Archive for the 'Tories' Category


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.




Mrs May’s weird plot to make Gavin Williamson her successor is likely to fail

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Mrs May is annoying far too many people in the party & that will cause her and her preferred successor problems in the future

Trying to understand Mrs May’s recent reshuffle has been a challenge, but over the weekend a few people suggested it was all part of a weird plot to make Gavin Williamson Tory leader, Iain Martin says

Theresa May’s reshuffle was rubbish for a reason it seems. In the days that followed this week’s half-hearted reconstruction of the government, MPs, ministers and aides tried to make sense of what the Prime Minister and her closest supporters thought they were doing when they kept changes to a minimum. An astonishing picture is emerging as various factions across the Tory parliamentary party compare notes.

Contrary to expectation, the party’s “young talents” – such as Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab – were deliberately not fast-tracked into the cabinet. Others were sidelined, stalled or given “hospital pass” postings. Why? So that they would not have any cabinet experience this year, deliberately handicapping them if they want to run for the leadership later this year or next.

The Mayite candidate when that contest eventually comes thus has a head start and is already in the cabinet. That is the defence secretary Gavin Williamson so vigorously promoted as the future of a grittier “Nottingham not Notting Hill” Conservatism, by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff. Timothy still has a great influence on May, who has long relied on his political skills.

What is in it for May? A cabinet minister says that if her supporters prevail then she gets to stay a good bit longer than anticipated beyond 2019, supposedly redeeming her  legacy and earning a better place in history. Or if she falls early, via an emergency, Williamson is well-placed and those other youngsters outside the cabinet are left at a disadvantage. That cabinet minister thinks there will be hell to pay as more MPs realise what is going on, but we’ll see.

The Sunday Times has one minister saying ‘Damian Hinds was promoted to the post of education secretary because “he is Gavin Barwell’s best mate”. Barwell is May’s chief of staff.’  Another ‘minister who had been expecting a promotion told friends he had complained to the chief whip and was told: “Sorry, there are other agendas at work here.”’

So we have a lot of annoyed and frustrated Tory MPs and ministers, it appears that Mrs May’s government is more of chumocracy than David Cameron’s government ever was and that will lead to retribution for Mrs May and the likes of Williamson & Hinds. The Sunday Times also speculates these actions might lead to a leadership challenge against Mrs May.

If Mrs May stays for at least another two years we probably will see at least one more reshuffle, probably in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU in March 2019. If she attempts another reshuffle like this one, she should be facing a leadership contest, you simply cannot annoy your MPs and ministers like this all in the attempt to game the next leadership race.

In the next Tory leadership contest both Gavin Williamson and Damian Hinds could be recipients of a backlash from Tory MPs for Mrs May’s actions. In the next PM/Tory leader markets I’ve been laying Gavin Williamson for quite some time, this week’s events seem to confirm the wisdom of that, his very rapid (over)promotion to Defence Secretary is seen as even more of a mistake by the week.


P.S. – Earlier on this week Michael Gove said the next Tory leadership contest final two could be between Williamson & Hinds, the interesting aspect of this is that both are Remainers. Anyone who sees the next Tory leadership contest exclusively through the prism of Remain vs Leave or think being a Remainer will be a disadvantage are making a mistake. The next Tory leadership contest will be viewed through the prism of who is best placed to win the next general election.


Toby Young quits so helping TMay by taking the attention away from her bungled reshuffle

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

You can’t plead youthful indiscretion for things in your late 40s

It was inevitable, I suppose, after all the weekend hiatus that Toby Young was not going to be able to survive in his new role on the board of the new University regulator.

It is an OK defence to plead youthful indiscretion for things that you did in your youth. But Mr Young was in his late 40s when his more offensive tweets were published.

As well as the misogyny and homophobia that they contained the ones that I think we’re most damaging were his caustic observations about working class students at Oxford*.

The danger for the government now is that ministers were apparently not ready to do anything about them but it has been left to Young himself to quit.

I don’t think that this morning’s news is the end of the matter. This will be used by CON opponents in the same way that the the Bullingdon club connection was used against Cameron and others.

*Correction. It has been pointed out Young’s observations on working class students had been made in an article he’d written 30 years ago and had been highlighted by the Tweet furore.

Mike Smithson


New academic research shows the wide differences between CON members and those who join other parties

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Tory membership is older and more male biased

Well over half of CON members want hanging restored


CON members want a tough line on immigration post-Brexit

A new and comprehensive academic from Queen Mary, University of Lonodn, shows very sharp differences between CON members and those who belong to LAB/LD/SNP.

This probably gives us a clearer idea of the make-up and views of CON party members – those who are likely to make the final choice for TMay’s successor when she steps down as CON leader. The charts above are just a selection. The full report can be found here

Over 4117 members of the four parties in the study were surveyed a couple of weeks after the 2017 general election, 1734 of whom were also surveyed just after the 2015 general election. The publication is from the ESRC-funded Party Members Project, which is a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London and The University of Sussex. The researchers are Professor Tim Bale (Queen Mary), Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex), and Dr Monica Poletti (Queen Mary).

Mike Smithson


Theresa May is set to conduct a major reshuffle in January, but will she end up causing even more problems for herself?

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Five more malcontents on the backbenches might be a mistake.

Both The Sunday Times and The Sun on Sunday have stories about Mrs May planning to conduct an extensive reshuffle in January.

This is quite a bold move by Mrs May, in December she effectively fired her oldest friend in politics, in January she’s on course to fire her campaign manager from her leadership campaign, although Lord Adonis may have saved Grayling from the chop.

Speaking about that leadership contest, she’s might be axing Andrea Leadsom which again maybe a mistake.

With the forthcoming Brexit votes and the precarious majority thanks to the DUP Mrs May has, adding five further malcontents onto the backbenches could imperil those votes even before we consider the problems that Craig Oliver has identified. Mrs Leadsom might see this as casus belli to launch a leadership challenge.

Another troublesome member might be Boris Johnson, The Sunday Times say

Chancellor Philip Hammond is safe in his post, but senior May aides want to persuade Boris Johnson to take a souped-up Brexit delivery job, probably based in the business department, after a turbulent time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Johnson’s allies say he would regard that as a demotion and would fight it.

May was warned by her former chief whip, Gavin Williamson, not to hold a reshuffle before the local elections in May.

But Julian Smith, the new chief whip, has sided with Gavin Barwell, May’s chief of staff, to convince the prime minister that party management will be more difficult if she does not beef up her top team and promote younger MPs.

For those betting  on Jeremy Hunt as Theresa May’s successor there’s good news.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is tipped to take over the Cabinet Office role vacated when May’s closest cabinet ally Damian Green was forced out before Christmas, but the prime minister is not expected to give Hunt the title of first secretary of state.

One ally said: “Jeremy is a peacemaker and a negotiator, and that’s what’s needed to deal with the rest of the cabinet and the devolved administrations.”

But the stories do have a bit of a contradiction, The Sunday Times say Greg Clark is going to get sacked, whilst The Sun on Sunday says Greg Clark is tipped for a big promotion.

Of those tipped to join the cabinet are Brandon Lewis, Damian Hinds, and Dominic Raab, I’d be delighted with the latter’s promotion, having backed him to be Theresa May’s successor.



Three tips on who might be Theresa May’s successor

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

A few days before Christmas I had lunch with a friend who has followed the Tory party for decades and knows it quite well. Inevitability the conversation turned on who might be Mrs May’s successor, their observations had a quite the impact and led to an update to my betting portfolio.

My friend and I are of the consensus that if Mrs May survives into 2020 then her successor is likely to be someone who is currently not in the cabinet but if she falls well before then her successor might be three people in the cabinet that aren’t often discussed.

Tip 1 – Andrea Leadsom – The tallest dwarf left standing

I’ve been quite dismissive about Mother Superior Leadsom but then I realised the logic on backing her is quite sound, even if it might make Tories like myself cry like a disgraced televangelist if she becomes Tory leader and PM.

Simply Mrs Leadsom might be the last one standing from the Leave/Right wing/Divergers faction of the cabinet because of the flaws of the other candidates.

Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary has been seen by many as a failed audition for the top job, his reputation has been diminishing from the 30th of June 2016, when it was a case of Borisus interruptus in the race to suceed David Cameron.

His tenure as Foreign Secretary is littered with mistakes from making an intervention, seen by many as an attempt to force Mrs May’s hand on Brexit on the day of an attempted terrorist attack in London to the problems he’s caused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. No one can say with a straight face that his tenure as Foreign Secretary has made Boris look more Prime Ministerial.

It won’t be David Davis either, like Boris Johnson his tenure in government hasn’t been stellar, where the minister for winging it has been caught out on several occasions, and he’s been effectively sidelined more and more in the Brexit negotiations and saw Mrs May get the praise for a successful Phase I of the talks.

It won’t be Michael Gove for a very simple and blunt reason, he’s pissed off far too many people in the Tory party. He’s annoyed people like David Davis with his actions over Brexit to the point David Davis contemplated resigning over Gove’s actions.

The Cameroon wing which has substantial numbers in Parliament still hasn’t forgiven Gove for going against Cameron in the referendum. When David Cameron goes pheasant shooting he likes to name the pheasants Michael Gove because when he shoots the pheasants called Gove it makes Cameron feel better. Pathetic and childish from David Cameron? Maybe, but it does display the animus for Gove.

Gove has also annoyed supporters of Boris Johnson when Gove ended Boris Johnson’s leadership ambitions in 2016, Ben Wallace, a Boris supporter, publicly announced he wanted to go all Game of Thrones and remove Gove’s penis. As an aside Ben Wallace is tipped to join the cabinet in the next major reshuffle.

You simply cannot annoy people to that level and expect to become Leader. When I said Michael Gove was a lot like Judas Iscariot the retort I was given was ‘Gove’s nothing like Judas, Judas had the decency to commit suicide after his betrayal.’

It won’t be Liam Fox because of Adam Werritty. Despite the lessons of the last general election the Tories are expected to spend a lot of time at the next general election trying to convince the electorate that Jeremy Corbyn is a national security risk. The Tories having as leader someone who had to resign in disgrace as Defence Secretary isn’t the best person to exploit that attack line, so Adam Werritty will scupper Liam Fox’s leadership ambitions.

Penny Mordaunt also has issues, being Prime Minister requires gravitas, I’m not sure her past dares of repeatedly saying ‘cock’ in a speech to Parliament will help her on the gravitas front.

Jacob Rees-Mogg will also struggle on that front, the gap from backbench MP to Prime Minister is an insurmountable gap for many, and that’s even before we get to the policies of Mr Rees-Mogg which seems like to be like a parody of Harry Enfield’s Tory Boy character.

So all these other flawed candidates could see Mrs Leadsom be seen as the least worst option for that particular wing of the party coupled with promulgating the idea that she was right about Theresa May’s flaws. You can get 16/1 with BetVictor on Andrea Leadsom succeeding Mrs May.

Tips 2 and 3 – Time to uncork the Gauke and David Lidington

These two chaps aren’t normally mentioned in discussions about Theresa May’s successor, but because of issues with other candidates they might end up winning the contest.

Amongst those candidates that could be described as Remainers/One Nation/Aligners it is easy to see Amber Rudd’s majority being a bar to her being a candidate, like Philip Hammond has enraged far too many people to be leader, and there’s a danger Jeremy Hunt is peaking too soon which presents opportunities for Gauke and Lidington.

David Gauke, Brexit apart, might have the most difficult portfolio of any cabinet minister as he oversees the introduction of universal credit. Universal credit is something which some observers think could be as damaging for this Tory government as the poll tax was for Mrs Thatcher’s government. Universal credit effects people who claim benefits and are in work, the sort of people  whose votes the Tories need to win if they want to win a majority.

Gauke appears to be mitigating the problems of universal credit so his stock will improve. Gauke also spent six years working as a minister in George Osborne’s Treasury, he will have learned from the best during those six years.

I shared the details of the lunch with some of PB’s most esteemed gamblers, one of whom earlier on this week staked £55 at 350/1 on Gauke being Mrs May’s successor. That gave me great reassurance on backing Gauke, even if I backed him at more modest 3 figure odds.

David Lidington has been touted as Damian Green’s successor which theoretically makes him a great trading bet to be Theresa May’s successor, he appears to have no enemies in the party.

Like Gauke, Lidington’s currently 100/1 to be next Tory leader with Ladbrokes, earlier on this week he was around 460 to 470 on Betfair.

Taking the 100/1 on both of them that Ladbrokes are offering represents value in my opinion.

My lunch companion did point out it was a volatile time for the Tories, if we had have had this lunch two months earlier we’d have been talking extensively about Sir Michael Fallon as Theresa May’s successor.



The challenges facing the Conservatives

Friday, December 29th, 2017

The Conservatives are in power and in disarray.  They possess a will to power but no common view on what to do with it.  For now the bulk of the party is intent on pursuing Brexit to its bitter conclusion.  But what then?  What indeed.  For the Conservative coalition has been turned upside down.

Charles gave a crisp summary a couple of weeks ago of the three Conservative tribes. All three have abandoned their usual stances in the face of the referendum result.  The Ultras, who oppose change, have – enthusiastically – sought radical upheaval in order to perfect Brexit.  The Radicals, who seek a global role for Britain and for free trade, have – with varying degrees of enthusiasm – turned their back on Britain’s most profound international and trading endeavour: some regret this and some are persuading themselves that new roles will be found.  The Paternalists, who seek compromise in pursuit of social stability, have found themselves in the midst of the biggest social upheaval for a generation and firmly pressing one side of a binary decision.   Everything has been subordinated to Brexit.

The Conservatives are guilty of double think.  On the one hand, they think that Brexit is so important that every previous belief and credo must be jettisoned to the extent that it gets in the way of leaving the EU.  On the other hand, they think that once Britain has left the EU normal service will be resumed, since the public will speedily move on to every day topics.

This looks hopelessly optimistic.  Once Britain has left the EU, Leavers will pocket the policy success and move on, probably to complain about why immigration isn’t coming down (whether or not it actually is).  Meanwhile, committed Remain supporters are unlikely to forgive or forget for the foreseeable future.  Those who implemented Brexit are not going to get a hearing from them this year, next year or in all likelihood in 15 years time unless they have shown through the means of implementation that they have sought to be inclusive. The Conservatives have not sought to be inclusive.

That by itself is not fatal to the Conservatives’ chances.  While many of those committed Remain voters would in previous eras have been natural Conservative voters, this portion of the electorate is probably the one third who a recent opinion poll found would support joining the euro.  There is still another two thirds to go after and new coalitions can be built.

The Conservatives have in practice been building an electoral coalition around the Leave coalition, apparently without particular thought to the long term consequences of this.  It’s all very well being the party of the old, the uneducated, the insular and the obsessed, but that rubs off on your image.  Despite the fact that Labour is headed up by the most leftwing and inexperienced leadership in living memory, the Conservatives now have only a slender lead on economic competence over Labour: Philip Hammond, the epitome of a stolid Conservative chancellor, had only a 9% lead for best Chancellor in a recent opinion poll over John McDonnell, his Mao-brandishing opponent.   They look reactionary, uncaring and obsessed.  Labour have many defects of their own but by staying above the fray on Brexit they have avoided the taint of weirdness that the Conservatives are volunteering for in the eyes of many voters. 

There is more than another year of this to go.  And that timescale will be met only on the basis that everything goes quite well from here, which is itself an assumption so mini-heroic that it is awaiting its own confectionery tin.

The Conservatives can’t afford to wait that long.  If they want to retain power in the short, medium and long term, they need to rediscover a sense of purpose that does not involve Brexit.  Indeed, they need to determine what a good Brexit would look like.  That means that they need to ask themselves a question which they have not allowed themselves to ask since the referendum: is there anything more important than leaving the EU?

The answer for most normal people to this question is an emphatic yes.  Many Conservatives will scratch their heads at the concept.  But if you are going to be telling the general public that policies on the economy, housing, education or the NHS are going to be determined by the Brexit settlement, a lot of voters are going to think that you’ve got the cart before the horse.

Conservatives seem to be putting those questions on hold until Brexit is out of the way.  The voters won’t.  And if the Conservatives don’t, voters will take a lot of persuading that the Conservatives have the right priorities for the country.

What should the Conservatives be focusing on?  In the past they have succeeded when they have persuaded a plurality of voters that they are best placed to grow the economy in a manner that fairly rewards the aspirations of the ordinary voter.  That looks like a good place to start.  The Conservatives’ big problem at present is that if they put Brexit ahead of this, the public won’t be persuaded.  Indeed, for many working voters the Conservatives’ fixation with Brexit is symbolic of their warped priorities and their inability to tackle the problems in the housing market, low pay growth, poor productivity and out-of-date infrastructure.  So it’s time for the Conservatives to start talking about what they think is more important than Brexit.

Alastair Meeks


Damian Green resigns

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Mike Smithson