Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Party That Likes To Say Yes!

Do you remember TSB- "The Bank That Likes To Say Yes!" (1mb TV ad download here).

The SDP's Danny Finkelstein reckons the Tory Party should copy it. And he makes DC our yes-man, pitched against DD's no-man, a case spun from that Sky hustings exchange:

DD: "We have a situation where the centre of many cities and towns in this country are no-go areas for decent people.”
DC: “We must not make everyone who wants to go out and have a drink on a Friday and Saturday night sound like a criminal.”

The moment I heard this I recognised the debate the two were having. Should the Conservative Party paint the skies blue or should they paint them black?"

You can guess which side Fink comes down on, but just in case we don't get it, he spells it out:

"The reason that optimism is a superior political position to pessimism is really quite simple — association. Why do you think car companies advertise their products with attractive women? It makes their cars seem sexy."

Simple as that huh?

And what happens when you might actually have to say "no"? Or won't that ever happen?

PS For those interested in these things, 'the TSB movement was started in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan in the small Scottish village of Ruthwell to improve the financial position of what were then termed the "labouring classes". For the next 175 years it ran a very conservative and successful operation. Unfortunately, after it floated in the go-go 80s, their board got carried away with a whole load of frothy ideas driven by management consultants and admen. Like saying yes to everything. It didn't really work, and in 1995 the whole wobbly shebang was gobbled up by Lloyds. Most of the branches then got turned into bars or worse; the picture shows all that's left of the flagship branch in Newcastle- probably after a 24 hour drinking binge.

Not that anything like that could happen to our Party.
Definitely not.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

All-New Fantasy Cabinet

It's a game we've all played many times before, but over at ConservativeHome it's in full swing once again. Just how should DD balance his shadow cabinet?

The first and most important thing will be to re-establish unity. After our prolonged and sometimes difficult contest, Davis must reach out right across the Party, and particularly to the disappointed supporters of David Cameron.

There will be no place for petty vindictiveness, or settling of old scores, or cronyism. As DD has said many times, his will be a cabinet of all the talents. And quite right too.

So William Hague for Shadow Chancellor- everyone's choice, if he can afford it. And Liam Fox to stay as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Certainly.

But the real question will be what to do with DC himself. We believe it is essential he be given one of the very top jobs, and accorded all the respect that decency and good sense demand for the runner-up. He would make an excellent Shadow Home Secretary, a post which should be combined with the Deputy Leadership.

Of course there will be those that say he should be punished for saying challenging things about DD. And for having supporters who have taken things too far. But we say Davis is a bigger man than that. He is a real leader, and a real leader thrives on robust debate.

After all, if the positions were reversed, do we really believe DC would behave any less well?

Bigtime Punter Backs Davis

According the the Evening Standard, major league punter and Tory backer Stuart Wheeler has endorsed DD:

“I think that Davis would have the toughness to maintain discipline in the Party and I think he would take a harder line on Europe and I welcome his keenness to revive the economy through lower taxes.”

All of which we naturally agree with.

But more interesting is how much he'll win when DD is elected.

Think about it. DD is now 33/1- fantastic odds that Mr W could surely not ignore. And being the sporting gent he is, he wouldn't want to be outdone by that 200 grand bet on DC. So let's say he matches it.

£200,000 times 33...why, that's nearly seven big ones. Payable next Tuesday.

Let's hope he donates some to the Party.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Platitudes Vs Policy

On R4 Today this morning, John Humphrys almost used the Tyler Opposites Test on DC- would anyone seriously argue the opposite to anything he said?

Anatole Kaletsky picks up the same point. He has had private discussions with both leadership candidates, and says of DC:

'Consider the statement ....that David Cameron has repeated almost verbatim in his campaign speeches and public debates: ... the promise to “share fairly the fruits of economic growth between lower taxes and strengthened public services”... If such platitudinous ambiguities were really the essence of the New Tory credo, the rejuvenated party would find itself supporting not just Tony Blair, but also Gordon Brown, in almost everything they did or said.'

Kaletsky contrasts this to the Davis approach:

'The Davis position on tax and spending ...comes up with commitments that are much more clear-cut...the steady build-up of 1 per cent economies would allow Davis to deliver his promise of a tax cut of roughly equivalent to 4 per cent of GDP, or £40 billion, at the end of a four-year parliament. ...waste, inefficiency and over-manning are rife in the public sector and if government productivity could only be raised to levels that are taken for granted in private industry, achieving a target of 1 per cent savings each year should not be impossible, even while services are improved. This is an attractive argument, but one which has been made by every opposition politician in every country in every age.'

Which is fair comment. But with Davis, we know what the priorities would be, and we know how he would seek to deliver. With Cameron, neither we nor Kaletsky have any idea.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gordo Apes Davis

According to the authoritative David Smith, Gordo is preparing for a DD-led Tory Party by aping his "Growth Rule". As you know, this is DD's strategy for limiting the growth of public spending below the growth of the economy, thereby clearing the way for tax cuts. Smith says:

"In his pre-budget report Brown will announce that spending by government departments will rise by 1.9% a year in real terms over the period 2008-9 to 2010-11, below the economy’s long-run growth rate which is estimated by the Treasury to be 2.75%."

Obviously, Gordo's version of the Rule is a pale imitation with about as much credibility as his pledges to raise productivity growth or to abolish unhappiness. But it sounds like he's already running scared.

Roll on 6 December.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Early Test For Rehab Policy

"I believe that the rehabilitation of prisoners is one of the most important things we can do to reduce crime in this country. A serious-minded approach to re-introducing prisoners into mainstream work and life after prison is also required if we are to make any dent in the appalling figures for re-offending from which we suffer at present."

So says the caring sharing Mr Cameron.

And if he wins, he'll get a splendid opportunity to put his beliefs into practice straight away. Because ex-con Lord Archer has applied for his old job back. He's paid his dues, and in DC's world it's only right he be given a chance to resume mainstream work and life after prison.

On such an important issue, we're confident DC would eschew any nimbyism or "don't do as I do, do as I sayism" and welcome his Lordship back into the Tory fold.

PS For those who've forgotten DD's pledge to "build the prisons to put them away and keep them off our streets", it's here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Amnesial Airbrush

What are we to make of DC's selective amnesia? Yesterday during the Sky hustings he reckoned he "couldn't remember" how he had voted in Parliament on gay adoption. The facts of course are that, although he's now in favour, he twice voted against- on 16th May 2002 (Division 244) and four days later (Division 246).

So what's going on? Over on ConservativeHome posters are calling him a liar, and worse. Here on DDFL we always like to think the best of fellow Tories, so naturally we shy away from such talk.

But if not a liar than what?

Perhaps he genuinely forgot. A Blunkett moment. But then again, this isn't exactly the Schleswig-Holstein Question, and if he forgot this, what else might he have forgotten? Samantha's birthday? A sieve is surely not what we had in mind as leader.

So what then?

We really don't need to look far because it's been put up in lights for us. A "Change To Win" Cameron Tory Party would start at Year Zero. Everything- from gay adoption to those timeless Tory principles- would be subject to change and reversal.

And inconvenient historic artefacts? Well, expect to see much more of that amnesial airbrush.

PS Clive Davis picks up another issue from the Sky hustings- the exchange beween DD and DC over 24 hour drinking. DD said "We have a situation where the centres of many towns and cities in this country are no-go areas for decent people...We have to recognise that, and recognise that what the Government is doing today is actually making that much worse." To which DC's reponse was "When you say 'no-go areas for decent people' you are almost implying that anyone who does go out is not a decent person. You have got to be very, very careful, David. That's something the Conservative Party has got to understand. We have to show we understand people's aspirations and not sound all the time as if we are preaching to people." "Aspirations"- a particularly weasely word, as Clive explains.

Still In Our Hands

With the Sun and the Telegraph both today declaring for DC, we Tories must stand firm.

Because as we've said many times before, the media are never more than fair weather friends. And they like to back the side they think is going to win.

Take the Sun's DC endorsement:

'Nobody is entirely sure where he stands on issues like taxation.

On the vital issue of Brussels, he seems to be clear: Britain must not surrender an ounce more sovereignty to the EU. It remains to be seen if he has the balls to turn those words into action.
But despite these reservations, we like what we see...

He looks good on TV and he has the rare gift as a Tory of making voters feel good about life. These may seem superficial qualities. But they are essential in an age when the medium is the message.

...A raw beginner with a sprinkle of stardust. '

Pretty encouraging stuff, you might think. But just remember- supporting DC for the leadership is not the same as supporting the Tories against Labour. Compare and contrast their well-known position on that:

"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 know all about the circulation imperative and those rumoured media deals, but in a close race- as the next Election will be- the Kavanagh/Steltzer Sun will guided by conviction and commitment. Not stardust.

As will the electorate, an uncomfortable fact underlined today's YouGov poll. Yes, we are now only 2 points behind Blair-led Labour, amid much talk of the wheels coming off. Which is excellent.

But in that all-important contest with Brown-led Labour, we're still miles behind. Even Stardust Cameron trails Gordo by 46% to 37%.

Sadly, there is no quick fix media froth solution to our real difficulties. It will be a long-hard road where those round objects will be an absolute requirement.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tylers Vote

Following the hustings Mrs T and I have voted.

After due consideration, my vote has gone to DD. I have to say I'm less sure about Mrs T. Despite my express instructions that she was to show me her completed ballot paper, she stuffed it into the envelope before I could see.

Modern marriage is all very well, but I do wish wives would understand their limits. They'll be wanting to have more women MPs next.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Frimley Shimmy

Mrs T and I attended the Frimley hustings today (my full, totally objective report is on ConservativeHome).

It was a gentle gentlemanly affair, thoroughly appreciated by attendees, but probably doing little to sway members from their prior views. The two Davids have been spending so much time together, they're now finishing each other's jokes.

The one point of real interest was DC's apparent shimmy on withdrawal from the EPP. As noted yesterday, DC's position had been that we would withdraw virtually as soon as he became leader, despite the obvious pitfalls in such an abrupt move.

Well, this morning he shifted his position. While he's still in favour of withdrawal, the "timing" of any decision would now be a matter for the new Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Perhaps not a huge thing in itself (although the likes of Mr Cash may not agree), but it is one more example of DC sort of...hmm, making it up as he goes along.

Now, where've we come across that before?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 39

Mark Adams has an excellent post at Outside Story about leaving the EPP. He contrasts DC's opportunistic commitment to withdraw immediately with DD's more measured approach:

"DC is a past-master of unpopular policies that look opportunistic. In fact he has promised to execute one as his first act if elected leader. The policy is leaving the EPP in his first week as leader. It is part of a deal he has done with Daniel Hannan and Bill Cash.

Leaving the EPP is...getting out of a federalist party that supports the left/right consensus that is bogging down Europe... We want to be a part of an Atlanticist, pro-market coalition that includes the parties of Eastern Europe and even parties like the German FDP. In fact we want to lead such a party.

Leaving the EPP in the first week would squander that opportunity. Cameron wants to get out but he has nowhere to go. There is no coalition waiting for us. We would be isolated in Europe. Creating a party for us to lead could put the Conservative’s at the head of the third largest coalition in Europe. Isolating ourselves would make us a non-entity...

David Davis... would listen to the Euro MPs... about who we can work with. He would use their advice and turn it into a plan. Then he would let them vote on the plan. There would be no rebellion against an imposed move. There would be no talk of opportunism. He would take us out of the EPP but he would do it right.

That is where Davis’s experience will save us an embarrassment. More importantly it is where he would succeed in not looking opportunistic because his positions are based on principle, not PR. That is his strength and Cameron’s weakness. If Conservative members cannot see this by December 5 th then they will see it in Cameron’s first week as leader. That, unfortunately, would be too late."

The Day Of The Jackaroo

One man with a PR department who can change the course of history.

Or...umm, can he?

Maggie's favourite author Freddie Forsyth is worried that DC won't be up to the job:

"Whoever takes over the Conservative Party is going to have to take on New Labour's attack dogs and they are provenly vicious. And Paris and Brussels over EU reform and they are ruthless. And the vested interests who live off all our backs and they are devious and

So that is the real choice. I plump for the man who has been there for 20 years. Occupied five senior offices. Been round the block a few times. Taken hardship, opposition and tough times and beaten them all. It's the tested fighter or the beaming Tory Boy.

Just put it this way: if you were in an alley late at night, with two yobs bearing down, which one would you prefer beside you? Ah, you say, politics are not like that. Oh yes they are, chum, oh yes they are."

And that wild Sunday Telegraph article about the Treasury's secret Cameron dossier will be just the start.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Flogging A Dead Horse"

Despite the bookies, and despite the gleeful sneers of DC supporters, there's still time for us members to choose DD.

Because it seems this race is running very differently to 2001, with less than half of ballot papers so far returned. And nobody actually knows how the votes are splitting.

So we're looking forward to our local hustings on Wednesday, where we will be taking the temperature of some real members well outside the metrobubble.

PS I'll be reporting the Frimley hustings for ConservativeHome. And as I've already told Tim, my strategy will be objective reporting. Although that cannot be a guarantee, or even a promise.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Body Talk

There was of course one interesting bit in today's TV hustings. This was right at the start when the candidates walked on, and DC tried to execute a two-handed power handshake on DD. Generally not a great idea: to quote body language expert Allan Pease:

"It is quite common to see politicians greeting voters and sales people meeting their new customers with a double-handed hand shake without realising that this can be social suicide, putting the receiver offside."

Of course, given DC's meticulous staging, it's quite likely that he was trying to put DD "offside" in order to unsettle him. But the problem with too much body language artifice is that it can so easily backfire.

Today's Sunday Times Appointments section (not apparently online) also unpicks DC's over-rehearsed body language. Top management trainer Jo Ouston watched the QT hustings and comments:

“All we get is stage presence. How are we meant to make any judgment on this basis? It would have paid him to show more of his ideas...

While David Cameron has clearly been trained in presentation skills, giving a more polished performance, David Davis has real gravitas, real presence, which is more credible...

Cameron’s presentation style puts emphasis and energy on the beginning of sentences — a technique that is coached — but which, without the substance to back it up, can look superficial. However, Davis was more clearly focused on what he wanted to say rather than how he wanted to say it.”

It's style versus substance again.

“If you are not relaxed and being your real self, it is easy to disrupt your balance. You end up playing a role rather than being who you are.

Gravitas is what makes you credible. It is presence, not presentation, that gives you gravitas. Presence is the person while presentation is just the shell. Cameron may have the upper hand in presentation but Davis has greater presence.

To have a real sense of presence you need to be able to just ‘be’ — which Davis manages very well. Cameron does not."

Dimbleby Smack-Down: Round 2

The ITV round of the DD/DC hustings didn't really tell us anything new. We DD supporters were confirmed in our man, while DC supporters were confirmed in theirs (eg see the comments on ConservativeHome).

However many hustings we see, we're still left with a choice of one candidate who believes we should make Tory policy commitments and then sell them to the electorate, versus another who believes we should copy the brand leader and hope we can maybe slip in some Tory policy along the way.

There's little in the way of polling evidence to suggest that the latter approach would actually return us to power, but after three defeats, there's no denying many party members are prepared to give it a whirl.

PS For us peasants, watching the two hereditary Dimblebys in action is a reminder of just how inbred the whole politico/media aristocracy actually is. It puts me in mind of a comment posted elsewhere by one "Jack Stone", a notorious DC supporter. Without a trace of irony he says: "If David Cameron is unfit to be this country`s Prime Minister because he went to Eton then surely Prince William is unfit to be its King when he did exactly the same."

Actually, it's possible Jack is a Lib Dem agent provocateur- I can't decide.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Party Neutrality

We've surmised right from the start that quite a few of the Party top brass were backing DC. But at least they've observed the usual niceties and ensured that the party maintained a public neutrality.

It seems that the same conventions don't apply to local constituency associations. The official website of Tottenham Conservatives carries a big "Campaign For David Cameron" banner, and the statement:

"Justin Hinchcliffe, Chairman of Tottenham Conservatives, is backing David Cameron's bid to become the new Leader of the Conservative Party. For more information on David, visit :"

We had no idea you were allowed to use official party sites in this partisan way.

Maybe you're not. In which case Justin better get ready to face the disciplinary action he's so keen to see meted out to DD supporters.

PS According to the Enfield Independent, "Mr Hinchcliffe was suspended by party chiefs in 1995 for his outspoken views on the elderly and the unemployed and was the real life inspiration for comedian Harry Enfield's Tory Boy character." A typical DC supporter?

Of Commissions And Cojones

From time to time we may have been slightly unkind to Tim Yeo. But this morning he stumbles across a fundamental truth.

He's worried about the environment. And despite being a DC supporter, he's fretting about the Boy Wonder's lack of...well, substance. As you will recall, the latter has promised to set up a cross-party commission to create a consensus on measures to combat climate change, to implement statutory annual cuts in carbon emissions and to create an independent carbon audit office.

Sounded great at the time, but thinking about it some more, Tim's concerned:

"Setting up a commission sounds a tiny bit as though we are going to think of some policies, some of which will be painful, but we aren't going to say what they are just yet. Young people...will be looking for explicit policy commitments. It is not enough to say this is very important and we are going to do better at it than the Government has."

Ah. Well, you see Tim, that's a teensy bit of a problem with your boy.

The trouble with politics...well, OK, leadership, is that it's rather more than simply "trust me- I'll call on the best brains in the land and work out what to do". Most political problems don't have a "correct" technical solution. Climate change is one of them- not only is there still expert disagreement on the causes, but most proposed solutions involve losers as well as winners.

Pensions is another excellent example. Most of us have known for ages that the pension age must be increased, and the longer we put it off, the worse the final disaster will be. But for obvious reasons, no politico wants to be the one giving the good news. So instead, we've had years of reports and commissions as successive "leaders" have sought to pass the parcel. Will spineless Tone implement the leaked Turner Report? Don't hold your breath.

So Tim- well done for spotting the issue. And fortunately it's not too late.

There's still time to switch your allegiance.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Meet The New Boss

Those of us of a certain age still treasure the original 12" vinyl. And especially Side 2, Track 4, final crashing couplet:

"Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss."

And as I've posted elsewhere, that sums up perfectly the prospect of a Cameron led Tory Party.

Because after six months of leadership contest, I still can't tell the policy difference between Tone and Dave. Of course, DC sees a difference- an important difference- as he spelled out in last week's Sunday Telegraph. But tellingly, it's a difference of character, not of substance, with DC asserting that unlike Tone, he is neither "belligerent,... lacking in follow-through,... nor vain."

So does it matter? After all, most of DC's supporters, and many of our battle-weary members, just want to get back into office. They talk in terms of DC giving us at least say 75% of what we want.

Well, it may or may not get us re-elected (the opinion polls so far are not encouraging), but even if it does, where does that leave us in terms of real politics?

This really comes down to what you think political parties are for. If they really are mainly about getting politicians elected, then strategy is this "me-too" clustering on the centre ground. Followers not leaders.

But then what we get are two (or three) Super-Butskellite parties that to all intents and purposes are pretty well indistinguishable. The REAL politics still go on, but they are conducted well away from the public- in those smoke-filled rooms, on the PM's sofa, or, dare I say it, over an agreeable Clubland lunch. Well away from us in any event.

The inevitable result is that our politicos go on doing pretty well what they decide is best. And that ineviatably boils down to spending more, taxing more, interfering more....until one day we all hit another set of buffers. At which point- after Gawd knows how much unemployment and all-round anguish- we peasants finally rise up to demand change...maybe starting by burning a few cars.

What Davis offers is something different- a pre-announced RULE for limiting tax and spend, and a clear commitment to introduce real choice and competition in our failing public services.

All Cameron is offering is "trust me". Which to all intents and purposes means more of the same.

Yup. Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.

Judy Tweaks Mr Punch

It may be Punch and Judy, but there's no doubt that DC dealt with Paxo very comfortably last night. Even we DD supporters enjoyed his well-rehearsed put-downs. And yes, he did make Pax look like something from a bygone age. And yes, the setting was much better chosen than the gloom of the Carlton Club.

Of course, we think a comedy feedline about Pink Pussy is rather softer than "why are you a shit?", and there was more than a hint of Newsnight's well-established preference in the contest. But it would be churlish to deny DC's success on the night.

It did however highlight another major concern about the man- does he have any underlying convictions? In answer to Paxo's repeated questions about why he'd changed his mind on various policies, he said "because I've now had a jolly hard think about it." Like when he was Party Policy Co-ordinator, he hadn't had a hard think? No, because we'd lost another election, so clearly need to come up with a different product.

Hmm. That's exactly what we're so concerned about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Davis On Global Poverty

DD gave his speech on global poverty to the CSJ this evening, stressing the role of free trade, and the establishment of workable infrastructure in developing countries- particularly the establishemnt of proper governance arrangements and property rights.

He quotes with approval the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks:

“Just once, I'd like to see someone like Bono or Bruce Springsteen stand up at a concert and speak the truth to his fan base: that the world is complicated and there are no free lunches.

But if you really want to reduce world poverty, you should be cheering on those guys in pinstripe suits at the free-trade negotiations and those investors jetting around the world."

Spot on. But just as important is what he says about fighting for what we believe in:

"If I became leader of this party I wouldn’t spend half of this parliament setting up commissions.

I already know what I believe.

I believe today what I believed six months ago.

I believed six months ago what I believed five years ago.

I know that Britain’s economy needs lower and simpler taxes and the first budget of the
next Conservative government must begin to deliver them.

I know that thorough public service reform – extending choice and securing local and
professional control of schools and hospitals - is the only way that our pupils and patients
will get world class treatment.

And I know that free trade, good governance and property rights are the key to progress
in the third world.

I will spend all of this parliament explaining those beliefs to the British people.Some of them may not look popular now but time and the facts are on our side.

This parliament is still young. I have the determination to spend the whole of this parliament selling an authentic, socially-just conservatism to the British people.

In the last two parliaments our policies became as timid as the limited time we gave ourselves to sell them.

There will be serious policy development under my leadership but I’m not willing to spend three years in a policy vacuum – and spent one year filling it.

Our main policy priorities need to be communicated and explained now."

With Davis at the helm, they will be.

Sorry David

It seems DD has always picked up flak for the actions of some of his more enthusiastic supporters. And now we've added to it.

This morning's Mail seizes on our post about dealing with reporters at the hustings, and says:

"The 'David Davis for Leader' team tells supporters attending the regional hustings with party members, which are closed to the press: "'If you're asked on the way in by a reporter who you support, say "undecided". On the way out, find the same reporter and say "I was undecided, but now it's definitely Davis." And make your way round as many other reporters as possible with the same message. If you feel confident, try the DC/DD conversion variant- "It was Cameron, but now it's definitely Davis."" Mr Davis says his leadership marks a departure from Labour spin. Doesn't sound like it."

Well, of course, we know we're not the official Davis team, and we're just a keen DD supporter independently hacking away in our jim-jams miles from the centre of power. And we know our post was meant as a JOKE- complete with sherbet dab.

But the fact is you can't really expect the Mail to pick up nuances of that kind.

So all we can say is sorry David. It won't happen again. Not on this blog.

Guns Open Up

Fortunately for us Tories, the enemy trenches can't wait and are opening up well ahead of zero hour. Maybe we'll find out how well Lt Cameron holds up before we actually have to go over the top.

Ali "Big Bertha" Campbell has loosed off one salvo:

'It has been said that David Cameron is the new Tony Blair. But watching Mr Cameron trying to soundbite his way through the debate, it was clear that Mr Cameron is not remotely in Mr Blair’s league. Far from being the new Blair, he may actually be the new Alastair Campbell.

He knows how to craft a line and put it over. He has a feel for what tickles the media’s fancy, what makes a story and how to get it up as a headline, what combination of action and demeanour keeps the photographers happy. He knows how to take a line of attack against him and turn it into a line of attack against his attackers. These are skills all press officers deploy from time to time. And every leader in the media age needs this kind of professional support...

From what I’ve seen of Mr Cameron I would put PR and presentation skills top of a fairly short list.

Someone canvassed after the first of the Tory hustings said that the two contenders would make a great dream ticket. Perhaps that should be Davis as leader and Cameron as his spin doctor.'

Ah yes, say DC supporters, that's Ali von Hindenburg, so what would you expect?

But further down the line, Michael Crick took a pop on last night's Newsnight. He picked up DC's about-turn on binge drinking. As we know, Cameron got into a spot of bother over his directorship at Tiger Tiger company Urbium Plc. Crick now reveals that some of Urbium's London bars have unenviable police form on drunkanddisorderliness, and he contrasted this with DC's newfound concern for "responsibilty". He also gleefully reminded us of some earlier Cameron pronouncements strongly in favour of 24 hour drinking.

And even DC fan Nick Robinson couldn't stop himself having a go on yesterday's BBC News profile, interrupting the very first interview answer to point out it was just another Cameron soundbite.

Tonight, the Lieutenant will be tied to a stake in front of the Paxo firing party. We should find out if that silver cigarette case really can deflect bullets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

No, But Seriously Though...

Yesterday's post on do-it-yourself media manipulation seems to have upset a few DC supporters. The problem was our suggestion that DD supporters attending the hustings might care to tell any hovering reporters that it was DD's outstanding performance that had swung them.

Little enough you might think, but it clearly hit a very raw nerve. "Disgusting lies"..."appalling deceit"..."odious calumny" are some of the politer responses (well OK, not "odious calumny", but I do like the sound of that one).

It seems rather odd. After all, following those media shenanigans up in Blackpool, I thought it was common ground that the media are there to be managed. It's no good just blundering around minding you own: they'll only relieve themselves on your head. No, you have to take them in hand. Give them something to gnaw on that isn't attached to your own body.

And frankly, we poor innocents in the DD camp have been in awe at the sophisticated media management skills of team DC. From that fantastic Newsnight/Luntz coup, to the skilful twisting of DD's words, to the wonderful parrying of the drugs issue back onto the Mail, someone not a million miles from DC has been playing a blinder.

So why all the fuss? What are we actually talking about here? I do admit my suggestions yesterday were cheap peasant fare compared to the pricey haute cuisine being served up elsewhere. But it's all of a piece. As GBS was wont to observe, once you've established what you are, haggling over the price is scarcely the issue.

What we mustn't do- any of us- is ever to fall into the trap of thinking the media are on our side. They will remain Pinocchio's drinking companions. Ever ready to betray those they have befriended.

PS Over at Non-Trivial Solutions Andrew has a post in a similar vein, commenting on Michael Gove's piece in today's Times: 'Superficially, it's an unfunny look at what Jeremy Paxman interviewing Jesus would have been like. Read between the lines, and it's a masterful exercise in the reduction of expectations for Cameron's upcoming performance on Thursday night when he faces the demon interviewer of Wood Lane...
Just a small part of the campaign, and reasonably trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it just shows how much thought and effort and sheer cynicism, frankly, that the Cameron campaign have put into getting him elected.'

The Davis Message

What with all the excitement and all, some DC supporters have forgotten DD's underlying message:

"What exactly is Davis' 'message'? My understanding was that his pitch was (a) I'm the unity candidate, (b) I'm the experience candidate and (c) I'm the candidate with the right background. All this is perfectly legitimate stuff, but hardly amounts to an intellectually coherent message that can be 'carried on'.

In reality of course, Davis spelled out his message right back at the start of the campaign in May:

"At exactly the time when the Blairite model is failing, it would be extraordinary for the Tory party to try to imitate it. Instead, timeless Conservative principles need to be applied to modern problems. Those principles are rooted in a commitment to liberty, and liberty does not date...

So now, only a low-tax economy will generate the wealth required to pay for secure pensions and better healthcare. Only radical reform of public services, empowering the parent and patient, can give the nation the quality of schools and hospitals it expects. Only a zero-tolerance approach to yobbery, crime and disorder will make our neighbourhoods safe."

Since then he has filled out the detail, from his "Growth Rule" boosting growth though limiting tax and spend, to his pledged Swedish Model of schools reform, to his choice and competition agenda for healthcare. And throughout it all, he has consistently stressed the need to help the most vulnerable in our society, the very people who are most damaged by current state failure.

For us, the core of his message is a bold Tory programme for maintaining economic health while transforming our public services. And no, it's not all DD's own work- indeed most of it is set out in the Reform Manifesto and Direct Democracy. And yes, it's possible that DC would also pick up some of the ideas.

But only DD has had the courage to commit himself publicly to the programme. He is a man of strength, and as we said right at the outset, a conviction politician. And that is what makes this DD's message.

Facing The Labour Onslaught

DD has written to Party members about what we can expect after 6th December:

"The Conservative Party should be braced for a fierce onslaught from the Labour government once this contest is over. Blair will deploy all his formidable despatch box skills from day one. He will patronise, he will bully, he will ridicule, he will demand to know where’s the beef, he will boast of his experience and attempt to belittle his new rival. And he will be roared on by his backbench bully-boys, who are terrified that our great party is once again on the march.

I believe I am the candidate best equipped to withstand the Blair/Brown offensive and to take our party back to government.

It will take guts, resilience, a vision of a new Conservative future for our country and, above all, experience to withstand the fire to come."

Yes, it would be nice if we could all know, nice. But as DD points out, "Blair and Brown and their army of New Labour spin-doctors and propagandists...know that the first 100 days of a new Conservative leadership will be critical to the future direction of politics in this country".

So none of us should think we can look forward to a gentle warm-up game in no-man's land this Christmas.

Experienced or not, it's helmets on from day one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hustings Hustle

The hustings are underway, but since they are closed to the press, we have to depend on the accounts of attendees. Which generally means partisans of one or other hue.

For example, today's ConservativeHome report on the Newcastle hustings is written by Dominic Llewllyn, a DC supporter. Naturally he reckons DC won, even if the clincher seemed to be:

'The only David Davis t-shirt was one wrapped over the arm of his assistant... Cameron on the other hand had manifestos, three types of flyer, and mints with the slogan “a breath of fresh air” emblazoned on them.'


We're looking forward to our local hustings next week, but meanwhile you do have to wonder how much direct impact they will have. 11 hustings, average attendance 400-500?, equals about 5,000 attendees. Against 250,000 eligible voting members. One in fifty.

Once again the real impact will be intermediated by, media.

So just a few reminders for attending DD supporters. If you're asked on the way in by a reporter who you support, say "undecided". On the way out, find the same reporter and say "I was undecided, but now it's definitely Davis." And make your way round as many other reporters as possible with the same message.

If you feel confident, try the DC/DD conversion variant- "It was Cameron, but now it's definitely Davis."

And for the super-confident, why not offer likely looking reporters a lick of your DD Sherbet Dab?

Bloggers For Davis 38

Over at the Outside Story, Mark Adams tells us to pull ourselves together:

'I have noticed a general despondency of late amongst pro-Davis bloggers. In spite of announcing good policies on tax, healthcare and the EU, and giving Cameron a kicking on QT, Davis still lags in the polls. DC has claimed he is “on a roll” and his supporters are even apportioning jobs in his shadow cabinet. Cameron’s lucky not have had a meltdown but that is not so hard when you don’t actually say anything.'

Mark questions the polls. "Nice" Tories perhaps don't like to admit they're voting DD- particularly now he's behind- an effect routinely observed in party polls:

'In every election Labour wins fewer votes than the raw polling data predicts. Pollsters apply ‘dampeners’ to the Labour numbers so they will reflect the result at the ballot box. In between elections those dampeners are removed, giving Labour their seemingly insurmountable lead that will evaporate at the next election.'

Could the same thing be going on here? We've certainly seen some wild polling variation, so could it be? Could it possibly be true? On a chilly November evening it's a thought to bring a rosy glow to the coldest cheeks.

We will pull ourselves together. As Mark says, we must "fight this down to the wire".

Not Quite Free Lunch

Winter drawers on, and that nice Mr Fawkes becomes ever more solicitous of our welfare. Indeed he's offered to buy us lunch at some pricey wood panelled joint up West- a touching act of generosity so typical of the man.

But someone much wiser than I once warned me about free lunches, particularly when they're proffered by Papist conspirators. And sure enough, my legal advisor pointed out the smallprint: in the highly unlikely event that DD were to lose the contest, I'd have to pay, rather than Guido.

So I had the Tyler derivatives team look over the whole deal. And they reckon that once it's marked to market, it's not free at all!

I won't bore you with all the tedious arithmetic, but it turns out the market is now pricing DC's probability of winning at 92%, and DD's at only 8%. Which means that fair odds for Guido's bet- for such it is- are about 11.5/1. Some way from the evens on offer from "Honest Gui".

So I've offered him an alternative. If DD wins he stands us both lunch at that posh place; if DC wins I stand us lunch at the Upper Crust on Waterloo Station (chef's signature dish- All-Day Breakfast Baguette).

Can't say fairer than that.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Go On...Put The Boot In!

Over at PoliticalBetting Smithson expresses the LibDems' frustration that our leadership contest hasn't been the bloodfest they crave. Take that heavily promoted QT bout. Mike and the Uni LD Society had laid in the Stellas and Doritos for a good night in front of the box. And what happened?

'Davis was given a lot of performance coaching while skilled writers sought to anticipate how the debate would go and prepare “killer” sound-bites aimed at Cameron...But Davis simply failed to use the “killer sound-bites” - even though he had learned them by heart and the course of the the debate gave him the ideal opportunity.'

No wonder they want their money back.

But surely they're forgetting we've still got that Kennedy v Laws bout to come. That will be a no holds barred contest that with any luck will leave the canvas soaked in gore.

Fantasy Cabinet

All over the Tory Blogosphere, the new game for DC supporters is to construct his cabinet. Over on ConservativeHome Goldie summarises:

"Time to start thinking about the composition of the Shadow Cabinet. This is actually rather important. If the Conservatives want to win, we need to present a very unified party, with a number of intelligent, obviously competent and pleasant personalities in the frontlines with the inexperienced Cameron.

There are just about enough qualified people to fill a decent team: veterans like Davis, Hague, IDS, Rifkind and new talent like Fox, Chris Grayling and others."

So it's Davis to remain at Home Affairs, Hague for Shadow Chancellor, and Doc remaining Shadow Foreign Sec? Ah, but what about Ken? Or why not- you'll like this- why not bring back the Vulcan?

"The man for the big Shadow Chancellor's job is John Redwood. Let's take the fight to Brown and Blair with the most intelligent and articulate member of the Commons as our new 'big beast - slim version'. If we can win the intellectual case then the election is won. DC himself said we need an intellectual revoution to match Thatcher and Keith Joseph. Joseph is similar in many ways to Redwood."

Welllll...apart from the fact that Maggie never made the Monk her Shadow Chancellor, somehow I don't see there being a similar affinity between DC and JR.

All this is more wishful thinking of course. A man who has fought the leadership election on a "modernisation" platform, and has studiedly avoided any job commitments, is not about to dredge up a load of has-been fairweather friends tarred with the brush of past failures.

No. George stays with the Treasury, Ed for the Home Office, and Gove for Shadow Foreign.

Because DC can't refuse his chums their well-earned appointments simply by arguing they lack experience. They only have to utter the magic words:

'I think the real answer to the experience question is do you know what needs to be done? Have you learned the lessons from the last eight years? And if the answer to that question is “yes” that's much more important than the length of experience you have.'

It's all uncomfortably reminiscent of that old Mike Yarwood line from his wide-eyed impression of a new, inexperienced, and wildly unworldly President Jimmy Carter: "If you got half a mind to be President, that's all you need".

And we all remember how that ended.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

There's Still Time

With both William H and the Doc now declaring for DC, it's even clearer who the Party heirarchy are backing.

But, although the odds are most decidedly stacked against us, there's still time for us conviction peasants to make our voices heard. DD won't go down without a fight, and neither should we.

Today's Sunday Telegraph piece by DC should spur us on. It precisely exemplifies the policy-liteness that so concerns us:

"I believe we need a new style of politics: thoughtful, measured and moderate. I believe we need serious long-term policy thinking to tackle the challenges we face. And I believe that if you give people more freedom and opportunity, they and society will grow stronger. That's the kind of leadership I offer, and I'm confident it will return our Party to government."

Yes, well...

I'm sorry to keep on about the "Opposites Test", but just read the article again and try to imagine anyone saying the opposite of any of his statements. Brown, Kennedy, Clarke, Edward's all so anodyne as to be meaningless.

This is the time when those of us who still believe in those "timeless Tory principles" must make our voices heard.

Hopefully, DD can still win. But should he lose, we need the new management to be under no illusion that they can safely ignore us. The worst possible result for conviction politics would be a DC landslide.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

So, About Those Show Trials...

Those of us who may end up facing charges of Trotskyist tendencies have been reminding ourselves how those show trials work.

The basic idea seems to be that you confess in public to heretical beliefs and working to undermine the Party. A few choice phrases about how your mouth has been full of bile, and how you don't deserve anything but contempt are also generally appreciated. You get shot anyway of course, but your family may be spared.

Well, I'm certainly guilty of Small-Statism, so on that alone I'm probably a goner. But Mrs T's spoken approvingly of DC's "gorgeousness", so with luck she may survive.

And for any who reckon it won't come to that, maybe they should read today's lead editorial in the Times- the Cameroonian Pravda:

'Party leaders should start leaning on constituencies with a view to establishing whether ideological outcasts truly represent the Party. Until then, the rebels themselves, if they are indeed as principled as they often insist that they are, should take the Party bed with them each night and digest it. And if they don’t like what they read, there is always the Liberal Democrats.'

Or Siberia.

PS Yes I know the Pravda piece is ostensively about the Labour Party, but you don't need a PhD in Kremlinology to understand the real meaning.

Any The Wiser?

It still ain't over til it's over, but William Hague's declaration for DC may well be the final clincher.

For us DD supporters, it's doubly disappointing. Apart from probable defeat for our candidate- frankly always on the cards since Blackpool- we had hoped that a contest would at least tease out some policy substance from DC.

But no dice. Except for his position on downgrading ecstacy, and withdrawal from the Euro parliamentary group, the rest is pure flim-flam: we'll look at this, we're concerned about that, and we may reduce taxes if and when we decide to do so.

WH thinks DC has that ne sais quoi. But well, we'd just been hoping for a little more somehow.

So it looks like policy-lite Conservatism. And as long as it lifts us 10% in the polls, the party will presumably be very happy.

We'll see.

Hope Still Ahead

With those sands spilling through the glass, DC remains well ahead among party members. Today's YouGov poll puts him two-to-one ahead, the same as last week.

And it's nothing to do with policy or experience- it's the hope that this young presentable PR man can take us back to power. As Anthony King comments:

'Few rank-and-file Tories seem overly impressed by Mr Cameron. Many of them see him as inexperienced and a lightweight, a man with style but not much substance. However, a large majority also see him as a man of the future under whom the Conservatives could make a fresh start.

Mr Davis appears to suffer precisely because he is the more established and experienced of the two.

The "Which candidate?" section contains the killer statistic from Mr Davis's point of view. Nearly two thirds of Conservative Party members, 64 per cent, believe that, of the two men, Mr Cameron "would do more to boost the Conservative Party's chances of winning the next general election". A mere 21 per cent think that Mr Davis would prove the more effective vote-winner.'

It's that Keynes beauty contest again, with Tory members setting on one side their own convictions, and trying instead to second-guess who the broader electorate will judge the prettier contestant.

Frank Johnson reckons "niceness" is the X-Factor we've latched onto. We've decided the electorate want "niceness", so that's what we'll offer them.

And so powerful is this extraordinary crowd wisdom that it's even won over DC's sworn enemy the Daily Mail:

'The opportunity is there. The prospects exciting. The Tories have succumbed to despair for too long. Yes, it is a gamble, but this is a time to choose hope. The Mail believes constituency members should vote for David Cameron.'

Of course, that could be a problem for DC- with even the Mail onside, who on earth will he line up for those Clause IV show trials?

Friday, November 11, 2005

More Cameron Straw Men

Not having much in the way of policy himself, Dave C is proving extraordinarily productive at inventing policies for DD:

"If all we have to say on the economy is up-front personal tax cuts, what do we have to say to the millions of people in our country who don't pay income tax but who are still living in poverty? If all we have to say on education is `Bring back 20 grammar schools', what do we have to say to the parents of children in the 26,000 schools where standards are falling and Labour are failing?"

What? Davis has never said anything like that.

Just how dumb does Dave think we members are? I mean, we know those "ista" guys don't think much of us in general, and would much rather we were more like them. But it would be nice if they'd credit us with just a little intelligence. Every now and again.

Core Vote Caricature

As we've noted before, DD's campaign must stay alert to those who'd rather contest the caricature than the real thing.

Andrew picks up the same theme:

'This meme about Davis running a core vote campaign has to be knocked on the head. Of course, it is in the media's interest to continue proclaiming David Cameron as an enlightened liberal Conservative, and Davis as an evil right-wing baby-eater...

Davis has been bold in pushing a radical public service reform package aimed at improving the lives of those most damaged by state failure. He deserves to be rewarded for that by getting a chance to turn around the soft-left liberal press as leader of the party. When Cameron is first seriously tested, as I'm sure he will be against Paxman next week, his instinct will be to run for the core. When Davis is so tested, as he has been over the last few weeks, his instinct is to stay the course.'

Hear, hear.

Pax Tax Axe

Well, it certainly wasn't comfortable viewing. But nobody actually wins against Paxo, and at least DD stayed on his feet. We'll see how DC fares next week.

Paxo's opening shot- "Why are you a shit?"- brought back memories of that notorious intro with Theresa May- "Why are you so unattractive?" And just to underline the point again, his power to behave like this comes from the BBC's position as a tax funded "national treasure" that doesn't have to answer to its customers. Interviewers on commercial staions just don't behave like this.

And tax occupied quite a chunk of the interview. Paxman repeatedly tried to get DD to say the £38bn was a promise, and DD replied:

"This is the strategy ... there will be a reduction in taxes to create growth in the economy...I did not use the word guarantee, I said it was a strategy."

We've posted on this before, stressing the importance of the "Growth Rule". This is a medium term strategy for limiting the growth of public spending, and thereby funding reductions in taxation, and thereby lifting the long-term growth of the economy. Simple isn't it.

Unfortunately, while it's simple from out here, in the sweaty confines of Paxman's disembowelling pit it gets a lot trickier. Promise? Guarantee? Strategy? What do you mean? Can we trust a shit anyway?

One thing we must not allow is to have this strategy get twisted into a claim that we can abolish the economic cycle. The Times and the DT both carry stories that DD's plans have been rubbished by "leading economists". Actually, that turns out to be Peter Spencer of the ITEM Club:

'Professor Spencer said that if taxes were cut in a recession, the resulting high interest rates would offset any benefits. “I don’t think we can give Mr Davis the benefit of the doubt on this — these policies would basically fail,” Professor Spencer said. “Any extra spending seen on the high street as a result of tax cuts would be offset by lower exports and investments.”

For reasons we needn't go into here, at one time I knew Prof Spencer, and I have the highest regard for his economic judgement. So when he tells us that you can't avoid recessions by cutting taxes, we should listen.

But the thing is- that's not what DD is saying. What he's offering is a medium term strategy for lifting the trend growth rate- not abolishing the cycle. So how did Pete think otherwise? Surely...surely someone wouldn't have misrepresented DD's position to him and then reported his answer.

Someone's been passing around the porkies again. I wonder who that might be.

(PS- I expect Prof Spencer would be only too pleased to issue a clarification if DD's office contacted him with the facts).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cameron Burns Bridges

So Speccie Politician Of The Year DC has broken with convention and claimed outright that we'd lose the next election under DD. He says:

"Our party faces a clear choice in this leadership contest. Do we move to the right, or do we fight for the centre ground?

Do we stick to our core vote comfort zone or do we reach out? Do we repeat the mistakes of the past, or do we change to win for the future?

That is our choice. If we get it right we can end the Blair era. If we get it wrong, the Blair era stays - under new mismanagement...from Gordon Brown."

This sort of unhelpful rhetoric obviously worsens party divisions, but set that on one side. For the favourite who reckons he's going to win, it is ominous behaviour. It says he is after a fight.

And if Dave wins- still more if he wins big- I warn you. I warn you not to have core comfort blankets anywhere about your person.

Not unless you fancy participating in a Clause 4 show trial.

Are We Talking About The Same Thing?

Tim Montgomerie's ConservativeHome is a great site- there's always something worth reading. But today's twelve key questions for the leadership contenders have left us bemused and somewhat disorientated.

The idea was great: to help us decide on the basis of candidates' answers to 12 key policy questions. Fantastic.

The trouble is Tim's questions don't actually cover the practical issues which we think are absolutely central to our choice- public service reform, localism, security, and Europe , to name but four.

He concentrates instead on what might be termed moral and ethical issues, such as stem cell research, the right to die, and genocide in Darfur. Plus two internal party issues. All very important no doubt, but in our view, not likely to resonate with Britain in the same way as say sorting out healthcare.

We're not the only ones to raise an eyebrow- or in Guido's case a cackling laugh- but when we can't even agree on the right questions...well, that can't be right, can it?

So we're left wondering if we are all talking about the same thing? Are we indeed all Tories? Or are some of us something else entirely?

Reading Tim's questions, we wonder if Mrs T and I are something else. But what? Just as long as we're not those lizard guys with false human faces that rip off.

Bloggers For Davis 37

Dan Paterson is any extremely active BFD. Over at Make Socialism History he says:

"I trust David Davis; he answers his questions in full detail and understands the workings of Government. Mr Davis has been in Parliament since 1987 and as such has been there significantly longer than Mr Cameron. He understands what is required of the party over the next few years; he understands that what we do NOT need is spin and glossy coated politics. I believe David Davis would...tell some hard truths, while bringing a spirit of trust back to politics. This is essential as ourselves and the Labour party have managed to lose the respect of the British public almost entirely over the past ten years and if we do not...remedy this, the situation will be irrepairable."

It is a good point. Unlike those- such as Polly Toynbee- who believe British democracy would be best served by the Tories becoming a clone of New Labour, we believe healthy democracy depends on electors having real choice. And that ought to include the choice of political style.

The Eurosceptics Choice

Eu-Serf has a pithy post on why DD is a better choice than DC for we Eurosceptics. Looking at their positions on fisheries policy, Serf says:

'David Cameron has attracted many prominent Eurosceptics to his cause, with his promise of breaking with the EPP. Whilst that is a move I would like to see, Davis has more concrete proposals for changes in our EU relationship.'

Substance Vs Style...Again

This is Pamela Parker. She is the...umm, brunette President of the Conservative Women's Organisation who took such strong exception to DD's assertion that blondes have more fun.

Except of course, that he said nothing like that...he was simply being polite to "natural" blonde Martha Kearney.

But no matter. This whole incident is just one more example of style over substance in our leadership contest. Having read some of Parker's articles, I would expect her to be very attracted to Davis both for his bold policy platform, and his substance. But it seems she's been turned off by a few lighthearted remarks and a couple of overenthusiastic DD supporters.

It's all very reminiscent of that spectacularly non-PC remark made by JM Keynes about investing: "Speculation is like being a judge in a beauty contest where the objective is not to pick the prettiest girl, but the girl the other judges pick." (I can't imagine what Pam would make of that). We must pick a leader who appeals not so much to us "core" judges, but those other "floating" judges.

The problem is, this ain't no beauty contest.

Our winner will have to do more than parade up and down the catwalk wiggling his bum and doing a few twirls. He's actually going to go into battle against the dark forces of New Labour and, yes, Jeremy Paxman.

Davis did both yesterday- superbly.

Cameron didn't.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Storm In A Thingie Cup

A favourite wheeze of the DC camp has been to paint DD as a mcp. Admittedly not helped by the fact that his wife once jokingly called him exactly that.

Hence the coverage of today's Woman's Hour session with the two Davids. The DC House Journal whoops:

'David Davis's attempts to woo the crucial petticoat vote came unstuck today... Mr Davis, who ruffled feathers earlier in his leadership campaign by boasting that he had never cooked a meal at home, expressed an immediate preference for blondes during the broadcast hustings. After a short pause the former SAS man added: "Having said wife's a brunette."

The "macho" comment was immediately branded as patronising by Pamela Parker, president of the Conservative Women's Organisation (CWO). "It's bad taste. He should have just said nothing," she said.'

Hmm. Mrs T and I actually heard the session. Our reaction was that both Davids came out of it well- a good party political, in fact. But it was classic lightweight BBC- eg they test marketed the two on the basis of their photos alone to a group of young mums. And the "blonde" question was part of a jokey sequence- including one, pants- clearly intended to end the session with a few laughs. It might have been that public service broadcasting thing.

So what is the deal with Pamela Parker and the Times? Should DD have said "How dare you ask me a disgraceful sexist question of that nature. I refuse to engage in coiffureal stereotyping."

Talk sense will ya.

Taking Care Of Business

After Tone's breathtakingly evasive low-punching display at lunchtime, Our Man is at the Dispatch Box defending our historic freedoms.

Measured and assured, he's every inch the voice of reason in the face of Labour hysteria. No wonder those Labour backbenchers who are constantly intervening look so nervous- I actually felt quite sorry for the Blair Babe from Cleethorpes who was left in flames.

Go and watch. And remember- this is what we mean by experience.

5pm Update: DD 1 - TB 0.
And come 6th December, we can look forward to much more of the same.
Can't wait.

Davis Surges Ahead

The Big Mo remains with Davis. This morning's Times/Populus poll puts him ahead among Tory voters by 50% to 37%, a complete reversal since last month.

This is an excellent result, reflecting not just DD's strong showing on QT and elsewhere, but also his compelling policy agenda.

Naturally, the severely rattled DC camp are rubbishing it: Populus are hopeless, DD's "only" ahead among Tory voters, and, even if it's true, we can't afford to pander to our "core vote".

We'll leave the judgement on Populus to Anthony (wearing his most impartial hat), but what should we make of the finding that DC remains 37% to 30% ahead among voters generally? We reckon that's just a function of repective media coverage. They've spent the last month presenting DC as a Pop Idol favourite, and it's highly unlikely that non-Tories will have put themselves through QT etc. So they won't have seen DC's failures.

As for that "core vote" argument, we happen to believe that DD and his policies would appeal very widely. So we just disagree with the DC assertion.

DD is back on the road to victory.

The Times itself is so concerned that they've been forced to spell out their well-known support for DC. But the best even they can come up with is "Yes, inexperienced...policy-vague...DC is an enormous gamble...but well, what the hell...roll those dice!" know what? We'll make up our own minds.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

That Conspiracy Theory

As shown in our exclusive woodcutgrab, Plotter Against Davis Guido Fawkes has been keeping some very dubious company.

We advise him to consider his own indiscretions before he spreads any more of his baseless conspiracy theories.

Just A Bit Of Fun

You've probably already done the Who Should You Vote For Test, but if not you should give it a try.

It told me I should vote for DD (+39), and this is the advice it seems to have consistently given to other DD bloggers (eg see here and here).

But over at Camp Cameron, it seems the advice has been somewhat less straightforward. In fact, on the basis of their actual views, most of them have clearly been advised to vote not for DC but for DD.

Naturally, their reaction is one of denial. Gavin Ayling (actually an excellent blogger) writes revealingly:

"While I support Mr Cameron, the test found me in favour of Mr Davis. I think this is because there is one gaping hole. I will not be voting on policy because the public won't be either.

Cameron's policies are not so bad that a typical Conservative cannot support them, but they are weaker than Davis'. What is important, though, is who could become Prime Minister. The public will vote for Cameron, not based on policies, but based on charisma, character and appearance (no matter how much we wish it weren't so) so a Cameron-led Conservative party can get elected while a Davis-led party would do little better than Mr Howard."

And that really is the case for DC in a nutshell.

Such a pity the evidence doesn't support the hope.

DD Campaign Video

For those who can't make it to the hustings, you can see the potted version here.

Well, actually DC isn't in it.

But I don't suppose he would have told you much anyway.

Let 'Em Have It Ma'am

In terms of party unity, there is a very striking difference between the DD and DC positions. Whereas DD been assiduous in reaching out across the party- witness his speech on social justice yesterday- DC has made it pretty clear it's his way or no way.

Unsurprisingly, some of us members are very unhappy about this, and while many have been biting their tongues, over on ConservativeHome Barbara Villiers bites back.

Jaz, a DC supporter, has just given us the usual line:

'DD can talk all he wants, his age works against him... I'm looking for a winner, a prime-minister who appears prime ministerial....Davis strikes me like Howard as the leader of the opposition...not a PM who has the media manipulation and charisma to take the top job.

DD is talking [about social justice] because he has been forced to do so by the Cameron campaign of compassion. DD's profile strikes me a "tough on crime, low taxes, less government regulation, less public spending" man.... Which is precisely what every Tory leader after Major has offered to the public without winning an election.'

Barbara lets him have it with both barrels:

"What on earth is this age thing? I can tell by your name that you are 'young' -well let me tell you this my dear, you too will be old one day. And guess what - your brain will still be sharp, your bits won't have fallen on and you will still have desires, hopes and dreams. What ageist claptrap! Would you say a leader was too black or too much of a woman or too Jewish?

If you go back and read David Davis' speech early this summer to the Centre for Policy Studies you will see many references to what amounts to 'compassionate conservativsm'. David Cameron does not have the monopoly on that nor did he think of it first.

As for media manipulation, I'll let you in on this one shall I, it is the media in this country who does the manipulation. Cameron is a creation of the media and when they are tired of their creation (as they are already demonstrating) they will turn on him and all the brownies and smoothies won't make a damn bit of difference.

Oh, and as for appearing Prime ministerial -try to see if you can get a look at a news item - when Davis addressed Parliament after the 7/7 bombings.

Try this one - Cameron across the box from Brown on PMQ's. Rabbit caught in the headlights quickly comes to mind. Hint: It's not Gordon Brown!"

Barbara, we couldn't have put it better. Or, indeed, nearly as well.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Trust Me: I'm A Politician

Sir John Major doesn't like it:

"I don't think David Davis is right to put a specific figure [on tax] because there are too many intangibles. You should set a general direction so that people understand where we are coming from, where we are going to and why we are heading in that direction and what the difficulties we are likely to encounter will be."

And David Cameron is now going so far as to say the whole thing shows why he's the better man, despite his breathtaking lack of experience:

"I think the real answer to the experience question is do you know what needs to be done? Have you learned the lessons from the last eight years? And if the answer to that question is “yes” that's much more important than the length of experience you have.

David Davis has been in Parliament for a very long time but I think he has got the judgements about tax wrong - and I have been in parliament for a short length of time but I think I have got the judgements about tax right. I think it is those judgements that are far more important than the length of time you have been in parliament."

That's what you think, is it Dave? Based presumably on all that experience.

The fact is both Sir J and DC have missed the point.

What DD has recognised a fundamental, and- for politicians- dismal truth: we can't actually trust their judgements about tax, particularly the overall tax burden. Fine words about what they may think are no longer enough: we need another Golden Rule to get them back on the straight and narrow.

Now, I'm sure we don't need to rehearse all the arguments again, but the Reform Growth Rule is eminently moderate and entirely workable. Among other things, it already deals with the cyclical deficit issue which so excites the Grauniad and FT this morning (maybe they should take the trouble to read up on it).

And we need to get real. By all means draw a discreet veil over Sir John's own tax raising exploits, and let's not question Dave's promise to "share the proceeds of growth". They are both honourable men with the very best of intentions.

But we live in a naughty old world, with good deeds hard to come by. And the blunt truth is that politicians need rules. Particularly when dosh is involved.

It's funny. Only Davis seems to have got it.

Greetings Pop Pickers!

It was yesterday's new soundbite from DC:

"There is a big choice opening up here. Do we go down a sort of core vote, right wing agenda playing the same tunes.

If we play the same tunes we end up with the same song, we end up with the same position in the charts, second and I do not want that to happen".

When he said it, I thought it so clunky my toes curled right through the fluffy tops of my slippers. Apart from anything else- sorry Dave- I think "the charts" are seen as a bit Smashy and Nicey these days.

Still, the media have lapped it up. The pinko Pink-Un (circulation collapsing so fast they've just summarily shot their Editor), approvingly headlines 'Cameron cautions against rightwing agenda'.

But as we've argued before, in reality DD's "tune" is very different to the five-note ditty we essayed last time out. No headlining on immigration, and in place of Hattie Jacques and Whack-O!, we've got Reform's public service programme.

Critically, DD's putting forward a policy on Tax'n'Spend, rather than the pious hope of "efficiency savings". So while last time we mumbled about a trivial £4bn of tax cuts conditional on the shaky proposition that we could find even more efficiency savings than Labour, now we're saying 'we will implement a budget rule, which over a parliament is expected to generate the equivalent of £1200 tax cuts for every family'. Much clearer, much more firmly based, and much more compelling.

And we should all remember that DD has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the most vulnerable in our society, and how we can use traditional "right-wing" tools to help them. Last time out, we said nothing about this.

We will hear much more about his approach to social justice later today. Prepare to tap those tootsies.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

BFD Weekly Round-Up 2

In a week dominated by DD's win in the QT head-to-head, there's been a certain spring in the posts of Bloggers For Davis.

Post-match commentary from James Whatsthatsmell noted that 'as much as the media may like Cameron for talking a good talk, Tories like Davis for walking a good walk'. Andrew Nontrivialsolutions reckoned 'Davis was...statesmanlike throughout. The most impressive parts were when he spoke on issues that clearly mean a great deal to him, such as his passionate defence of Iain Duncan Smith for his recent work on Social Justice'.

Gary Monro homed in on the experience issue: 'David Davis has the necessary pugnaciousness, cool, intelligence, policy and presence to deliver KO after KO against this government. For the time being I believe David Cameron will be out of his depth. He is a class politician in the making; Davis is a class politician already made.'

As shown in the polls, QT was enough to persuade some DC supporters to switch to DD, and the blogs told us why. Take this morning-after post from DC diehard Gav:

'Oh dear.

I was convinced that Cameron was the only one of the two who could come across on TV. I was convinced that Cameron’s policies were not so bad that he shouldn’t still win. I was convinced that I should vote for Cameron.

And now I’m not.

Davis’ policies on the EU, taxation, social welfare and the targetting of efforts all were head and shoulders above Cameron’s attempts. Cameron appeared to lose his temper a couple of times and was ooohhed by the audience…

I have now returned to the ‘undecided’.

Even the legendary Guido Fawkes was forced to admit (after only a couple of turns on the rack) that DD had won by a broken nose. Sadly, after last night's festivities, Guido is no longer with us.

Elsewhere, Eu-Serf examines DD's policies on Europe, concluding: 'We can be sure that come what may, this is a man that will stand up for the right of British people to be ruled by those of their choosing, and not by an unelected elite in another land.' Hear, hear.

Andrew (busy week for him) explores DD's healthcare policies, a subject picked up by James Hellyer, who contrasts DD's substance with DC's bland statement 'that we can't get good healthcare on the cheap, and advocating the abandonment of the Patient's Passport (which would mark the end of any choice based health agenda)'.

Most of us Bloggers For Davis are virtual campaigners, sitting in our pyjamas all day at our PCs, never seeing anyone and living on packets of Chocolate Hobnobs. But some of us actually get out there to do battle. Jonathan Sheppard reports a debate he had with DC supporter Roger Helmer MEP at a Conservative meeting in Lincoln:

'One comment summed up the situation so far: "Jonathan - I agreed with everything you said - but I'm not sure I'm going to vote for Davis... yet".

A month to go - and more healthy debates to be had within the party.'

Maybe, as Danny The Fink said on Newsnight, this really is "a victory for Conservatism".

Davis And Cameron Neck And Neck

Today's Telegraph/ICM poll shows DD and DC neck and neck in the only race that matters- the one to defeat Gordo's Labour Party in the next election.

'Asked who they would vote for if Mr Brown was Labour leader at the next election and Mr Davis was leader of the Conservative Party, 41 per cent said they would vote Labour and 33 per cent said Conservative.

Asked who they would vote for if Mr Brown was Labour leader and Mr Cameron was Tory leader, 41 per cent said Labour and 34 per cent Conservative.'

The point is, as we've argued many times before, none of our candidates offers a miracle solution- no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

The next election will be won on the basis of offering Britain a real alternative: winning the argument not the beauty parade.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Davis Coming Back

This morning's YouGov poll of Tory members shows that DD has cut DC's lead by 18 percentage points over the past ten days.

The main factor seems to have been the QT debate, with 27% saying it had made them more inclined to vote for Davis, against only 2% for DC (BBC take note).

The poll also shows that the "style vs substance" choice has registered strongly. DD scored well on substance and policy, but much less well on "style". In contrast 40% of members reckon DC has style but not much substance, 24% even saying he "seems lightweight".

So at last- after a month of battering- that momentum thing is moving back in DD's favour.

It's obviously not enough yet, but next week brings a series of head-to-head TV interviews for both candidates. Naturally the most keenly awaited will be "ordeal by Paxman", who despite his own immaculate coiffure, is not a known respecter of style politicos. It's the kind of test our new leader must be able to pass. Let's hope both candidates are up for it, and that reports of DC wimping out are wrong.

As the ever polite Mr Heffer says today:

"DC's Question Time performance showed how weak he is when confronted by members of the public in search of hard policies. More to the point - and as a PR man himself he will understand the truth of what I am about to say - if someone who is not a natural television performer, like David Davis, gets the better of him in a rather friendly and well-mannered debate, then the emergency services will have to be called out when Tony Blair and his machine get their hands on him.

Tories need to scrutinise him more closely - though since he has, unlike Mr Davis, so far refused to be grilled by Jeremy Paxman next week, I am afraid our chances to find out more might be severely limited."