Monday, October 31, 2005


Further to our last post, it seems that DC may have inadvertantly blundered into an enviro-storm.

You will recall he promised "a carbon-neutral campaign for the leadership. With the help of the Carbon-Neutral Company, we are planting enough trees to counteract the additional carbon emissions generated by our campaign.”

Sounded pretty neat to us. But then we run a couple of gas guzzlers, never recycle our yoghurt pots, and don't know anything about all that green stuff.

It actually turns out the whole deal is known as "Celebrity Tree Planting", and besides Dave, it has attracted a wide circle of committed eco warriors:

Dido, Coldplay, Pink Floyd and the Foo Fighters all have albums that are said to be carbon-neutral, as was the last UK tour by the Rolling Stones. To counteract the 11 tonnes (!) of carbon dioxide emitted every year by Leonardo DiCaprio’s cars, homes and travel, he has established forests in Mexico, India, North America and Europe.

Other Future Forests clients include Lulu, Julian Lennon, Mis-teeq, Sugababes, Sting and Shaggy. “I like the cheekiness of sending people bills for their carbon emissions,” the company quotes BritArt bad boy, Damien Hirst, as saying. “Tree-f***ing-mendous.”

The trouble is, it turns out that many real environmentalists think the whole thing is phony. Mandy Haggith of Worldforests says:

“Trees are not magic painkillers that can remove the morning-after effects of fossil- fuel abuse. Marketing schemes that claim tree planting can ‘neutralise’ fossil-fuel use are misleading and may legitimise behaviour that actually makes climate change worse.”

Other campaigners describe such schemes as "greenwash," "a phoney climate fix, and a dangerous illusion," and false "absolution of carbon sins." Friends of the Earth say: “To deal with the increased carbon dioxide emissions we face over the next half century, you would have to completely cover Europe – from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains – with trees.”

What's even worse, the company that comes in for most criticism is Future Forests, a company that has now changed its name. To the Carbon-Neutral Company. The very company that is now planting all DC's leadership trees.

Hmm. Maybe it would be safest for DC just to stop emitting carbon for the duration of the campaign.

The Blair Succession (cont)

Stung by all those policy-lite jibes, DC has announced his climate change strategy:

'We will lead internationally on climate change, and to strive for wider acceptance of the science and the steps needed to combat the problem.We will look beyond Kyoto and promote an international dialogue to reach agreement...'

Oh no...wait...I've inadvertantly quoted from the Labour Election Manifesto. It's just so hard to tell. As the aghast posters at ConservativeHome will testify:

'No, Cameron, NO! This is DIRE!

The commission bit is especially disappointing. It shows that Cameron is just a gesture-politician. We've already had Osborne's 'commission on flat tax', setting out a 'direction' which is just as quickly repudiated. This is even sillier.The problem with these wannabe vote-catchers is that they want to be popular with a tiny coterie of metropolitan bien pensants, and really don't understand the modern world at all. This is the worst possible time for Blair-Lite - just when the country wises up!

Some of us are trying very hard to come onside with our lovely new leader, so this is a sad day: our lovely new leader has revealed himself to be a fool. I think I preferred 'vague'. ( buxtehude )

Still, this bit is original DC- even Tone didn't do it:

"I am starting with a carbon-neutral campaign for the leadership. With the help of the Carbon-Neutral Company, we are planting enough trees to counteract the additional carbon emissions generated by our campaign.”

Nice one, Dave.

You know, sometimes I really don't think I get it at all.

PS A "well, well, well, isn't it a small world" margin note- the CEO of the Carbon-Neutral Company is one Jonathan Shopley. He previously worked for Arthur D Little, and while there he evidently advised various multinationals on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Among them was the controversial BAT, where as regular readers will recall, the non-exec with responsibility for CSR was...Ken Clarke. And they got together at least once, with Jonathan apparently advising Ken on how to make BAT more competitive.

Do ciggies create carbon emissions?

The Blair Succession

New Labour insider Mrs Marr gives us a further insight into Tony's troubled mind:

'The message is going forth from Downing Street that he would prefer anyone but Gordon Brown to be his successor - and yes, that may even include a moderate, centre-right David Cameron, who seems to be emerging as an identikit Blair and has privately described himself as "Blair's heir"... Is it evidence that when Blair talks of legacy, and the need for a new consensus, he is now looking beyond Labour?'

And she reflects on those extraordinary events surrounding last week's education debate:

'The radical nature of the education white causing great dismay on the [Labour]backbenches. Cameron's instant decision to support it, at least in principle, may turn out to be a defining moment in the politics of the third term. If the left in parliament mobilises against the bill, supported by the teaching unions, and the Tories help to rescue it, then we have hard evidence of the Blair-Cameron alliance. Remember, for the first time we have a Labour prime minister who does not need to destroy his opposite number. Blair knows he won't be fighting Cameron.'

I have a very bad feeling about this...

Look, we've always known Tone is a Tory toff with a perfectly normal loathing for trade Maggie and her ilk, but should he really be choosing our next leader?

Plus- although I almost hesitate to mention this given our overwhelming desire to get re-elected at any price- in a world of perpetual Blairism, just how are we going to grip the real issues of the day?

Blairism says most political issues are really technical problems that can be sorted out by applying the best brains of the day, and letting them come up with one of those "evidence based" solutions. Education, health, name it. And judging from DC's statements, that's pretty well what he believes too.

We don't share that rosy view. We think the real business of politics is about making decisions where the evidence is not clearcut, including of course, deciding winners and losers. Which is precisely why governments should be small.

The Blair Succession.

Is that what you want?

Cos that's what you're going to get....unless, that is, we fill in those ballot papers the right way.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 36

As you all know, at DDfL we eschew negative campaigning (well, we try anyway). But over at Conservatives Against Cameron's 'NewLabourisation' they have no such hang-ups.

Normally, of course,we'd feel disbarred from drawing attention to their commentary- most incisive though it is. But today it is with a glad heart that we pass on their positive endorsement of DD:

'David Davis is a man of integrity, decency, substance and principle and would be a clear antidote to the poisonous New Labour government this country has endured for the past eight years.'

Hear, hear.

'David Cameron's policy-lite, substance-free (unless you believe those allegations!), vague, generalised, empty, dumbed-down brand of plastic politics would be little more than a continuation of the Blairite, NewLabouresque style of politics and governance that has polluted the political atmosphere of the United Kingdom in recent years. Surely the people of this fine country deserve something different?'

Oh, drat. The last bit must have slipped in here by accident. Sorry about that.

BFD Weekly Round-Up 1

For the remainder of the contest we're going to run a Bloggers For Davis Weekly Round-Up (idea entirely ripped off from Tim Worstall via Eu-Serf at Once More) .

It's been a busy week, and we're getting a clearer sense of the policy issues beneath the beauty contest. Gary Munro set the scene with his meaty post on The Conservative Party’s Blairite Tendency, and asks "why would the public vote for Labour-lite when they can have the Real Thing?"

Simon Lloyd picked up the same theme, arguing that DD will stand on his own agenda, and that "a lack of policy commitments will be Mr Cameron's Achilles heel in the leadership contest".

DD's announcement of a clear tax cutting agenda brought much favourable comment. Peter C Glover puts it in a broader policy context: "Davis is quite right to spell out what a proper Conservative Party agenda should look like - and it will, thankfully, be nothing like a domestic and European New Labour one. But the promise of substantial tax cuts...needs to be accompanied by a phalanx of co-ordinated policies which collectively reflect the need for the take greater individual responsibility..."

Still on the tax theme, Steve at Village Hampden gives DD's plan the thumbs-up, and provides some historic context: "If Cameron thinks that cutting taxes is not such a vote winner, let him look at the causes of the American and French Revolutions. The Boston Tea Party was not about whether the milk should go in first, and the gabelle was not a health issue. Let him also look at what sparked off the English Civil War: ship money. Even further back, let him look at the origins of England itself. Though it is commonly said that the Britons were driven by the Saxons westward into what became Wales, it was really the influence of their governments that was driven westward and confined to Wales. The peasants mostly stayed where they were and had the benefit of much lower taxes, not having Arthur's cavalry to pay for." Not many people know that.

DD's announcement that he establish 20 new grammar schools also drew support. Clive Davis says: "David Davis seems to be fizzing with ideas...Abolishing grammar schools was one of the most outrageous acts of public vandalism of recent times."

The role of the media in our election is something we've fumed about ourselves, and James Hellyer spells it out: "It seems clear to me that the power of the media is so great that its own hyping of a candidate can achieve the apotheosis of the recipient and create the poll lead. The thing that is dishonest is the way the media pretends that the reaction to their agitprop is spontaneous." Yes, it may be like complaining about the weather, but we members need to see through the short-term media hype.

Finally, we've been delighted to welcome our new Bloggers For Davis, including Political Thinker, Fox Blogger, Sterling Times, and Darlington Tory.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Would You Adam And Eve It?

Organ of record Private Eye (not online) says:

'With perfect timing, early editions of the Evening Standard on the day of the second Tory leadership ballot led with the story "Gay Smears and Me, by Tory Hopeful"- the Tory in question being Dr Liam Fox.

Who was behind the smear? "I know for certain that people in the Davis camp were responsible for putting round these false stories," Fox later told the Mail on Sunday. His campaign manager John Hayes directly accused Davis's henchman Derek Conway of planting the story on the Standard.

Not so. The "dossier" on which the story was based had been compiled by dirty-tricks wallahs in the Labour Party- who passed it to David Cameron's lieutenants, who in turn gave it to the Standard. The Cameroonies were determined to prevent a run-off with Fox, who was feared to have more support in constituency associations.

For all their modernising open-necked cool, the Notting Hill set are still adept at the more traditional arts of politics. The queen bee of the set, Rachel Whetstone, was behind last Wednesday's report by BBC political editor Nick Robinson that the runner-up in Thursday's poll would drop out of the race to allow Cameron a "coronation". Alas, what was intended as a self-fulfilling prophecy had the opposite effect: it infuriated Davis and stiffened his resolve to fight on.'

Now, let me see...Rachel Whetstone...Rachel Whetstone... We know she was "Michael Howard's Miss Moneypenny" but surely we read somewhere that:

'Mr Cameron has done much to ensure that he has a team of all the talents and dilute the enmity towards the Notting Hill set. Not many people know that Rachel Whetstone (Michael Howard's former Queen Bee), for example has had nothing to do with the Cameron campaign, after a falling out over a personal matter.'

Hmm...then again, I suppose we know that:

'George Osborne's closest confidants are Rightwing Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein, Tory adviser Rachel Whetstone, advertising guru Steve Hilton, former Times columnist turned Tory MP Michael Gove and David Cameron.'

Tsk. I don't know. It's all too much for my simple brain.

Davis Reinstates The Ladder

Speaking this morning, DD pledges to establish 20 new grammar schools in our big cities where state education failure is at its worst:

"I want to create an Opportunity Society. To make that a reality we need people who start near the bottom of the pile to able to make it to the top. Good schools are absolutely crucial in that process. In particular, poor children need to be able to receive the best academic education—the sort that better off parents have the power to demand for their children.

One of the main reasons why social mobility is declining under this Government is the disappearance of grammar schools from most parts of the country. The areas where this creates the worst social barriers are our big cities. In many of these you find a concentration of social deprivation which gives teachers an almost impossible challenge. The schools themselves need to be able to focus better, and part of this focus should be the ability to offer academic excellence.

So as Prime Minister I would extend the range of choice available to parents and children in our big cities, I would, as an initial step, create 20 new grammar schools in the big cities of England, so that children from all backgrounds can benefit from the best academic education."

We've posted about this before, and all we can say now is- at last.

Speaking For Britain

"When people start to think of this as not a Big Brother phone-in, but actually a choice about who should be the next Prime Minister, they will start to make a judgment on the serious issues. The question we are putting to the Tory Party is: What sort of country do you want in four or 10 years' time? I happen to think that will favour me."

So said DD yesterday. He used a major speech and a series of interviews to reiterate some of his key propositions. He again stressed his intention to help the victims of state failure:

"...the people on council estates who get robbed twice as many times as people elsewhere; people in the inner cities who get poor quality education; poorer people who get the worst health outcomes.

The problem we have to overcome is that a lot of these people see us as not interested in them or their lives. We have to show we are concerned about people at the bottom of the pile."

And he zoned in on Browns' pension tax grab: " of the great scandals of the last decade. We have to look how to put that right." Which of course, his "Growth Rule" would enable him to do.

Davis is spelling out the policy agenda that Britain needs: how we Tories will clear up the mess after thirteen years of New Labour misrule, using traditional Conservative tools to tackle both our economic and social issues.

But there's no doubt it's an uphill battle. As today's DT/YouGov poll reiterates, DD is some way behind DC in the leadership stakes. Among Tory voters, they reckon he's on 16% against DC's 56%.

Yet the poll also shows that among voters as a whole, neither candidate has really grabbed the imagination. Anthony King comments:

'YouGov's findings make it clear neither Tory leadership contender has so far acquired a clearly defined image in voters' minds. Opinions about both men, where they exist at all, tend to be lightly formed. Unexpected events could easily change people's minds.

YouGov's findings are also a reminder of the size of the electoral challenge that will face whichever candidate wins the leadership contest. Many Conservatives have the feeling at the moment that things are moving their way but YouGov still finds no evidence that in the country at large - as distinct from inside the Westminster village - things are moving at all.'

The plain fact remains: to win next time we're going to need much more than an agreeable telegenic sparkle. Sorry, but the electorate just ain't that dumb. No matter how uncomfortable it feels- and it does- we need to win some policy arguments. We need to speak for Britain.

As Davis said yesterday:

"We must recognise that controversy is our friend, not our enemy. If you stand up again and again for what you think, people begin to realise that you really mean it."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Flip-Flop Award

Over at ToryLeadership Tim has awarded DC a pair of flip-flops for changing his position on the Davis tax and spend plan.

This morning the DC camp welcomed the plan, saying there was "a lot of common ground between them on this issue." But a few hours later, DC himself said "I do not think it is sensible to outline such proposals four years before an election. We cannot know the exact state the economy will be in."

Wonder what happened?

Apart that is, from the obvious point that the plan seems to have played very well, and has underlined DC's own lack of beef in this area.

We've Tried It All Before...

Looking round the blogs at Tory reaction to DD's Growth Rule/tax cuts plan, one widespread response is that we tried the same thing in 2001 and 2005. And...well, it didn't quite do the trick. So why would it work this time?

There are several points to make:

a) We didn't actually try very hard. In 2005 we offered a total cut of a measly £4bn, equivalent to a packet of Rolos a week. That was even worse than 2001 when we offered £8bn, equivalent to at, two packets of Rolos. Davis is offering £38bn, equivalent to a wagon load of Quality Street for every hard-working family in the land.

b) In both 2001 and 2005, we talked about raising the money through best efforts economy drives. Trouble is, every politician since Ugg The Hairy has promised that, and nobody believes it. Which is why DD is offering a Spending Rule, rather than wibbly-wobbly political discretion.

c) The political landscape is changing. Recent polls show growing support for cutting taxes and spending. And after Gordo hits us once again with his fiscal rhythm stick (regular big whacks in each post-Election budget), this support will balloon.

d) To be effective, we need to hammer home the message from now all the way through to the Election: not just drop it out of the blue a couple of months before the poll. DD offers us a clear tax and spend policy- good for individuals and national wealth creation- that we can lodge in the national consciousness long before 2009.

Enough of timidity. As Nick Herbert said on the World At One, a clear stance on low taxation should be a core commitment for any centre-right party anywhere in the world.

Bloggers For Davis 35

New Bloggers For Davis continue to join us. Seeker after truth, the Darlington Tory, says:

"Under the Governance of New Labour, lying, hollow promises, spin and a friendly media face has become the norm...

The question is do we and the electorate as a whole want substance in our politics or do we want it to degenerate to a very poor gossip column/soap opera...

Why DD? He is not an apologist for being a Conservative, he has never tried to emulate nu-labour, he believes in the fundamental principals that make the Tories what they are, small government, low taxation and most importantly FREEDOM."

There are two especially significant points about the Darlington Tory. First, not to put too fine a point on it for those within the M25, Darlington is up North. And second, as he himself says, he is a prodigal son who is returning to us because of DD. Let's not let him down, or the thousands of others like him.

Together we really can get shot of Labour.

Davis Tax Cuts

At last- some real beef. £38 billion pa tax cuts- £1200 for each family- by the end of the next Parliament.

As we've posted previously, his plan is based on adopting Reform's Growth Rule, ensuring that public spending does not rise faster than the trend rate of growth in the economy. He says:

“We need to move from a spending agenda to a growth agenda, where government is focused on achieving value for taxpayers’ money and public spending discipline ensures that there is room to lower the tax burden.

My approach doesn’t involve cuts. We are talking about how fast to grow spending. On the contrary, those who argue for a faster rate of spending growth have to address the question of where the resources will come from.

The political sands are shifting. Gordon Brown’s high tax, high spending experiment is running into trouble. Every independent forecaster is predicting that his sums do not add up and that he will have to put up taxes again. It is also increasingly clear that spending without reform has wasted taxpayers’ money by failing to deliver sufficient improvements in public services.

We will make the gravest mistake if we seek to ape the New Labour project at the moment when it is seen to have failed. People are yearning for an alternative to New Labour, not a repetition of it.

The Conservative Party has a choice. We can either continue to accept the terms of the debate set by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with ever higher spending and taxes. Or we can set a distinctive Conservative agenda for the future.

We can either join the ranks of centre right parties around the world, such as the Republicans in the United States and the Liberals in Australia, which have won by cutting taxes. Or we can remain frozen in the headlights of a centre left agenda, and continue to lose.”

And for those who say voters are still prepared to pay those yet higher taxes to get those services, that's not what recent polls are telling us.

And too early to "write the manifesto"? The lesson from the last Election is that voters didn't actually believe we would cut taxes- to win next time we have to get the message over clearly right now.

Britain is crying out for an alternative, not a half-hearted repro.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Focus On Substance

James Hellyer looks again at the media's role in our leadership contest, and in particular over the battle of the Conference speeches. But as James points out, somehow we members have got to see though the media froth:

'We need to use what time we have to look at what the candidates stand for and what they want to do. Those should be grounds for selecting a leader, not the directions of the media. The media can build a candidate up, but they can later knock him down. '

So as the candidates set out their policies, we need to pay close attention. It's all very well saying it's too early to write the next manifesto, but we need more than high level generalities about Five Major Challenges.

We're disappointed at DC's lack of policy content today on the economic challenge, particularly on tax and spend where there is such a sharp contrast between DD's clear commitments and his own much fuzzier approach. He's done nothing to defuzz it: indeed, the kindest thing Tim Montgomerie could find to say about today's effort was to call it "triangulation". And we thought that was a term of abuse reserved for New Labour.

We keenly await DD's reported tax cutting plan tomorrow. We fully expect that to be real substance.

Bloggers For Davis 34

We're tickled puce to welcome the outstanding Sterling Times as another new BFD.

The Times describes itself as 'in celebration of "Uncool Britannia". It's the site where etiquette is still more important than political correctness.'

As you will know, it covers everything from pirate radio, to decimalisation, to The Best Of British Pluck.

My guess is that it's not widely read in W11. But that shouldn't stop you.

Making It Happen

From the student Newspaper of Warwick University.
"A chap called Ian Black had the idea to set up the station, but he came to me and thought I was the kind of guy who could make this wild idea come to life. So I had to blag equipment off people, I got the University to help us, got the BBC to help us, went up to the only other student radio station up in York and just persuaded loads of people to take part. "
David Davis talking about the creation of the university radio station.

You see, this is a man who makes things happen. He could do it in his student days, its part of his make up.

Personally I see capability as the most important talent of any politician. Combine that with a set of sound principles and you have the makings of great success.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 33

We're delighted to welcome the Fox Blogger. He says:

'I've ummed and ahhed as to who to back now that Foxy is out of the running. Certainly, Cameron has a lot going for him... And yet... do we really want to have as our leader a man who has only been in Parliament for 4 years, who has only been at the despatch box 4 times, who seems to have presented little or no solid detail on what he would do as Prime Minister? Frankly, we need to ask a simply question - yes, he is "Golden Boy", but what has he done?

So, instead what has Davis done? Well, his website says "As Shadow Home Secretary, he has forced the resignations of two Government Ministers and highlighted the chaos in the Home Office over crime and immigration & asylum." Pretty good start! But more than that, he has worked his way up from, literally, the gutter (no offence David)... He has no desire to simple mimic the Blairite Labour Party, but wants to clearly define and communicate modern conservatism, a belief in the uniqueness, ability and possibility of every individual.

So - there we are - short and sweet - Davis has both the experience and the vision to shape our country's future.'

Fox Blogger joins BFD.

Bloggers For Davis 32

The uncompromising Gary Monro has an excellent post spelling out just why we need to break with Blairism:

'To wake the British people from their complacency - apathy, to be more accurate - the Party’s leader must attack government failure at all levels and make people aware of just how truly awful Labour is. The Conservative Party is not there to be a better version of Labour, it’s there to be a clean break from Labour.

No true patriot can look at what Blair has done to the country we love and then talk about what Blair has achieved. Blair’s achievements, if you want to call them that, amount to the ruination of a nation.

And as we’ve all said before, why would the public vote for Labour-lite when they can have the Real Thing?'

Yeah...In Your Dreams

We've said it before, but the media guys around DC are...well, brilliant is the only word for it.

Having masterminded the has-he-hasn't-he drugs teaser, they've now come up with "In Dave's Bed In The Buffy":

"TORY leadership favourite David Cameron once had a brief encounter with a naked TV actress he found in his bed, it was revealed last night.

The Shadow Education Secretary walked in on stunning American blonde
Stacey Travis after she had just taken off all her clothes in a London flat they were sharing."

You just can't make up stuff like this. Or can you?

Keep it real. Yeah?

Breaking With Blairism

"I'll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched soundbites. They are then pickled into a sloppy mush, a slurry, and you go through the years flip-flopping in that, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a bloated Health Service hiring PR consultants to scuttle round explaining why there's no money left to treat patients. I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short term egos--you can't play politics with people's health or with people's services or with their after-tax incomes" (malfunctioning Blair prototype).

Let us therefore give thanks that DD will draw a line under all this. As he said yesterday:

"I’m the candidate with a plan to change Britain and to improve lives, and with the substance, experience and resilience to see that plan through.

We need a stronger economy and a better society - lower taxes, better schools and hospitals, stronger policing, more local choice and control, an Open Europe. I will use conservative beliefs and ideas to make the economy stronger and society better - and fight for Britain's battlers beyond the metropolitan south.

The choice for Britain is indeed between real change and more of the same. To accept the Blair policy agenda really would be more of the same. To challenge it and implement conservative beliefs and ideas in government would be real change.

That is the way to give everyone in Britain the opportunity to excel in life. That is an ambition worth fighting for."

Substance, experience, and resilience. As we contemplate the mounting wreckage of Blairism, let's try to keep that firmly in mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

All In A Night's Work

In the course of my duties, I was proceeding in a Northerly direction along one of Blogtown's quiet back streets when I came across a most unfortunate eventuality.

I was accosted by a man who appeared to be in a state of some distress, and who kept shouting "Cameron to be leader!". Having calmed him with my nightstick, he confided:

"Martin Cakebread raises interesting points about the future direction of not only our children, but our general attitude in the UK to work, to the future, keeping positive and most importantly working together."

Upon enquiring his name, he told me it, Martin Cakebread. Whereupon I charged him with Aggravated Bigging Up Of Self With Malice Aforethought.

Evening all.

New Logo, New Britain

As we enter the home straight, we Bloggers For Davis have a new logo, courtesy the artistic skills of Eu-Serf. Pretty neat, huh?

Look out for it at all fine blogsites.

Bloggers For Davis 31

Like many other Liam Fox supporters, the ever thoughtful Political Thinker is now blogging for Davis:

'David is a man of conviction... he realised the problems of the left, and he actually chose to be a Conservative.

David’s beliefs are not only strong, but sound. He realises that we need lower taxes for hardworking Britons as well as businesses, and he understands that only radical reform of our public services will achieve the standards many expect from a rich nation such as ours.

Most of our MPs are nothing more than career politicians and have no experience of the real world. David, however, is very different. Not only has he actually worked in the real world and gone far, but he has held various jobs in Government and Opposition.

When it came to policy, I believed Liam was right on the mark. While David is certainly not as right-wing, he is a man of substance and actually knows what he wants to deliver and how he will deliver it: lower taxes, better public services and smaller government.'

Conviction, experience, and policy substance.

Thinker, that's spot on.

Opportunity Society

DD has spoken repeatedly of the Opportunity Society:

"One key purpose for the next Conservative Government will be to allow individuals to climb as high as they dare, wherever they start from. We will do this not by tweaking the current system, but by changing the whole approach."

And the essential building block is education.

Labour has always treated Britain's children atrociously. From the grotesque arrogance of social engineer Tony Crosland (Highgate, Trinity, and "destroying every effing grammar school in the country"), through the Gradgrindian brutality of Commissar Stud, and on to the ineffectual wittering agonies of successive Blair Babes, they've institutionalised underachievement. Timid Tone may talk about giving parents power, but there isn't the slightest chance they even understand what that entails, let alone having the guts to do it.

Alice Thompson has her own rant about this today, linking it to the way that toffs are retaking the high ground:

'This is outrageous. Private school pupils make up only seven per cent of the population (up under Labour), but their influence is out of control...

It's the Government's fault. The state system isn't good enough. It fails children on every level, not just the five million who never learn to read so don't even stand a chance of a decent career, but the pupils who never learn the self-confidence that comes from the good teaching and high standards expected at most private schools...

When Labour scrapped the grammar school, it turned the country back into a class-ridden society, where the children of the rich had a huge advantage...

If Labour really wants to boot out the toffs and give private schools a run for their money, it should bring back selection, not just for sport and drama, but also for academic excellence.'

Yes OK, we last of the council house grammar school generation maybe do always sound chippy about this. But Labour's massive levelling down of educational opportunity for the children of poor parents is a monstrous social injustice. It is something we should neither forget nor forgive.

Which is why it's just no good opting for a further dose of Blairism. As DD says, we need a complete change of approach. Enough talking the choice and competition talk: it's time we actually started walking the walk.

North And South

We all know the score- around 200 seats in the North, and we have less than 20. Enter the Heineken candidate.

With that in mind, I took a shuftie through the postings on the the Telegraph's "Your view: is Cameron the man?" I wanted to see what Northern posters were saying.

The first point is that an extraordinary number of the Telegraph's posters are overseas- Italy, France, Switzerland, Singapore, Costa Rica...none of whom are really North of the Trent.

Of those who do live up there, Denis Owen from Lancashire says "Cameron has never had a proper job...I would prefer Davis". Paul Jones, of Radcliffe-On-Trent reckons DC will win, but asks "would it not be a good idea to start finding the next leader now so that he can be ready when he's defeated at the next election?" Hmm.

Derek Buxton of Stockport, says "There is no way that Cameron should lead, or could lead a Conservative Party... He is...lacking a sense of duty to the people less fortunate than himself or any firm principles as to the government of the UK. Just like Blair in fact."

There's more in a similar vein, and a special mention must go to Tom Burkard, an American living here: "I find it difficult to believe how quickly Britain is becoming a nation of ill-mannered serfs." Ill-mannered serfs? Not thinking of anyone in particular, we trust. "Cameron, I fear, will do nothing to reverse this trend. One gets the impression that his Notting Hill set are too busy pandering to media types to have any concept of what life is like north of Watford, let alone Watford Gap."

Richard Nicholas of North Yorkshire, no enough of negative Northern responses to DC. And we should stress that many of the comments from overseas and down South are very pro-DC.

Let's end on a strong positive note. Northerner Elizabeth Nuttall, a Warwick student who heard DD speak there last week, writes to him:

"I believe that you will be a perfect leader for the party, being someone who appeals to all ranges of people, an accessible person who seems to me to be down to earth and ready to take control of the party and lead us to success. I think your focus upon winning Conservative seats in the North and urban areas is fantastic, and as a northerner myself (there aren't many at Warwick!) I truly hope that your campaign is a successful one. You have certainly gained my vote."

Interestingly, Elizabeth was a DC supporter before she heard DD speak. The Heineken effect seems to be working.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 30

Paul Goodman MP has his first post up at ConservativeHome. He says:

"This contest now offers brilliant opportunities to David Davis, David Cameron – and to the Conservative Party itself...

The contest...offers a showcase for conservatism. David Cameron has the chance to answer some tough questions, and prove beyond doubt that there’s real substance beneath the style. And the DD campaign has the chance to communicate its message clearly."

Hear, hear Paul. Let's make this a clean contest that will reflect well on the party, and command some much needed positive media attention.

"That message, in a word, is “Heineken” - that under a DD leadership, the party can reach the parts of Britain that it hasn’t reached for far too long.

DD is the best candidate to reach out beyond our southern comfort zone...not because he grew up a council estate and is the son of a single mum. It’s because he’s got the right plan for Britain and for the party, and has the experience and resilience to see it through.

The right plan for Britain is to reject the Blair consensus, and shape a Conservative one. If we fight the next election on a platform proposing, inter alia, lower taxes and more public service choice we’ll deserve to win it. If we don’t, we won’t...

And the right plan for the party is to modernise – but to stay united as we do so. We need more local campaigning, to learn lessons from the winning experience of our local councillors, and Parliamentary candidates who are more like the communities they serve.

But we don’t need a deliberately-staged conflict with any particular part of the party, or any age group within it. Nor do we need to declare war on the conservative media... DD certainly won’t: he wants to take the base with him to win.

Reaching out beyond our southern base. Challenging the Blair consensus with conservative ideas. Uniting to modernise. Doing all this with experience and resilience. That’s the case for DD in a nutshell."

To which we can only say- well put.

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DD/DC Policy Differences- Public Services

We're all agreed that public service reform will remain a key battleground at the next election. DD's approach is very clear:

'People know better than politicians how to improve their own lives, if only they have the chance. We can give them that chance by reclaiming power from central government and placing it back in the hands of individuals and communities...

So let's transfer to parents the state's power and resources to choose their own school, whether it's local authority or independently run. If socialist Sweden can fund parents to exercise school choice, why can't we? Let's fund and empower patients to choose where they are treated, irrespective of their means, whether it's in a hospital run by the NHS or the independent sector. If Switzerland can guarantee the best healthcare for the least well off - with a radically decentralised system and a rich mix of private and public provision - why can't we?'

This is not choice for choice's sake- as it is sometimes presented- but empowering consumer choice to drive improvement, just like in the successful bits of the economy. And just like with supermarkets, the vast majority still benefit even if they go on shopping in the same old place they've always used. Because the choice actively exercised by some raises standards for all.

And there is growing evidence from around the world that this approach is more than just a nice theory- it actually works (see for example the work of the Reform thinktank, eg here). What's more, it can be shaped so that the poorest members of society are the first to benefit rather than the last. Indeed, on schools, DD says:

"My view is you focus it on kids who are on free school meals. If you qualify for free school meals, you should qualify for freedom of the voucher."

DD's approach is bold, imaginative, forward looking, and most of all it will benefit our more vulnerable groups, always the biggest losers from state failure.

In contrast, DC's approach is far less radical:

We need greater freedom for schools to manage their own affairs, and a greater diversity of schools for parents to choose between. But school autonomy and parental choice are no panacea.

What about those parts of the country where parents have no realistic choice of school? What about the time it will take for new schools to come on stream? What about children who are left in schools that aren’t their parents’ first or even second choice? And how is an individual head teacher or school governing body supposed to fight back against the destructive power of the educational amoeba?

Britain desperately needs a Conservative Government to enforce the rigour that decades of progressive theories have driven out of the system."

Now, nobody denies there are issues, but we need to get them into perspective. For example, while there are obviously "parts of the country where parents have no realistic choice", these days over 90% of us are urban dwellers- precisely where the current system is failing most.

But the real problem we have with DC's approach is that this is exactly what Timid Tone has been trying for the last eight years. It's all very well to talk about the need for the government to "enforce rigour"- maybe even decree the use of those synthetic phonics- but we've been trying that and it simply hasn't worked.

Whether the problem is that "educational amoeba", the Blob (as Chris Woodhead calls it), or simply that politicos and bureaucrats just don't have the ability to second guess what's best for us, we need a far more radical and forward looking approach than a continuation of the timid and ineffective TB agenda.

We need to have the courage of our convictions, because it is the only way of transforming our public services.

Arts Vs Science

One unexplored aspect of our leadership contest is that we are being offered the old defining choice between arts and science. Like most other politicians, DC is an artist (PPE, Oxford). Rather unusually, DD a scientist (Molecular/Computer Science, Warwick).

Now your archetypal scientist has much to recommend him- bright, methodical, calm under pressure, clinical execution. If you ever need a spot of open-heart surgery, my strong advice is to get a scientist: not only will he get the facts right first, but he won't black out as soon as the blood starts splashing round the walls.

But what scientists are not so hot at is emotion. All that logic can come across as coldness. And we're reminded of this in Colin Brown's interview with DD in today's Indy. Brown homes in on an issue that fascinates all those arts journos: does he find it difficult to show emotion?

"To be publicly emotional? Unless its appropriate I largely choose not to. There are times when it is appropriate. When I was public service minister, I used to talk to nurses and policemen about their jobs. That was quite emotional. That was not sentimental but it picked up the emotional importance of what they were doing."

But would he change his style if the public wrongly thought he was not an emotional person? "I take the view you don't agonise over things in public. It is the way I have been brought up, and I don't talk about the inwardnesses of what I am going to do."

So he was stuck with the old-fashioned stiff upper lip?

"Yes, it's very old fashioned," he conceded.'

Is it a problem? Well, it certainly makes him appear less warm and cuddly than DC, and it does mean he's a different animal to most of the media. So in 2005 tele-campaign Britain, it could be a problem. Yes.

But surely we members need to look beneath the emotional skin. We need to decide who could best do the actual job. It may not be open-heart surgery, but there's a lot of hard detailed work to do, and there is going to be blood on the walls.

What's more, we all remember the last scientist we put in charge. She wasn't that great at emoting either.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

With Friends Like These...

Cards on the table: I never liked Miguel. It wasn't the rumours about his private life, but his apparent total lack of conviction, his preening self-regard, and most of all the damage he was prepared to inflict on our party in order to further his own ambitions. We're well shot of him.

And I'm afraid his ST article today brings all of those emotions boiling up again. Under the headline 'To be a winner, Cameron must first spill Tory blood', DC "supporter" Mig says:

'Blair was able to shed his early “Bambi” image by his ruthless imposition of change on his party. Cameron should follow suit.

Blair had a project to make the party electable. It mattered to him more than everything else in the world put together. Policies, traditions, ideas, vested interests and people who did not conform with the project were mercilessly tossed into the shredder. So, too, if tax cuts, stable families and Euroscepticism do not fit the new Conservative project, whatever sentimental attachment Cameron may have to them, they also must be torn up.'

Yes, but Mig...some of us actually believe in that stuff.

'The Tory benches are full of repellent figures whose faces, demeanour and speech turn voters from the party. They have to be dealt with.

Cameron’s success will not be judged by whether he can lead a quiet life. It will be measured by the blood that he spills. If he is brutal enough, the silly questioning about his policies will go away. He will have proved that he is prime ministerial material.'

Jeeps...we can all understand he must feel bitter after the way he was rejected, but coming from him, "repellant figures" is perhaps a tad rich.

It's probably just the ranting of twisted frustration, although there is more than a slight echo of last week's story that DC has 'privately pledged to sacrifice some of the party’s core voters, who loathe the modernisers’ talk of inclusivity and social liberalism, in an attempt to reach out to a new generation of younger voters.'

All very concerning, and we can only hope those wiser counsels prevail.

The Importance Of Tax Policy

We posted yesterday on the differences between DD's very clear policy on reducing our tax and spend burden, and DC's much fuzzier aspirations.

Our focus was on the economic consequences of this difference, and we forgot to mention the even more important consequence, highlighted by Peter Cole in the IoS today:

'Where might you expect to read such words as these? "Nor is it good enough to promise tax cuts. Which taxes are to be cut? If the name of the game is growth, it will have to be those taxes that discourage people from working harder and taking the gamble of starting businesses. That will probably mean cutting taxes on high earners."

The answer, of course, is in the Sun:

'On page two on Thursday, the day of the second ballot, under the headline "Big ideas are not enough", The Sun publishes "Commentary by Irwin Stelzer, leading US economist". I doubt many eyes were diverted left from page three, but why was this piece there, rather than in, say, The Times where it would have looked less out of place?'

Well, it's because the Murdoch papers take this tax stuff very seriously indeed. Here's Trevor Kavanagh writing in the latest Reform Journal:

'Tax was the dog that didn’t bark in the general election campaign. I think we rightly expected a much stronger position from the Conservatives. But the Conservatives offered only £4 billion of tax cuts after their first Budget – out of a tax burden of £500 billion – with no pledges of future reductions. Oliver Letwin refused to rule out increases in income tax and even in National Insurance contributions. It was simply not a credible position.

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.'

Yes, we can complain about the media and say we should be free to make our own policies. But as various people keep reminding me- complaining about the media is like railing against the weather. It's time to get back into the Sunshine.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

DD/DC Policy Differences- Public Spending

This is the first of our posts on policy differences between DD and DC.

On public spending, DD has robustly said that he would implement Reform's Growth Rule. This states that:

'for the next two Parliaments the trend growth rate of departmental spending should be at least 2 percentage points lower than the trend growth rate of GDP. This means departmental spending rises of 0.75 per cent in real terms per annum.'

In contrast DC sticks with the much fuzzier:

'we should share the proceeds of economic growth between tax reduction and investment in public services.'

Why does it matter? Well, because spending determines tax levels, and all the evidence is that higher taxes mean lower incomes (for a more detailed overview of the evidence, see eg here). What's more, experience around the world shows that leaving such matters to the unfettered discretion of politicians is always a bad idea: those varmints invariably find great new discretionary reasons for spending yet more of our money.

So we need clear rules, not discretion. We must concentrate their minds. Hence the Reform Growth Rule- which, please note, does not actually call for spending cuts.

Think of this as a further development of Gordo's Golden Rules- they were good as far as they went, covering government borrowing and debt. Their shortcoming was that they didn't cover actual underlying spending. (Yes, we know in practice he's cheating on their implementation, but we'll address that by setting up a truly independent Budget Office henceforth to monitor all such backsliding politicos.)

This is a very clear example of DD being prepared to bite a bullet that has been richoceting around our economy and our lives for as long as I can remember. When Britain confronts the aftermath of New Labour, it will become conventional wisdom. Right now, only DD is offering it.

Toffs On Top

Another great piece from DC supporter Matthew Parris:

'Frightened for its life, the Tory party is turning back to the toffs. For the first time in 40 years they are looking to a proper top-public-school boy to save them. Mr Cameron’s Eton education and discreetly upper-crust bearing are not handicaps, surmountable or otherwise. They are assets. In all kinds of subliminal ways they are working to his advantage.'

Parris gently puts it to us peasants that our time is drawing to a close. From our original uprising back in 1965, "The Peasants’ Revolt is almost over. October 2005. The Peasants’ Rout. David Cameron has emerged. The toffs are back in the saddle."

Toffs, eh. I've met quite a few over the years, and you know what? Some of them aren't that bad. Even those who went to "Slough Grammar" (as "Slough Comprehensive" used to be known, when I was going to the original and best Slough Grammar).

Sadly, one of the nicest and most impressive toffs I ever knew has just died. Sir Nigel Mobbs (Marlborough and Christ Church) ran Slough Estates and a good many other things besides (including for us Tories). He was a pleasure to be with, even when he was cuffing you round the head. He will be greatly missed.

Calm Down Everyone- DC Magic Not Enough

I want us to win the next Election as much as anyone. And the latest polls do suggest that having a bright fresh highly telegenic leader would take us in the right direction.

The Guardian/ICM poll, taken after Thursday's result, shows that as things stand today we trail Labour by 3% (33% to 36%)- our best result since the Election. But the bad news is that under Gordo, Labour would improve sharply: vs Cameron, the lead would be 5% (38% vs 43%), and vs Davis the lead would be 13% (45% vs 32%).

I know what you're thinking- better to take DC because at least the gap is much smaller. Plus (although we haven't seen the detailed numbers), DC must really whack that LibDem support, which would certainly give us Southern Tories a very special glow.

Two points: first, although the gap is smaller, we still lose- Davemania, currently pumped up to bursting by the media, is still not enough.

Second, the stuff we need to close the remaining gap is non-trivial. We need to fashion a compelling policy platform dealing with such contentious issues as NHS reform. And just turning the gas up under timid Tone's half-baked "reforms" ain't going to do it. Abandoning that middle-class ops opt-out sidesteps one issue, but we're going to need to come up with something much more substantial than that.

And it's not just some technical exercise- hire a few wonks and let them work out the "best" approach which people of goodwill can all buy into. No, it involves confronting a vast array of vested interests and prejudices- not just those public sector unions, but also our national attachment to the Welfare State. All that without even contemplating another outbreak of- ghastly prospect- Tory Wars.

Which is why- grizzled and broken-nosed though he may be- we need DD's experience and, frankly, toughness. This ain't gonna be no cakewalk.

Magic is not enough- no matter how great it looks on the Ten O'Clock News.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sorry- Am I Going Bonkers?

A clean contest- no argument about that.

But look- are we seriously thinking of electing a leader who's been an MP for just four years, has been in the Shadow Cabinet for six months, and who, it now turns out, has only been at the dispatch box four times?

Dear old Anthony Seldon gives us the historic context:

'No one in modern times has become leader of a main party after such a short period as an MP. William Pitt the Younger became First Lord of the Treasury in 1783 at the age of 24 after just two years in Westminster. But this was far from normal even in that aristocratic age of politics.

All of his successors were more than 20 years older on becoming party leader or Prime Minister. The youngest leaders since Pitt have been Lord Liverpool, who became Prime Minister in 1812 aged 42. But he had been an MP since the age of 20, and had gained three years’ Cabinet experience as Foreign Secretary...Robert Peel was 46...Earl Derby was 46...

The youngest leader of the 20th century was William Hague, three years younger than David Cameron. But Mr Hague had been an MP for eight years before, and had served in Cabinet for two years. In other ways, Mr Hague is not exactly an encouraging precedent.'

No wonder Seldon concludes that 'the experience of history is that Mr Cameron does not have Ben Nevis to climb, but Everest, and up its most inhospitable face.'

And yet...and yet.

Or is it just me?

Time To Regroup

"He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us."
(Henry V, Act IV, iii)

After some prompting, we agreed it was time to prune our Bloggers For Davis list. Even we can see that some of those who originally flocked to the colours have since scarpered.

We thought about initiating the List Of Shame. But this is a time to get serious, not petty-minded. So we've quietly put a few crowns in a few purses. And actually, just like DD's vote among MPs, there's been far less attrition than those doomsayer guys might have predicted.

The one real sadness is that in all conscience we've had to drop our old friend Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East. Despite his encouraging post back in the summer, counting him as one of us was probably a bit like Henry V counting the Duke of Orleans as one of his.

We'll be adding new Bloggers For Davis over coming days.

PS If I've included anyone in error, please let me know.

Sun Has Got His Thinking Cap On

It seems everyone's at it. Trevor Kavanagh joins those asking what DC actually stands for, and sets out the the Sun's policy questions:

'Mr Cameron must spell out precisely what he intends to do on:

REFORMING PUBLIC SERVICES: Does he intend to cut the bloated payroll which has grown by hundreds of thousands under Labour?

TAX CUTS: Where will he wield the axe to deliver the growth he needs to fund health and education?

LAW AND ORDER: Sun readers will want to know how he intends to cut violent crime and make the streets safe.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: How tough will he be on those who have been brought to Britain by crime gangs?

EUROPE: How does he plan to stop Brussels — and unelected European Court judges — running Britain?'

He doesn't ask the same questions of DD- presumably because he's very happy with the Davis line.

We're also interested in at least some of his questions. But in the crucial area of public service reform and public finances, they neatly illustrate how far we are from getting across to the mainstream media the nature of the new agenda.

Reform is not simply a question of axing public sector jobs and cutting taxes. The real issues are how we introduce consumer choice and competition in order to drive improvement, while at the same time having proper safeguards for the most vulnerable in society.

We'll look at this over the next week or so.

Keeping It Clean

Something all of us want to see is a good clean fight. It's in nobody's interest- other that is, than our political opponents and the media- to condone biting and gouging.

So we should all welcome DD's self-denying ordinance, announced on R4 Today, that he will answer no more questions about drugs:

"I'm Shadow Home Secretary; in the last few weeks I've been asked questions about the direction of drugs policy, which have then been written up, rather mischievously I must say, as an attack on David. So for the next six weeks, I'm not going to answer any question on drugs- policy or otherwise- because I'm simply not going to have this debate dominated by this issue."

Quite right.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 29

Following Liam Fox's elimination today, we're delighted to welcome James Hellyer, a Fox stalwart, to Bloggers For Davis. James gives us a "warts and all" endorsement:

"The question is who I should support now my candidate of choice has been removed from the equation. For me there's only choice: David Davis.

David Davis has his flaws: he's not a natural orator, his "safety first" approach may well have cost him the leadership campaign, and some of his acolytes actively put people off (step forward Andrew Mitchell).

Yet for all these faults Davis remains a man of substance. He believes the right things and has espoused policy ideas that could reform our public services and make Britain better.

Being nicely spoken and presentable are not in themselves qualifications for leadership. I know where Davis stands and what he offers. I know he can deliver."

He joins our list.

Davis Vs Cameron

So we members will get the choice as originally billed. Six more weeks for some calmer more measured reflection on our future.

We are reassured and encouraged by DD's resilience under pressure: he has once again shown that he can keep his head when- if reports are to be believed- at least some around him were losing theirs. And despite Doc's spirited challenge and the many prophecies of doom, most of his vote held firm.

But the man of the media moment is undoubtedly still David Cameron. And we would be foolish not to recognise his appeal and quality. What's more, his team has fought the kind of sophisticated campaign we wish we'd had during the Election. Hope, optimism, and excitement- to borrow today's entirely reasonable soundbite. No wonder he's way ahead in the polls and at the bookies.

So during these coming weeks, we really do need to think very hard about that lack of experience. It's even less than Hague, and we delude ourselves if we think DC's path will be any easier.

And we need to focus on policy. For us, DD's policy agenda- particularly in the crucial areas of public services, taxation, and localism- is a key element of his attraction. We remain unclear where DC stands on most of it, but we need to find out.

Over the next week we'll be comparing the DD and DC policy platforms in these crucial areas. Let's see if we can pin down the differences.

We Want Some Beef

Clearly today's YouGov poll is somewhat less than ideal. But as we've said before- it ain't over til it's over.

And as we've also said, we members want the chance to kick some tyres. Yes, we know DD has faltered in the face of our new Golden Boy. But whereas we know what DD stands for- he's spelled out his policy agenda- we don't yet know the same for DC.

Even in reporting its strong pro-Cameron poll results, the Telegraph says:

'Mr Cameron has so far survived his trial by tabloid media; he needs to be tested in the arena of policy, where his campaign has been far less impressive. We want to know how he will reverse the Blair-Brown drive towards a high-tax, over-regulated economy; what plans has he for the health service and for schools; does he intend to reduce taxes?

Will he have the courage to confront New Labour on its shameful plans for detention without trial and its multi-billion pound ID card scheme? Will he take on the unions to tackle the looming crisis in public sector pensions, the issue ducked so ignominiously by the Government only this week? We know far more about what Mr Davis and Dr Fox think on these issues.'

We are attracted to DD because he has a strong policy agenda which coincides almost exactly with our own views, and which we believe would address the central issues facing Britain. Four weeks of hustings will give us a good chance to calm down and assess what DC would actually bring to the policy table.

Heart Of Darkness

For us peasant outsiders, the spin and counterspin going on up at the Palace is jaw-dropping.

The rumour of DD's imminent withdrawal was stirred up by...well who exactly? Clearly usual suspect Nick Robinson was the messenger, but where did it actually come from? The "who benefits?" test points to Doc's supporters. But the Times reports:

'Discreet talks have already taken place at Conservative Central Office about what would happen if the second-placed candidate was way behind. If it is Mr Davis there may be pressure on him to stand down, but his aides said he would fight on.

The Times has been told that the talks have centred on Francis Maude, the party chairman, and Raymond Monbiot, the chairman of the voluntary wing of the party. One senior source said: “If Davis threw in the towel it would enable him to salvage some dignity. If it goes to the party in the country with such a poor showing from MPs, Cameron will score at least 70 per cent against Davis, whose frontline career could be over.”

So it's them again...them grandees what tried to rob us peasants of our vote. The heart of darkness.

Whoever wins the leadership, job number one is to toss those guys off the battlements.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Right Argument- Wrong Conclusion

I've got a lot of time for Anatole Kaletsky. His insightful articles have long been worth reading and thinking about.

His piece on the leadership is true to form:

'A strategy based on simply renewing the leader and then avoiding controversy is nothing more nor less than what the Tories have been doing throughout this decade: a strategy of waiting for the Labour Government to self-destruct. It may be true that Mr Blair won by being nice and modern and promising to preserve many Tory policies, but that was only because the Tories self-destructed under John Major. The question is whether Labour will offer the Conservatives a similar opportunity in the next few years.

The prospect of a serious crisis or Labour self-destruction seems unlikely in the next four years, so the Tories will have to offer an alternative programme for government that is fundamentally different from new Labour to have any chance of success. To produce that programme, the new leader will have to do more than ooze charm and avoid controversy. He will have to offer a genuine alternative — of small government, low taxes and personal responsibility for everything from nursery education to pensions.'

We agree with all that, so presumably he supports DD, or at the least, Doc. Er, no:

'David Davis may have a better strategic vision and a clearer understanding of many policies than Mr Cameron (that, to be frank, was how the two candidates struck me when I met them a few months ago), but the willingness of elements on the Tory Right to try to exploit the drugs issue shows them totally unfit for office — not just on grounds of principle, but of sheer stupidity too. '


Look, either I'm losing my grip, or Anatole is. Why would you not support the guy who has the better strategic vision etc, just because some other guys who happen to be right-wing Tories, may have had problems with this drugs issue?

It's not logical Captain.

No Towel Throwing Please

So now we have the rumour that DD may concede tomorrow if he comes a long way behind DC. Yes, we understand it's probably all spin from the Doc's supporters for perfectly understandable reasons, but just in case- it mustn't happen.

First, we hope Our Man is made of sterner stuff. Although he's taken a battering over the last two weeks, there's still at least another month before members place their X's on the ballot papers. Even a week is an age in leadership contests, and as we've already seen, things can change very quickly. After all, it's less than a month since the Times was calling time on current fave DC:

'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.'

Second, the members deserve the chance to scrutinise the candidates. Particularly the relatively unknown and untested DC. What does he actually stand for, and could he front up to Tony?

And third, we've just come through a most unfortunate tussle with party bosses over our rights to have a direct say in leader selection. Opinion polls notwithstanding, we just don't want another fait accompli. Member democracy must be seen to be done.

So please, gents, lets have no towels thrown in. We want the full fifteen rounds. And we want Queensberry rules throughout.

Update: Turns out it's all untrue- his camp says:
"David Davis is fighting for every vote. He is confident of going through to the next round and intends to take the contest to the party membership and win."

The Alices Get It

At the risk of giving further amusement to the commenter who sniggered "this is becoming the David Davis for Loser and Whinging about Cameron blog", it's worth looking at Alice Miles this morning. Echoing the other Alice yesterday, she says:

'...All of which serves to highlight the real deficiency in Cameron’s leadership bid: his lack of experience. The boy wizard has grown in stature in the past few weeks. He is undergoing one of those transformations that actually make a person look taller (but that might be because he appears to be rapidly losing weight under the strain)...'

At the time, the thing that struck us during that famous Rawnsley interview was not the lighthearted question about drugs, but his probing into DC's lack of experience. Dave had no real answer, and Rawnsley suggested chillingly that Tone would "eat him for breakfast". And that's the story the media will be looking to write.

Alice goes on:

'The Tory party has to go for Cameron now. You do not ignore the kind of momentum that he undoubtedly possesses....You do not have to push very far, however, to discover the wizard’s shortcomings. First there is policy: he doesn’t really have any to speak of...

I can see that it is important for the Conservatives to look different and for their leader to embody that change, but in the end it does still boil down to this: has Cameron got any substance? He is looking great, he is sounding good — but what does it mean? It’s all a bit “Doe, a deer” to me — you know, “far, a long long way to run, sew, a needle pulling thread . . .” etc. Until the little girl looks up and says: “But it doesn’t mean anything!”

It's really a repeat of William Hague's message at the end of our Conference: hopes are not enough- we need some substance.

'Tempting though it is to think that Cameron has already changed the political landscape for ever, he hasn’t. He has made one good speech, and he has looked good, and he may have made the Tory party confront some of its more antiquated beliefs. Not a bad start, but hopes are riding too high.' can say that again.

Experience and policy substance are not nice-to-haves that we can probably fix en route. They are absolutely essential before we set off.

It's still DDfL.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Out Of Our Hands

Frankly, it's anyone's guess. 36 hours of smoke-filled rooms could now it seems perm any two from three. Well, no- let's be frank- DC certainly looks to be through.

DD's vote held up a lot better than the doomsayers reckoned, but was still four short of those 66 declarations. Will it be enough to head off the Fox spurt?

One theory is that some of Ken's supporters will now back Davis in order to stop arch-Eurosceptic Doc making it through.

Another is that some "fairweather" DD support will now switch to Fox because they think he'd do better against DC among us members.

Our support remains undiminished. But anything could happen in all that smoke.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions

Before spending my days sitting in pyjamas blogging, I worked in the financial markets. I was sharply reminded of this by Matthew D'Ancona's excellent article pointing out the parallels to the leadership contest:

'The frenzied Tory marketplace fizzes with fear: prices soar and crash. Traders adjust their positions by the hour.

The reaction to Davis's speech at Blackpool was hysterically hostile; the reaction to Cameron's performance was hysterically positive. What exactly was Cameron selling? It did not matter: people were buying. I was reminded of the South Sea Bubble and those who invested furiously in the scheme "for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is".

One of the best books about crowd hysteria is Charles Mackay's 1841 classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds:

'We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.'

We don't really need Mackay to tell us that such hysteria never ends well, but it's a great read.

And this idea lies behind one of the most powerful concepts in investment- the distinction between growth and value.

Growth is forward looking, exciting, and there's always a compelling crowd-pleasing story. It's the future not the past, and investors in growth stocks are going with the flow. They really "get it"- even if "it" may sometimes be a little vague- and they are invariably feted by the financial media. Little wonder: as the crowd catches on the prices of favoured growth stocks can soar, and I mean soar: I once knew a guy who much to the delight of his colleagues, bought a couple of grand's worth of IT stock and saw its value reach a cool mill in just a few short months.

Value on the other hand is dull. Dull, dull, dull. Value investors spend their days pouring over company accounts trying to find good solid companies that are out of favour with the crowd. Short-term returns are never that spectacular, and people are always asking why they are invested in such dull problematic companies. Value investors stand apart from the crowd, and frankly, it never actually feels that good.

The strange thing is though, that over the long-haul, value outperforms growth. For example, in the UK, those dull value stocks have outperformed exciting growth stocks by about 300% over the last five years.

Growth is a rollercoaster, which can produce spectacular returns during say an internet bubble, but then has a horrible tendency to plummet earthwards and smash to smithereens on the concrete below. Thus my erstwhile millionaire colleague held onto his brilliant investment just a little too long , and saw it all disappear (obviously the rest of us were overjoyed).

Now, does any of this sound at all familiar? Or have I bored you to death?

Just remember this: beware popular delusions- however widespread they are.

Why Davis? Revisited

As various helpful comments have pointed out, several of our recent posts have focused on DC rather than DD. Sorry about that- the msm has been dominated by DC stories, and we've felt duty-bound to comment on them. Particularly since much of the national media now seems to comprise the DC fan club (eg most of the msm failed entirely to cover DD's speech in Bradford).

Anyway, given that today is the first vote, for anyone who wants to know why we support DD, we stand by our very first post back in May- Why Davis? Since then he's spelled out his policy positions in much more detail, but the core is all there.

PS Rereading the May post and comments, we're reminded of that baseless DD skeleton rumour disseminated by Guido (NB- G, pl note further plug).

Gunpowder plotters eh? What can you do with 'em? Oh yes, I remember- you douse 'em in petrol and stick 'em on the bonfire next weekend.

Alice Puts Her Finger On It

Alice Thompson bemoans the focus on personality rather than policy:

'In some ways, this new fascination is good for the Tories. It shows that they are not irrelevant, that the country needs an opposition and that people are still interested in who is going to save the party. But if the Tories want to be seen as a serious force, they need to look more like a David Hare play and less like Big Brother. They must engage in weightier issues than whether the candidates went to a comprehensive or Eton, or whether they changed a nappy in Nottingham or Notting Hill.'

Yes, well, Alice- I'm sorry to break the bad news, but there's a teensy problemette. As Mrs T keeps telling me, only a few weird people like me are interested in policy. For the rest- and I have to say, the media in particular- policy is monstrously tedious. Personality is much more immediate, particularly when it's part of a BB knock-out contest. It's also much easier for you journos to deal with- you don't need to get on top of the issues.

For example, DD gave two excellent policy speeches in Blackpool, followed by floor questions- you may have been there. I thought they were great, packed full of good red meat; but the press reaction was almost universally negative- biggest yawn since the Epilogue. His main platform speech was also at least 50% policy...and we all know how that was treated by your esteemed colleagues.

In contrast, DC's conference pitches (ex those synthetic phonics thingies) were not policy at all. They were such stuff as dreams are made on, designed to present a young prince who has single-handedly "reinvented politics". The members loved it, and- admit it- you journos loved it.

'Whoever it is, the finals must not be a repeat of Big Brother, or degenerate into How Clean is Your House? The hustings must be about policy. Mr Davis will need to show why he is different from William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. Mr Cameron will need to spell out why he isn't just another Tony Blair.'

Alice- your finger's found the right spot, but don't hold your breath.

Monday, October 17, 2005

So The Drugs Would Work...Against Us

As we've posted previously, we're not at all bothered if DC dabbled in substances at Uni. We're pretty cool cats, and this is 2005 after all. We've all got to get a bit with it, Daddy-o.

But it turns out that voters are actually rather less relaxed. An ICM poll for the strongly pro-Cameron Newsnight finds that fully 27% of those who have voted Tory or would consider doing so, would be put off if our leader had ever snorted coke. And 11% would be put off even if it was only a few spliffs.

No wonder he wouldn't tell.

PS We'll be very interested to see how Newsnight reports this. Our guess is that they'll emphasise the majority of Tory voters who said it doesn't matter, rather than the 27% we might well lose. It will be a story of good news for DC, rather than bad news for the party.

Yes..But Could He Do The Actual Job?

As everyone keeps telling us, the DC Bandwagon is looking pretty well unstoppable. Having apparently survived the drugs, he's miles ahead at the bookies and seems to be picking up fresh media endorsements by the day.

But could he actually do the job? Today, Mrs Marr tells us:

'Though Clarke had been the Tory candidate most feared by Labour, this may be changing. The prospect of a young, fresh-faced, English, moderate leader taking on Gordon Brown is concentrating minds. Some are even talking of the ultimate irony for Brown: to be defeated by a Tory Tony Blair, who seems to be gathering support in the Murdoch press. Though there are many different views about all this, there is a growing Labour consensus that, on balance, it would be best if Cameron's campaign were stopped between now and Thursday.'

Of course we've heard all this kind of advice from the opposing lines before. But reading what LibDem and Labour bloggers are saying, there does seem to be at least a frisson of real concern. And that has to be a plus for DC.

Still, the question remains. Could he do the actual job? Not the virtual job of gloss and media and excitement, but the real job of leading us through four years of bloody trench warfare.

Just to recap, this involves hammering out an agreed policy platform on everything from public service reform, tax cuts, and Europe, through to immigration control, law and order, and, yes, drugs. Despite all the work that's already been done, we do not have anything like party consensus in any of these areas. Still less do we have agreement on how to pitch it all to the electorate.

The actual job also involves imposing party discipline. We all saw the catastrophic in-fights that raged under Hague and IDS, and we do not want to revisit them. We need somebody with the toughness to bang heads together if required...and it will be.

And the job also involves standing up to Tone. Yes, we know Tone might find it difficult to attack his own shadow, but as someone said, when you can have the real thing, why settle for a cheap imitation?

Of course, if the promised DC magic works and he manages to lift our poll ratings by 10%, all of the above will fall into place like...magic.

But come on guys- you know as well as I do that the real world just ain't like that.

DC is basically untried and untested, and he remains very high risk.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Hope Made Flesh"

So says a star-stricken Alison Pearson in today's highly supportive Sunday Telegraph profile of David Cameron. 'Politics desperately needs people like Cameron, who could be making a packet in the City but chooses instead to spend his days making life better.'

Yeah, I know- you thought politicians were only in it for power and attention. But how do you actually counter stuff like this? Right now, to criticise DC is not only to sound crabby and cynical, it's to abandon hope.

So it comes as a bit of a jolt to discover DC is no more an electoral magic bullet than Ken. The Communicate Research poll for the Indy finds that under either DD or DC we would still be defeated by Labour under Gordo. And there's virtually no difference between the two losing margins: around 20% (!) in both cases.

So hope, yes. Sure. We need hope. Lot's of hope.

But let's remember- that's all it is. To return to power, we've still got to do all that hard slog of policy making, holding the party together, and dealing with the tough times ahead.

A couple of good speeches and some nice family photos just ain't enough. Even from He who is Hope Made Flesh.

Thanks Bryan

Cultural commentator Bryan Appleyard doesn't always get the best of treatment in the Blogosphere. But henceforth, we won't hear a word against him. The reason of course is that he gives us a good long plug in his ST article today.

Picking up our post "The Old Chums Connection" he homes in on that egregious Luntz/Newsnight focus group:

'When Luntz showed a film of Cameron, the group loved him. Real-time charts showed their adoration soaring with every word. This is, cried Luntz, apparently close to sobbing, “the best segment I have ever tested in politics!” Cameron was launched.

There are two things wrong with this picture. First, focus groups are rubbish. I once sat in on one. I could have talked the poor fools into believing there was an elephant in the room. Second, Luntz seems to be parti pris. He went to Oxford where, at the time, Michael Gove, now a key pro-Cameron MP, was Union president, the successor to Boris Johnson, also now a Cameron man. Nick Robinson, the BBC political editor, who was among the voices talking up Cameron at the conference, was there at the same time.

Suddenly — at least in the eyes of the unofficial David Davis-supporting website — the whole Cameron thing is the most monstrous media stitch-up. It’s just another old-boy network designed to keep non-toff Davis out, right?'

Hang on, we didn't quite say that, Bryan, but...well, whatever. At least we get a plug. That's the main thing.

'Wrong. Something much more interesting is going on here.'


'The key term here is “open network” because it is now clear — to Cameron, to Blair, to everybody in the socio-political know — that the exclusive “closed networks” of old are useless.

Luntz started his report in the Carlton club. He called it “the Conservative home”, but he knows it isn’t. The old London clubs are mausoleums with bad food. Nothing happens there and nothing will. They are “closed networks” that have died.'

...Undoubtedly, Cameron has absorbed the message of weak ties, which is why the conspiracy theorists’ view of his conference “putsch” cannot be the whole truth. The number of non-toff Tory faithful that rose to acclaim him suggests he has plenty of weak connections to call on.'

You mean people liked what they saw.

Well, we agree with that. But the question is whether he can do the actual job. Because his superb media mastery- puffed up by his chums, or "open-networks"- doesn't answer that.

'There is, however, one problem of which Cameron and all other political aspirants need to be aware. People will turn to their weakly tied contacts when things are going well. But, when things go wrong, they tend to turn to those people they know best. Networks close down defensively and become more like tribes.

A crisis tomorrow — a recession would be the likeliest — would put pressure on all open networking politicians. Vague, feelgood, open network rhetoric doesn’t work so well when times are hard. People want answers; even wrong ones will do. Winston Churchill’s genius in 1940 was to give the nation answers that turned it into one vast closed network, a tribe of resistance fighters. Cameron beware, and Gordon Brown even more so. A recession could send his boys back to Blair, the devil they know best.'

You mean like turning back to Chamberlain in 1940?

A much more likely scenario is that people would turn to a tough gritty Tory leader with some real solutions to offer.

Now, who might that be?