Friday, September 30, 2005

Women For Davis

Given the way everyone keeps banging on about the female vote, it's good to see two of our leading female commentators coming out in support of DD.

In the Times, Patience Wheatcroft says:

'The Conservative Party should not despair that it agrees with much of what Mr Blair says; what it needs to do is persuade the country that it can actually deliver on these aims rather than continue merely to repackage them and throw yet more cash at them. David Davis appears to have grasped this fact.

...Change for change’s sake is pointless. Looking younger, friendlier, more welcoming or whatever else Mr Cameron has in mind will not win votes from a country increasingly fed up with a leader who is intent on looking all those things, even if it means employing the services of a make-up artist.

What the next Tory leader has to be able to do is to convince the country that he — or she — can do better at delivering change, in the public services and in society, than has new Labour. On that measure, Mr Davis will take some beating.'

To which we can only nod sage agreement.

Meanwhile the flirtatious Petronella Wyatt (yes, that Petronella) cuts straight to the chase:

'A poll recently found that of all the leadership candidates, Davis was the one women found the sexiest. ‘Oh, God, I heard about that.’ He looks terrified. Did he tell his no-nonsense, red-headed wife, Doreen? ‘Absolutely not. She often calls me a male chauvinist pig.’ I wonder if Davis has any sexual skeletons in his closet.

‘Do women come on to you at parties?’ I inquire. (I have actually seen this happen.) He blushes peony-pink. ‘What a question to ask me! I have no sexual skeletons, Petronella!’

Gawd, she's a one, that Pet, ain't she.

But she certainly comes to the right conclusion:

'Davis may be right to be confident. Of all the leadership contenders, he is perhaps the man most likely. Unlike Clarke he carries no baggage, has physical energy on his side, and is more in tune with his party and its values. If only he would work on his speeches more.'

Which, interestingly, he accepts.

Davis And That Blunkett Scalp

Over at PoliticalBetting, site owner Mike Smithson has taken to dissing Our Man. His latest poke goes:

'Until yesterday’s formal launch of the David Davis campaign for the Tory leadership not everybody fully realised the part that Davis played in Blunkett’s departure. For in a BBC potted history of the paternity affair the Shadow home Secretary’s name appears just once and that was a reference to a call he made sixteen days before the departure.

But according to the short biography on his campaign website one of Davis’s achievements, we are told, was that it was he who “prompted” Blunkett’s resignation...he is talking about something that happened amidst a huge amount of publicity just ten months ago and is within people’s recall. You have to be careful about taking the credit for things that people know about.'

Oooh. Back in the knife box Miss Sharp!!

Of course, the first point is that neither you nor I would reference the BBC to support such a charge. But then, Mr S was a longtime BBC man- and is a Lib-Dem to boot- so almost certainly doesn't see the extraordinary bias so apparent to the rest of us.

Looking at the real record of DD's scalping campaign, we find that by early-December 2004 (MS's "sixteen days before") he'd been hard at work for weeks, including tabling 'dozens of parliamentary questions', all aimed at boxing-in the evasive Blunkett. Because in taking on the sleazy underbelly of New Labour, you need to be absolutely sure there's nowhere for them to run. Which is exactly what DD did.

In Blunkett's case it was particularly important not to move prematurely. As you will recall, most of the media- especially the BBC- were incredibly indulgent towards his behaviour, and the last thing Davis wanted was to get his attack characterised as more Victorian moralising from the Tories. Which it wasn't.

So he took his time, but kept the pressure on. The intervention noted on the BBC "potted history" was actually just the point at which Davis was ready to pin Blunkett against the wall. He told Breakfast With Frost:

“If [Blunkett] took the papers in [visa papers], and if that led to influence, even if he didn’t give the instruction in writing, as I’m sure he didn’t, that, I’m afraid, is a very unwise thing for him to do and I actually do think this is a resigning issue.”

Two weeks later, Blunkett was gone.

Nuff said.

PS Actually, I find it rather sad that Mike S has taken to bashing Davis. PBC is an excellent blog, and Smithson's usp is to remain above the mud-slinging. He should leave that sort of stuff to people like Guido and we peasants.

Anyone Actually Going To The Conference?

Conference virgins Mrs T and I are packing our swimmies and Ambre Solaire Factor 20 for the jaunt to Blackpool. But having read this post on DD's new blog, we're wondering quite what we've let ourselves in for:

'David Davis wants to end the "out-dated'' annual party conference...It comes amid mounting concern across the political divide about the long decline of the traditional staged-for-TV conference. Audiences were so small for BBC coverage for the Liberal Democrat event, also held in Blackpool a fortnight ago, that crude overnight figures recorded no viewers.

And among those in Brighton for Labour this week a chief topic of conversation was how few people had made the trip. Restaurants that were formerly reservation-only during conference week had tables free at 8.30pm while once-popular bars were almost empty. Photographers almost staged a walk-out after being denied access to the balcony from where all the empty seats could be seen. Those who do attend are increasingly either young party hacks or those who have retired.'

Cripes. We don't want to go to a conference just to meet young party hacks and those who've retired. We can get all that at home.

Is there anyone else out there who's actually going?

PS I'm sure this pic wasn't in the brochure.

Bloggers For Davis 24

We're always delighted to welcome new Bloggers for Davis, and David Davis- Modern Conservatives brings a welcome return for longtime blogger Iain Dale.

What's that you say?

And DD will be blogging there as well?

It's too good to miss- add to your favourites immediately.

Unpicking The Recognition Factor

We have always recognised that right now Ken has a higher recognition factor than DD, and yes, he's popular, even if it's in an Arthur Daley sort of way. What we've disputed is that his popularity would actually translate into election winning votes: polling evidence suggests otherwise.

So we were very interested to see the YouGov poll in this week's Spectator. Their new angle was to give respondents fuller information about each of the four leading candidates, so as to level the recognition playing field. They conclude:

'Without the immediate advantage of recognition, Ken Clarke was no longer the front-runner. Once the public were given pictures and information about candidates they may not previously have been familiar with, David Cameron and David Davis became the candidates who most increased people’s likelihood to vote Conservative.'

On the face of it, good news for DD and DC, and closely echoing that Sunday Telegraph focus group finding way back in May (doesn't that seem a long time ago).

In fairness, we do have to recognise that the YouGov poll was not what you might call scientific. The fuller information provided on each candidate was not consistent across candidates- there was a large measure of subjectivity in deciding which points to mention and what wording to use.

But it's difficult to argue with Anthony Wells' overall assesment that "important finding of the poll is that Ken Clarke’s lead really is just down to increased recognition - tell respondents about who the other candidates are, what they look like and some of the things they stand for, and they too can be just as popular".

What this once again underlines is that we should definitely definitively categorically not be driven by recognition factor polling in picking our leader. Despite what Ken might want to argue to the contrary.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Support Davis

DD's campaign website is now up. Go to it and register your support.

Do it now.

Also Launched "The Tory Blair"

As well as DD, David Cameron also launched his formal leadership bid today. Mrs T watched it on the telly, and not for the first time, said "he's very good- makes all the rest of them look like amateurs".

And yes, he is very good- confident, articulate, and a good sense of humour. And in a similar vein, there's a very supportive profile of him in today's Grauniad:

'To his supporters - especially fellow members of the "Notting Hill Set" of modernising, young London Conservatives - Cameron represents the holy grail. He's telegenic, approachable, sanely eurosceptic, socially liberal, unburdened by baggage: a Blair for the Tories, though you'd never catch them putting it like that.

Above all, he stands a chance of addressing the party's central image problem, which is that for years now, in many circles, admitting to being a Tory has meant admitting not just to certain socioeconomic beliefs, but to being, somehow, a bit weird.'

All of which- according to Mrs T- came across powerfully at his launch. But as I keep trying to explain to her, he does have two or three drawbacks.

First, there's toffdom. Yes, I know, in 2005 Britain it doesn't matter. Except that...well, the next Labour leader doesn't agree, as we heard when he reviewed our candidates:

"David Cameron - the only new face - is an old Etonian. Their answer to their problems: not new 21st century conservatives, today's Tory party simply the same old rerun of the same old boys' network."

And I'm afraid he'd have much more fun like that with DC as leader. Even though the Blessed Tone is pretty well out of that same drawer.

Then there's the matter of DC's "managerialist" leanings. We've blogged about this before, and I remain concerned. On the other hand, Mrs T says nobody out in the real world gives a stuff whether he's managerialist or surrealist or even dematerialist. Our priority is to get re-elected. So strictly in terms of getting re-elected, maybe we should ignore that (although I'm not going to).

But what nobody can ignore is his extraordinary inexperience. He's only been an MP for some four years. And Education is his first major shadow post. In contrast, by the time he became leader, Tone had been an MP for eleven years, and had held a slew of frontbench posts. He had proved himself in the fire.

Interestingly, DC this morning arguing the need for change, said:

"The choice for the party has got to be who do you think really believes it?

Who will really stick to it when the going gets tough and the press attack you after a couple of years and say this is not distinctive enough, it isn't attacking enough?"

We agree. We also think such toughness is going to be a vital requirement for our next leader, which we think is one of DD's key attractions. Of course, it may well be that Cameron also possesses it. But unlike DD, he's never demonstrated it to us. In reality we know very little about him, and we haven't seen him tested by that fire.

As has been said over and over again during the Phoney Campaign, DC- and indeed several others among our newer MPs- look terrific hopes for the future. But right now- 2005- it's just too soon.

And reluctantly, after an appropriately "robust" debate, even Mrs T agrees.

DD Formally Launches Campaign

David Davis formally launched his leadership campaign this morning. With a podium backdrop proclaiming "Modern Conservatives" and "Changing Britain, Improving Lives", his speech called for radical change to improve society:

"The heart of this change must be to empower people and let them realise their full potential. I was drawn into politics by Churchill's dream of a Britain in which "there is a limit beneath which no man may fall, but no limit to which any man might rise".

I want to build a new consensus for change, using modern conservative ideas to achieve the goal of social justice which for too long have been claimed by the left:
- opportunity for the many and not just the privileged few.
- public services as good as those of our European neighbours.
- a strong economy and a better society."

It was heavily attended, with many familiar faces from the Westminster village and well beyond. Tyler was lucky enough to be there, but of course it was principally a TV event, aimed at the assembled Adam Boultons, Nick Robinsons and Garry Gibbons and their attendant cameras.

But I was more impressed by the depth of support from our party's leading thinkers. David Willetts naturally gave a short speech reiterating why he was supporting DD. And I spotted the heads of several leading thinktanks, including Reform and the CPS. They see in Davis what we see: a leader who will finally, at long, long last, have the confidence and conviction to take those exciting ideas and give us a platform for government.

We're on our way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Europe Already Biting Ken

We all know the BBC is backing Ken. But even they can't resist having a go over Europe.

This morning on the Today programme, Ed Stourton wasted no time in suggesting that Ken had "sneaked out" his change of heart on the Euro in that interview for the Central Banking journal. So perhaps he'd like to "clarify" his position for a wider audience.

Waving his cigar around, Ken blustered, dismissing Ed with an injunction to "look at the article in Central Banking".

But Ed wouldn't be deterred: "Are you saying your position has changed?"

"Maaah...irrelevant...made it quite clear...maaah....anyone who thinks otherwise is not living on the planet...only people who...maaah!"

"Your reputation is for straight talking...but this answer doesn't qualify as straight talking."

"Look, are you going to spend the whole interview talking about the Euro? It's not why I agreed to come on this morning..."

He was beginning to sound more than a tad tetchy, and his kneejerk was to turn on us party members. "Only a strange fringe of the Conservative Party think that an interview on peak time on radio should be all about the Euro."

And just listen to the way he says Conservative Party. It's more than a term of abuse- he sounds as if he's describing some weird child sacrificing sect. Certainly not a party he aspires to lead.

Two-thirds of the entire interview was spent on the Euro. But finally they did turn to something else: whether Ken's tobacco job meant he was a "merchant of death".

And just remember: all this was meant to be a gentle fire-side chat with a loving Auntie. Can you just imagine what Eurosceptic Gordo and the dark legions of New Labour would do with it?

Ken may have hoped his Europhilia was now safely tucked up in the long grass. What we heard this morning was a sharp reminder that it is not.

Getting On With It

Yesterday's rejection of the Howard/Maude/Monbiot plan was a vital first step on our path to winning the next election.

Yes of course, it would have been better if the plan had never been cooked up in the first place- and we should all keep a careful note of those who were promoting it. But let's have no more hand-wringing: we are where we are, and right now the clear imperative is just to get on with it.

May we reiterate that our MPs have a particular responsibility to ensure we don't have a repetition of the IDS experience. Theirs is the power to winnow down the candidates to that shortlist of two- either of whom they could work with. And this time, they need to take that responsibility seriously.

We all understand about grudges and axes, and what fun it is to plot and conspire. We all heard that unedifying whoop of joy Ann Widdecombe emitted when she heard M Portillo hadn't made the 2001 final cut.

But come on guys- you're meant to be the "most sophisticated electorate in the world". Please concentrate very hard and make sure you present us with two candidates you genuinely believe could do the job in Westminster. Two candidates who are- among other things- capable of knocking heads together when the going gets tough.

Lord Hodgson- who is someone who actually knows- reckons "it is perfectly possible for this election to be completed in eight weeks".

We expect to have our new leader in place by Christmas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Losers Declare For Ken

After a long period when Ken's declared support among MPs has remained stuck on 12, he's decided to widen the net.

So this morning sees support for Clarke from 30 nearly-MPs- Tory PPCs who were defeated in the last election. They include Sheila Gunn, John Major's former press secretary, and they say:

'As candidates in this year's general election, we represented constituencies that our party must win if it is to defeat Labour at the next election. The electorate is telling us that the Conservative Party would be mad not to elect Ken Clarke to lead it.'

The only problem of course is that...well, ahem...they're all losers.

And also, I happen to know the constituency for which Sheila herself stood- Slough- because I grew up there. Lovely place of course. But certainly not a constituency "that our party must win if it is to defeat Labour at the next election". In fact, throughout the last millenium it was solidly Labour, only ever falling into our hands once (1964-66), and then only because Labour got so cocky they put up a pacifist octogenarian. (Strangely, the Tory who temporarily took the seat was Sir Anthony Meyer, who much later found fame as the front half of a pantomime stalking horse).

What's more, when we talk about what the people want, we should remember Sheila's entry into the Slough race was imposed on the good people of the "Safety Town" by the apparatchiks at CCO. The local party had selected a strong local candidate- Adrian Hilton- but CCO took exception to a Spectator article he had written. Their response was to grab the controls: the local party was put in "supported status" - which meant that its officers were suspended and all decisions are made on its behalf by a representative from Conservative Central Office, which then imposed Sheila Gunn.

The Times quoted Hilton as saying:

"There are people at Central Office behaving like little dictators and, seemingly, people who are ordinary members are being treated with contempt.

I am simply appalled at the way the Slough Association has been treated. These are people who have been working their backsides off since 1997 to get an MP for Slough who is Conservative once again. Now they have been disbanded and they haven't even been told officially that they have been disbanded."

Sound familiar at all?

At least the latest anti-democratic power grab by these jokers looks like heading for defeat.


Monday, September 26, 2005

The Big Push

Despite the latest hour-long propaganda broadcast from the BBC's determined "Campaign For A Ken Victory", his own front-line troops are getting extremely jumpy.

Yesterday, a wild-eyed John Bercow burst out of the Clarke bunker screaming that DD was about to give him "a lethal injection".

He then charged off towards the Cameron trenches yelling "Eton, hunting, shooting and lunch at Whites!"

Later, after being rescued by a medical team and heavily sedated, he tearfully mumbled "We will be sleepwalking to a fourth successive slaughter and deservedly so."

Yes, yes, just try to get some rest, now. Field Marshal Ken has actually only suffered two previous slaughters, and now we just need one more push.

The Big Push.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Davis Wows Ladies

The Mail On Sunday has polled women on the leadership candidates:

'Women voters regard David Davis as far more 'attractive' than his rivals, the British Polling Index survey reveals.

And crucially, despite rating Mr Clarke more highly on all serious counts, women are still more likely to vote Tory if Mr Davis becomes leader. While women respect Mr Clarke's weighty experience, his weighty appearance lets him down. Just two per cent - one in 50 - of women say they find the cigar-smoking, pint-drinking, pot-bellied Mr Clarke sexy.

By contrast, nearly one in three women said they found Mr Davis attractive. The 56-year-old, whose nose was broken several times during teenage brawls, stays in shape by going on long hikes through the Pennines.'

So there we have it. That crucial female vote we're all so concerned about? With DD at the helm, it's no longer a problem.

Another New High Point For Davis

Over on PoliticalBetting, Smithson has again updated his chart of implied probabilities for the leadership.

The punters have pushed DD up to yet another new high of 68% (0.47/1) chance of success. Meanwhile, Ken is back down to 20%, and...well, we'll draw a veil over the others.

The punters are with him.

The MPs are with him.

And the sun is shining.

Who could really ask for more?

True Grit

An argument you sometimes hear is that Davis is yet another in a dismal sequence of failed right-wing leaders. They start out promising to pursue a "modernising" aganda, but as soon as the going gets rough they revert to their "default settings", holed up back in that right-wing redboubt taking poorly aimed shots at the real world outside.

We've never believed DD fits that pantomime caricature, but it's interesting to see what the v brainy Dr Greg Clarke says about it. He's the new MP for Tunbridge Wells who declared for DD yesterday.

And he knows a thing or two about retreats to that redoubt, having been appointed Conservative strategy director by William Hague in 2001. He subsequently established a policy unit which 'developed a new agenda for the Party, based on two themes:
  • serious reform of the public services to give independence to professionals and choice to the people who use these services; and
  • a focus on the people and communities 'left behind'.

Sound familiar? Hmm...yees. It never really got incorporated in our 2005 Election platform though, did it. And Greg reckons he knows why:

"Having worked for three successive Leaders of the Opposition I have seen at first hand how day-to-day pressures can make even the most well-intentioned Leader the slave of the next day's headline writers. That is why it is essential to have a Leader who has from the outset a serious agenda for government, and who has the personal tenacity to stick to that agenda and refuse to be blown off course.

David Davis has the right vision for Britain. When he was Party Chairman, he said that the test of any policy must be what it does to help the most vulnerable in society. He was among the first to recognise the need to bring our public services into line with the best in the world, and he helped construct policies to take power away from central government and unaccountable bodies and give it back to local communities and citizens.

I have worked with David for several years, and I know that he is strong enough to withstand the pressures a Leader of the Opposition, still more a Prime Minister, faces without being deflected from his purpose."

Spot on.


More MPs Declare For Davis

Five more MPs have declared for DD.

David Liddington and Mark Hoban were both originally David Willetts supporters, and have now followed him into the Davis camp.

Hoban was yet another supporter of Michael Portillo in 2001, as was Mark Field, from George Osborne's shadow Treasury team.

Stuart Jackson is a member of our 2005 intake, again demonstrating the breadth of DD's appeal.

Finally, Nigel Evans- the Vice-Chairman of Conservatives Abroad- has come aboard.

According to the rolling update at ConservativeHome, this puts DD on 56 declared MP supporters, with Cameron still on 13, Ken still on 12, Doc still on 10, and Sir Malcolm still on 5.

Another interesting fact is neither Cameron, nor Doc, nor Sir Malcolm have had any endorsements from any of their shadow teams. The entire Home Affairs team has of course declared for DD.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cameron "Mudslinging"

According to the Telegraph, David Cameron has chucked some of the brown stuff at leadership rivals DD and Ken:

"I am worried that we will sleepwalk to another defeat if the choice is between staying on a Right-wing agenda, more of the same. That way we will not show we've changed."

Splat, DD!

"But on the other hand if we go down a path where we say that the European issue somehow doesn't matter any more, and we're not going to engage in that, I think instead of political suicide, that's national suicide."

Splot, Ken!

Actually, as mud goes...umm, it doesn't seem that bad. A tad overwrought perhaps, but that's hardly surprising given the parlous state of DC's campaign (Betfair probability of winning now only 7%).

But clearly DC needs to be careful and consider the future. A Davis supporter made the key point:

"We shouldn't be saying things like this, because at the end of the day we're all in one party and after the contest we've got to work together. These personal attacks are not beneficial."

Let's not go back over the Davis dash. But surely, DC can see that DD is no pantomime right-winger: the most exciting practical bits of the modernising agenda (as set out for example in Direct Democracy) form a central plank in DD's platform. And with people like Two-Brains already on board, he surely understands that Davis is serious.

So come on Mr C. Do the right thing.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Greg Clarke For Davis

Another declaration for DD- Greg Clarke, the new MP for Tunbridge Wells.

This brings the total number of MPs who have declared for Davis to 52 (on my- not always watertight- count).

Keith Simpson For Davis

More good news. Shadow Foreign Office Minister Keith Simpson has today declared for DD:

"I intend supporting David Davis for the leadership of the Conservative Party. In a speech today on 'Britain's Place in ther World' David spoke passionately about the need for us to develop a foreign and security policy based upon new thinking, the right values and enlightened national interest. I think this will resonate with the British public.

I have known David since we were students together and I believe that he now has the necessary qualities and experience to be the leader of the Conservative Party in opposition and then, more importantly, in government as Prime Minister."

In 2001 Keith initially supported Michael Portillo, switching to Ken Clarke in the final run-off. Again this highlights the breadth of DD's support.

And far be it from us to comment on the fact that one of Liam's shadow team has decided to support DD. The shadow Home Affairs team, of course, have unanimously come out for DD.

So come on Liam. We like your ideas. Isn't it time to do the right thing and join up with Davis?

DD On Foreign Policy

DD's foreign policy speech this morning is thoughtful and wide-ranging, covering the importance of the Atlantic Alliance, security, the reform of international institutions, and international development.

But for many, of course, it is the section on Europe which will be most closely studied. He has always described himself as Euro-sceptic, but as we've discussed before, there are some who still feel he blotted his copybook when he worked as a whip for John Major during that horrendously destructive Maastrict/Bastards struggle.

Today he spells out his vision for an "Open Europe":

"It is plainly wrong to believe that Europe is not a current issue or that the Constitution is dead. In the next few years there is likely to be a fresh attempt to re-write the EU treaties...

In truth, the world has changed, but the way in which the European elite conceives of its purpose has not. The Euro may be failing and unpopular and the European Constitution in cold storage, but the drive towards integration, centralisation, bureaucratic intervention and one-size-suits-all policies is set to continue.

Elsewhere, there may be growing recognition of the value of free trade: but the European elite clings onto protectionism, and fights the battle of the bra. This has to change and Britain, for its own sake, must change it...

The Conservative vision, to which I hold, is of a profoundly different kind of Europe. And it has never looked more timely or more attainable. It consists of free cooperation between independent European nations, collaborating where that makes sense, imposing their own priorities where universal agreement is impossible - within the framework of a lightly regulated Single Market to which all must subscribe.

The truth is that much of what the EU does today is not part of the "core business" of the Single Market, and there is no good reason why it should be compulsory for all members to take part in every EU initiative.

The seeds of the approach are already there. Not all are within the Euro. Not every country participates in the Schengen agreement on movement across frontiers. But we should go further. We need to create a structure in which it is possible for member states to choose to take back powers to their own countries.

This is a radical vision but it is the only option that reconciles today's competing views. It recognises differences, it respects national feeling, and it ends the wrangling of competing ideologies for control of the EU."

No, he doesn't- as some would like- issue a threat of unilateral withdrawal if we don't get the reforms he would like to see. And some will see that as disappointing.

But, come on guys, the world has changed dramatically even over the last twelve months. A Davis-led government would be pushing on a door which will be a lot less securely bolted than the one John M battered himself against in the early 90s.

Davis has exactly the right vision for Europe. Two-speed, core/satellite, call it what you will. Give us that lightly regulated single market, and that's pretty well it.

Europe Back From Long Grass?

A key section of DD's foreign policy speech this morning will cover Europe. He will say:

"The euro may be failing and unpopular and the European constitution in cold storage, but the drive towards integration, centralisation, bureaucratic intervention and one-size-suits-all policies is set to continue.''

And anyone who heard M Le Grand President Giscard D'Isdain on BBC R4 Today, will know that the Constitution is going to burst out of that cold store as soon as the tiresome matter of the 2007 French election is out of the way: "the document would ultimately be approved."

Davis 'will call for a "new model for Europe", which will allow Britain to promote its own national interest.'

We await the text with interest.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On The Trail Of A Long-Legged Canard

One of the points constantly made by hand-wringing Tory bloggers is that we are now so unpopular, that voters who like our policies in blind tastings immediately turn off when it's revealed they're Tory policies rather than Stork.

Who says? Well, it's well's been established in polls.

Oh, yeah? Er...what polls exactly?


OK, turn to the helpful ConservativeHome's Ten Things briefing on "The Conservative Party's electoral plight". It says:

'The Tory brand is so tainted that it has a reverse Midas touch effect on policies. 64% of voters agreed with a Conservative immigration policy when it wasn’t identified with the Tories. The level of agreement collapsed to 30% if voters knew it was a Tory policy.'

Oh. Right. So...just to satisfy my own curiosity, where did that come from?

A C Change report.

C Change? What you mean that modernista outfit headed by...umm, Chairman Maode? Hmmm. So can I see the report?

Go to C Change Website. Umm...nothing doing. Report not posted.

OK- turn to the definitive Anthony Wells. He comments on the C Change report:

'Conservative policies are actually popular - when the public was asked about actual Conservative proposals they were often very supportive of them, until they found out they were Conservative policies, when support plummetted. The thing the Conservatives need to put right is, for want of a better word, their “brand image”, which is invariably negative. C Change’s report (based I believe on the Michael Ashcroft polling) shows 54% thought the Conservative campaign “mean, nasty and negative”, 68% thought them opportunistic, 67% thought them out of touch, 58% uncaring.'

So still no polling data on the actual Stork test, just some general material on how voters have a pretty dim view of us. And I've got to say that with Anthony saying "based I believe on...", it makes me even more curious to see the actual poll data. Who were the respondents? How many? When asked?

Anthony naturally also took a shuftie through the Ashcroft polling itself. He says:

'It’s an interesting study, albeit low on any actual conclusions...That said, you can’t commission 12 large tranches of opinion polling without finding something interesting out. I’ve had a peer through the tables, though the sheer volume of them means there is probably much more to look at, but there a few points that leap out.'

Yes, I've had a peer through the tables too...danged if I could find any mention of that Stork test.

Maybe it didn't come from that unposted C Change report at all. In February, BBC Newsnight commissioned an ICM poll, which found that 82% of voters supported the 'idea that immigration should be controlled more strictly', but only 65% supported 'Conservative Policy to control immigration more strictly'.

And on that very slender basis, and chats with Shagger Norris and Rick Nye (both of whom arguably have the teensiest of teensy axes shoved up their jumpers), the BBC apparently concluded that we Tories have "an image problem".


Can anyone out there actually point us in the direction of the original Stork test data? So we can take a good look at it.

(Why do I care? Well, because it's being used as another one of those twenty great reasons why we need to elect Ken. And I'd be much more impressed if there were some facts behind the myth.)

UPDATE: Thanks to a steer from Anthony himself, I've now found a real poll that does contain a Stork Test- on immigration policy. It was conducted in March for the Times by Populus. And what it actually shows is that the proportion of respondents agreeing with Tory policy remained roughly unchanged at about 70% , both blindfolded and with the Tory brand visible. This compared to just over 60% achieved by the Labour policy.

However, the proportion of respondents who disagreed with the Tory policy increased with the blindfolds removed- from around 20% to around 30%. So the net balance in favour obviously fell- from 55% to 43% (still 10% above Labour's policy).

What should we make of this? Well, one interesting point is that in the blindfold test, Labour voters far preferred the Tory policy to their own, which they also disagreed with more than the Tory policy. However, once the blindfolds were removed- guess what- they suddenly discovered they preferred their own policy, and disagreed with the Tory one. A similar effect was present with Tory voters, but because so many more of them agreed with the "home" policy blindfolded, there was much less switching once blindfolds were removed.

On my calculations, that effect alone accounted for almost half of the observed 10% increase in disagreers once tasters could see that Tory brand label.

This is not something we should be losing too much sleep over. And I would not describe it as King Midas In Reverse.

Britain's Place In The World

Tomorrow morning DD is speaking at Chatham House on Britain's place in the world. It will be his first foreign policy speech of the "campaign", and it should particularly interest those who've been wanting to clarify his thinking on Europe.

Entire Home Affairs Team Backs DD

The whole of our frontbench Home Affairs team have declared for DD. Some of course had already declared, but in terms of new MP supporters, that's Cheryl Gillan, Dominic Grieve, and Humpfrey Malins (which we Tylers are particularly pleased about because he's our local MP)..

As Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome comments:

'Those who have worked most closely with him in the last two years haven't run into the hands of another courtier but have stayed loyal to Mr Davis.'

Which flatly contradicts those who earlier in the campaign were muttering that Davis could not hope to inspire loyalty.

Along with yesterday's endorsements from Nicholas Winterton and Richard Ottaway, this takes DD's declared support among MPs to 50, a quarter of the Parliamentary party.

Early in the contest, some predicted that DD's best chance would be if we retained member voting. Now some are suggesting that the opposite is true. In fact Tim M is fretting that the Peasants Revolt against that Howard/Maude/Monbiot power grab may actually have the perverse effect of letting Ken in. "The price of democracy can be high," he wails.

To which we say, Tim, have faith in the sound judgement of our fellow members.

DD will be our leader.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Blimpish Blogs Ken Below Waterline

In an outstanding post at Once More, the erudite Blimpish demolishes the case for Ken.

Under the headline "Theoretically and practically a no", Blimp zaps the various arguments. You need to read it- no, you really do- but the essay notes version goes as follows:

Popularity? Doesn't mean votes. Great Chancellor? His joyless, jobless recovery failed to win us the 97 election. Credibility from being Chancellor? Like Labour turning back to Healey in 87. Radical reformer? Implementor of other people's reforms. Centrist candidate? Electorate is moving right, and centrism is no automatic route to victory. Media on his side? Honeymoon period only, unless Ken sides with liberals against us. Non-ideological? His ideology is managerialism- just like Labour.

Blimpish concludes: 'Is this really the way to bring together a new, motivated bloc of voters to build our governing coalition? I don't think it is, somehow. Electing Ken is fighting the last war - he is and would be a damaging diversion.'

Go and read it. Andrew Nontrivialsolutions did, and was so impressed it brought him to his senses after that unfortunate dalliance with Ken. He is proud to remain a Blogger For Davis.

Fox Goes For Yoof Vote

Over on Political Betting woody662 asks:

'Did anyone notice that Liam Fox said there was either 16 or 19 years between him and DD on that dreadful Morgan Platell programme on Saturday? Looks like 13 to me. Had a touch of the Simon Hughes there.'

Fact- DD is 56: Doc is 44 tomorrow.

So happy birthday to him.

How Does It Feel?

For those of us of a certain age, the immortal Dylan was a major formative influence on our lives. So we keenly await Martin Scorsese's documentary next week. And one of the best bits will be the notorious 1966 Manchester gig, when Dylan turned his back on the bearded world of acoustic protest songs and blasted his way into Like A Rolling Stone: electrified and electrifying.

'Judas!' screamed the folkie audience.

'I don't believe you,' he replied enigmatically. And then to the Band, 'Play it f****** loud.'

And you can't help thinking of this as you follow this week's LibDem Conference. The ever-dependable Matthew D'Ancona reports:

'The real split in Blackpool has...been between those Lib Dems...who want their party to have policies that add up, sound practical and look contemporary, and those...who are content to warm the voters' hearts with meaningless promises and dewy-eyed nostalgia. It is between those who see a future for the Lib Dems as potential governing partners, and those who do not.

When Mr Clegg talks about "breaking up" the NHS and making it more responsive to patients, he is not lurching to the Right, but acknowledging that the fate of the core public services and the value for money which they represent will be at the heart of political debate in the next decade. For Mr Cable to declare that "we also need to consider the upper middle-income professionals" when reviewing his party's tax policy is a sign of political maturity, not political sell-out.

This, it must be said, is not a view shared by most Lib Dems, who are screaming betrayal.'


We will never appeal to the bearded folkies who still comprise the heart and soul of the LibDems. And neither should we try. Let them continue with their gentle undemanding acoustic protest songs. Harmless and powerless.

But as this week is showing, those Orange Book guys are different. They're not happy. They want more. They hunger for the future of rock.

So let's not blow it by offering them more of that oldtime late-nite jazz. They need the real thing.

F****** loud? In the nicest possible way, obviously.

Winterton For Davis

The FT reports that Nicholas Winterton has declared for DD. He supported IDS in 2001, and takes DD's declared support among MPs to 46.

The report also says that DD will formerly announce his candidacy next Thursday, the same day David Cameron has also chosen. It is expected that all the candidates will have formally put up before the Conference.

The FT also says:

'Michael Ancram, deputy leader and shadow defence secretary, will this week meet a leading member of the Cornerstone Group of Conservative traditionalists amid speculation in Westminster that, if he secures their backing, he would throw his hat in the ring.'

What's that all about? After his performance in 2001, Sir Michael will be fully siezed that he wouldn't win, and as a truly loyal servant of the Party he will be acutely aware there are already far too many hats in that ring. Is it another marker? Is he just trying to head off the most unhelpful idea that Edward Leigh might stand? Or has the FT just bigged up a throwaway remark whispered in some dark Westminster hostelry?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ken Still Not Magic Bullet

We Tories are fed up with the squabbling, the backstabbing, and most of all the losing. That much we all agree on.

Which is why Ken's pitch- I'm popular, I appeal to LibDems, and I can therefore get us elected- is so seductive. And quite understandably, all across the Realm, Tories of sound mind and sound beliefs are saying they will grit their teeth and vote for Ken because they just want to get elected. Yes, there was that Europe business, but now it's over there in the long stinging nettles somewhere, and anyway, we can no longer afford to be "purist" about such things.

But unfortunately, the polls have never supported that blissful fantasy. Yes, people sort of like him, just as they like Champagne Charlie, or Robbie, or Del Boy. But that's not the same as voting him into power.

So it was that yesterday's Guardian/ICM poll found that a Ken-led Tory party would bomb in an election against Brown and Kennedy. In fact, we'd do worse than we're doing right now. 15% of our existing voters would no longer support us, against which we'd pick up only the equivalent of 10% from switching Labour and LibDem supporters. Leaving us 5% down on the whole deal.

So let me just repeat what I'm afraid is the inescapable reality: KEN IS NOT AN ELECTORAL MAGIC BULLET. There is no alternative to the hard slog of building modern Conservatism.

Which is why I get so distressed when I see people like the excellent Andrew NonTrivialSolutions- one of our very first Bloggers For Davis- getting overwhelmed by Ken Fever.

Please Andrew. Do not go gentle into that good night. Stay with us and help build heaven right here on earth.

Well OK, maybe not heaven...but at least we could get the public services working again.

Ken Ahead On Planet Grauniad

Reporting the stream of MPs now declaring for DD, the Grauniad puts it in context:

"Mr Clarke remains front-runner in the campaign."

Er...come again?

"Mr Clarke remains front-runner in the campaign."

Yes, that's what we thought you said. Well, does that work exactly?

Can't be the number of MP backers, because DD has 45 declared supporters against Ken's 12. And if rumour is to be believed, Davis may have as many as another 40 supporters so far undeclared.

And at the bookies, DD's odds are firming daily, whereas Ken's are now looking decidedly flaccid. This morning the punters at Betfair have pushed DD's implied probability of success to an all-time high of 68%. Whereas Ken has subsided further, down to 21%.

Now we well understand that the Guardian- along with the BBC and other swathes of the liberal media- want Ken to win. But surely they should make some attempt to distinguish between their dreams and the real world.

Shouldn't they?

MacKay Declares For Davis

Further significant support for DD this morning, with Deputy Party Chairman Andrew Mackay declaring for him.

Mackay, another MP who supported Michael Portillo in 2001, noted that DD is in his "political prime" (echoing our own view):

"I am also taken by the wide range of his supporters and believe that he would unite the party with a team of the best talents available."

He praised DD's response to the London bombings, saying: "You see the true metal of a political leader when they perform at short notice in a crisis, as opposed to after much rehearsal by spin doctors. David passed with flying colours."

He is a man of his age, who will reach out to many who have not previously taken an interest in politics, let alone in the Conservative party."

Mackay's endorsement takes DD's declared support among MPs to 45.

Monday, September 19, 2005

To Everything There Is A Season

A comment you sometimes come across in the blogosphere goes along the lines of:

'We have now had three leaders from the right of the Party, all of whom have been electoral disasters, all of whom promised to lead the Party from the centre before indulging in some kind of 'core vote strategy'. More of the same really should not be an option.' (htp Disraeli)

Of course, we've actually had five sequential leaders from the centre-right of the Party (for reasons explained by William Rees Mogg this morning). But we take the general point.

To answer it we need to understand a critical difference between DD and his three immediate predecessors. For different reasons, those three all came into the leadership unprepared. Hague was expecting to be leader one day, but not so soon. I doubt that IDS ever really expected to be leader, but stood because it was his duty to save the Party from the Europhiles. Howard...well, he was on Maggie's list of seven potential leaders, and actually ran in 1997. But he was soundly defeated , and almost certainly didn't really expect to get another bite.

Davis in contrast has been preparing seriously for this moment for some time. Indeed so extensive have been his preparations that some have accused him of o'erweening ambition, and marked him down because of it.

But he will be our first recent leader to have properly taken the time to size up the challenge and map out the way forward. He's already charted the broad outlines of a radical reforming social agenda, based on opportunity not dependency. And he's already assembled a strong core of guys around him, who will be loyal through the tough times as well as the good.

Davis will be a leader of a very different hue from what we've grown used to- tough and single-minded, fully prepared for the challenge ahead, and with three to four years before the next election. He will surprise many with his commitment to tackling social issues. But he will do so from a distinctively Conservative position, rather than the ineffectual managerialism of New Labour.

Davis is in his political prime: experienced and prepared, but still possessed of the drive and energy for the long haul ahead. Now really is the time. Both for him and the Party.

Davis Wonk Takes Flight

Writing in the latest Reform Journal, one of DD's favourite wonks, Nick Herbert- now of course the new MP for poor Howard Flight's old constituency- proclaims "it's time for the Conservatives to become the party of radical reform."

The ex-Director of Reform says:

"Far from altering my commitment to reform, my experience as an MP for the last four months has considerably reinforced it. It began on the doorsteps during the election campaign. What did I have to say to voters about their waits for NHS treatment? Well, we would clean their hospitals. What about soaring council tax? Well, we would help pensioners, but only by increasing public spending. On each occasion these limp offerings were greeted with a weary look from voters who instinctively knew that we were simply playing back the lowest common denominator from our latest focus groups.

As an MP, the issues in my postbag and my surgeries have brought to life problems which at Reform we analysed academically."

Quite rightly (and unsurprisingly) he praises DD's "New Idealism" and calls for radical public sector reform, but he also praises George Osborne for "electrifying" the growing debate on flat tax. He concludes:

"There is no future for an insipid conservatism whose main doorstep message is a plea to give us a turn in office. The Conservative Party needs a purpose, and that should be to change Britain for the better. Only when we have convinced electors that we have both the ambition and the ideas to improve the lives of ordinary people will we be listened to again."

Hallelujah, brother! At long last, we're on our way to the Promised Land.

PS The Reform Journal also contains an interesting piece by Trevor Kavanagh, which concludes:
"The Sun said during the election that it will consider supporting the Conservative Party only when it clearly adopts the principles of small government and low taxes."

We're nearly there Trev old son...we're nearly there.

No Comment From Pink 'Un

Reporting Ken's TV interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, the FT strangely makes no mention of Ken’s…erm, "clanger" over Bank of England independence.

Strange, because of course it's the FT’s own 1997 article that seems to contradict Ken’s assertion yesterday that he “was always in favour of an independent Bank of England”.

Instead, the FT report highlights the fact that Ken “distanced himself from the concept of a flat tax and said his party risked irrelevance if it embraced such a rightwing US idea.”

You know, I can still remember the time when the FT was the most objective analytical organ you could hope to find. If you wanted to find out what was really going on, you turned to the Pink ‘un.

These days, pink is very definitely the colour, and “rightwing” bashing is the game. I long ago cancelled my order and switched to the drier Guardian.

No wonder their UK circulation is collapsing, and they’re supporting uberEurocorporatist Ken for leader.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

More MPs Back Davis

The Times carries the following endorsement letter from six MPs:

"Sir, You say (leading article, September 16) that the forthcoming Conservative leadership contest must be “a race, not a public meeting”. We agree. While we are fortunate to have a number of highly qualified candidates we have come to the conclusion that the man with the authority, ideas and energy to do the job best is David Davis.

He has been the party’s most effective performer in recent years as Shadow Home Secretary, and in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research he has set out a compelling case for the creation of a society in which “there is a limit beneath which no man may fall, but no limit to which any man might rise”.

His personal background and time as chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee leave him well placed to tackle the greatest political issue of our time, the renewal of our public services, while his success as a businessman shows that he understands the importance of nurturing a low-tax, light- regulation economy.

RICHARD BACON(MP for Norfolk South) MICHAEL FALLON(MP for Sevenoaks) IAN LIDDELL-GRAINGER(MP for Bridgwater) TIM LOUGHTON(MP for Worthing East & Shoreham) MARK SIMMONDS(MP for Boston & Skegness) ROBERT SYMS(MP for Poole)"

This is excellent news. Richard Bacon and Michael Fallon had already indicated their support, so this takes DD's declared support among MPs to 44.

But a key point here is that the group come from right across the party. They include not only at least two who supported Michael Portillo in 2001, but also one member of the Cornerstone Group of socially conservative MPs. That's a fairly broad spectrum.

Unity under Davis.

Oooh Ken: You Are A Rascal!

On this morning's Sunday AM, Andrew Marr interviewed Ken:

Andy: "Your critics say about that you were wrong on the euro, that you were wrong on independence for the Bank of England, and that a lot of your criticisms of New Labour in the early days weren't borne out."

Ken: "The trouble with the press, with great respect to your trade Andrew, is they do tend to report each other and they do go for clichés. I will repeat that I was always in favour of an independent Bank of England - chase one of those reminiscences."


Has Ken completely forgotten what he himself wrote for the FT on 7 May 1997, the day after Gordon B made the Bank independent:

"My approach was well-known. I always listened carefully to the advice of the Bank of England. But, at the end of the day, I took my own decisions on interest rates. More often than not I was proved right.

If markets are to have confidence in a chancellor, the first condition is that the chancellor must have confidence in himself. By giving away control of one of the key levers of economic policy only days after taking office, Mr Brown has made it clear he is not ready to take on the full range of responsibilities that his predecessors have exercised.

Yesterday's unnecessary and over-hasty decision puts Britain's economic prospects at serious risk. It abandons a tried and tested approach that has delivered the best inflation performance for decades. It is a hasty decision that Mr Brown may come to regret."

Just as Ken himself may come to regret his statement to Andy M.

PS Of course, it could all just be a faulty memory circuit in the Clarke cranium. But now we've got the internet, you can't afford to forget stuff- it's always dredgeable with a few minutes on Google. For example, in trying to establish whether John Major agreed with Ken's opposition to BoE independence, I've just dredged up Ken's student dalliance with Sir Oswald Mosley, whom apparently he twice invited to speak at Cambridge. I mean...what was that all about? Other than the fact that Mosley was a fanatical Euro-federalist. And also, it turns out, the father of Max Mosley, the man who steers Formula 1, that Ken's so keen on. What's that telling us?

And I wouldn't have discovered any of that if Ken had just fessed up on Bank independence.

Davis Lead Gets Bigger

The industrious Mike Smithson has updated his excellent leadership probability chart over at Political Betting.

It shows that DD has weathered Hurricane Ken, and his lead is once again growing. As we know, the real storm damage has been suffered by David Cameron, who has now sunk right back to level pegging with the Doc.

So as things stand today, the punters put the implied probability of a Davis victory at over 60%, with Ken on around 25%, and both Cameron and Fox well below 10%.

We've said it before, but the outsiders really do now need to think of the party. We just don't need that fractious Big Brother Conference. It's down to a run-off between DD and Ken, and the other candidates should follow the principled lead of David Willetts, and decide which of the two they're going to support.

The Case For Ken

Curmudgeonly LibDem Sir Simon Jenkins sets out the case for Ken:

'If the Tory party wants to win the next election it should choose Kenneth Clarke as leader. Clarke leads his nearest rival, David Davis, in all available polls by four to one. No further brain is needed. Period.'

Naturally he doubts that we're capable of grasping his insight:

'But even Tories can do their four times table. Someone should stand over them beating them with a rubber truncheon and chanting: “Four-to-one . . . four-to-one . . . do you sincerely want to win?”

Not that he agrees with Ken's politics:

'Apart from Iraq I can think of no issue on which I agree with Clarke. He seems on another planet. He is wholly blind to the folly of a pan-European confederacy. His business career suggests a signed-up archeo-corporatist. As health secretary he created a National Health Service vulnerable to the most stupefying bureaucracy. As education secretary he tried to nationalise every school and as home secretary he wanted to run every police force. At the Treasury he was a control freak’s control freak, the emperor of audit and a walking red tape factory.'

No, Ken's sole claim to be leader is his public popularity, and we Tories must somehow learn to live with his arrogant old-style statism.

Two points Si:

1. If you read the blogs- or even the newspapers- you'd realise that those popularity polls show only that Ken would lose to Gordo by a slightly smaller margin than our alternative leader (ie DD);

2. Some of us got involved in politics because we have certain beliefs about how to improve Britain. And they do not include a return to Heathism, even if it is under a Tory PM.

The Three Davids

The plugged-in and ever thoughtful Matthew D'Ancona suggests the compelling prospect of the three Davids:

'When the history of this particular Tory leadership race is written...Mr Willetts's decision to back the Shadow Home Secretary will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the twists and turns that actually mattered.

All eyes are now on Mr Cameron, who must decide whether or not to press ahead with his candidacy...Mr Davis is speaking more warmly of Mr Cameron than ever before: as well he might. The two Davids are an impressive team. But three would be unstoppable.'

We always liked the idea of D'Ancona's "Davis Dash", which alas turned into a marathon. And for a while Davis/Cameron was our "Dream Ticket".

So despite DC's occasional dabbling in the muddy waters of Labour managerialism, we hope very much that he does as D'Ancona suggests.

The Three Davids would indeed be unstoppable, and would be a powerful union of modern Conservatism's three major strands.

It's time, guys.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

One Nation Under A Groove

Another little ditty for you:

"One nation under a groove
Gettin' down just for the funk of it
One nation
And we're on the move
Nothin' can stop us now."

But contrary to widespread belief, according to ConservativeHome, "One Nation" didn't originate with that classic seventies Funkadelics album at all. They reckon it actually came from Disraeli. Gears, presumably.

One thing we do know is that pretty well all our leadership contenders are laying claim to it. Despite the fact that nobody really seems to know what it means. In fact, as a concept it seems even slipperier than one of Mr Blair's solemn pledges.

Old-time politics hack Tony Howard, writing in today's Times, confesses outright that he doesn't have a clue: "while the label remains an emotive one, it is a little difficult to know what it now signifies".

Sir Malcolm R reckons it's a "deep sense of the need for social justice and an end to poverty and inequality". But that would make Karl Marx a One Nation Tory.

Cuddly Ken defines it as 'Toryism with a social conscience combined with a free-market economy'. Which is so anodyne that it encompasses not only the entire spectrum of opinion in our own party, but also most of the Labour and LibDem parties too.

David, I can't go on.

In reality, "One Nation" these days is little more than a piece of code that says "I'm nice, not nasty". When it comes to claiming One Nation credentials, the Funkedelics got it absolutely right:

"Here's my chance to dance my way
out of my constrictions
Givin' you more of what you're funkin' for."

Better Step Aside

"See me comin' better step aside
A lot of men didn't and a lot of men died
I got one fist of iron and the other of steel
And if the right one don't get ya, the left one will"

Sir Malcolm must have been listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford's Greatest Hits. We can think of no other explanation for his crazed assertion in tomorrow's GMTV interview that Ken should step aside for him.

Admittedly, it sounds as if Big Ken's sidekick Wild Tim Yeo deliberately wound him up:

"I think Malcolm will pull out because of his limited parliamentary support. I would hope he would back Ken Clarke."

Mad Malc's mean snake eyes narrowed, as he swept back his beaverskin poncho to reveal the gleaming pearl handles of those notorious Pacemakers....sorry, Peacemakers. " just insulted my mule," he croaked in a most intimidating fashion. "An' my mule don't like to be insulted."



Come back next week for the next exciting episode of The Last Chance Saloon.

PS The latest odds on Betfair have Ken on 3/1 (implied probability of 25%), and Mad Malc on 64/1 (implied probability of 1.5%). So the man Malc wants to stand aside, according to the punters, has an almost twenty times greater chance of winning!

For reference, DD's odds have shortened again to 0.64/1 (implied probability of 61%). Whereas poor David C has gone right out to 13.5/1 (an implied probability of only 7%, against his pre-Ken highpoint of well over 20%).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bruce Anderson On Loose Again

After his extraordinarily vituperative attack on DD three months ago, Brucie now lets rip at Ken:

'He has never given the impression of holding his fellow Tories in a high regard. He was one of a small group of Heathites who believed that they could capture their party in a euro-coup and use it as a vehicle to lead Britain into a European federation. For 40 years he has been on the wrong side of the biggest question in British politics. That may qualify him for political leadership, but not in the Tory party. A former jewel thief should not expect to become the head of security for De Beers.

The second great issue facing the next Tory government will be the public services. Again, there is no easy answer. But Ken Clarke served in government for many years without even trying. Recently, he has been telling us that he abhors ideology. He really means that he has no interest in ideas.

Ken’s commitment to ‘one nation’ is phrase-deep. He knows best, and the devil take democracy. If politics were merely a Punch and Judy show, he would be the ideal Mr Punch. But there is no point in having a Tory government unless it can live up to its responsibilities. Any Tory who accepts that should realise that there is no point in voting for Ken Clarke.'

Set on one side whether you agree or not. Bruce just can't help spraying it around all over the place. And while to slag off one leadership finalist may be regarded as a misfortune; to slag off both looks like self-indulgent ranting.

We feel sorry for David Cameron: getting backed by Anderson has always been a surefire harbinger of failure.

The Guts Factor

From his new station alongside DD, David Willetts swoops down on yesterday's piece by Ali Campbell castigating us for not having a real policy debate:

'What has Campbell been up to for the past few months if he hasn’t detected there is at last a real and lively debate going on?...I think of David Cameron on quality of life issues, Ken Clarke demolishing Labour’s economic record and Liam Fox passionate on human rights across the world. [Modesty clearly forbade any mention of his own excellent contributions].

Above all, on the very same day that Campbell’s article appeared, David Davis spoke to Labour’s leading think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, on the disaster of declining social mobility and how we can once more spread opportunity more widely.

[Campbell] makes another mistake too. He has wrongly assumed that our problem is exactly the same as the one that Blair and Gordon Brown faced. Their problem was that Labour hadn’t come to terms with the failure of the socialist project. Ironically, the Conservative problem is the opposite, that we haven’t come to terms with the success of our project.'

Spot on, David.

But he ends on guts:

'Campbell said of what Blair and Brown did: “It sounds easy. It wasn’t.” He is right that it is not just a matter of formulating a grand strategy, it is having the guts and determination to stick with it through the day-to-day decisions of politics. Over the past eight years the Conservative Party has had all too many strategies; some of them were even quite good. But what we have not managed to do is to stick with them and resist those powerful gravitational forces pulling you back to do the things that don’t take the party or the country in the right direction.

So we need someone who both understands what we have to do and has the authority and determination to see it through. David Davis is that man.'

This is interesting, because there are those who say that a DD leadership would follow the sad pattern set by the Hague,IDS, and Howard leaderships. He'll start out standing, proud to proclaim a radical platform encompassing the very best Conservative thinking from right across the party. But after a couple of years facing the machine guns, he'll lose his nerve and scuttle back to some sawn-off "core vote" sloganising, like "Save The Pound", or "Control Immigration", or "Lock 'Em Up".

Willetts has been in those bunkers and bears the scars. He sees in DD someone with the broken-nosed guts to withstand that pressure. Someone who will stand up at some future Conference and say "You turn if you want to..." Or have we heard that one before?

Times Calls Time On Cameron

The Times was an early backer of David Cameron, but this morning's editorial says it's time for him to follow David Willetts and withdraw from the contest:

'Mr a moderate and reasonable soul who has made several speeches in the past few weeks which, while sound, have not delivered messages of distinction. If the Tories are to plump for a young man who has been in the House of Commons for only four years, they have to be convinced that he is a star of the highest quality. If Mr Cameron cannot illustrate this compellingly in the coming fortnight, he would be wise to emulate Mr Willetts and depart with dignity.'

Because the Times has previously been so pro-Cameron, this is a significant statement, although in fairness, we should also note they give the same advice to Malcolm Rifkind and Liam Fox.

Their basic reasoning is something we wholeheartedly agree with:

'It is possible that the party conference early next month will take place with Mr Davis, Mr Clarke, David Cameron, Liam Fox, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Mr Leigh and perhaps Andrew Lansley and/or Theresa May claiming to be in the frame and in with a chance. This is an implausibly large number of contestants and will invite ridicule. The Tories need an election that resembles a race, not a public meeting.

For that to occur, others should be prepared to follow Mr Willetts and be realistic about their own prospects.'

Hear, hear. We do not want the Conference to be a four day Big Brother style slanging match, carried live on all those digital news channels.

Finally let's note that the Times at last seems to be warming towards DD, and offers this advice:

'It would be shrewd of him to indicate that he is open to new ideas from any quarter (Mr Willetts will be an asset again in that regard) and that he recognises that his party has to be a plausible alternative government as well as an effective opposition. In fairness to him, the thoughtful speech that he delivered on Wednesday suggests that he is capable of positioning himself cleverly if the electorate is to allow him a hearing.'

Mr D is already on the case.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Willetts: Why I'm Backing DD

In a statement this evening, David Willetts explains his decision to back DD in the context of his own excellent contributions to the modern Conservatism debate:

'I have focused on the two principles that must underpin modern Conservatism: freedom of the individual within a modern market economy and the need for us to create a strong society offering support to those in greatest need. I am pleased these ideas have received widespread support, both inside and outside the party, but I will not be a candidate for Leader.

I believe that David Davis is the right man to lead the Conservative Party. He has the experience and the authority to be an effective leader. He has demonstrated that he has the support of many senior figures representing different strands of opinion within the party. He is widely respected and he has the credibility to unite the Conservative Party once the leadership election is over.

He recognizes the scale of the task ahead of us and he has the energy and determination to lead us to victory. And, as we have seen in recent months he has the empathy, understanding and gravitas to address the challenges facing Britain and the wider world.

Consequentially, today I am announcing my support for David Davis should he confirm his intention to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party. I look forward to working with him and helping him to deliver on our joint agenda of a strong economy and a strong society and to secure a Conservative Government.'

And we look forward to what will undoubtedly be a major contribution from David W.

Unity Under Davis

Our ludicrously protracted leadership contest has by and large been conducted in a more statesmanlike manner than many feared.

But nerves are now beginning to jangle. On Sunday, Doc Fox attacked Ken for undermining the marale of our troops in Iraq. Malcolm Rifkind attacked Ken for not "coming clean" on his Euro views. And David, attacked Ken over both Iraq and Europe. you notice any pattern here?

Precisely. And of course it's another reason why David Willetts reported declaration for DD is so encouraging. Because if there's one thing our party needs from the new leader it's unity.

And Ken is most unlikely to deliver it, for all the reasons we know about. Indeed last week's YouGov poll reckoned 14% of party members would resign if Ken became leader.

But, as we always thought he would, DD is showing he can reach out across the party. Social reformer Two-Brains will not have made this decision lightly.

The message is that Davis can unite us; harnessing all our best talent, and taking us on to that historic victory in 2010.

Willetts To Back DD

The BBC reports that David Willetts is about to declare for DD. This would be a very important endorsement, and one we've speculated about before.

His speech to the Social Market Foundation is universally acknowledged as one of the most thought-provoking of the entire leadership "campaign", and his intellectual horse-power will be a vital ingredient in building the "Opportunity Society" we so much want to see.


Prophet With Honour

"A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country."

But it seems DD is the exception. Commenting on his Opportunity Society speech, the Yorkshire Post says:

'It is imperative that the Conservatives heed Mr Davis' call for "a new Tory idealism". For Davis is not speaking solely as one of the party's most effective performers. He is also drawing on his own experience. And he realises that his party must now reach out to families living on today's council estates; families who, at present, have no empathy with the Conservatives.

If Mr Davis can effectively demonstrate how he would apply his "opportunity for all" society to those issues that matter most to may pave he way for his election, regardless of the method ultimately chosen, to follow in Churchill's footsteps and become the party's standard-bearer for a new generation.'

Churchill eh? And that's the view from God's Own Country.

What's more, if the weekend rumours are to be believed, two of Yorkshire's finest will soon be side by side as leader and shadow chancellor.

(Yes, yes, I know...DD's constituency is now designated part of NUTS Euro-administrative zone 27b, otherwise known as Humberside. But everybody knows it's really still part of Yorkshire.)

I Wonder What He Meant By That

Alastair Campbell joins the list of Labour politicos commenting on our leadership race. Oddly, this master of the black arts is one of the few to go on the record. Anyway he has great fun laying about the candidates:

'Sir Malcolm should stand in front of a mirror and ask himself: “Can I imagine myself leading the Tories to victory and becoming Prime Minister?” If he answers yes, he has breached new boundaries in out-of-touchness. Dr Fox is a reasonably handsome doctor capable of stringing sentences together without too many ums and ahs and staying on message in interviews. This skill has its place in politics but it is not sufficient to be Prime Minister. Mr Willetts, despite the Two Brains nickname, has shown no extraordinary nous or judgment.'

Do those dismissals mean Labour really fears one of them? Rifkind maybe? Hmmm...perhaps not.

David Cameron shows no evidence that he has 'thought things through, in depth and in detail, reviewing every aspect of party and policy from first principles, adapting to a changed world.'
Which leaves Ken and DD.

'At the risk of fuelling the belief that he is the man Labour fears, Mr Clarke is the one Labour should most relish getting stuck into. Clarke is lazy and prone to leave the detail to others. The laziness shows up in his speeches, made for headlines not argument. He used to infuriate No 10 at weekends in the Major years when he would disappear, watch football, enjoy a few pints, spot a few birds, and nobody could get hold of him.

Tories should also worry about his judgment....his absurd belief that he could cook up a dream ticket with John Redwood in the 1997 leadership contest...His relationship with the tobacco industry....thinking that he could redefine his lifelong position on Europe simply by stating that he had changed his announce his candidature in the Daily Mail to generate support from that quarter. The Mail is part of the Tory party’s problem, not part of its solution. The real Ken Clarke loathes the Mail. For Redwood last time, read the Mail this time.'

Quite a few inches of trashing there: does it that mean Ken really is the man Labour fears? But of course, we all know Ali is a mate of DD, so will he praise our man?

'We are left where we started before Mr Clarke entered the race, with Mr Davis the likely winner. I have a clear idea how Labour should tackle him, rooted in my firm belief that he is politically and emotionally incapable of taking the Tories to the centre ground.'

Now, is that meant to kick Davis, or help him by failing to big him up?

I'm sure of one thing- I don't think I'm cut out for the black arts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Opportunity Society

More details from DD's Opportunity Society speech at the ippr this morning.

'I deliberately link opportunity and welfare, because we need both, and we are more likely to get one with the other. The British people are generally fair, kind, and generous, if they are allowed to be successful individually they will be happy to save for their old age, to support their own family and to assist charities for those in need all over the world.

So the Opportunity Society will enable us to enjoy a Welfare Society. This is modern Conservatism. Not just taking Blairism and removing the objectionable elements, but changing the way we live. The state has a place, but the state must know its place. That place is not to play the role of the family, or the community, but to help individuals and families to realise their own dreams.

I don’t measure compassion by the amount of taxpayer’s money spent; I measure it by the change we make to people’s lives. Effective compassion means decentralised public services, local involvement, instinctive national solidarity in times of trouble, an extension of the power to choose.

A lifetime in business and then politics has taught me that you need to be tough to get results. But the results I want will demonstrate that the practical application of Conservative principles will benefit everyone, not just a privileged few.'

This is the Davis we need- ideals and compassion, tempered by a gritty determination to get practical results.

He fleshes out his vision with 'six practical priorities for the next Conservative Government’s strategy to strengthen our society:

  • rebuild a low tax, low regulation, free enterprise economy
  • strengthen the forces of law and order, to reduce the fear of crime and to punish criminals effectively
  • those things which government really has to do should be done as close as practicable to local communities
  • public services must be reformed by empowering individuals, widening choice, breaking monopolies, cutting back targets, and encouraging competition, so as to drive up standards
  • the central role of the family in society must be recognised in both the tax and the welfare systems
  • welfare dependency must be tackled anew'

Clearly much of this picks up the policy agenda developed by DD/Nick Herbert's Reform thinktank, along with the localism proposals put forward in this summer's Direct Democracy manifesto. It is the right agenda for us- classic Conservative principles applied to the issues confronting Britain today.

But the exciting thing about this speech is DD's insistence that our opportunity agenda is not something we should be ashamed of. Far from it. This is about attacking privilege and transforming the lives of our poorest and most disadvantaged citizens.


Ken "Only Electable Element"

With characteristic modesty, Ken tells the Times:

“I personally believe we are the only electable element of the Conservative Party”.

We? Yes he's including the Portillistas in his "One-Nation" tent, but specifically excluding...well, us.

And Europe?

"If the only reason I am defeated is because of Europe and because MPs and the voluntary party are fixated on Europe as a defining issue, I fear the Conservative Party will be in opposition for a very long time to come — and that fixation is a reason we have performed so badly at recent general elections."

Interestingly, elsewhere in the Times Danny Finkelstein points out that Europe has definitely not gone away as an issue: Gordon Brown can hardly wait to drive it into the heart of a Clarke led Tory party. Finkelstein- no stranger to party splits from his SDP days- concludes:

'All this is a tragedy because the attractions of Ken Clarke are obvious. The Conservative Party desperately needs a big beast, bluff, self-confident, a world statesman, as its leader. But it also desperately needs to avoid a split. It was splitting that finally did for the Liberal Party and it could do for the Tory party too.'

DD's New Tory Idealism

DD will deliver his ippr speech later today. He will say:

"I stand for new Tory idealism. I want to achieve the aims that moderate Conservatives have always championed: a strong society based on a free economy, with opportunity for all.

To achieve those aims we need the methods which have been championed by thinkers of the Right: decentralisation, less state intervention, competition and choice.

The state has a place, but the state must know its place. That place is not to play the role of the family, or the community, but to help individuals and families realise their own dreams."

Music to our ears.

But Davis will go much further than what some might characterise as classic Thatcherism. As he has before, 'he will stress his commitment to the poor, using language more often associated with the Left.'

"Perhaps shockingly for a Conservative, I want to make sure that those near the bottom of the pile can realise their dreams, not because some focus group tells me that they are a target group for my party, but because it is the right thing to do for them, and for the rest of us who live around us."

We have always felt DD's 'backstory' was much more than a useful CV for an aspiring leader. He's actually been at the bottom of that pile: his commitment to helping those still there is burned into his soul. But the key is opportunity, not dependency.

This is much more than "taking Blairism and removing the objectionable elements": it is a "new Tory idealism... changing the way we live".

We keenly await the full text.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Is Guido An Imposter?

In the absence of any real leadership news, I've whiled away a couple of hours trying to find out if the inestimable Guido Fawkes really is that bloke with the gunpowder kegs, or an imposter. Well, he started it- he put it about that I'm not Wat Tyler at all but some anonymous person who would probably have preferred to stay that way. So naturally I've been keen to return the compliment.

Turns out there's an existing trail. As everybody probably already knows, the Guardian's Backbencher ran this back in February:

'Guido Fawkes blogs on. Curiously, he shares a fax number ("Leak Secret Documents") with Paul Staines, a rightwing libertarian who used to organise acid house raves back in the early 90s. Of course, this doesn't mean that they're the same person. But readers wondering why Guido has been getting so excited about Kilroy's new party might like to know that Paul is equally open to colourful new experiences. Take this indignant article, written by a young Paul in 1991. "I have fond memories of taking LSD and pure MDMA, trance-dancing and thinking that I had turned into a pure, orgiastic wisp of smoke - it was the most staggeringly enjoyable, mind-warping experience I have ever had ... The only word to describe it is WOW!" Paul goes on to explain how much he'd like to spike the punch at a Young Conservative ball with acid, but the Backbencher will leave further investigation to Sir Ian Blair'.

Crumbs, although this doesn't mean they're the same person, it all sounds much more exciting than life chez Tyler.

And also, according to SourceWatch, Paul used to run a Bahamas based hedge fund which made 'optimal responses to the volatility caused by increasing capital and information flows across borderless financial markets in the New Economy'. It's unclear what became of the fund but it reputedly made Paul's fortune.

He also seems to be a whiz on Photoshop, as evidenced by this excellent pic he e-mailed to Tim Worstall on 17 March. Oddly, it appeared on Guido's blog the very same day.

Anyway, these days Paul runs Global Growth Org, which campaigns for 'free trade and enterprise based development', a cause to which we wholeheartedly subscibe.

I must say it's a CV that puts Tyler's in the shade. In fact I now don't mind if Guido is being impersonated. Paul Staines sounds like the kind of guy who would raise the whole tone of the place. Plus he's got a fantastically punnable surname.

Unfortunately, despite carefully comparing the pix of goateed Guido and clean-shaven Paul...are they the same person? You know, it's so very hard to tell.

What do you think?

Fatty On Fire

Serial placeman Fatty Patty has been given the run of the new-style Grauniad to trash us Tories and puff his mate Ken. A brief taster:

'The Conservative party has suffered from the consequences of democratisation in a contracting party. As membership has declined and got older, it has also increasingly reflected the views of the leader writers of the rightwing newspapers that these Conservatives read.'

'The consequences of democratisation'...from a man who was rejected by the voters in 1992, weedled his way into that grandiose colonial post out East, repeatedly refused John Major's desperate pleas for him to return to the democratic frontline, slipped into one of those Euro-sinecures, and finally schlepped off to pontificate from the High Table.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am sick to the back wossnames of being lectured by a bunch of huffy anti-democratic has-beens who reckon we are not worthy to determine the direction and leadership of our own party.

Patty should join the LibDems- if he hasn't already done so.