Archive for the 'Tories' Category


The Tory bullying scandal claims the scalp of ex-party chairman, Grant Shapps

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


BBC News

Could this take the media pressure off Mr. Corbyn?

Until now the ongoing Tory bullying scandal has been largely over-shadowed by the events within LAB. This could possibly change following this afternoon’s resignation from his post as a minister of the party chairman at the General Election last May, Grant Shapps.

All this follows the apparent suicide two months of 21 year old CON activist, Elliott Johnson, whose body was found by the East Coast main line at Sandy in Bedfordshire.

Since then there’ve been allegations of bullying and sexual assault within the party.

Mike Smithson


If the parliamentary Tory party had followed the polling in 1990 John Major would not have become PM

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015


Often winning the Tory leadership is about who you aren’t not about who you are.

Twenty-five years ago today Lady Thatcher announced her decision to resign as Prime Minister, but if the parliamentary Tory party had followed the polling then her successor would not have been John Major but Michael Heseltine. The above polling was not atypical of the time, Michael Heseltine was seen as the best person to revive the Tory party’s electoral fortunes.

So why didn’t Heseltine become Tory leader? Because in the recent past, the winners of Tory leadership elections has often won in part because they weren’t someone else. In 1990 one of the main reasons John Major won was because he wasn’t Michael Heseltine as Lady Thatcher’s supporters couldn’t stomach her assassin succeeding her, taking their cue from her when she said “the Cabinet should unite to back the person most likely to beat Michael Heseltine.”

It can be argued that in 1997 William Hague won because he wasn’t Ken Clarke, that in 2001 Iain Duncan Smith won because he wasn’t Michael Portillo nor was he Ken Clarke. With the quasi-AV voting system the Tory party currently uses to select their leader, you can see a Stop-X candidate doing very well in the forthcoming Tory leadership contest.

In the past few days George Osborne has seen some pretty poor personal polling, he nor any other potential contender who is polling badly shouldn’t be too disheartened given what happened in 1990. Less than eighteen months after the above poll, John Major led the Tory party to a general election victory and obtained the highest ever number of votes a party has received at a general election, an achievement that hasn’t been bettered since, as we learned in May, opinion polling isn’t infallible. This polling precedent might also give Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters some succour too.

The other factor to remember that this the first time the Tory membership are involved in choosing the leader whilst the party is in government, will the membership go for someone who is seen as the most electable or will they choose by some other metric?



The Tories would be in a stronger position over the Lords if at GE2015 they’d attracted more than 36.9% of the vote

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

National vote shares at GE2005 & GE2015 levels do matter

Yesterday afternoon the Cameron biographer, pollster and former Tory treasurer, Lord Ashcroft, made the above perceptive Tweet about the limitations of the current government’s power. While in the 2010-2015 parliament this had been because of the Lib Dem coalition the reality now is that the Cameron government’s main limitation is the House of Lords.

Much has been written about last week’s vote by the upper house to impede George Osborne’s tax credits plan but there hasn’t been much about the challenges a majority government has when it has secured it with a national vote share of 36.9%

This is in sharp contrast to 2005 when Tony Blair’s LAB majority on 35.2% of the national vote sparked off a fair amount of discussion about legitimacy. In England at that election, it will be recalled, the Tories came top on votes but were a 100 English seats short of Labour.

It was in that context ten years ago that the Lib Dem group in the House of Lords declared that they would not be following the Salisbury convention which broadly ensures that election winners can enact specific policies in their manifestos. So it wasn’t surprising that after this May’s election the yellow team the Lords, now 100+ because of all the new peers created by Mr Cameron, announced that it was taking the same view of the Conservative 36.9% national vote share.

The big impact of the general election outcome in the upper house was that all those LD peers moved from government to opposition.

A quirk of first past the post in an increasingly multi party political environment is that the chances of overall majorities with UK vote shares in the mid-30s are much higher. Indeed two of the past three elections have produced such outcomes.

If the Tory vote share in May had been close to 40% or above then there would have been much more pressure on opposition peers not to do as they did. 36.9% wasn’t enough and we will see other clashes in the coming months and years.

National vote shares do matter.

Mike Smithson


David Herdson writes: Ed Miliband: my part in his downfall

Saturday, October 31st, 2015


Did I win the Conservatives the election?

A year ago today I received an unsolicited e-mail from an extremely senior Conservative election strategist, asking if I ever came to London as he’d be interested in picking my brains. Unsurprisingly, I said ‘Yes’.

The approach wasn’t completely out of the blue. A few months earlier, he was a speaker at the 2014 Yorkshire Regional conference and at the end of the session, I door-stepped him in order to hand him a short paper I’d put together on and idea I’d had for taking the fight to Labour, namely calculating the cost of all Labour’s additional spending commitments, dividing the result by the number of households in the country and labelling the result their Family Tax. Although the name wasn’t adopted (I still think it’s a good one), the idea did briefly see the light of day but a twenty-first century version of 1992’s tax bomb it wasn’t.

But that wasn’t why I’d been invited to London. Instead, we had a long, wide-ranging discussion that covered a lot of the political scene and ended with a plan for me to be more involved as the election approached. Unfortunately, I had to pull back on this when my wife was seriously injured in a car crash in December.

In the interim, however, he asked me about my thoughts on how I saw seat numbers going in Scotland. This was about two months after the referendum but only shortly after the SNP’s surge in the polls had become apparent (the SNP and Labour were still neck-and-neck in early October: only at the end of the month did they pull far clear). In retrospect it’s clear that what became the centrepiece of the 2015 Conservative strategic case was taking shape in the minds of those responsible for delivering it.

But polling is, as is frequently noted here, a snapshot not a projection. To get a projection you need to analysts which, I assume, is where I came in. I suggested that current polling figures suggested a seat split of SNP 43 MPs, Lab 11, Con 3 and LD 2, and while I (inaccurately) predicted a small swing back to Labour before the election, I reckoned on the SNP keeping a comfortable lead in both votes and seats. In the end, of course, it was much more than ‘comfortable’ but at the time, many commentators were still struggling with the idea that Labour could be shifted from their ‘natural fortress’ in any meaningful sense. After all, the SNP had been predicting Westminster breakthroughs for decades without making good.

What I believed – and said – was that this time was different. This time the SNP would not only break through but finish on top and consequently, Labour would be hit by big losses.

Probably Ed Miliband would still have finished up in the pockets of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in street-side posters up and down the country whatever I’d written; a campaign and a strategy that almost certainly made the difference between an outright majority and another hung parliament. But who knows? Certainly not me. It would of course absurd vanity to believe I won the Conservatives their majority but just to play a small part in an election where CCHQ pitched their message and strategy close to perfectly was a privilege.

David Herdson


The Blue and the Purple – the threat of a Tory civil war over the EU

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Cameron European

Antifrank on the potential for a big divide

David Cameron is a popular leader of the Conservative party.  He has consistently outpolled it, tugging it along in his wake.  His brisk, warm, unideological Conservativism (which is closer to the Christian Democracy found on the continent than to the Thatcherism that has prevailed in the Conservative party for the last 30 years in Britain) appeals to many.

Many, but not all.  His leftwing opponents outside his party are predictable.  Less predictably, he has drawn out an unremitting hostility on the traditionalist right, particularly in his own Parliamentary party among older MPs.  Prime Ministers always accumulate enemies among MPs whose careers never took off or were abruptly curtailed.

    This Prime Minister has accumulated them almost exclusively on one wing of his party.  He has found that he can make do without the services of David Davis, Liam Fox and Owen Paterson. Only Iain Duncan Smith from the traditionalist right has so far lasted the course in Cabinet.

    Following the establishment of the coalition in 2010, he established a Cabinet in the image of Nick Clegg and himself.  When the Conservatives gained their overall majority in May 2015, rather than taking the opportunity to accommodate the traditionalist right of his party, he chose to stick with the same balance.

In the euphoria of the election victory, most Conservatives did not notice this.  But the traditionalist right remains firmly out in the cold.  David Cameron keeps his friends close, as has been widely remarked upon.  He clearly does not believe in keeping his enemies closer.

This would not matter much ordinarily.  They can conspire against David Cameron as much as they like but while he remains popular in the wider party with a secure support base on the left and centre of the Parliamentary party and the enthusiastic gratitude of the 2015 MPs, the traditionalist right would be reduced to guerrilla attacks on very specific subjects in tacit co-operation with the real opposition parties.  I expect that David Cameron could live with that quite happily.

These are not ordinary times.  The landmark event of this Parliament is likely to be the EU referendum.  On this, the traditionalist right of the Conservative party will fancy themselves to be the intellectual leaders of the Leave campaign.  They will also expect to exert a lot of influence on many of their Parliamentary colleagues.

For many years the Conservative party was split into three camps: Europhiles; Eurosceptics and the undecided.  The Conservatives are now split into two camps: on the one hand those for whom the EU referendum is the biggest political decision since the Reformation – as, unbelievably, Owen Paterson has described it – and who can talk and think of nothing else (“the live-and-breathers”); and, on the other hand those who heartily wish that the whole subject would just go away (“the pillow buriers”).

David Cameron is a founder member of the pillow buriers.  In his first conference speech as Conservative leader, he told his party that they had alienated voters by banging on about Europe.  He is now going to bang on about Europe for a couple of years or so.  On his own analysis, this does not sound like a promising strategy for his party to follow.

The Conservative party is currently in a holding pattern.  Before David Cameron announces what his renegotiation has achieved, it suits neither side to prejudge the outcome (even though we could probably write down long lists of Conservative MPs who will be Remainders and Leavers with a fair degree of accuracy today).

So both sides politely stress the need to see what can be achieved while using subtle inflections to suggest what they consider the likelihood or otherwise of David Cameron bringing home sufficient bacon.  In the meantime, every political topic is seen through a prism of EU membership.  We haven’t yet had an EU referendum angle on the tax credits reforms, but give it time and I’m sure someone will find one.

But this is where the traditionalist right’s loathing of David Cameron matters.  They don’t like him and they sure as hell don’t trust him.  They think that he is going to rig the vote against them and they’re determined not to let that happen.  So far they have sniped at him over the wording of the referendum question, kept pawing at whether and to what extent the government will go into purdah during the referendum campaign and are now calling for him to suspend collective Cabinet responsibility on the subject of the EU referendum.  They are approaching these subjects in the same way that the Americans approached discussions with the Iranians over the nuclear talks, with the same complete absence of any goodwill.

What will happen once the renegotiation is announced?  The live-and-breathers will declare that the renegotiation is nowhere near good enough.  David Cameron will commend it with measured but palpable enthusiasm.  Then the pillow buriers will need to reach their decisions.

In this respect at least, they will be very representative of the wider British public.  The public aren’t enthusiastic about the EU and some aspects of it enrage them.  Equally, they have a general sense that it probably gives benefits to Britain that they don’t fully appreciate.  Whether national identity or perceived economic interest wins out will be a personal decision for each pillow-burying Conservative MP, depending in considerable part on temperament and the extent of their desire to show loyalty to the party hierarchy.

Such MPs will not wish to see the party split over the question of EU membership and will work hard to avoid such an outcome.  The challenge that the Conservatives are going to face is to ensure that the live-and-breathers keep their passion on a short leash.  Words are easier spoken than unspoken and aggressive hostility is likely to be met with the same.  It is easy to see how bitter civil war could break out with no one really wanting it.

There are undoubtedly more pillow buriers than live-and-breathers, but the live-and-breathers are quite numerous enough to create havoc if they get out of control.  Will the Conservatives have enough self-discipline to keep their ranks under control?  I guess there’s a first time for everything.  The smart money must be factoring in the high likelihood that by the end of the referendum campaign some Conservatives will not be on speaking terms.



Lynton Crosby could do it again next week and give the Tories outright power on a third of the vote

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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Or will the “good guys” win this time?

Canadians go to the polls next week in an election that has echoes of the British General Election in May – the most intriguing being the involvement of Lynton Crosby.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper hopes the Australian can repeat what he did for David Cameron — magic an outright victory in an election where the Tory poll numbers have been limping along in the low thirties.

That was how the final polls looked in Britain. The Tories famously confounded the pollsters by taking 37% of the vote on May 7th but Cameron’s overall majority owed more to the Crosby’s ruthless targeting of marginal Labour and Lib Dem seats. The way it was done was gloatingly chronicled in Conservative Home.

The Canadian Tories are doing even worse than their British counterparts. There’s dire news for Harper in the latest tracker polling which has him trailing the Liberal Justin Trudeau by seven points. Labour’s sister party the NDP is in the mid 20s and could hold the balance of power.

The NDP, whose leader Tom Mulcair sports a Corbynesque beard, have been the official opposition since 2011 when they made sweeping gains from the Liberals and from the Bloc Quebecois. They have slipped back into third place – the main casualties of Harper playing the Islamaphobia card. The Tory campaign has put the migrant crisis and the case of a Muslim woman who insists on her right to wear the niqab veil at the centre of their campaigning.

According to the Guardian, Harper’s success with anti-Muslim politics dates from Crosby’s arrival. “His presence in Canada first became apparent during a debate in which Harper appealed for the votes of what he called “old-stock Canadians” – a novel phrase that struck a deliberately discordant note in the typically inclusive chorus of Canadian multiculturalism.”

It’s an example of Crosby’s “dead cat strategy”, according to Macleans. If you are losing an argument, as Harper is over the economy, you throw a dead cat on the table – an eye catching emotional issue that grabs voters attention. Everyone starts talking about the cat and forgets the main issue.

A Globe and Mail commentator suggests Harper didn’t need much prompting to exploit Islamophobia. Whether or not it was prompted by Crosby, the Islamophobia tactic could backfire. If he fails to get an overall majority

Harper could be a dead duck by the middle of next week.

He has driven together his main rivals. Relations between them have often been cool but Mulcair says removing Harper is his top priority and he would be ready to support Trudeau as Prime Minister.

For anyone who finds the use of the race card distasteful this would count as a victory for the good guys

Immigration and race never seem to be far from the Crosby mind when it comes to campaigning. His entry into British politics came in 2005 when under Michael Howard’s leadership the Tories ran posters asking “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” followed up with : “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration.” . The Guardian’s Nick Watt explained that Crosby was importing an approach that had worked in his native land.

Now, according to the Mail, he is warning David Cameron that the migrant issue could cost the Tories the election in 2020.

But the next big electoral test comes next May and it will be interesting to see what role Crosby plays in the London. He helped get Boris Johnson elected Mayor in 2008 by virtually gagging the flamboyant, gaffe-prone candidate.

Zac Goldsmith will be a harder sell. For all his wealth and good looks he is short on charisma. In the recent PB podcast the Telegraph’s Asa Bennett judged his Tory conference “underwhelming”.

London is a famously diverse city and Labour’s candidate Sadiq Khan is, of course, a Muslim. If Goldsmith’s campaign falters look out for the Tories to throw that dead cat on to the table.

Don Brind


The latest Politicalbetting/Polling Matters podcast: Conservative Conference special

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

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Keiran Pedley talks to Asa Bennett of the Telegraph and Rob Vance

Polling Matters is back and Keiran discusses the Tory Party conference with Asa Bennett of the Telegraph and Rob Vance. Just how strong are the Conservatives right now? Who succeeds David Cameron? And what will the London Mayoral race tell us about the wider political situation in Westminster in the longer term?


Geoffrey Howe RIP – Remember this sensational speech that ended the Thatcher era?

Saturday, October 10th, 2015