Archive for the 'Tories' Category


Now most LAB leadership votes are in Osborne moves to undermine the likely winner

Monday, August 31st, 2015

The Tory attack on Corbyn and his party has begun

For the last four months the Tories have been almost totally disciplined about the LAB leadership election. There’ve been virtually no comments whatsoever in public until now. Today, with George Osborne’s Faslane announcement things have changed.

This is Andrew Sparrow in the Guardian:

“Osborne is keenly aware that a new leader saddled with a negative image from the beginning will find it hard to escape such framing. As such, the Faslane visit can be seen as the first step in a Tory operation to define Corbyn as a peacenik security risk.

If the Islington North MP does win, as the polls suggest, the Tory onslaught will go much wider, covering vast tracts of his policy agenda. But Corbyn’s unilateralism is a particularly attractive target for the Tories because a large number of Labour MPs strongly support the nuclear deterrent and would probably defy the whip if ordered to vote against its renewal…”

Osborne, who has moved strongly to become next CON leader betting favourite, has started the GE2020 campaign already.

Mike Smithson


Big tent or radical reformers – how does Dave use the Tories’ dominance

Friday, August 21st, 2015


The next three years will be the high point for the Blues

There are only two realistic outcomes to Labour’s leadership election. The first, and by far the more likely, is that Jeremy Corbyn wins, either outright or on transfers. The other is that either Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper wins by a relatively narrow margin having come from a long way behind on the first count to win on second- and third-choice transfers, at the same time as no small number of Corbyn supporters are excluded. Neither option seems likely to produce a strong or stable opposition.

Which is not the end of Labour’s problems; in fact, in many ways it’s the start. A resurgent left wing, whether in control of the leadership or not, will inevitably set the terms of the policy debate. Indeed, it already is doing so; the centre seems bereft of ideas and the right is out of fashion. Or more than out of fashion: those who prefer a centrist approach, from pragmatic electoral reasons or from personal beliefs, are finding their wing on the end of some rather nasty abuse. Given that the Lib Dems have moved left under Farron, there has to be a question as to whether voters – if not yet activists – will find the Yellows a more congenial home. Nor is that necessarily the end of Labour’s troubles with the SNP and UKIP having already snaffled parts of Labour’s former coalition. The SNP have maxed out their gains but UKIP has the potential to take more.

    All of which leaves David Cameron and the Conservatives in a far stronger position than their tiny nominal majority would suggest. In fact, with so much of the political field clear, the PM holds a position more commanding than any since pre-Iraq Blair. The question is how he’ll use it, and there there are two options.

The first is to do as Blair did and seek to utterly dominate the landscape; sit in the centre ground, deny the Lib Dems the chance to recover (or at least, to recover at the Blues’ expense), watch Labour disintegrate and aim for the support of the 43% that appeared as an implicit target on his leadership campaign logo back in 2005.

Alternatively, he can put the lack of a meaningful alternative government to political use and take the chance to implement more radical reforms, reasonably safe in the knowledge that even if they’re not popular in themselves, they’ll still be more popular than the idea of Jeremy Corbyn as PM. There’ll be plenty of members of the party, of parliament and even of cabinet with pet projects for the NHS, for welfare, for the BBC or whatever more than ready to give Corbyn something to indignantly oppose with might and main.

And yet. Cameron already has a lot on his plate simply with the EU referendum; a challenge that’s not looking particularly easy at the moment given the other distractions the EU currently has and so the low priority any British demands will be given. And the expectation of having everything go their own way smacks of the kind of hubris that allowed Thatcher to introduce the Poll Tax and Blair to join in the invasion of Iraq. Much could go wrong.

Quite apart from the potential for internal division over Europe and other matters, there’s the risk of another recession at some point in the next five years (China?), before the damage done by the last one has been anything like repaired; or of something wholly unforeseen engulfing the government – think expenses from the last decade, or sleaze from the one before. And just because Corbyn is unelectable – and he is – it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’d be Labour leader come 2020 even if he wins next month. And if he is, and if the Conservatives do win, that doesn’t mean that serious failures will be forgiven or forgotten; I’ve long been of the view that one factor that played to Blair’s advantage in 1997 was residual resentment of the 1987-92 Conservative administration which couldn’t be expressed at the time but was bottled up for a time when it could.

On the other hand, 2015-18 may be the Conservatives’ best chance to remodel the country during their time in government. Life always gets harder the longer you go on, as past policies become harder to change, as public disillusionment sets in and as opposition hunger for power reasserts itself – and the last two years of a parliament are about consolidation and preparation for the election rather than reform.

    The chaos of Labour’s leadership election, and the likely consequences of it, have delivered into Cameron’s hands an unexpected but huge opportunity. How will he use it: conservative or radical; to play to the country or to the party; to consolidate for a third – then fourth? – Conservative-led government or to spend capital to change the game: Macmillan or Thatcher?

Instinct would suggest the former, although Cameron’s personal caution has at times cloaked the more radical actions of some ministers. Whichever, what is increasingly obvious is the extraordinary state of flux there’s been in British politics in the year since the Scottish referendum; enough for a capable and bold leader fashion a new settlement out of. And on that note, despite all the evidence, David Cameron remains surprisingly under-rated.

David Herdson


The likely reaction from the blue team if they’re facing Opposition Leader Corbyn?

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015


Picture: The first PMQs maybe?

Antifrank looks at how CON might respond to a JC victory

 When the Conservatives had finished celebrating their unexpected overall majority and started gazing across at the potential Labour leadership candidates they no doubt started thinking about the challenges of their next possible Labour opponent.  Newspapers and blogs speculated about which of the leadership candidates the Conservatives most feared, and then newspapers and blogs further speculated whether the Conservatives were laying false trails. This speculation revolved primarily around Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.  Jeremy Corbyn was considered largely as a joke candidate, with more frivolous Tories considering enrolling in order to vote for him as a “vote for the worst” candidate (showing that X Factor has had an impact on the political discourse).

In a few short weeks the race has turned upside down.  The Labour establishment is horrified at Jeremy Corbyn’s transformation into favourite for the leadership election and most Conservative supporters are chortling.  

If Jeremy Corbyn wins

The Conservatives are rightly keeping quiet right now on the basis that one should never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake.  That all changes after the leadership contest is over and any mistakes have been made. What if Jeremy Corbyn wins?  How should the Conservatives take him on?

The prospectus for a Corbyn-led Labour party runs roughly as follows.  If Labour can unite the left and also enlist a new cohort of voters behind them, they have the opportunity to reshape the political debate.  The optimistic version of this thesis sees Labour sweep to power on a Syriza-style mandate in 2020.  The cautious version sees Jeremy Corbyn step down in 2018 to allow a more electable leader to take over for the election campaign on a softer left but still leftwing platform.

The Conservatives should seek to undermine every part of Jeremy Corbyn’s prospectus.  If they can avoid doing so, however, they should not engage in a battle of ideas: by taking on his ideas they would be implicitly treating them with a seriousness that would invite support from others.

The Conservatives have a better strategy available to them, which is to seek to split the left based around Jeremy Corbyn’s political past, immediately challenging Labour establishment figures to disown any connection with a party led by a man who has invited unrepentant terrorists to the House of Commons shortly after they attempted to wipe out the elected government, who believes in homeopathy, who believes that it is the US drive to expand eastwards which lies at the root of the crisis in Ukraine and who describes Hamas as friends.  Rather than compare him with Keir Hardie or Alexis Tsipras, they should compare him with David Icke.

Such a strategy has both short term and long term advantages, few of which have all that much to do with Jeremy Corbyn.  It would immediately put senior Labour politicians of all stripes on the spot, forcing them to decide there and then whether they would work towards party unity or take a stand based on principle.  Some at least would refuse to work with Jeremy Corbyn, making it easy for the Conservatives to portray the Labour party as riven by splits: as, indeed, it would be.  It would undermine the prospect of Corbynmania leading to a wave of new support for a sharp left turn in British politics.

In the longer term, the Conservatives would seek to label any politician who chose the path of party unity as someone who would serve under a man with Jeremy Corbyn’s beliefs, marking them out as unscrupulous, a wild-eyed leftwinger, lacking leadership qualities or all three.  The Conservatives would seek to smother Labour dissidents with their embrace, publicly inviting them to leave the hellhole of Labour leftwing politics to join them.  While such offers would be curtly refused by most if not all, it would foment suspicion within the Labour party.  The prospect of a disunited left would yawn ahead for years to come, even if Jeremy Corbyn was replaced fairly quickly.  His putative successor would inherit a nest of vipers.

Occasionally the idea is floated to go easy on a leader who is perceived to be weak in case he or she is replaced by someone more capable.  That always seems a daft idea to me but if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour party it will be particularly half-baked.  By going hard on Jeremy Corbyn early if he is elected, the Conservatives have the chance to discredit not just the current Labour leader but to salt the ground for his successors.

If Jeremy Corbyn falls short 

The betting markets still make it more likely than not that someone other than Jeremy Corbyn will emerge as Labour leader.  Barring a dramatic collapse in his support, however, he looks likely to secure a sizeable share of the leadership vote come what may.  The new leader will need to decide how to respond to this.

The instinctive reaction of a new leader will be to try to unify the party.  The Conservatives have every interest in securing the opposite.  Accordingly, in these circumstances they will be trying to portray the new Labour leader (whoever he or she is) as being dangerously beholden to the extreme left.  The higher Jeremy Corbyn’s final vote, the easier it will be to send out this message.

While the Conservatives would probably prefer Jeremy Corbyn to win the leadership nomination, one advantage of him finishing a good second would be that they could take as read the loony nature of his politics because the new leader’s team would not want to defend them, for fear of being tarred with the same brush unnecessarily.  Each Conservative attack, however, would prompt the Corbynites to defend their man’s corner, undermining the new Labour leader’s positioning.

If Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win, the next Labour leader is going to have to think carefully what to do about him.  If he is offered a shadow Cabinet position, the Conservative “reds under the beds” line of attack is going to have much more potency.  If he is not given a meaningful role, the twitterocracy is going to be incandescent.

Liz Kendall has made it clear that she would not touch him with a bargepole but Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have been more equivocal about whether they would include him in their shadow Cabinets (Andy Burnham in particular has gone back and forth on this).  If they’re serious about winning the next election, on taking up the leadership role they need to say quickly what place they see for Jeremy Corbyn.  The choice is between signalling a left turn and institutionalising a left-right split in the Labour party.  These are both unattractive options and the Conservatives would be ready to pounce either way. 

Playing the man not the ball

From this point Jeremy Corbyn only ceases to form part of the Conservatives’ strategy for attacking Labour if he withdraws or if he drastically underperforms current expectations.  Right now that would be a serious shock.

The strategy I have outlined above is not particularly complicated and it is not particularly pretty but given the existing strains within Labour it would be very likely to be effective.  It also goes with the demographic grain.  Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are keen to enlist new younger voters but it is likely that the largest group of voters in 2020 will be the over 55s.  The youngest of this cohort of voters first voted in 1983, so their political memories will include Labour’s vicious leadership battles with the left in the 1980s.  A repeat should make it easy to corral them into the Conservative pen.

I tried hard to see some positives in all of this from Labour’s viewpoint but on this occasion I couldn’t.  Given how the leadership contest has unfolded, a whole new line of attack has opened up for the Conservatives which should solidify their existing vote and potentially recruit them many more supporters.  I expect them to take that with gusto.



The Temperate Desert

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

YouGov Left Right

Antifrank asks who will appeal best to centrist voters?

The centre ground of politics used to be very crowded.  And with good reason.  Roughly half the electorate sit in the middle stratum of electoral geology.  In a YouGov poll taken just after the election, 13% described themselves as slightly left of centre, 19% described themselves as centre, 14% described themselves as slightly right of centre and a further 23% didn’t know where to place themselves (presumably they would regard themselves as having mixed left and right views).  Elections will continue to be won and lost among these voters.  Either they will be met on their ground or they will be persuaded to move onto different ground.

Public perception

YouGov regularly asks the public to place parties on a left-right spectrum.  The results up to July last year are shown in the graphic above.

The public in aggregate, incidentally, see themselves as pretty much in the dead centre.  Up to now, the public in aggregate haven’t regarded the Labour party as being as leftwing as they have seen the Conservatives as being rightwing.

The empty centre

7 May 2015 has left the centre ground looking like a wasteland.  The Lib Dems were reduced from 57 to 8 MPs, with relatively few seats even looking like plausible targets for 2020.  The Conservatives long ago ditched the green crap.  And despite Ed Miliband having aimed to engineer a move in the political centre ground towards the left, the reaction of the Labour party membership in the Labour leadership campaign has been to canter further leftwards in pursuit of a real alternative to austerity.  For a group of voters who are supposedly assiduously and obsessively courted, centrist voters are lacking obvious representation right now, particularly those on the centre left.

In the post-election opinion poll referred to above, 31% of the public thought that Labour was slightly left of centre or centre (exactly the same percentage that thought Labour was fairly leftwing or very leftwing), but 44% of the public thought that Labour should aim to be slightly left of centre or centre.  Among those who expressed an opinion, by a margin of nearly 2:1, the public thought that the next Labour leader should try to take the Labour party towards the centre politically rather than take it towards the left (more recent polling has been more equivocal on this last point, however).  There is nothing obvious in any of the polling that suggests that the public wants Labour to turn to the left.  Labour party members seem to believe that they know better.

That said, winning over these voters is not as simple as just plonking yourself as closely as possible to them.  At the last election the Conservatives gathered a greater share of the vote than it had managed since 1992, yet they were the furthest distant from the average member of the public of Labour, the Lib Dems and themselves.  The voters take many things into account other than how much they identify with policy.

This may sound like good news for a Labour party that is exiting stage left.  It is not.  In May, those other things led to the voters decisively preferring the Conservatives despite their greater ideological distance from the public in aggregate.  That decisive preference in favour of the Conservatives will get still stronger, all other things being equal, if Labour withdraw further from the bulk of the voters.

This time around, the other relevant considerations may well have included the quality of the main party leaders, economic credibility and the wish to have a stable government.  We may also have seen some voters deciding to stick with known quantities.

The relevant considerations in 2020 may be different.  Right now it seems entirely possible that all of those will continue to weigh heavily on voters’ minds.  Becoming more ideologically distant from the voters would only make Labour’s challenge harder.

The hopefuls

Nature abhors a vacuum.  Who is going to fill that gap?  The answer isn’t obvious.

The Lib Dems are ideologically close to the average voter.  They will hope to profit from any move to the fringes by Labour while being able to attack the Conservatives in government.  But the Lib Dems’ closeness to the public’s views did not result in the public giving them their support in May.  And the hammering they received will make it harder to get that support back where it counts.  Voters who are motivated by choosing a government will not linger over the possibility of voting for them, new leader and new direction notwithstanding.  The Lib Dems will only gain votes either by persuading voters that it is a costfree choice or by getting voters to conclude that both of the two main parties have drifted too far from the centre.  Even then, such voters might well just decide to abstain.

After their experiences of government, the Lib Dems may wish to pitch themselves as a party of opposition.  Indeed, they have already taunted Labour after the Welfare Bill fiasco with the tagline “Be part of the real Opposition”.  This may be effective at picking up protest votes (though there is heavy competition for these now) and the votes of those who live in safe constituencies.  Centrist voters in marginals who want to choose the next government will, however, be looking for something more constructive.

Can Labour offer them something more constructive?  If Labour move leftwards, they will need to persuade a sizeable section of voters – from opposition – that their more hardline critique is worthy of trust in government and they will need to do so without frightening a similar sized section of voters into the arms of the Conservative party.  Labour seem likely to embark on this strategy.  I don’t fancy their chances if they do.

A different strategy might have been to offer a broad tent based around themes that all strands of left and centrist opinion could rally under.  None of the three mainstream candidates for Labour leader have been able to articulate such themes and the opportunity is going begging.  It seems unlikely now that the Labour party will take that chance in the next few years.

If the Labour party is not going to appeal to centrist and centre-left voters, preferring to broadcast a hard left message, might a breakaway party take up the slack?  All things are possible but the prospect looks unlikely and past precedent is offputting.  Establishing a new national party needs a clear message, big names, organisation, nerve and luck.  Labour moderates do not seem to have any of these right now.  The SDP was stronger on almost all of these counts in the early 1980s and still it ultimately failed to break the mould.  Only two of the eight Lib Dem MPs were in the SDP.  They are outnumbered by Conservative MPs with an SDP past.

Speaking of which, can the Conservatives extend their advantage with centrist voters?  Unlike Labour, they certainly want to try.  The summer budget showed George Osborne gleefully trying on progressive clothes for size.

The Conservatives face a different problem, which is that they have long been seen as further from the centre than either Labour or the Lib Dems, as can be seen from the diagram above.  Changing longterm perceptions takes a lot of doing.  At a time when the government is undertaking extensive spending cuts, are they really going to be able to achieve this?  Also, this Parliament is going to be dominated by the referendum on EU membership.  It would be highly surprising if traditional Conservative rightwingers are not heard at great length in this process, undermining any Tory attempts to colonise the middle ground further.

So far as the Conservatives are concerned, in the short term the question is a bit of a red herring.  They don’t need centrist voters to identify with them.  They only need them to continue voting for them in preference to other parties.  Enough of these voters gave them their support on 7 May, however unenthusiastically.  They would settle for that in 2020 as well.

In the longer term, however, we are looking at an unstable political landscape where the voters must choose between parties with prospectuses that do not enthuse them and a party with a prospectus that they do not believe will stand a chance of being implemented.  This cannot last indefinitely.  Sooner or later, the gap will be filled.



Why we won’t be hearing much from the Tories this summer

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Notice there’s been nothing from the blue side re-Mid Staffs

Probably the most successful Lynton Crosby message in the run-up to May 7th was the warning of “confusion and chaos” if Labour was returned.

It was this, I’d suggest that helped get the marginal CON supporters out to vote and UKIP switchers back into the fold in the constituencies where it mattered.

The Tories have learned that simple easy to understand messages that resonate and a strict communication discipline can pay dividends.

Now, if as seems likely the above Tweet is correct, the Tories are having a quiet summer so all the focus on Labour’s leadership race.

    What is very clear is that the Burnham campaign’s effort to get Corbyn the nominations to be on the ballot was a total misjudgement. It says a lot about their and his political abilities.

Meanwhile it will be the evening of September 12th, in the hours after the LAB victor is announced, that Mid Staffs will feature once again in the blue rhetoric if Burnham is the winner.

Mike Smithson


Meanwhile leadership turmoil isn’t confined to LAB. It’s not all sweetness & light in the blue team

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Osborne, the new betting favourite, accused of briefing war against the mayor

It was inevitable that when David Cameron said before the election that he wouldn’t seek a third term that this would, at some stage, trigger off media interest and speculation about succession in the Tory party.

The big difference with Labour is that the Tory battle could be about who succeeds as PM.

Everybody knows that Boris has a big interest here and in recent weeks, particularly since the budget, Osborne has moved much more into the frame. On some betting markets he has been favourite. When the Chancellor made his budget speech earlier in the month he took a humorous swing at Boris something that has not gone down well with the occupant of London’s City Hall.

Several papers have picked this up including the Telegraph whose political editor, Peter Dominiczak, writes:-

“..allies” of Mr Johnson claimed that David Cameron, Mr Osborne and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, are attempting to “humiliate” Mr Johnson and destroy his chances of becoming prime minister.“He’s trying to neuter Boris before he’s even got going”

They claimed that Mrs May and Mr Osborne are orchestrating a bid to “cut Mr Johnson down to size” and that the plot is tacitly condoned by Mr Cameron.

The big problem for Boris is that Cameron can be very helpful to the Chancellor in all sorts of ways. Osborne plays a huge part in ministerial appointments and, no doubt, will have big say in what job Boris gets after he steps down as mayor next May. Osborne, also, is likely to be told of Dave’s plans well before Johnson and Cameron can control the timing to help his chancellor.


Antifrank: Hanging tough – the Conservative intake of 2015

Saturday, July 18th, 2015


Antifrank looks at the new members of the Tory parliamentary party.

Despite relatively few seats changing hands in May, more than a fifth of Conservative MPs – 74 in total – were not in the last Parliament.  They will have a big influence on the dynamics of the Conservative party in government.  What do they look like?  Well, here they are:

I’ve ploughed through MP websites, interviews and newspaper articles to find out more about them.  In the course of this, I’ve seen more Labradors than is healthy for any normal man to look at.

Less than 30% of the new Conservatives are women, compared with 60% of the new Labour intake.  Assessing racial and sexual diversity is more fraught (not least because not all candidates’ self-identification is explicit) so I have not performed a headcount, but the Conservatives do seem to have proportionately more MPs from ethnic minorities than previously.

The biographies of many of the new MPs look familiar.  Much has been made of Scott Mann, the Cornish postman, but he is an exception rather than the rule.  At least 17 of the new Conservative MPs have previously earned their corn as political professionals and I expect that is an undercount owing to the reticence of some candidates to advertise the fact.  I count 11 business owners (some CVs are a little hazy) and 13 lawyers of various stripes.  Seven new MPs have backgrounds in PR, communications and events management.  Four new MPs had military careers.

The contrast with the background of new Labour MPs is instructive.  Few of the new Conservative MPs have a public sector background.  There are two doctors and a nurse, a police officer and two government lawyers, two teachers and the four ex-military men.  No new Conservative MP advertises his or her previous main job was as a charity worker or official, though many draw attention to their charitable work (which in some cases is very impressive indeed).  For the new Conservative MPs, charitable work is something to be done when giving back to the community while for new Labour MPs, working in the charitable sector is a normal career.  We will no doubt see this difference in world view on the floor of the House of Commons in the coming years.

What of their opinions?  For Conservative MPs the big topic for the next few years will be the referendum on membership of the EU.  David Cameron was extremely effective in getting these candidates to rally around the policy of having a referendum, but will he be able to bring him with them once the renegotiation is concluded?  The new MPs don’t so much divide between Europhile and Eurosceptic as between those who avoid talking about the subject, those who give their views when prompted and those who won’t shut up about it.

For some of the new MPs, maybe eight to ten, it seems likely that campaigning in the referendum for Out will outweigh party loyalties.  They include a former leader of UKIP and the campaign organiser for the Referendum party in 1997.  Several of the new intake have signed up for Conservatives for Britain, a Eurosceptic campaign group.  None of the new MPs rebelled on the vote about public information during the purdah period during the referendum campaign (one seriously considered doing so), so they’re keeping their powder dry for now.

I have found only one new MP, Flick Drummond, who so far has identified herself as pro-Europe. However, I suspect that those who have stayed quiet to date will generally follow a party line when the time comes.  The broad mass of the new MPs are content either to take the “negotiate then decide” line or to take the line that they would vote Out now but are open to persuasion.  But the awkward squad has received reinforcements.

What of the wider politics of the intake?  This was neatly summed up by Chris Green, the new MP for Bolton West:

“As Paul Goodman has previously highlighted, the Party has the Soho and the Easterhouse modernisation movements.  Almost invariably the Soho element costs us support in Bolton West and the Easterhouse element wins us support.”

Both groups are well-represented in the new intake (I think we can take it that Chris Green sees himself as being in the second group), though there appear to be more acolytes of George Osborne than Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson.  But he might also have mentioned the traditional small c conservative MPs, who are perhaps most numerous of all.  These MPs, temperamentally similar to David Cameron and who would no doubt see their role as MPs as part of the Big Society, would be readily recognisable to previous generations of Conservative MPs.  The Conservative party, as you would expect from the name, is not changing all that fast.

The single strongest theme among the new MPs’ campaign literature, heavily encouraged by Conservative Central Office, is a focus on local topics.  Nearly all the new MPs majored on plans for their local constituencies.  Quite a few of the new MPs have commented almost exclusively on these.  Craig Williams, MP for Cardiff North, explains why:

“You get the occasional person who says, “Why on earth are you banging on about potholes in your leaflet, that’s nothing to do with Westminster?” Well, it’s because it matters to the resident of Cardiff North.”

This has worked brilliantly for getting these MPs elected (the Conservatives have learned much from the Lib Dems), but this may cause problems in the future.  Far too many MPs have prioritised superfast broadband in their constituency for the Government to sideline this and many have named the improvement of local transport infrastructure, which is laudable but expensive in these straitened times.  Amanda Solloway has already had to express her disappointment at the postponement of the electrification of Midlands Mainline.  Others will also be disappointed.  The government is going to need to draw up strategies for implementing the new MPs’ tactics for getting elected.  It is unclear whether it has realised that yet.

The challenges for David Cameron of getting any repeal of the Hunting Act through are clear.  Several of the new intake are explicitly opposing it.

Who to look out for in the new intake?  Some names are already very familiar in senior Conservative circles.  The Mayor of London’s team has swept into Westminster.  Boris Johnson’s deputies, Kit Malthouse and Victoria Borwick will both make an impression (I’m taking it as read that everyone is keeping an eye out for Boris Johnson).  Oliver Dowden is one of the few new MPs who arguably took a step down in government circles by becoming a Conservative backbencher, having previously been David Cameron’s chief of staff.  He is unlikely to stay there for long.  James Cartlidge has already been added to David Cameron’s team for preparing for Prime Minister’s Questions.  Given the importance of this, he is presumably marked for early promotion.

Of those who are not already insiders, Johnny Mercer stands out as a gifted natural communicator.  His maiden speech justly won acclaim and it was no one-off.  He has the direct and incisive English of a soldier and clear thoughts to communicate with it.  The Conservatives will be fools if they do not make full use of him early on: he looks like a star in the making.  On the right of the party, Chris Green can express his views clearly and vividly, as shown above.  Andrea Jenkyns, who defeated Ed Balls, is uncategorisable and doesn’t look likely to be shy to voice her opinion.

As a general theme, there look to be a lot of forthright characters in the new Conservative intake.  And this new intake, like the 2010 intake, look unlikely to be particularly biddable.  With such a small majority, the government is going to need to accept defeats from time to time as a normal part of business.  It looks set to be a lively Parliament.



On fox-hunting a reminder from the SNP of the tight parliamentary situation

Monday, July 13th, 2015

LAB by-election leaflet 2009

But won’t this reinforce the case for EVEL?

This is how the Speccie’s Isabel Hardman sums up the situation:-

“..The result may still work politically for both parties in one sense: in Scotland of course the headline ‘SNP stops Tories relaxing hunting ban’ works beautifully for Nicola Sturgeon’s party. But in England a headline saying ‘SNP stops Tories relaxing hunting ban’ will also help the party if it wishes to stir up more emotion in favour of English votes for English laws. However, some proponents of relaxing the ban would rather that no vote took place unless the Tories were certain of winning it: they believe that such defeats expend the very valuable political capital they have built. This was their argument in the last Parliament: that they were happy to avoid a vote if it meant avoiding a defeat. Now it looks as though they may be set for a defeat they can’t avoid.”

Mike Smithson