Archive for the 'Tories' Category


A post Brexit vote recession could cost the Tories the next election

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Brexiteers are in danger of being blamed for the next recession even if it has nothing do with Brexit

On one side we have, inter alia, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, and the great and the good, from the IMF, the OECD, NIESR, The Bank of England, and their Governor, Mark Carney, who the polls suggest is political Kryptonite against Leave, forecasting Brexit as being somewhere from very bad to a visit from the Four Horsemen for the UK economy.

On the other side you have Leavers like Tory Priti Patel who said “The EU-funded IMF should not interfere in our democratic debate … It appears the chancellor is cashing in favours to [Christine] Lagarde in order to encourage the IMF to bully the British people.” Some Leavers say the Treasury’s figure that every household would lose £4,300 was a bargain, another said the ‘insecurity [of Brexit] is fantastic’, whilst another prominent Leaver said publicly he would would welcome the economic apocalypse of Brexit, and would be delighted to provide free accommodation to the Four Horsemen whilst they visited the UK*.

So the meme that Brexit is bad for the economy has been effectively seeded, and a stand alone UK recession in the short term after a Brexit vote could see that meme germinate in a way that is not optimal for the Tories, especially if a Leaver succeeds David Cameron.

In various polls, the voters generally sees Brexit as the worst option for the economy, and for them personally, than remaining in the EU, even in the polls that have Leave ahead, so it is easy to see that seed has been planted in the minds of voters.

At the last general election two of the Tory Party’s strongest assets were David Cameron and their stewardship of the economy, they will be fighting the next election without the former. A post Brexit vote recession means they could be fighting without the latter asset too. 

Sometimes perceptions matter more than the facts, Leavers shouldn’t complain, we saw it how badly the ONS report on National Insurance figures was reported this week, as this tweet  and this article show.

The events of Black Wednesday helped in part to keep the Tory Party out of power for thirteen years, and the legacy of the 2008 credit crunch has the contributed to Labour losing the last two general elections.

When the voters can blame the government for an avoidable economic disaster, they don’t forget it. They know politicians don’t have the ability to abolish boom and bust, that’s why for example the Tories didn’t lose the 1983 and 1992 general elections, which came shortly after/during recessions. 

As the mantra goes, oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them. Labour could say a post Brexit vote recession was foretold, and the Leavers ignored their warnings, even if the recession is a normal cyclical recession. 

Inadvertently the Tory Party may have salted their own electoral ground during this referendum campaign, it’s almost like if after The Third Punic War, The Roman Republic had accidentally salted Rome instead of Carthage.


*That last one isn’t true, but with the way this campaign is going with talk of armed conflict if we leave and the EU being like Hitler, it is entirely possible for someone to say something that outlandish in the remaining forty days of this campaign.


Guest Post: Summer 2016 might lead to a generational shift in the two main parties

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


Guest Post by Mortimer

Summer 2016 could prove a watershed moment in modern British politics. April and early-May have already seen the incumbent leadership of the English Conservatives shown up in comparison to Ruth Davidson’s success north of the border, and the old guard of an apparently gaffe-obsessed Labour Party cheered by victory in London yet criticised by the triumphant Sadiq Khan. More pressure on the Conservative leadership is likely if, as the polls currently indicate, the referendum on June 23rd really is in the balance.

Perhaps less obvious an influence to our current thinking is the forthcoming Chilcott report, which is (finally) to be published on July 6th and could focus current thinking on past political problems. Whilst the current core Labour leadership were vehemently opposed to the Iraq War, at least two quite prominent members of Corbyn’s current shadow cabinet held positions in Blair’s cabinet during the conflict: Hilary Benn and Lord Falconer..

Other prominent and not-so-prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle who have been in Parliament since 2001, now veritable veterans of some pretty difficult times in British history, might begin to think it is time for fresh Lieutenants, if not young Generals, to take on the burden. Given that MP selections are made earlier and earlier in the electoral cycle, the end of a bruising referendum campaign and the publication of what promises to be a lengthy report into one of the most controversial parliamentary decisions of the modern era, some might begin to consider announcing retirement from public life in the coming months.

So what might be the impact of this confluence of events? Younger, or at least less experienced MPs will surely come to the fore in summer reshuffles.

If Corbyn is serious about uniting the party, which I’m still to be convinced of, he should call on the skills of Dan Jarvis, and promote the likes of Lisa Nandy and Heidi Alexander, both of whom have only been MPs since 2010/11 and yet outperformed their shadow cabinet colleagues in recent months.

For Mr Cameron, if he can survive at a helm, has fewer younger talents to call upon in his immediate cabinet. That said, Greg Clark has, like Justine Greening, only been an MP since 2005 and both are proven media performers. Michael Gove was in the same intake and proved himself in the limelight yet more in the past weeks. Priti Patel and Dominic Raab joined Nandy and Alexander as new MPs in 2010, and must surely hope for promotion to the full cabinet from Minister of State and Parly Under Secretary positions soon.

Moving on to possible leadership replacements – which it would be foolish to ignore given possible threats to both Cameron’s and Corbyn’s position after two divisive election campaigns – might the more youthful Chuka Umunna be ready to commit properly to a Labour leadership contents this time, or has his star fallen in favour of Jarvis and others?

In the Conservative party, of which I am a member and to which I feel slightly more attuned to both signals and noises, I can’t see an obvious youthful replacement for Cameron, and, let us be honest, the leadership coming with the fully-paid up title Prime Minister leaves less room for such an outsider as he was himself in 2005 triumphing. I’ve been tipping Greg Clark to ultimately replace him for several months, but as the life-expectancy of Mr Cameron’s own leadership appears to be dwindling, I’m more convinced that the middle aged Tory cardinals will elect an older Pope. Michael Fallon has proved himself as a campaigner and seemed to much value as the Major-esque unifier to miss for my book (currently 50/1 as next permanent Tory leader with Ladbrokes), but it is hard to look beyond May at the still generous 8/1 in the same market.



Urgent question. David Cameron’s big mistake so far

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Cameron European

As with any bureaucratic body, the EU pulses to a rhythm of regular meetings.  The EU being a more complex body than most, multiple cycles of meetings are sinuously interwoven.  Most prominently, at least four times a year, the Prime Ministers of the 28 member countries convene for the European Council.  The most vital business of the day is dealt with at these summits.

Anyone with experience of meetings knows that to control the agenda is to control the meeting. The terms of Britain’s renegotiation with the EU had been an important agenda item for successive meetings for some time.  At the December 2015 European Council, the European Council agreed to find mutually satisfactory solutions in four areas of concern at its February meeting: competitiveness; economic governance; sovereignty; and social benefits and free movement.  The stage was set for David Cameron to conclude his deal.

However, in the run-up to the February meeting, the migration crisis became still more pressing than previously.  Far from dying down over the winter months, numbers of migrants to the EU continued in high numbers.  EU member states had been put under unprecedented pressure by the vast migrations of 2015 and if no action was taken there was every prospect that 2016 would prove still more distressing.  Should this crisis be addressed before Britain’s EU renegotiation?

David Cameron did not relent.  He forced the Council to keep up the pace on the renegotiation, coming away with his agreed deal which he then recommended to the British public.  He duly set the referendum date for 23 June.  The migration crisis was left to be addressed at a later Council meeting.

We can speculate as to his thinking.  If the migration crisis was to get worse, it was imperative to hold the referendum before it peaked in the late summer, so that the campaign was not overwhelmed by the chaos and disorder prompted by migration throughout Europe.  By insisting on rapidly agreeing a deal, he hoped to get the vote out of the way first.  It was in truth an implied vote of no confidence in the EU to be able to address the migration crisis.

With the benefit of hindsight, this looks like a serious error for the Remain campaign, for the Conservatives and for David Cameron personally.  By insisting on prioritising his pet project ahead of something that was demonstrably urgent and important, he alienated his fellow EU leaders.  It’s hard to accept that technical arguments about the incidence of social security benefits are particularly critical if you’re trying to work out how to stop half a million pairs of feet tramping across your country in the coming weeks.  That cannot have improved the terms of the deal.

Worse, if David Cameron wanted to persuade the public to remain in the EU, he needed the EU to operate effectively on the pressing subject of the day.  Britain, just as much as the rest of the EU, had a compelling motive to get migration under control.  On this occasion, the statesmanlike thing to do was the politically smart thing to do.

Imagine an alternative history of the last few months in which David Cameron had decided to defer consideration of the renegotiation with the EU until the migration crisis had been solved.  Initially he would have come under more pressure from his more belligerent Leaver colleagues to get on with it, but that would have been background noise only.  The terms agreed in relation to the migration would probably not have been settled until the March European Council meeting, so the budget would have taken place before the Cabinet had divided on the referendum question.  Iain Duncan Smith would no doubt have bitten his tongue, the better to wield influence in the referendum campaign when it was eventually launched.  So the budget would have passed far more smoothly and the government would continue to feel more purposeful.

The next European Council meeting is due in June, so the local election round would have taken place without constant noises off.  With the spotlight on Labour divisions, the Conservatives would have almost certainly done considerably better.  The big political story would be the continuing agonies of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Meanwhile, the media would have taken proper note of the sharply diminished number of migrants.  If David Cameron had inserted himself in the narrative of the deal, he would be getting part of the credit for this.

In the meantime, the two rival camps for Leave would still be slugging it out.  The argument was only ended by the Electoral Commission so it is unlikely that it would have ended otherwise.  This could only be to Remain’s benefit.

The deal would still need to be struck, of course.  Would it have been any better than the deal got in February?  David Cameron would have had a legitimate claim for extra flexibility from other Prime Ministers.  But let’s assume that he got exactly the same deal as before and called the referendum over the summer for the end of September 2016.  The referendum would have clashed with much less government business and the slugfest could have taken place without distraction.  The Conservative party would look rather more coherent than before.  And the mood music from the perspective of Remain would sound rather more upbeat.

All this was lost because David Cameron decided to prioritise his own hobby horse.  Right now it looks like a very serious mistake.

Alastair Meeks


The Michael Crick election expenses investigation could get serious for the Tories

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Dave’s majority could be at risk

The news that the Electoral Commission is talking to the police and CPS about Tory GE2015 election expenses in key marginal constituencies has the potential to be troubling to the party which, of course, won a majority of 12 last year.

Crick and his C4 News team retuned to the subject again last night focussing on one party police commissioner candidate who was the election agent in a marginal seat that the Tories won a year ago.

Under normal procedures objections for election expenses have to be carried out within a year of the documents being filed but it is possible to extend that which is what the Electoral Commission is asking.

It is possible that criminal proceedings could be taken but what could be really troubling is if the elections in those seats were annulled and new votes would have to take place. Cameron could feasibly lose his majority.

So far 26 seats have been looked but I understand that other might be being probed.

As well as the legal side the story fuels a narrative that the Tories didn’t win fairly.

Mike Smithson


Boris now 4th in ConHome members preferred leader poll. Gove extends lead

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

ConHome leader

The monthly ConHome members survey of preferred next party leader is just out and sees Michael Gove once again top extending his total by five points.

The former Education Secretary is the fourth person to have been there this year because it does have a tendency to chop and change. Thus in January, Theresa May was top, then it was Liam Fox, and in March Boris moved into poll position. The other big mover is Theresa May up five on April.

Boris is suffering, I’d suggest, by his less than sure footed approach to the BREXIT referendum with his blustering style raising questions about him as a future PM. By contrast Gove is having a good referendum campaign.

What makes the survey important is that it is of party members only – the group who will make the final choice when Dave does step down. It also did very well with the 2005 race that saw Cameron crowned as leader.

Live Next CON leader Betfair odds

Mike Smithson


Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

These don’t appear to be the actions of a PM confident of winning the referendum

Typo alert – The below tweet I think he means Foreign Sec, I hope



Choosing Cameron’s successor – the process and the possibles

Thursday, April 28th, 2016


Alastair Meeks thinks they’ll select in completely the wrong way

Epigone is an underused word.  Originating from the ancient Greek for “offspring”, it means “undistinguished successor”, referring to the sons of the Seven Against Thebes who sought to avenge their fathers.

Politics is littered with epigoni.  Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, who had imbibed the economics but lacked the lustre.  John Major was followed by William Hague, who lacked not just the lustre but also the gravitas.  William Hague was followed by Iain Duncan Smith, who lacked not just the gravitas but any concept of strategy.  When he was replaced by Michael Howard, the Conservative party was in danger of disappearing up its own fundament.

The same point can be illustrated through Labour.  Tony Blair was followed by Gordon Brown, who had spent so long craving the top job that he had forgotten why he wanted it.  Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn further demonstrated the law of diminishing returns, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour exploring the concept of a political party without a functioning hierarchy.  Labour can be expected to recover at some point but long is the way and hard.

In each case the successor was chosen to address some of the perceived weaknesses of the previous leader (in the case of John Major, the ability to unite the party; in the case of William Hague, the ability to unite the party; and in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, the ability to soothe the party’s soul) and in each case the selection process overlooked some of the previous leader’s compensating virtues.

The Conservative party will shortly be required to select a new leader.  They will select in large part on the basis of addressing perceived flaws in the current leader.  So where does David Cameron apparently go wrong?

When David Cameron steps down, whether sooner or later, he will leave a divided and unhappy party behind him.  Many Conservatives think he is insufficiently reliably Conservative and more think he is insufficiently Eurosceptic.  There is no shortage of Conservative MPs who think that he pays insufficient regard to their opinions.  So if one is drawing up an identikit of the next Conservative leader, anyone who is perceived to be trustworthy, Eurosceptic, old school Conservative, a unifier and consultative is going to be off to a flying start.

What does that mean for the betting?  It means that those who trade off their star quality rather than their ideology or who seem careerist are under a serious handicap.  Those who are seen as pivotal in the EU referendum debate on either side (but especially on the Remain side) will find it hard to present themselves as a unity candidate.

None of the front rank candidates clear all these hurdles but some clear more than most.  Boris Johnson hits every single one.  Yet he is currently the front runner in the betting.  He is in with a shout (and a considerably better one than George Osborne, who remains far too short) but he looks less likely than Michael Gove or Theresa May. Jeremy Hunt or Philip Hammond would also meet the required negative attributes better than Boris Johnson if they decide to throw their hats in the ring.

If David Cameron stands down in a couple of years’ time, there will be new contenders to reckon with who will look less sullied than Boris Johnson.  If David Cameron has kept him out of the Cabinet (or given him a menial role) and his period as London Mayor has waned in the public memory, he will look like a much longer shot.   Boris Johnson’s poor referendum campaign means that he is now a clear lay.  I have bet accordingly.

But the Conservatives will go about selecting a leader in completely the wrong way (in fairness, all political parties usually make the same mistake).  As stated above, they are likely to pick their next leader on the basis that he or she does not have faults that David Cameron has – in other words, for what they aren’t rather than for what they are.  When you look at the political leaders who really stood out, they are remembered for their positive attributes.  It would be better to select a leader for those attributes in the first place.  Then we would have rather fewer epigoni.

Alastair Meeks


A minority government by another name

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Con Majority

Alastair Meeks asks how could David Cameron deal with a party within a party?

David Cameron has had a cabal of fierce critics on the Conservative backbenches conspiring against him almost since the moment he became party leader.  In the new Parliament, the cabal has re-emerged and, emboldened by a small Conservative majority in the House of Commons, has periodically pounced to undermine their leadership’s plans on tax credit cuts, Sunday trading and benefit cuts, among other things.  The referendum campaign has brought a new focus to long standing tensions within the Conservative party, with Conservative MPs on either side attacking their fellow Conservatives with gusto.  The bonds of loyalty at a party level are being weakened in some cases and in some cases on the Leave side those bonds are in danger of being replaced with bonds to a much narrower grouping.

A party within a party has not yet formed but the danger is real.  The Conservative majority is currently 12.  A rightwing para-party within the Conservatives would command far more than this number.  If it formed, we would effectively have a minority government with supply and confidence support from a para-party that would dearly love to oust the current Conservative leadership.

Does this matter?  After all, the Conservatives have nearly 100 more seats than Labour.  Well yes it does.  Look at the make-up of the House of Commons:

Cons 331 (including Speaker)

Lab 232*

SNP 56*

Lib Dems 8


Sinn Fein 4

Plaid Cymru 3



Greens 1


Independent 1

*Includes MPs who have had the whip suspended

Let’s say that 30 Conservative MPs formed a para-party.  What are David Cameron’s options for ensuring that they cannot hold him to ransom?  The answer is: not very good.  The rest of Parliament is unusually uniformly lined up against him.  So finding new allies would be very tough going.

Labour of course are the Conservatives’ real enemy.  But Labour find themselves in competitive opposition with the SNP, who are anxious to show Scots that they are more effective at confronting the Tories.  There is not the slightest chance of David Cameron getting help from that quarter.

In a different way, the Lib Dems are also in competitive opposition with Labour.  They are anxious to show, post-coalition, as much distance from the Conservatives as possible.  Co-operation would be on the most limited of bases and on very specific topics.  Anyway, there are only eight of them.

Of the smaller parties, Sinn Fein don’t turn up, Plaid Cymru and the Greens are like-minded with the SNP and the SDLP is like-minded with Labour.  Lady Sylvia Hermon is independent but much more pro-Labour than pro-Conservative.  David Cameron can forget about help from any of them.

The UUP are a more hopeful prospect for support.  The Conservatives have a Nobel Prize winner in their ranks in the House of Lords – David Trimble, who hopped across from the UUP in 2007.  So David Cameron can hope for help there.  But they have only 2 MPs.

That leaves the DUP and UKIP.  UKIP’s MP, Douglas Carswell, is really an independent clad in purple, but his dislike of David Cameron is evidently intense, judging from his twitter feed.  The DUP come from the same ideological stream as the putative para-party – opposition to gay marriage, socially conservative, keen on populist spending for their client base.  They are far more likely to ally with the para-party than David Cameron’s Conservatives.

We don’t need to get into precise numbers to see that if the Conservative rightwing para-party commanded 30 or so Conservative MPs, David Cameron would be beholden to them on the current Parliamentary groupings.  They could wield a lot of power.

Is there anything that he could do to break a para-party’s grip over him?  Candidly, even the remoter options don’t look good.  His best remaining option to marginalise their influence is to hope for the Labour party also to splinter.  If he were able to make a generous and open offer to Blairite MPs, offering them substantial concessions on policy, he might hope for their support.  But the experience of the Lib Dems is very fresh in all politicians’ minds and the Blairites, even if they were minded to break with the rest of Labour, would need more than that.  Unless they were themselves hard-pressed, I’d expect them to be looking for a no-compete agreement at the next election so that they did not find themselves devoured by their erstwhile allies in the same way as Nick Clegg’s troops.

We’re starting to get into the realms of political novels now.  And that’s my point.  Coming back from flights of fancy, if the Conservative party fractures into smaller blocks, David Cameron will face agonising problems of party management.  He’s always been poor at that and he is unlikely to start getting better once he’s alienated large numbers of his MPs over the referendum campaign.  So his best practical option is to stop the blocks forming in the first place.  That may be easier said than done.  His retirement announcement may after all have been very well-timed.

Alastair Meeks