Archive for the 'Tories' Category

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Conservative David Herdson wonders whether Theresa May’s meritocracy is actually a mirage

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

TM

Why the nomination for Yorkshire’s Tory MEP will be a key test

Prime ministers are inevitably remembered for their great achievements and their great failings: Attlee’s welfare state, Thatcher’s Falklands, Thatcher’s Poll Tax, Blair’s Iraq, and so on. Theresa May’s first ministry will be defined by the success or failure of Brexit. If it’s a failure, her first ministry will be her only one.

But beneath the towering achievements and epic failures, governments leave a much broader legacy in the tone they set for the country in values and actions. May should be judged as much for the thousands of small decisions her government takes as for the few giant ones.

Helpfully, she gave the country the means to judge her when she took office. Her first speech as prime minister was almost entirely about social justice, reducing inequality and, to quote directly,

“When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

One place where her ability to put those principles into action is as great as any is within her own party. In fact, it’s not just an ability to act there, it’s a duty. Unfortunately, an early bad decision might well undermine all the fine words – and there is the risk of such a decision.

David Cameron’s resignation honours included a peerage for the (then) Yorkshire MEP, Timothy Kirkhope. As you can’t serve in both the European and Westminster parliaments, Kirkhope’s entry to the Lords meant that there was a vacancy for the Strasbourg post. The full details of what happened next are laid out in this ConHome article. To cut a long story short, when there’s a vacancy, the position goes to the next person on the party list able to take it. In this case, that should be Alex Story but because of an administrative error and the refusal of CCHQ to acknowledge that error, Story might well be unfairly passed over.

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This is not the sort of thing that brings party leaders down, and nor will it. Indeed, it’s not the sort of thing that party leaders much get involved in at all. But were the Board of the Conservative Party to ratify someone else over Story, it would give the lie to May’s comment quoted above.

The Yorkshire nomination is set into particularly sharp focus by the goings on in Richmond where multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith has been given a free run as an independent after resigning in protest at the government’s policy. There might be good reason not to put a candidate up there but all the same, the impression of one rule for the rich and prominent, and another for the less-well-connected would be hard to dispel in the public mind – particularly if the Yorkshire case ends up in the courts, which is far from impossible.

The best thing for May to do would be cut through the office politics within the lower ranks of the Party and simply ensure that the normal operation of the nomination process is followed and that Story gets the nod. Were that to happen, the whole issue would simply go away before it ever came to the public’s attention. But to prevaricate or stay out would risk adding another discordant note to the government’s tone and risk further undermining her efforts to deliver systems that work fairly for everyone. After all, if you can’t deliver fairness within your own party, what chance in the country at large?

David Herdson

p.s. Keen observers might note that Alex Story was the Conservative candidate for Wakefield in 2010, and that I am now the Chairman of the Wakefield Conservative Association. Despite that, I don’t know him personally (I was still in Shipley in 2010), and have no particular axe to grind in the case other than a belief that people should be treated fairly and according to due process.





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After decades we should be getting the Heathrow expansion decision tomorrow

Monday, October 24th, 2016

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Whatever the political fireworks will begin

It has been an awful long time coming but we are promised that the long awaited decision on the expansion of Heathrow will come tomorrow.

It’s reported that TMay and other ministers on the airport subcommittee will meet before cabinet. It is being speculated that we could get an announcement before the markets open because it is felt that this is so politically sensitive.

Theresa May herself will make a Commons statement at 12.30.

All the signs are that the plan chosen will be one of the Heathrow options.

No doubt one of the first people to respond will the Richmond Park CON MP, Zac Goldsmith, who has threatened to resign his seat and force a by-election if LH3 goes ahead.

Mike Smithson




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Theresa May doesn’t have a Willie and it shows. She urgently and desperately needs a Willie in her government

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

If she loses her Chancellor so early in her Premiership, people might infer Mrs May is wholly unsuited to be Prime Minister

According to Margaret Thatcher one of the prerequisites of being a successful Prime Minister was “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.” She was referring to William Whitelaw, her deputy, as she further expanded, “Willie is a big man in character as well as physically. He wanted the success of the Government which from the first he accepted would be guided by my general philosophy. Once he had pledged his loyalty, he never withdrew it.” Her cabinet colleague, Nicholas Ridley argued that Whitelaw’s retirement [in 1988] marked the beginning of the end of the Thatcher premiership, as he was no longer around as often to give sensible advice and to moderate her stance on issues, or to maintain a consensus of support in her own Cabinet and Parliamentary Party.

I look at the current cabinet and fail to see a Willie Whitelaw de nos jours, which explains this story in today’s Mail on Sunday,

The Treasury last night moved to quash fears that Philip Hammond could be on the brink of quitting as Chancellor over the mounting Cabinet rift over Brexit.

Friends of Mr Hammond claim he has been deliberately excluded from key No 10 meetings because of his outspoken criticism of Ministers who back the ‘hard’ Brexit option of the UK leaving the single market.

They fear that, at the age of 60, he will walk out of the Government rather than stifle his opposition.

I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs May as extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union is the modern day political equivalent of The Twelve Labours of Hercules, she needs some help dealing with a fractious cabinet during Brexit, getting a Willie might help her become a truly successful Prime Minister. It would stop stories like this and stop Philip Hammond going from being 25/1 as the next out of the cabinet to 8/1 in a little over a week.

Many in the Tory party hope Mrs May is Margaret Thatcher Mark II, she might end up being Sir Alec Douglas-Home Mark II, like Sir Alec, she’s an old Oxonian who became an unelected and mandateless Prime Minister, who lasted less than a year as Prime Minister. A little over a year after Nigel Lawson resigned as Chancellor, Mrs Thatcher was forced out as Prime Minister by her own party, perhaps Mrs May truly is the heir to Thatcher.

TSE




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Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his country for his career.

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Boris wrote that Brexit could lead to economic shock, Scottish Independence, and Russian aggression 2 days before he backed Brexit.

For the last few years I generally kept on advocating that Boris should be laid for the Tory leadership, that advice isn’t going to change for the next Tory leadership contest. It will be very easy to portray Boris as someone who puts his own ambitions ahead of the best interests of the country, that is something that should fatally damage his chances of ever leading his party or country.

TSE



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Chancellor Philip Hammond is said to believe that for the moment he is unsackable

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Meet the man now being described as the “real leader of the opposition” –

There’s an insightful article on the challenges ahead facing the Tories by the Telegraph’s James Kirkup.

Surveying the range of hurdles ahead Kirkup makes an interesting observation about Philip Hammond who replaced George Osborne as Chancellor.

Mr Hammond is, to almost everyone’s surprise, the most interesting man in the Cabinet. Colleagues say that he calculates that he is, for now anyway, unsackable, and so he has the latitude to challenge Mrs May in a way others do not.

More sympathetic to business and the argument for the single market than the PM, Mr Hammond could well emerge as Britain’s real opposition leader when Britain’s Brexit debate is played out inside the Conservative Party…”

As a general rule chancellors are pretty difficult for PMs to get rid of and when they do it is a massive political event. Hammond has also been reinforced by the manner in which his predecessor, Osborne, was sacked when TMay took over. The perception was that the niceties weren’t observed. Certainly for the PM to clashing with her choice as Osbo’s replacement to the extent that he had to go would be extremely difficult and potentially damaging.

So I think that Hammond is in a strong position but he’s smart enough to to use it effectively.

With the EU extraction strategy down in simple terms to single market versus freedom of movement Hammond is a powerful advocate of the former. Judging by her speech yesterday TMay appears to be saying that the latter is paramount.

This will be an interesting battle in the next few months.

Mike Smithson




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The big trend: CON and LAB are still failing to win voters from each other

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Big Ben

The two big parties are left scrapping over the also rans

One of the more remarkable features of the polling in the last parliament was the almost complete inability of both Labour and Conservatives to win voters from each other. Vote shares may have gone up and down but it was gains from and losses to the Lib Dems, UKIP, the Greens and SNP (and non-voters) that was responsible; the direct swing between the big two was negligible.

As then, so now. All three polls released this last week tell the same story. ICM record 3% of the Labour vote from 2015 going to the Conservatives, with 3% of the Tories’ general election vote going back the other way; BMG’s figures are almost identical; YouGov have the Tories doing a little better, gaining 6% of Labour’s former vote while losing only 2% of their own but even there, that amounts to a swing of only a half per cent. We’re talking tiny numbers.

The current very comfortable Conservative leads are instead based on two different aspects. Firstly, the Tories are doing better at holding on to their own vote. ICM and YouGov record the Blues as keeping between 72-75% of their 2015 voters, against Labour’s 60-67% (this includes those who say they don’t know or would not vote). And secondly, the Conservatives have done better in the net swings from the lesser parties and in particular, from UKIP.

In fact, the notion that many Corbyn supporters have that the increase in the Conservative lead over the summer can be put down to the leadership challenge is at best only partly true. Labour’s introspection no doubt caused it to miss opportunities but the Labour share has drifted down only very slightly.

    Of far more significance since June has been what looks like a direct UKIP-Con swing, presumably off the back of both the end of the EURef campaign and the change in Conservative leader.

What looks to be the case is that Britain is a very divided country with the concept of the traditional swing Lab/Con voter close to extinct and instead, three distinct broad groups (with subdivisions but let’s keep this simple): those who would vote Conservative, those who would vote Labour and those who would vote neither (who, outside of Scotland, we can more-or-less ignore).

So while there’s barely any defecting between the Tory tribe and the Labour lot, they do potentially meet when they go walkabout elsewhere, to UKIP, the Lib Dems or (most frequently) to none of the above.

What that suggests is that the big boys, but especially Labour, need the also-rans to be performing fairly strongly. Without those parties being attractive enough to their rival’s supporters, the negative campaigning of old will be far less effective as voters might be disillusioned but find no real alternative home.

Interestingly, the Lib Dems have been performing fairly strongly against the Conservatives in local by-elections recently but this hasn’t made its way across into the national polls. All the same, that the party seems capable of big swings across the country suggests at least a willingness by Conservative voters to consider them again; a willingness that might translate into Westminster voting given the opportunity.

The Lib Dems will no doubt hope that the opportunity will come in Witney. That might be a little too early but with Con and Lab unable to take support from each other, with a far-left Labour and a Tory government engaged in debates about Europe, if they can’t take advantage in the next two years, they never will.

David Herdson





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So far no conference or JC re-election bounce for LAB

Friday, September 30th, 2016

No change at YouGov following events of last week

New findings on TMay

But BREXIT not seen to be going well

Little appetite for an early election



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Meanwhile ahead of the CON conference Ken Clarke goes on the attack over BREXIT

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

The longstanding pro-European isn’t happy

Next in line this conference season are the Conservatives who are in their traditional final place slot. Inevitably BREXIT, what it actually means and the timetable, will dominate and you can expect all sides to be vocal.

Kicking off is the former CON leadership contender and Chancellor, the veteran Ken Clarke. In an interview in the New Statesman he has some strong and harsh things to say about BREXIT and some of his colleagues. The magazine reports him saying:-

“Whatever is negotiated will be denounced by the ultra-Eurosceptics as a betrayal,” he says. “Theresa May has had the misfortune of taking over at the most impossible time. She faces an appalling problem of trying to get these ‘Three Brexiteers’ [Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox] to agree with each other, and putting together a coherent policy which a united cabinet can present to a waiting Parliament and public. Because nobody has the foggiest notion of what they want us to do.”

Clarke reserves his fiercest anger for these high-profile Brexiteers, lamenting: “People like Johnson and [Michael] Gove gave respectability to [Nigel] Farage’s arguments that immigration was somehow a great peril caused by the EU.”

During the referendum campaign, Clarke made headlines by describing Boris Johnson as “a nicer version of Donald Trump”, but today he seems more concerned about David Cameron. He has harsh words for his friend the former prime minister, calling the pledge to hold the referendum “a catastrophic decision”. “He will go down in history as the man who made the mistake of taking us out of the European Union, by mistake,” he says.”

Quite what influence Ken still has is hard to say but he’s important because he get media attention and he’s highly articulate.

Mike Smithson