herdson



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If punters are right we could have passed peak Jacob Rees-Mogg

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Ever since the local elections last week there has been talk of moving on from “Peak Corbyn”. Maybe? But what about “Peak Rees-Mogg?

If punters are correct and the betting movements are indicative there is less certainty about they he will succeed Mrs May as next prime minister.

The chart above shows the last 5 months of market moves on the Betfair Theresa May successor as prime minister market. As can be seen Rees-Mogg has been the favourite for several months but now that has started to decline and he is level pegging with Jeremy Corbyn.

I’ve never been one of the “betting markets being the best predictor” school. What I think they do is give an indication of sentiment that is out there and how those who risk their money on predicting political outcomes are using their cash.

The first thing that Rees-Mogg needs is for Mrs May to step down and the fact that we have not seen any no confidence move in the Prime Minister since she lost the party its majority suggests that this might not be as easy as many think. Firstly 48 CON MPs have to send in formal letters asking for such a vote and then, perhaps, more than half of the 300+ of them have to actually fill in their ballot papers ticking the no confidence box.

Then Mr. Rees-Mogg would have to succeed in the leadership vote amongst MPs to be one of the final two whose names go to a members’ ballot. A problem here is that he has never been a minister.

Mike Smithson




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Building the barricade. How the Conservatives are minimising their chances of picking up former Remain voters

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

What are government policies for? If you were to ask the average member of the public, they would probably tell you that they were to set the best way possible for running the country on the particular topic at hand.

Of course, that hasn’t always or even usually been the main point of government policies. In most countries in most eras, government policies have mostly been designed to benefit the interests of an elite. Kings rarely thought about the impact of their policies on the peasantry. Dictatorships design policies to ensure their control of the reins of power. The masses might get a few crumbs thrown from the table in order to keep them quiet.

The change came gradually in Britain and many would argue that the process is far from complete. But for decades politicians of all stripes have put their proposed policies to the British public on the basis that they were for the common good. “For the many not the few”. “Forward together”. Acting in the public interest has become almost synonymous with what the public thinks governments should be trying to do.

All of which makes the government’s approach to Brexit striking. The government is pursuing Brexit as something whose merits are incapable of being debated: vox populi, vox dei. This much has been implicit for 18 months and you can argue that the referendum result requires it, that the public has determined that this is in the public interest. It begs the question, however, about the form of Brexit that should be sought. It is on this particular rock that the government is foundering.

Because Brexit by itself isn’t a policy but an absence of a policy. Britain is not to remain part of the EU – fine. But what positively is it going to do? To decide this requires the weighing of trade-offs between the economic impact of different policies, the ability to control immigration, the ability for Britain to make its own laws and so on. For that weighing process to be carried out effectively, the government needs to understand the consequences.

What we learned this week is that the government has no interest in formulating a Brexit policy in the public interest. Its private economic impact assessments were leaked to the press; awkwardly, they showed Britain worse off on all scenarios. They showed differential economic harm depending on the ultimate relationship reached with the EU, with the closer the links, the less harm.

Two government ministers reacted very differently. Steve Baker from the despatch box told Parliament that all government economic forecasts were always wrong and claimed that there was a plot to undermine Britain’s exit from the EU. On a separate occasion at the despatch box, egged on by Jacob Rees-Mogg, he spread fears that it was all a civil service plot to ensure Britain remained in the Customs Union.

Phillip Lee, by contrast, said on Twitter: “The next phase of Brexit has to be all about the evidence. We can’t just dismiss this and move on. If there is evidence to the contrary, we need to see and consider that too… It’s time for evidence, not dogma, to show the way. We must act for our country’s best interests, not ideology & populism, or history will judge us harshly.” Mr Baker’s assault on inconvenient evidence and aspersions on the integrity of the civil service have passed without challenge from his superiors. The government disciplined Mr Lee. Dogma, not evidence, will show the way.

It’s one thing to doubt whether the impact assessment correctly weighed the different elements that go together to make an economic forecast. It’s another thing entirely to treat all economic forecasts as toilet paper. A confident government would simply have acknowledged the assessment, paid tribute to the professionalism of the civil service, noted that the matter could be and was viewed differently by others, that the economics were not the only consideration and that the government was weighing all of the evidence in the round in forming its policy.

It’s a telling story about a wretched government. Many commentators have noted that the economic impact assessments will change no one’s minds. They’re right. No one is going to change their view of the merits of the idea of Brexit either way on the basis of a prediction of a difference in 5% of GDP over 10 years. Those who want to believe will believe, those who don’t want to believe, won’t.

That misses, however, a very different effect. At some point in the future – probably the next election – the Conservatives are going to want to present themselves as a party who governs in the public interest. When Brexit is in the rear view mirror, the Conservatives cannot count on keeping their Leave coalition together. Many voters might pocket that and move on to the next priority, and there is no assurance that the Conservatives will be the party that is best placed to address that. So the Conservatives will need to find a way of bringing former Remain supporters on board. But the Conservatives are making it as hard as possible for many former Remain voters even to consider them.

Throughout the Brexit process, the Conservatives have been building a barricade between themselves and Remain voters. The denigration of “citizens of nowhere”, the use of EU citizens as bargaining counters, the complicity with the language of the tabloids when they attacked the judiciary as enemies of the people and Remain supporters as saboteurs – the Conservatives have gone out of their way to alienate a set of voters who they evidently but unaccountably regard as eminently dispensable.

By drawing up Brexit policy based on dogma rather than evidence, the Conservatives are building their barricade against Remain voters ever higher. Why should Remain voters ever trust the Conservatives with their vote when they have shown such complete disregard for the public interest on the most important policy decision of the age? Why should any voters trust any prediction from the Conservatives (whether that their policies will result in national prosperity or that Labour’s policies will result in national disaster) when they have shown themselves to be contemptuous of predictions?

The Conservatives were inevitably going to take ownership of Brexit when the referendum result came in. There was nothing inevitable about them putting on the mantle of conspiracy theorists denying evidence and blindly following dogma in pursuit of faith-based policy-making. It’s an open question which is going to prove more damaging in the long term.

Alastair Meeks




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R.I.P. The Conservative Party 1834-2018 if the Brexiteer dream is realised

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

It’s either a/the customs union or remaining Prime Minister Mrs May.

Until Mrs May voluntarily stands down or is forced out we’re going to be subjected to stories like this. What is interesting is that it is the more fundamentalist Brexiteers that are revolting.

I suspect Mrs May will propose a much more pragmatic deal than these Brexiteers are prepared to accept, so taking the evens that Ladbrokes are offering a vote of confidence on Mrs May being triggered in 2018 might be attractive.

If Mrs May does agree to a customs union deal with the EU then The Sunday Times article says Liam Fox is prepared to resign, Paddy Power are offering 10/1 on the disgraced former Defence Secretary having to resign again.

But I suspect this is all posturing, if the Brexiteers had the numbers, they would have already made their move against the Prime Minister,  The Sunday Times say

Under the “Three Brexiteers” plan, senior jobs would be found for Priti Patel, the former cabinet minister, and Dominic Raab, the housing minister overlooked for promotion by May in her January reshuffle.

The plotters fear that a failure to pre-agree a plan would lead to a “free for all” in which up to seven Brexiteers would fight it out to take on home secretary Amber Rudd, defence secretary Gavin Williamson and health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the other frontrunners.

Penny Mordaunt, the new international development secretary and Brexiteer, has told colleagues that she has had “leadership training”.

Johnson’s allies believe he would have to win support from non-Eurosceptics to secure the leadership and have encouraged him to make overtures to Rudd, with a view to making her Britain’s first female chancellor.

Let us assume the Brexiteer dream is realised, I suspect they won’t have the votes in The Commons to pass any Brexit related and non Brexit related legislation with such a dream team.

That’s before we consider the point  just how unpopular the three Brexiteer government would be. That the government would be fronted by some of the most loathed and hated politicians in the country, with major roles earmarked for the architect of Universal Credit, a minister who recently had to resign in disgrace, and a backbench MP who can be characterised as having pre-Plantagenet conservative views.

When the Tory Party starts obsessing about the EU, it often resembles a monkey house with only laxatives for food, Jeremy Corbyn might as well start measuring the curtains for Number 10 if the Tory Brexiteer dream is realised.

TSE