Archive for the 'Tories' Category


Remember when David Davis quit to fight a by-election the purpose of which was soon forgotten

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

His weird 2008 move will raise questions about his judgement

If failed 2005 leadership candidate and current Brexit secretary, David Davis, does find himself campaigning to be TMay’s successor then every bit of his political career will be scrutinised for pointers to whether he’s up to the job or not.

One weird bit of his political CV that has been long forgotten but surely will be focused upon was his resignation as an MP for the Yorkshire seat of Haltemprice and Howden in 2008 to fight a by-election on the issue of freedom. His announcement of the move is featured in the Sky News clip above.

The problem was that it was quite hard to work out what he was trying to achieve and why resigning as an MP and re-fighting the seat was the best way of doing it. His effort to make it a protest against the then LAB government’s detention without trial period was effectively thwarted by Gordon Brown’s party not putting up a candidate against him. The LDs also stood aside.

As the campaign developed Davis added reason after reason for his move which were all packaged under a campaign titled “David Davis for Freedom” whatever that meant. This was the logo.

He also set up YouTube Channel which which barely attracted any interest with the total number of subscribers failing to reach triple figures.

He had, following the resignation as an MP, to resign from the shadow cabinet where he’d been shadow Home Secretary.

The CON leader David Cameron came to campaign with Davis for just one day. The whole exercise appeared an embarrassment for the party which had just chalked up a spectacular gain from LAB in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election. Davis was never to make a return to the top team until TMay’s arrival a year ago.

He won of course with 71.6% of the vote with turnout down to just 34%.

The problem was that the issue failed to resonate and looking back it is hard to disagree with those that at the time described it as attention seeking.

Davis is currently 7/2 favourite to succeed TMay.

Mike Smithson


I think allies of David Davis are overreaching and going to damage their man fatally. This is becoming very ugly

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Whilst the briefing against Philip Hammond continues



Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

For the second year running Andrea Leadsom is ensuring Theresa May is Prime Minister.

Last night I observed the unofficial Tory leadership contest is increasing in its tempo and activity, today The Financial Times have more information on it.

Some speculate Mr Davis might be given a “coronation” as the leadership candidate best placed to deliver Brexit, but few Tory MPs believe that a transfer of power would be anything other than brutal and protracted. “There won’t be a coronation while Andrea Leadsom is alive,” sighs one Conservative MP, referring to the ambitious leader of the Commons who made a shortlived bid for the Conservative leadership against Mrs May last year.

Meanwhile, Tory MPs recount how other potential contenders are suddenly clearing their diaries to spend more time with colleagues. “[Chancellor] Philip Hammond had drinks the other night in his office,” says one Tory MP. “It’s not like him.”

Some MPs argue Mr Hammond might act as a stopgap leader — perhaps serving for two years to deliver Brexit before standing aside — but the idea of the Conservatives fielding three prime ministers in a single parliament is seen as bizarre by many. “What would be the point of Philip Hammond?” says one Tory MP. “It’s like deciding you want to change your Volvo and you come back from the garage with…another Volvo.”

So last year Andrea Leadsom effectively made Theresa May Prime Minister and one year on she’s still ensuring Theresa May continues to be Prime Minister because Mrs Leadsom still harbours ambitions to be Prime Minister and won’t allow a coronation. This also does tend to give credence to the reports that after the general election Mrs Leadsom wanted Mrs May to appoint her as Home Secretary or Foreign Secretary.



The unofficial Tory leadership contest is getting vicious with all sorts of briefings and smears flying about

Friday, July 14th, 2017

It might be time for the Tories to ditch leadership contests and bring back the magic circle.

Rather than focusing on Brexit and other matters of state the Tories are trying to nobble their rivals for the Tory crown, my hunch is that is going to get even uglier and nastier, this is not for the faint of heart.



Some Tories are determined to retoxify the party

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Unless you’re over 90 or grew up in antebellum Virginia, you should not be using the n word or even thinking about using it, but today a Tory MP, Ann Marie Morris, uttered the n word, unsurprisingly she had the whip removed.

Credit must be given to Theresa May for acting so swiftly, given her approach on things like stop & search and equalities, Mrs May will have experienced genuine revulsion at such comments, I think she realises how damaging this is because she is in some respects is the grandmother of the Tory detoxification project with her nasty party speech back in 2002.

However Mrs May and the Tories who may still have work to do with this incident, there’s already pressure on Mrs Morris to resign as an MP, however I think pressure might also be directed towards to the other panelists at the event which Morris spoke, as the Huffington Post observes ‘Despite using the racist term, none of her fellow panelists, including Tory MPs Bill Cash and John Redwood, reacted.’

Given the pressure the Tories and Mrs May are currently under following her calamitous decision to hold a snap election and the performance therein which saw her wipe out David Cameron’s majority I suspect the media focus on this story will not end with the decision to suspend the whip from Ann Marie Morris.

Mrs May will need a lot of nous to stop this becoming a damaging incident, especially given how much the party has focused on incidents of antisemitism in the Labour party.



Conservative choices. The class of 2017

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

They were supposed to be so much more numerous, but in the end the new Conservative MPs of 2017 were a fairly select group.  The 32 novice MPs on the government benches make up just 10% of the Conservatives’ intake.  I’ve therefore compiled a table of the newbies which can be accessed by clicking here.  What do we know about them?

Surprisingly little, actually, even when you try to find out.  In many cases, online profiles have been well-scrubbed.  What remains has usually been polished to a dull sheen of centrally-approved catchphrases, action shots of campaigning and anodyne expressions of support for the local area.  Those MPs who have actually said anything worthwhile stand out.  On some occasions, I wondered whether they had done so by accident.  Budding politicians often seem to be hunkering down rather than standing for anything.  This may well be a reaction to the aggression commonly found online.  However, public service is going to be much diminished if MPs aren’t going to express views on much.

Just two of the new crop of Conservatives are retread MPs but by way of compensation both of those are well-known: Esther McVey and Zac Goldsmith.  Ms McVey already has a long history with John McDonnell and it must be doubtful whether he welcomes Parliament containing a constant reminder of one of his career nadirs when he called for her lynching at a public meeting.  Zac Goldsmith’s own career had been on a downward spiral in 2016, losing both the Mayoral election and much of his reputation with his striking aggressive attacks on Sadiq Khan, then resigning his seat over the expansion of Heathrow, failing to win the ensuing by-election.  Presumably he has a reason for returning to the House of Commons: we must await with interest what that might be.

The new Conservative MPs have a fairly diverse career background.  Three were MSPs, two were MEPs and at least seven more have worked full time in politics in one capacity or another.  As you would expect, the legal profession is also well-represented: four have practised as commercial solicitors.  But alongside these very traditional routes to a Conservative seat, we find a firefighter, three military men, a charity executive and an actor, and 12 have some experience or other of business.  What’s missing?  I can’t see much in the way of experience of science, education or medicine.  That looks like a serious gap.

They are also diverse in other ways.  At odds with the Conservatives’ pale, male, stale image, seven of the new intake are women, two are of Nigerian background and three are in their twenties.  One wonders what Stephen Kerr, who is very senior in the Church of the Latter Day Saints with its very firm strictures against same sex relationships, privately makes of the three of his intake who have made it public that they are gay (he has stated that he is in favour of equal marriage).  Bill Grant likes to think of himself as an everyday Tory; I doubt whether that would be the self-description of Neil O’Brien, who has spent the last five years working at the highest levels of government.

To the big question of the age, Brexit.  None of the new MPs are open Remainers, and all one way or another extol the virtues of getting the best Brexit.  Yet many of them are surprisingly reticent about their vote in the referendum and the FT believes that at least 18 of them voted Remain (and some of them now hold strongly Leave-voting seats).  Before the election, Leave supporters were triumphalist that the House of Commons was going to reflect public opinion more on this point.  That hasn’t happened.

Scratching the surface, it is possible to detect a wide span of opinion on the subject: Bob Seely was proud to vote for Brexit, Andrew Lewer only supported Leave after being disappointed by David Cameron’s deal, Kemi Badenoch voted Leave after a deep breath, Douglas Ross was a reluctant Remainer while Luke Graham was the FD of Britain Stronger In Europe.  As a group, the new Scottish Conservative MPs are, with one or two exceptions, considerably less interested in Brexit than their English counterparts.  My former colleague Paul Masterton speaks for many of them when he expressed the view that the question of Brexit is very much secondary to the question of independence.  The general election was supposed to have given the Government their Brexit mandate.  It’s far from clear that the way forward has been settled even on the government benches and the newcomers don’t look as though they are going to shift the balance of power in the hard Brexit direction.

Who might we watch out for?  Esther McVey is likely to make a very early impact.  With her past ministerial experience and her media background, you would expect the Government to make early use of her.  Neil O’Brien hasn’t got the same media experience but his knowledge of government at the highest levels is greater than that of many senior ministers.  Alex Burghart is also likely to be promoted early given his past governmental experience working with Theresa May.

Two of the more strident Leavers, Leo Docherty and Bob Seely, both have military backgrounds and both look likely to make a serious contribution on foreign affairs.  Leo Docherty has chaired the Conservative Middle Eastern Council since 2010 (and is critical of western policy in Libya) while Bob Seely is expert on Russian non-conventional warfare and very hawkish about Russian activities.

A third of the more enthusiastic Leavers, Ross Thomson, is not easily categorised as a traditional hardliner.  He has campaigned as an MSP for LGBTI-inclusive education in Scotland.  He looks likely to be a distinctive voice in Westminster.

On Brexit, Vicky Ford has paid an unusually close interest in the detail of the developing debate since the referendum vote.  She will be listened to should she choose to give her views on this.  Her former MEP colleague Andrew Lewer was effective at working the Brussels machinery, so we can expect him to prosper in Westminster also.

Kemi Badenoch will attract attention as a Conservative MP of Nigerian background.  She will keep it with her direct talking; unlike some of her new colleagues, you get a sense that she knows why she wants to be an MP.  Of the relative outsiders to politics, Rachel Maclean looks worth watching.  A successful businesswoman who has already sought to make a difference for young people, she may turn out to be one of the doers rather than the talkers.

Alastair Meeks


This makes me glad I’m laying Boris in the race to be next Tory leader

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

ConservativeHome have released their latest cabinet league table based on the votes of readers of Tory members on ConHome. Whilst the most eye catching thing might be Mrs May’s spectacular record breaking fall from grace, for me it is the score achieved by Boris.

With the seriousness of Brexit in both securing a good deal and the post Brexit environment I suspect this poll is a reflection that is a time for serious politicians and not a court jester, so for the second consecutive Tory leadership market I’ve been laying Boris Johnson.

It speaks volumes about the pickle the Tory party finds itself in when the best rated politician in this isn’t even a Tory MP, but the results in Scotland on June 8th were the only high point for the Tories, which was down to Ruth Davidson so that is reflected in these ConHome findings.

I know I’m not the only Tory who somehow hopes Ruth Davidson becomes an MP before the next Tory leadership election but I suspect she sees her role for the next few years as ensuring Scottish Nationalism really is killed stone dead and that can only be achieved in Holyrood and not Westminster.



Tactical voting didn’t win it for the Scottish Tories

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

But genuine gains from the Lib Dems and Labour did.

Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister today if the Scottish Tories had done as badly three weeks ago as they did in 2015 (or any of the previous four elections). Without the dozen gains north of the border, a deal with the DUP wouldn’t have given her the numbers and a deal with anyone else couldn’t have been done. It would have been game over.

Given the different nature of politics in Scotland, where the unionist-nationalist split is at least as potent as the progressive-conservative one, that raises the intriguing question as to whether tactical Labour and/or Lib Dem unionist votes – to keep the SNP out – had the unintended but very real effect of keeping Theresa May in.

In fact, no, they didn’t. Indeed, one unremarked feature of the Scottish results was how unchanged the Labour and Lib Dem shares were in the seats the Tories won. In more than half of the 13 constituencies, neither other unionist party put on or lost more than 5% in vote share. In these, the swing must have been dominated by direct SNP-Con switchers.

Of the six seats where there was a change of more than 5% in the Lab or LD share, the common feature is that the change was always a decline from the party which won in 2010 but which lost the seat in 2015. That might be evidence of tactical voting but more likely is that it’s simply the incumbency bonus unwinding. In a few cases – East Renfrewshire or Gordon, for example – there may well also have been an unwinding of a pro-Lab or pro-LD tactical vote from 2015.

In fact, in two of the three seats that went LD-SNP-Con, Labour also polled substantially better in 2017 than 2015 (where they lost, or came close to losing, their deposit), again suggesting a lack of tactical voting. Besides, in only one of the seats (Stirling) was the result particularly close. Even if some of the falls in the shares of the other unionist parties was down to tactical voting, it wouldn’t have been decisive.

In addition, the Conservatives won five of the thirteen seats from third. That’s not wholly indicative of a lack of tactical voting – the previous result is only one factor in determining who is best-placed as a challenger – but it strongly hints in that direction.

So a straight-forward swing on both independence and economic-social axes? Not quite. If we compare 2017 against 2010 rather than 2015, a different picture emerges. That both the Lib Dems and Scottish Labour have suffered disastrously since 2010 is hardly news. All the same, it’s notable that in every single seat the Scottish Tories now hold, both Labour and the Lib Dems have gone backwards, generally by large amounts. Across the 13 seats, the Labour and Lib Dem shares have fallen by at least 5% in 22 of the 26 instances, by double-digits in 14 of them and by at least 20% in seven instances. Both SNP and Tories have gained, roughly equally.

These seats are not, of course, a cross-section of Scottish opinion and we should be extremely wary of drawing general conclusions. All the same, the Tory share in them is up by at least 9% in every seat gained and by much more in most. These gains have come almost exclusively from the Lib Dem and Labour voters of 2010. It might not have been tactical and it might have been a positive vote for the union and against a second independence referendum, but the decisions of these ex-progressive alliance supporters of Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg still resulted in Theresa May rather than Jeremy Corbyn forming a government.

David Herdson