Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Not Davis Candidate

Conservative Home is looking for a Not Davis candidate.
So where is he, Mr not-Davis? It seems that the not-Davis wing of the Party is incapable of agreeing on a champion. And no wonder, because none of the obvious candidates are obviously inspiring.
The leader so far seems to be Mr Clarke and thats a no hope for a start.

Its not that the Guys at Conservative Home don't like Mr Davis:
Then there is the question of how exactly he intends to revive the Party he hopes to lead. No doubt he intends to tell us in due course, but we need a rival vision to compare it against: hence the need for a stop-Davis candidate, whether or not he needs to be stopped.
You have to admit, there is a good deal of logic in that argument. Whilst we are certain that he doesn't need to be stopped, I for one would welcome an open and honest discussion about where the Conservative party goes from here.

So Mr Not Davis, where are you?
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Go On Ken, You Know You Want To

With the European Issue put to bed by French and Dutch Voters, Federast Ken Clarke is said to think his chances have improved. Now the Wets are coming out in force to persuade him to run.
Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor, was being urged by Tory moderates to stand for the party leadership last night as the Government prepared to abandon plans for a referendum on the European Union constitution.
Of course a referendum would have killed his chances entirely but what difference does it really make?
MPs on the Left and centre of the party said Mr Clarke was now in a strong position to lead a "grand coalition" of moderates against the favourite, David Davis, who is from the centre-Right.
It may be the time to point out one or two things to those who want Clarke to stand.
  1. David Davis is a far more impressive character than IDS, who was able to defeat Clarke last time he stood.
  2. With Davis creating such momentum, the chances of a Right Wing challenger is receding.
  3. The Conservative party as a whole is more Eurosceptic than it was.
Much it seems depends on David Cameron.
One plan that is gaining support among MPs is for 64-year-old Mr Clarke to stand on a "dream ticket" with David Cameron, the 38-year-old education spokesman as his deputy.
Does this not look like surrendering the next election? We set up the leader of the future as deputy to the old timer, who will be nearly 70 by the next election. Such a structure would have made a lot of sense in 1997. Now it just looks like suicide.

Despite being a good performer and a successful former chancellor, Ken Clarke is too old and too Europhile to get the nod. Were he successful, UKIP would have the biggest party in their history, a fact that will not have escaped many of those who will make the choice.

With this in mind, I hope he stands. It will be a great help to the David Davis Campaign.

So our advice to Mr Clarke is; go on Ken, you know you want to

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Friend or Foe?

Some of Mr Davis’s supporters have been raising the spectre of a return to Tory infighting. Inpatient with the idea of a lame duck leader, some have been calling for his head.

Such moves are not in the interest of Davis’s leadership bid, which is gaining momentum despite the efforts of those who wish to stop him. Mr Davis himself is aware of this and made moves to quiet things down.
Dispelling rumours of a campaign to unseat Mr Howard in the coming weeks, Mr Davis called on Tory MPs to calm down and to turn their fire on the Labour Government.
The government is potentially facing a rough time and this offers a good opportunity to attack them. In calling for unity, he is trying to widen his appeal to those who are not his natural constituency.

In contrast, those intemperate folks who are flying off the handle are likely to do the favourite harm. They are playing into the hands of his rivals.

Let me give you a hint. Now that the French have given the Constitution the old two fingers, the Europhile’s favourite may well throw his hat in the ring. This is a massive opportunity. The EU of ever closer union is dead. Ken Clarke and his ilk are now to go the way of the dinosaurs.

If Clarke starts to look like he will stand undermine him indirectly by attacking the EU pointing out how irrelevant it has become to the problems that we all face. Constantly ask the rhetorical question, why should the French be the only ones to have a say over Europe. This will kill two birds with one stone. Undermine all bids by the Wets, especially Clarke, whilst putting the government under pressure.

It beats infighting hands down.

In the words of Julie Kirkbride, a Davis Ally:
I would hope that the party recognised the enormous benefits of being united and disciplined if we are to be attractive to the electorate. We will have in place a new leader by the end of the year and we should take that timetable in our stride."
Hear Hear. Lets use our firepower against the government. Do it in such a way as to bring to the fore those issue on which our man has an advantage. Ultimately the winner of the contest will be the one who shows the most potential to lead the entire party to victory next time. Lets not loose sight of that.

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Warnings From Major

Joining "Something of the Night" Howard in trying to spike David Davis's chances is John "Grey" Major.
In what will be seen as a warning to David Davis, the front runner for the Tory leadership, the last Conservative prime minister, Sir John Major, urged his party to recognise that elections are won from the centre ground.
Which must be why that Centrist Margaret Thatcher won three elections in a row, whilst the rabid right winger Major himself only managed to scrape one.


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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Wat Tyler on Hols

Mrs T and I are off to Spain for a week to check out what we're getting for all those EU contributions. As you know, our Spanish friends are by far the biggest budget beneficiaries, with net receipts running at a breathtaking £13 billion pa. No wonder they voted 'Si'.

Now, the management has banned laptops for the duration, but with MPs on their Whit break, the chances are we're in for a quieter week anyway.

In any event, the downtrodden Eu-Serf remains behind at his post and will be updating the blog. As well as feeding the cat. And depending on events, the odd posting may also be smuggled out via Wat Tyler Jnrs.
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Rawnsley Backs Davis

Writing in today's Observer, the ever plugged in Andrew Rawnsley says:

'What is striking is not so much the levels of support that Mr Davis enjoys on the Tory right, among whom he seems to be well ahead of Liam Fox, his main rival for the affections of that constituency.

What makes Davis look increasingly inevitable is the language which centrist Tories are now using when they talk about him. Some do still slag him off as a self-regarding schemer who will march the Conservatives up another disastrous cul-de-sac.

But more and more of those Tories who like to call themselves modernisers speak about Davis with the wary respect of people preparing to do business with the winner.

'David has a lot of talent,' says one of the most prominent of the Tory mods, a man with his own leadership ambitions. He paused pregnantly and then added: 'I genuinely mean that.'

Rawnsley runs through DD's attractions: '...the image consultant's choice. A full head of all grey hair gives him something of the look preferred for American newscasters. Character is added to the face by a nose he has broken five times...a 'backstory', a personal narrative that would help to kill several of the negatives that cling to the Tories like stale cigar smoke. If they want to shed the impression that they are a party of greedy toffs who hate single mothers, there is quite a lot to recommend a self-made man who was brought up by a single mother on a council estate.'

And he spells out how this would play against Blair.

'It makes him the mirror of Tony Blair, which is an asset if you believe parties often prosper when they choose unstereotypical leaders. Blair was the public school son of a Thatcherite. Davis is the grammar school grandson of a Jarrow marcher. Just as it helped Blair to broaden his party's appeal because he was not a member of the traditional Labour tribe, so Davis has the advantage of not looking or sounding like a conventional Tory.

That would surely be an asset to a party that will never find its way back to power unless it can reconnect with the concerns and aspirations of urban Britain, vast tracts of which are presently Conservative-free zones.'

And his weak points?

'The criticism from colleagues that most nettles Davis is the accusation that he is too laid-back, 'the matinee idle' in the disparaging remark of one hostile Tory MP. Davis has been heard to say to friends: 'How did I get from where I started to where I am now if I am so fucking lazy?'

It's always seemed a strange charge: nobody who has battled his way up like Davis is going to be lazy.

'The more toxic charge against Davis is that he is too much the schemer, too addicted to the politicking of politics. Some of his more zealous supporters added to that reputation last week by talking out loud about acting to speed the exit of Michael Howard.

Odd though it may seem to be attacked for being a schemer by other politicians, the example of Heseltine and Portillo is a warning to Davis that he needs to keep his supporters under exceptionally tight control.'

Good advice, Andy. Fortunately DD seems to be there already.

At the risk of quoting the whole piece, Rawnsley concludes:

'The image of the right-wing, adrenaline-fuelled hard man that he has played up to masks a more subtle and complex personality. Many Tories can intellectually appreciate that they need to demonstrate they are seriously interested in what happens to the less affluent. Davis's understanding of what it is like to be at the bottom of the heap is rooted in his biography. He once told me that the problem with too many of his colleagues in the Tory party was that they had 'never known the true meaning of despair'.

After three election defeats, more of them do now perhaps understand the meaning of despair. Is David Davis the answer to it? He has got self-confidence, ruthlessness, ambition and a keen tactical sense, all necessary qualities for leadership. What is unproven is whether he has the team-making and strategic skills. He has a personal story that would help his party appeal to more of Britain. What he now has to show is that he has got the political vision to go with it.'

All very fair comment.

And the sooner they let DD get to work, the sooner he can turn up the volume on that political vision he has already sketched out here and here.

Bring it on.
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DD Joins Men In Shirts

The Sunday Torygraph uses another of its DD open-neck shirt pix to illustrate his call for supporters to cool it.

He tells them:

"The Conservative Party is facing some fairly serious decisions and it ought to address them in a calm frame of mind. I hope we can do that and also return to the fray in attacking the Labour Party, which is now more exposed than it has been for some time. Now more than ever, it is important that we are unified in our attack on the Government."

And after those unappetising ructions last week, it sounds like Parliamentary supporters may now swallow their frustration and reluctantly climb aboard Howard's slowtrain timetable:

"Anyone who initiated an election now would be clinically insane," said one. "Why would you want the PR disaster of taking Michael Howard out and shooting him?

"Michael has handled this whole thing incredibly badly but David does not want to fight for the leadership against this background. There is nothing in it for him or the party to look like we are being spiteful towards Michael."

Early supporter Julie Kirkbride said:

"I understand that colleagues are upset but we can iron out those elements of the reforms that have caused disagreement in a civilised fashion. We don't need to be hotheaded and talk of a leadership election yet."

Quite right Julie...although from out here...well, seven months is still a hell of a long time for Tony's free run...and that October Conference is going to be very awkward with a limping duck at the controls.

Given this whole unfortunate mess, couldn't you all- mods, rockers, trads, Notting Hillistas, nasties, sweeties, philes, phobes, left, right- just grit your teeth and do what really needs to be done: an uncontested coronation for the the Dream Ticket of the two Davids.
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Saturday, May 28, 2005

DD Odds Shorten Further

Look, when it comes to Tory leadership contests, we all know about the Favourite's Curse.

Butler, Maudling, Whitelaw, Hezza, Ken, Portaloo- they've all crumpled under its evil hex.

So I have mixed feelings about DD's shortening odds. But according to Political Betting, William Hill have now shortened him to 11/8, which translates into a 42 per cent probability that he will win.

'Although new possible challengers keep being talked up, it is David Davis who is continuing to attract the serious money' said Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe.

David Cameron is his nearest rival, on 5/1, or a probability of 17 per cent.

Next are William Hague and George Osborne, both on 8/1. The fact that they've both formally ruled themselves out suggests the weight of money behind them isn't that great.

Doc Fox and Rifkind are both even further behind on 10/1, with Lansley and Ken bringing up the rear on 12/1.

So the punters say its DD vs Cameron.

But...but...Davids both, come on, do you really need to slug it out? We've managed to get ourselves into some very choppy waters over these wretched election rules, and we need to avoid further unneccessary boat rocking.

From out here it all looks so simple and so obvious. Senior David has the weight and experience we need today, and Junior David has the strong potential to be the natural successor in a decade.

A Dream Ticket with a built in succession plan. And unlike Blair and Brown there's a natural 17 year age gap.

Is that so very naive?
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DD Leashes Dogs

The authoritative Trevor Kavanagh reports:

'TORY hardman David Davis last night called allies to heel after they were accused of bullying his leadership opponents.'

He picks up a story first reported in yesterday's Evening Standard which said:

'An ally of Mr Davis was accused of trying to bully backbenchers into supporting his campaign to succeed Michael Howard.

The veteran figure warned one wavering MP: "You know what happens to those who sit on the fence - they end up getting shafted."

Enviably sandwiched between Crazy Frog and 'a bouncy blonde to get you in the mood for hols', Kavanagh adds:

'A Tory MP accused the ex-SAS man’s team of “holding MPs up with a knife against the wall”.

Another said: “Unless David calls off his dogs, these tactics will backfire against him — even if he becomes leader.”

But one supporter said: “David doesn’t want to take the leadership as the candidate who knifed Michael Howard.”

Still less does he want to be the candidate who failed to take the leadership because he knifed MH.

We've had quite enough of guys like that.
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Friday, May 27, 2005

Polly Says DD Could Beat Labour

Now entertain conjecture of a time
When creeping murmur and the poring dark
Fills the wide vessel of the universe.

Yes, Pol's been reading the tea-leaves again.

And she's come up with something truly gothically horrific. You see, it's quite possible that DD could lead the Tories to victory at the next election.

Entertain conjecture of this for size:

'...a global economic plunge. If unemployment were rising and spending squeezed, with Labour unable to persuade voters that public services had improved enough, then "time for a change" could be an election winner for the Tories. Remember Labour's perilous 36% vote, with 40 seats hanging by a thread and boundary changes handing the Tories another 12.'

In that changed climate, even an unmodernised, nasty Tory party could win.'

Which appalling prospect carries a very clear message for Labour:

'That's why no one should indulge in hopes that they choose the worst candidate again. The worst currently on offer is David Davis.'

Pol's pretty certain that DD is the worst because, as readers of my first blog will be well aware, she will have heard it straight from our own modernisers.

"If it's him, we're dead," said one moderniser, groaning at the prospect that Davis would do as the last three did: present himself as a reformed character, modern, gay-friendly and caring. But when the awkward experiment with new language brings no instant reward, he too would retreat to the comfort zone where the Tories fought the last election - in sulphurous clouds of fear, crime, immigration, Europe and mayhem.

But if times were bad, even Davis might win on those old graveyard issues.'

Crumbs. She didn't mention the eye of newt and wossname of bat, but they must be in there somewhere.

No wonder Pol wants a moderniser to win the leadership:

'If the Tories were genuinely purged of privatising mania and committed to public services, Labour should celebrate a tug-of-war victory at having hauled them away from Thatcherism and US neocon fixation on to moderate terrain. Howard may have lost, but he still spread virulent cynicism and poisoned the political and racial air: never again would be good for the country.

A more credible opposition may scare Labour, but politics without an opposition is one hand clapping. Labour was at its best in the election when suddenly affrighted, sharpening its sense of purpose. And it can't stay in power for ever.'

Although in Pols' world, it would make no difference if the Tories did replace Labour. The new boss really would be the same as the old boss.

He's got 'em worried though, hasn't he?
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Bloggers for Davis 14

Simon Lloyd at The Conservative Victory was on DD's case immediately after the Election:

'DAVID DAVIS A GOOD CHOICE

He would be likely to move the party from its fiscal caution under Mr Howard and make a direct appeal to the tax-cutting libertarian wing.But it is not all small government and slimmed down public spending from the former member of the Territorial SAS. He is also a Eurosceptic who talks tough on crime and immigration.'

And he's since been keeping a detailed record of DD's various pronouncements. Yesterday he commented here:

'David Davis is a great choice for leader. As Lord Tebbit said today , David should take charge now not after conference.'
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DD on Identity Cards

Back to positive DD coverage, with the article he's penned for the Evening Standard:

'Labour's identity cards scheme is dubious in principle. Objections to the plan are already well aired - such as the threat that ID cards pose to our civil liberties. But Labour's scheme is also dangerous in practice. Less attention to date has been paid to these practical problems. Yet they are no less formidable.'

And he proceeds crisply to enumerate the gaping practical holes in Labour's ramshackle scheme- huge costs, dubious technical viability, poor project management skills at the Home Office, and lack of proper security.

Three things are noteworthy.

First, as an ex-Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Davis speaks from hands-on experience of how the public sector- particularly under this Government- can blow vast sums on half-baked projects like this.

Second, this is a man to whom the language of small government comes naturally:

'The Government's ID cards scheme seems likely to illustrate one of the laws of life: the law of unexpected consequences.

First, the Government announces a scheme - often to applause. Second, it tells us that there is overwhelming public support for that scheme, and dismisses critics.

Third, practical problems emerge, and the victims of those problems are not terrorists or criminals, but the innocent, hard-working and over-regulated public. The initial applause for the scheme is drowned out by a storm of protest. The Government backs down, and the inevitable public inquiry follows - at the taxpayers' expense.'

And finally, he's demonstrating how you get out of a political cul de sac, without having your pants catch fire. We all knew it was a mistake to back Blair's ID scheme in the first place, but Howard- or somebody- insisted on it.

It's taken Davis to deal with it, and get us back to a position that chimes with our fundamental beliefs.

I'm sure we can all think of one or two other little matters where we need to be equally adept.


Update: Matthew Parris has an interesting commentary on the practical politics of opposing the ID scheme. He picks up a Mary Ann Sieghart piece and adds:

'She has identified precisely how the argument will in practice run. Were I David Davis, or the Opposition Chief Whip, I would recommend her column as the best highest common factor around with which to rally the ragbag of people who must organise the resistance.

It would be a strategic error for the Conservative Party to declare itself opposed in principle to ID cards, for it need not go nearly so far. Enough to argue that this plan, this time, in these circumstances, today, is ill-starred. Enough to suggest that we leave other countries to pilot these ideas, and learn from their mistakes. Enough to promise to look at it again in a few years’ time.

“Steady on”, “not so fast”, “more information please” and “not yet” should be the watchwords of the anti-ID cards campaign, which, like Mary Ann, I think stands a good chance of winning the day.'

Yes, we know this strategy feels sort of second-best- grubby even- against the pure white light of bearing any hardship in the pursuit of liberty. Or as Matt says:

'I shall not be proud of joining this campaign. Michael Foot once reminded me that any competent debater can tackle the weak arguments in his opponent’s case, but that a great debater confronts its strengths.'

Yeah. But while Foot was (allegedly) a great debater, he sure wasn't an effective politician.

Thank goodness we've got DD. Someone who actually knows how to get things done.
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Guardian Fingers DD "Attack Blog"

The Guardian notes:

'The last time he stood for the Tory leadership, Mr Davis launched his own rather rudimentary website, ModernConservatives.com, on which he posed in climbing gear and Frederick Forsyth praised "the cut of his jib". Sadly, that relic of Mr Davis' ambitions is now defunct, and his friends have adopted a rather more sophisticated approach to campaigning before the battle begins. You could call it an attack blog.'

Interesting.

It goes on:

"Derek - button it please" orders the most recent entry, refering to Davis supporter Derek Conway's outburst in the Telegraph today. Got that, Derek?'

Eh? Are they talking about us?

'Yesterday, "Wat Tyler", as the author styles himself, published a provocative little list of shadow cabinet members. "Just a bit of fun," he wrote. Yeah, right.'

Well, now look...obviously I'm thrilled at being noticed, so thank you very much.

But the whole truth is that we have absolutely no connection with DD, nor any of 'his friends'. We are just a group of blogging punters- albeit including grassroots Party members- who really really want to have DD as leader.

We picked up Derek Conway, not because we were being instructed to do so, but simply because of the unhelpful way his behaviour played out here on the receiving end.

OK, in all the excitement we may also have strayed somewhat from our original idea, which was to focus and disseminate DD's positives, rather than pick on the negatives of other candidates.

But you know, we can't just sit out here and watch while those guys in grey (and chalkstripe) suits do their damnedest to screw things up.

Attack blog, eh?

It has a certain ring.
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It's All Monbiot's Fault

'In a letter sent to all Tory MPs last night, Mr Howard admitted that the board's package - drawn up by Raymond Monbiot, chairman of the party's national convention - "could have been better handled", a reference to the "take it or leave it" way the package was presented to backbenchers.'

And, as predicted, Iron Mike has agreed to decouple Monbiot's proposals for new leadership election rules from his other corporate restructuring proposals- particularly those inflammatory performance targets for MPs.

But Ray isn't about to take the wrap lying down. He popped up on the Today Programme this morning to say the fiasco is all Mikey's fault for announcing his intention to resign. Everything would have been cool if M had remained at his post to force the package through.

Boy, can he talk. Poor old Sarah couldn't get a word in as he rattled through his Powerpoint presentation. No wonder those MPs got so pissed off. It was like having Monbiot Jnr lecturing them on their personal responsibility for AIDS deaths in Africa.

And he explained why we can't sort it out any time soon. Apparently a leadership election under the existing rules would take months to organise because 'there are seventeen ways of addressing an Air Vice Marshall'.

Honestly, I'm not making that up. His point was that each and every one of those Air Vice Marshalls would need careful checking out in case they each got (and used) seventeen leadership votes. I mean, you know what those senior RAF types are like.

(Er, Ray...my membership card has a membership number on it- presumably unique)

Anyway, it's obvious he's toast.

Meanwhile Tim Yeo turned up on Newsnight to continue his leadership pitch. He looked like a badly preserved Jorrocks, but his 'moderniser' (duh!) pitch was 'I want to talk about real Conservative issues like the environment...'

Fortunately, that rude Scottish woman cut him off.

Later, smiling in what he presumably imagined was an engaging way, he came back with 'I want to talk about why so many people come out of prison and then reoffend.'

Well, that one's easy Tim. As Mr MacKay used to say, 'it's because they're villains, you see Sir.'

Maybe what he meant to say was 'Why do so many people get let of prison when we know they're going to reoffend? I think the public deserves better protection.'

What do you think?
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Thursday, May 26, 2005

DD on the Death Penalty

Quite a few people looking at DD are asking about his reported views on the death penalty.

First, what did he actually say?

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph just after his appointment as Shadow Home Secretary in November 2003, he said:

"I would bring back capital punishment for serial murderers. I think under these circumstances, the intention is there. It is not a crime of passion, it is clearly pre-meditated and cold blooded.

That does not include the Soham murders which were committed at the same time. But it would include cases such as the Yorkshire Ripper and the Moors Murders.

It shows a degree of evil by the perpetrator. People are against the death penalty very often because of the risk of getting it wrong. With serial murders, that is unlikely to happen.

He said he favoured the most humane method of execution available, such as lethal injection, rather than hanging.

But "I am under no illusions. I do not foresee any future government, Labour or Tory, reintroducing capital punishment because it is always going to be an issue for a free vote and very few people will support it. I am not going to say I will deliver that, because I never can.

But that is a reflection on my view on the morality of justice."

Note that this is all very measured and he's arguing for pretty limited restoration on moral grounds. It's a more limited version of Mrs T's pro-restoration position.

Contrast that with the way much of the liberal media, like the BBC, reported it. They were clearly aghast, sprinkling their coverage with hysterical headlines like 'obscene'. Or take a look at the supercilious way the 'usual suspects' politicos, such as Labour MP Stephen Pound, responded to it.

What are we to make of it really?

Well, we know that even forty years after abolition, capital punishment is still a hot subject. Most of us have strongly held views which are not always susceptible to rational argument. Personally, I'm in favour of limited restoration, largely because I believe it was a deterrent. Can I prove it beyond doubt? No. But the homicide rate, having been in longterm decline for a hundred years up to abolition, has tripled since.

Others are in favour of restoration for a host of other reasons (there's a good summary of broader pro arguments at Blimpish).

But many are equally strongly against, usually for strong moral reasons. And ultimately, who's to say it's wrong to accept a higher homicide rate in order that to end judicial killing?

However what we can say is that public opinion has remained solidly in favour of restoring capital punishment. The Telegraph ICM poll that accompanied the DD interview showed 62 per cent in favour, consistent with most other polls that have regularly shown 60-70 per cent.

So DD is in line with the bulk of the population on this.

The trouble is he's out of line with that ruling metropolitan liberal elite. And they're the ones who seem to have the controls.

Which of course is one more reason why we think DD is our man.
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DD Still "The Man To Beat"

CLN reports Andrew "Mr Jackie Ashley" Marr's statement on the World At One that DD was TMTB.

But as with all Andy's reporting, we're only likely to understand the real story if we correct for political parallax.

The starting point is that Marr would not want DD to win. He'd figure another right-winger might well speed the destruction of the Tories, but that would mean Labour in power for ever. Which wouldn't be healthy for parliamentary democracy. Much better to have a decent "modernised" Tory party offering a centrist managerial alternative.

So he'd be very receptive to interested parties who might hold a similar view. Which is why, after he'd fingered DD as TMTB, he went onto say say that none of the alternative contenders had yet 'got up steam'. But crucially, that could change the longer the whole process lasts.

So there was a message to Tory backbenchers who don't want DD: 'yes, all my whisperers do confirm that DD is TMTB, and right now TINA. But don't give up yet because there are other old (and maybe not so old) boilers still stoking up. And for Gawd's sake don't derail Howard's leadership slowtrain, because it's the only hope you've got.'

Does it mean that DD really is TMTB?

Maybe, but we all know that's the kiss of Heseltine/Portillo.

(I've now convoluted so many metaphors and acronyms that I need to lie down.)
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Steam Up For Early Howard Exit

The Telegraph led on it, senior backbenchers including Damian Green, Edward Leigh, Quentin Davies, and Bill Cash, are openly calling for it, and this morning the Chingford Polecat sprang out of the undergrowth to sink his claws into it.

So can Howard survive until Christmas?

Of course, he maintains he wants to stay to oversee his planned corporate restructuring.

But the fact is that's already in tatters. 'Decoupling' is now the very best he can hope for, achieving little other than disenfranchising the membership.

Is that how he wants to be remembered?

One thing's for sure, the longer this fighting goes on, the less credible it is for Howard favourite David Cameron to take over. He just doesn't have the experience, and his balls have yet to be tempered in the furnace.

Which means it's DD or...or...oh, no, please not that...not Ken.

Maybe the Times piece by Dean Godson is far too close to the mark when it asks 'Is the Conservative Party sleep-walking into a Ken Clarke leadership?' and answers 'Unlikely as it seems, and disastrous as it would be, Tory rule changes offer a new chance to Kenneth Clarke.'

We couldn't really have one sixty-something survivor from that famous 1959 Brideshead Lookalike Competition handing over to another.

Could we?
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Derek- Button It Please

Several comments around the blogs today to the effect that Derek Conway's intervention via TV interview yesterday was "ill-judged".

Conway told ITV News 'that many people were unhappy at the prospect of Howard staying on until December.

Asked whether MPs were considering collecting 30 names needed to bring about a vote of confidence, he said: "We are counselling caution rather than action, but groups of people are talking about it."

Derek, we understand your frustration, and we know you're only trying to achieve what we all want. But we don't think it's very helpful for you to stir like that on telly. It plays in our living rooms as disloyalty, and it just serves to fuel the media storyline of us as a party of plots and plotters.

We know others are doing the same, but- at the risk of stating the bleeding obvious- you are known as a longtime supporter of DD and your interventions inevitably reflect directly on him.

So perhaps you would just button it...for all our sakes.

(And...umm, I hesitate to mention this, I really do. But that chalkstripe suit- it's got to go. At least in front of the cameras. Yes, I know, I know. But whether we like it or not, telly image is important. Terry Wogan may be able to get away with double-breasted pinstripe, but we can't. Nobody's suggesting going the whole pink shirt Francis Maude hog, but maybe you could just...slip your jacket off next time. There's a love.)


Update: According to the Evening Standard: 'Sources close to Mr Davis said Mr Conway's intervention was "unhelpful" and denied any involvement in spreading the speculation. But some MPs saw the comments as a provocative threat to Mr Howard's position.'
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All Low Tax Tories Now

One of the refreshing things about DD is how he keeps outing himself as a Low Tax Tory.

Well, now others have plucked up courage to do it. This morning George Osborne tells the FT:

"I'm a low-tax Tory is what I am."

Yes I know it sounds a bit like "I is what I is, and I am what I am, I'm-Popeye-the-Sailor-Man", but at least he says it- even to the staunchly pro-Labour FT (the pinko statists at the Pink-'Un have been solid Labour backers for fifteen years).

"I'm an economic and social liberal and a eurosceptic. I've talked about a low tax economy. I am a great believer in our alliance with the United States. Some people would characterise that as rightwing. But I also happen to believe the Conservative party needs to be much more diverse in its representation."

Yes, well, I'll go with that.

So will you support DD, George?

"David Davis has many strengths . . . If he's a candidate for the leadership I'll look at what he has to offer."

Hmm...still thinking about your chum the other David, huh?

"He would be excellent if he chose to run for leader. Obviously he's a great friend and if he ran I almost certainly would back him."

Look, guys, no disrespect, but you're both pretty wet behind the ears, and this politics biz- it's quite rough you know. Yesterday's tense little outing against Gordo was nothing compared to the problems the new leader will have managing his colleagues.

No. You both need time to mature. You both need the leadership of some broken-nosed bruiser who can hold the roof up over you when the ground starts shaking.

In ten years time...then...then you'll be ready.

And I'm afraid that's just the way it is.
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Yorkshire Post Explains Why It Has To Be DD

The Yorkshire Post says:

'If the party is to return to power, the new leader has to appeal to non-Tory voters in the whole country, in particular those northern towns and cities mistakenly ignored by Mr Howard.'

And you know what?

'...there is a danger that they accentuate the fact that the party's core base remains solely in London and the Home Counties, given it is likely that just one of the leadership candidates, namely Haltemprice and Howden's David Davis, will come from outside this close-knit area.'

Precisely so.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Leadership Market Shapes DD Shadow Cabinet

With DD streets ahead at the bookies, the punters are naturally turning their attention to his Shadow Cabinet.

One version goes:

Leader: David Davis
Deputy Leader & Shadow Foreign Secretary: William Hague
Shadow Chancellor: George Osborne
Shadow Constitutional Affairs: Oliver Letwin
Opposition Chief Whip: David MacLean
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons: Eric Forth
Shadow Culture: Boris Johnson
Shadow Defence: Michael Ancram
Shadow International Development: John Bercow
Shadow Education: Andrew Lansley
Shadow Environment: Julie Kirkbride
Shadow Health: Dr Liam Fox
Shadow Home: David Cameron
Shadow Industry: John Redwood
Shadow Community: Caroline Spelman
Shadow “Regions” (I like that one): Malcolm Rifkind
Shadow Transport: Damian Green
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Andrew Mitchell
Shadow Work: David Willetts

Just a bit of fun. I should stress that. Just a bit of fun.

But just remember the bookies have got a much better record than the pundits.

So if I were an aspiring Shadow Cabinet member not on the list, I might be thinking about lending some public support to DD pretty sharpish.
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Michael Howard urged to go (and quickly)

Conservative Leadership Newsblog has an interesting summary of calls for Howard to go now. It quotes Damian Green's full statement on R4 Today this morning:

“Once he has said he is going, then authority starts ebbing away. That’s life. It’s started happening and we need to get on with it... Let’s have a civilised and orderly transition – that’s very good. But I think doing it with reasonable speed, rather than taking the rest of this year doing it, would actually aid the move to a civilised and orderly transition. It seems to me that if we are going to have a process that goes on from now to the end of the year, that the person who will gain most advantage from that is Tony Blair.”

It also reports an extraordinary statement made at yesterday's Parliamentary Party meeting by our friend Ray Monbiot:

'Mr Monbiot compared the party activists to spectators at a football match. Spectators don't choose their football team's manager, he said, and neither should grassroots Tories choose their party leader.'

Wha? Hasn't he been following the furore over Glaser's take-over of Man U? All those previously loyal supporters who don't like been treated as mere spectating customers.

But 'one MP told CLN that party members are better thought of as shareholders in the Conservative enterprise. The same MP said that Mr Monbiot's claim to represent the party grassroots was now in tatters.'

Regular readers here will recall our earlier posting Shareholders, Customers, or Employees? We fully support the un-named MP.

CLN ends its post with a quote from Bernard Jenkins' excellent piece in the Telegraph:

'There is something profoundly unmodern, indeed un-conservative, about an organisation stripping its members of their voting rights. We are meant to trust the people, but some of us don't even trust our own members: members who are so wonderfully loyal that they may actually let the MPs get away with it.'
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Our Tony

The Times profiles George Osborne, written by Camilla Cavendish (um, would that be Cavendish as in Cavendish, rulers and kingmakers for at least the last millenium?)

The 'Tory Tony Blair' emerges as...well, our Tony. He seems to have stumbled into politics and William Hague says:

“I didn’t know him until he turned up on my leadership campaign team in 1997, but from the first few hours he struck me as a better thinker than many more experienced hands. He could unerringly predict Tony Blair’s responses to questions, as well as impersonate him. He has given a lot of thought to the instincts of new Labour.”

OK...that's OK I guess. Except George himself says:

“I’m quite sceptical of broad philosophy and ‘whither Conservatism?’ speeches. I think you illustrate the kind of Conservative you are by the way you approach the issues rather than by drawing up ten points that apply to every situation. That’s not unprincipled — you can still have guiding principles that individuals are better off doing things than the State – but beyond those guiding principles we should avoid being too ideological. A smaller State is a desirable consequence, but not an end in itself.”

And others say:

“I still don’t know whether he’s on the Left or the Right of the party,” a political ally says. A friend outside politics feels that “he takes far too much interest in opinion polls and focus groups, and doesn’t really believe in very much.”

Ah.

Well, I suppose what we can say is that it's better having him in the tent than outside. Doing that thing that LBJ used to go on about.
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Groaning Oozing Ebbing Lipsmackin' Bloodbath

'One MP said: "I have never seen a Conservative leader groaned at by the members before. You could feel Michael's authority oozing away."

Another said: "It was a bloodbath. It is safe to say there was an air of rebellion in the air. The chief whip can't take the whip away from all of us."


The atmosphere among Tory MPs was said to be "febrile" last night after the stormy hour-long meeting in a committee room off the medieval Westminster Hall, with MPs openly declaring the constitutional changes dead after the angry reaction of their colleagues.'


This morning Damian Green preferred ebbing to oozing, but we get the general idea.

And what are these MPs so pissed off about? The anti-democratic outrage of disenfranchising Party members?

Er, no.

No. What they don't like is the other bit of the Monbiot/Howard reform package- the establishment for the first time of job descriptions, objectives, and performance criteria for MPs. The sort of thing that most big companies have had for years.

You see they 'haven't been consulted.'

Haven't been consulted.

Well, we schmuck members out here haven't even been told anything is going on at all, let alone been 'consulted'. Look on the Party website, and there isn't even a hint of any reform package. All we know is what we read in the papers and on the blogs. We certainly don't know if we're going to be given any say in the proposed changes.

But we can all agree that another seven months of lameduck leadership is a disastrous prospect. We tear ourselves apart and Tony gets a free ride. Brilliant.

The talk among MPs is all about 'decoupling' (something several of them would do well to bear in mind after those late night sittings). Green says the leadership rules should be changed now- 'most people agree the predominant voice should be the MPs' (hmm...see here)- and the other changes should be considered at leisure.

I've got a better idea.

Let's have the leadership election now under the existing rules, and consider all of Monbiot's proposed reforms at leisure under DD.


Postscript In the final days of IDS, Peter Oborne pointed out Ray has wider responsibilities than drawing up reform plans:

'It should be borne in mind that Monbiot is one of the men in grey suits whose heavy duty might be to hand the party leader a bottle of whisky and a revolver in certain circumstances.'

I wonder who decides whether current circumstances qualify as 'certain'.
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Blogger for Davis Promoted

Congratulations to Iain Dale, one of our first Bloggers for Davis, who has been promoted to become DD's Chief of Staff.

Iain is reported as being 'tight-lipped' about his exact responsibilities, but says 'it keeps me involved in politics at an exciting time for the Conservative Party.'

I'm sure I speak for the rest of us, when I say we're all as jealous as hell, but we wish you and DD every success.

And what can we do to help?
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Sitting Up and Taking Notice

News of our man's chances of success have reached our cousins over the great sea. The Washington Times repeats some of the things that are being said about Davis in the UK media:
Davis ticks all the right boxes for a modern Tory leader. As the child of a single mother and the grandson of a committed communist, adopted by a Polish Jewish printmaker and raised on a council estate, he is considered to have wider appeal than members of the "old Etonian" camp.
And
The charismatic Davis is also a winner in the personality stakes, which after the Conservative experience with the eminently forgettable Iain Duncan Smith and the spine-chilling Howard will be considered something of an imperative. Possessing both charm and gravitas, Davis turns in a compelling television performance and debates with skill and confidence.
If we combine these personal attributes with this:
"I'm a low-tax Tory, I always have been. I take the view that high taxes make everything go, make everybody poorer.
Its easy to see why people who actually consider themselves Conservatives should support him.

After a period when Conservative Leaders' names have been mud in Washington, his early foray into the pages of the press there is welcome.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bloggers for Davis 13

Steve at the quite excellent Village Hampden comes out for DD:

'It is not often that I see something in the news that makes my day, but it happened today. David Davis has declared himself against ID cards on civil liberties grounds.

If he becomes leader and sticks to that platform, I shall probably return to voting Conservative. Of course, there are a few other things I should also like to see him proposing: undoing all the Tyrant Blair's mutilations of the liberties of Englishmen is one, and he seems to be disposed in that direction. Might I suggest a very brief Act worded as follows: "All legislation enacted since 1 May 1997 up to yesterday is hereby repealed."

That would be a start, and the very puny baby would hardly be noticed in all that murky bathwater. I should also like to see him declare explicitly in favour of leaving the EU, but I appreciate that he will have a party to keep together, so I should be content for him to put the spoke in deep enough that they expel us.'

For those who don't know, Steve gives us the background.

'John Hampden was a leading figure in the English Parliament in the years leading up to the English Civil War. He opposed attempts by King Charles I to establish autocratic rule. Most famously, he opposed Charles' attempt to extend the imposition of Ship Money to inland counties, something that was later seen as a trigger for the War. The issue was the familiar one of taxation without representation.'

Actually I know all about Hampden, having grown up in Slough. Of course, that was when it was still Slough, Bucks, and proud of it- before some bureaucratic tyrant handed it over to the Empire of Berkshire.
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Bloggers for Davis 12

Jonathan Sheppard was the (unlucky this time) PPC for Bassetlaw who says:

'According to David James, "If the Conservatives can identify a better candidate than DD then they will be rich in resources indeed." The blogger tends to agree.'

A bit bashful maybe, but accompanied by a splendid photo of JS with DD.

He joins Bloggers for DD.

Elsewhere, Albion Blogger says:

'The main reason I want Party members to be able to vote in the Conservative Party’s leadership election is entirely selfish: we’ll vote for Davis, the Parliamentary Party will probably vote for whoever his left-wing opponent happens to be.

The crux of their argument against the Members making the choice is this: the membership is not representative of the population at large, unable to determine the correct qualities in a leader and ‘extreme’ in their views. (But we’re okay to trudge the streets in all weathers to canvas for the local Party hopeful).'

How can you argue with that?

But enough of we limp-wristed Brits. Robust colonial Blithering Bunny demands Howard's immediate departure:

'You’re a lame duck. Get out.

The Conservatives need to sort out a new leader now, because Labour isn’t stopping to wait until the Tories are ready before they try to push through all their crappy proposed legislation. (And there’s a possible referendum to be fought next year.)

GO NOW! Rules can be changed later. I’ll even help you write the letter.'

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Shagged Out

Unsurprisingly, Simon Hoggart wasn't impressed by DD's performance in the Commons yesterday:

'One of the arguments used against him by some colleagues is that he is a trifle lazy, and he didn't do much to counteract that belief, sitting slumped on the bench with his feet up.

In short, you felt his mind wasn't on the matter in hand. As a consequence, the speech was thrillingly OK, resoundingly not bad, commandingly all right, I suppose.

As one Tory says, "David is so clever that all this speech-making stuff bores him to death.
"And if he bores himself, think what he'll do to the electorate."


Well, except that most electors are sick to death of all that hi-falutin' speechifyin'. Lord knows, we don't need another old time snake-oil salesman, however entertaining. We need some beef.

And if I were Hoggart, I wouldn't go on about spending the afternoon oggling some poor woman's breasts. I mean, isn't he the one who shared Kimberley Quim with that other sadly deluded superstud David Bonkett?

Meanwhile, according to the Evening Standard:

'Former supporters of Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo admit they are in "despair" at their failure to find a candidate to take on Tory leadership favourite David Davis.

One former supporter of Mr Portillo, who quit Parliament at the election, said: "Nobody is yet emerging as a figure capable of uniting our wing of the party and we are beginning to despair of finding one."

A leading Clarkite, meanwhile, admitted: "There isn't a glimmer of any single candidate breaking through at the moment. There is no shortage of candidates - but none of them have got any steam up."

Good.
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Disenfranchised

George Monbiot's Grauniad article today is entitled 'A Restraint of Liberty'. It turns out to be the usual bonkers stuff about global capitalism being responsible for the gas chambers. But when I first saw the title I assumed it was about his Dad's work on disenfranchising members of the Tory party.

Because of course George's Dad is Ray Monbiot CBE, Deputy Tory Party Chairman, and the man responsible for drawing up the proposed new Party constitution disbarring members from leadership elections.

Say what? Monbiot? Have I been asleep?

No. Our Monbiot is the one who writes for guest publication Meat and Poultry News.

According to an interview with the Torygraph:

'The existing rules - under which MPs whittle down candidates to a shortlist and then local Tories vote on the winner - created the "idiotic" situation in 2001 where the little-known Iain Duncan Smith was elected by the membership in autumn 2001, only for MPs to launch a putsch against him two years later.

"The guy is selected and the MPs find they can't work with him," said Mr Monbiot. "We have to do better than that.

"We must find a new balance which keeps the volunteers in the loop and the MPs in the loop so that people end up with a leader who everybody is happy with and can work with."

So here we are.

The guys who elected and then shafted Major, Hague, and IDS now have all the power.

Yes, I know, technically we members elected IDS, but the MPs only gave us a choice of two, one of whom spent his entire hustings campaign rubbing us up the wrong way on Europe. And as I recall, the idea was for the MPs to present members with two carefully selected candidates, either of whom they would be happy to work with. Just because all their internal blood feuds prevented that happening last time is no reason to disenfranchise us. It's them that need a few heads knocking together, and I assume DD has got his list ready.

Commenting on an earlier post, esbonio compares the Tory ruling class to the Bourbons. But at least the Bourbons gave us those rather scrummy chocolate cream biscuits.

Although of course eventually we peasants didn't just knock their heads together- we chopped them off.


Update: Good editorial in the Times which suggests a 50/50 electoral college:

'Any new system for the Conservative leadership must be simple enough to understand. It should avoid the ping pong being proposed at present, whereby the wishes of party members can be overruled by MPs. It should, as befits a great democratic party in a great democracy, give clarity and a voice to all party members. The Conservative Party could do a lot worse than follow new Labour in this respect, and institute an electoral college whereby MPs have 50 per cent of the votes, and the party membership the remaining 50 per cent. Wholly undesirable candidates could be ruled out by the imposition of a further rule that any candidate must have the support of a fifth — or, as currently proposed, a tenth — of MPs to stand in the first place.'
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Bloggers for Davis 11

Albion Blogger says:

'Davis seems to utter those forbidden conservative ideas that I only read about now in blogs or dusty political ideology books.

Freedom? Deregulation? Low-tax? Character? Listening to David Davis speak reminds us how far the Conservative Party has sunk. They don't mention any of this stuff and yet it's fundamental to conservative thinking.

And yet... 'His conservatism is working against him in the Conservative Party. Witness Michael Howard's attempts to sideline him by promoting 'modernisers' and change the rules so that the Party's members - who would back Davis without a second thought - get no say.'

Elsewhere, the bracing David Vance says:

'Everything I have read since my initial post emphasises my conclusion that Davis is indeed the guy to turn Conservative fortunes around to win the NEXT Election.

If we look down the electoral road a few years...the opportunity will never be greater for a charismatic Conservative to articulate clear conservative principles - liberty, freedom, choice, responsibility, Law and Order. These are the areas in which populist appeal can be built up.

We will never get ANYWHERE if the Conservatives swing to a so-called "Centrist" like hushpuppy Ken Clarke - that is media code for a gutless liberal. We need right-wing values put in place in this country if we are to ever lift our nation out of the sewer that Blair has plunged it into. This can be achieved with a Leader who has vision, determination, charisma and a steely-edge.

Davis should get the job on these criteria - and petty jealousies within the Parliamentary Party should not be allowed to cloud judgement.'
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Now What Do I Get for my Fifteen Quid?

So the Party really is going to disenfranchise the members:

'Under the new rules for leadership contests, it is understood that any MP gaining the support of 10 per cent of his parliamentary colleagues could be put forward as a candidate to the party's national Convention, which brings together around 900 local association chairmen and other senior party figures.

The Convention would vote on the candidates, ranking them in order of popularity, but it would be for MPs to make the final decision on who would become leader.'

So I, along with Mrs Tyler and 300,000 other members, we're to lose our shareholder rights and once again be reduced to the status of unpaid employee/customer (see previous post).

Yes, we know we elected IDS. But only because the MPs put him forward against Ken. I went to one of the hustings meetings where Ken spent his whole speech talking about Europe. No wonder he lost.

And these MPs are the same guys who elected young Hague, of the bald head and funny voice, only to spend the next four years stabbing him in the back.

The same ones who elected John Major, of the underpants and...er funny voice, only to...ah, spend the next six years stabbing him in the back.

Those guys.

Right.

Well, all I can say is they'd better make DD leader.

Or I might be forced to vote with my wallet.
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DD Action Pix

Pix of DD rock climbing and abseiling off the Humber Bridge.

Statesman or Skatesman has some real winners, including Enoch Powell (complete with trademark Tony Hancock style coat and hat) on a pogo stick, and Stephen Twigg clinging onto the Big One (he apparently submitted it himself).
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The Consignia Party

Modernisers continue to hanker after the trappings of rebranding. Poor rudderless Andrew Lansley is the latest, telling the Times:

“The point of saying we should describe ourselves as the Reform Conservatives was that it does not require the name of the Conservative Party to change: the Labour Party is still the Labour Party. They called themselves new Labour to indicate to the public that they had changed themselves and therefore were going to change the country. The public needs to be aware that the Conservative Party has reformed itself and is going to reform the country.”

It's like the new CEO who realises the problems are much worse than he feared, doesn't have a clue how to sort them out, so instead devotes his energies to redesigning the corporate logo, or moving the head office.

Andy, we need a leader with spades full of balls who's going to get a grip on the stuff that really counts.
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DD on the Sofa

The full text of DD's session on Frost's yellow sofa is here, and you can also watch the video.

Several people- including Mrs Tyler- have been saying things like 'the trouble with DD is that he's not a great talker- keeps fluffing his lines, and going umm...ah...er....'

Well, I thought he came across very well on Frost- genuine, smiley, and sounding like he was actually trying to answer the questions. So unlike The Blessed Leader.

OK, Frost isn't Paxo, and, as we've said before, DD isn't Churchill. But he's certainly a real bloke who sounds like he'll grip the issues.

Here are some snippets:

'The most shocking statistic for me is that less than a quarter of women under 55 voted Conservative. [And] we've still got ten per cent of the electorate to win over if we're going to make a government. So we've got to come into the next election with a very clear image of what we stand for and I think we've got to be more idealistic about our approach to politics.

Socialism is our opponent but actually cynicism is our enemy in politics. There's too much cynicism about politics now and we've got to start talking about what we're trying to achieve rather than the mechanics of the internal market or this and that.

I'm a low tax Tory. I want to see decentralised government and I want to see power given out to the people. But what I really want to see is that people understand what we stand for is in their interest, whether they're less well off, whether they're weak, whether they're vulnerable, whatever.'

'I'm a low tax Tory, I always have been. I take the view that high taxes make everybody poorer. They slow down invention, they slow down innovation, they cut incentives, they slow down the growth rate and the country then doesn't grow as fast. And we're going to see some of that in this parliament coming up.'

'So our policy is about tax reduction, giving power back to parents and to patients, giving power back to people locally - those policies actually deliver a better life for people.

We have to make the case for radical decentralisation from now, because it takes time to get across to people that giving you control over schooling will actually lead to higher standards of schooling. Giving you control over where you go to hospital actually leads to high standards in hospitals. We haven't made that case clearly and it takes four years to make it.'

'It's a deregulatory agenda, it's a low tax agenda and it's a freedom-based agenda, but actually aimed at the strongest part of the British character, and that is their own initiative and their own drive.'

'When I was chairman I said the test of a Tory policy is not just how it helps the well off, it's how it helps everybody, most importantly the weakest from our society. That's been the watchword of my entire career and I'll continue to stand by that.'


To be honest, I'm still pinching myself to hear our probable next leader outing himself all the time as 'a low tax Tory'. Please tell me I'm not dreaming all this.
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BBC Backs Ken- But this is Ridiculous

We all know the BBC is backing Ken , but this morning their backing moved up a gear.

You will be aware that the state broadcaster is staging a 1970s retro day today, complete with Red Robbo style journalist strike. So news programmes are heavily curtailed, replaced with various lame repeats.

According to our informant, R4's Today was replaced by...yes, you guessed it- Ken Clarke's self-promotional jazz programme.

Our informant was ecstatic, exclaiming:

'I almost always support striking workers and if this is the sort of substitute programming we can expect, more power to the unions, I say.'

A measure of Ken's support in the country? Well, the informant was a certain Bob Piper, who sounds like a thoroughly decent chap (sorry B Bunny), but who is a Labour Councillor in Sandwell.

And that's it really; Ken's probably the best leader New Labour never had.


Postscript It occurs to me that the inestimable C Berry made some extremely helpful comments about the current leadership contest half a century ago. For was it not Mr Berry who said:

'I've got no kick against modern jazz,
Unless they try to play it too darn fast;
And change the beauty of the melody,
Until they sound just like a symphony.

That's why I go for that Rock And Roll Music,
Any old way you choose it;
It's got a back beat, you can't lose it,
Any old time you use it.
It's gotta be Rock And Roll Music,
If you want to dance with me,
If you want to dance with me.'

Mods and rockers? I'm sure you don't need me to spell it out for you.

We need to break free of symphonic mush.

A backbeat, you can't lose it.
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Anointed By On High

It seems that the Conservative Party is considering a third option, as an alternative to votes by party members or MPs.
The new Conservative leader could emerge without a formal vote by MPs or constituency chairmen under a controversial "leader by acclamation" plan to be debated by party bosses today.
Perhaps the MPs will gather at party headquarters and we will wait to see the colour of the smoke.?
The plan involves appointing a leader as soon as he or she has been nominated by more than half of the 197-strong parliamentary party.
After which the leader will change his name to Winston the Second or William the Sixteenth or something.

Meanwhile, in an effort to raise awareness of his credentials, Our Man shared his thoughts on a BBC interview over the weekend.
The shadow home secretary said he would wait until the "last possible minute" before announcing whether he would be a candidate. But he used an interview on the Breakfast with Frost programme on BBC1 to set out a Right-wing, low-tax, Eurosceptic platform that would re-establish Tory core principles.
The BBC has now decided to use all their muscle to oppose this dangerous man and will instead pretend that Mr Ken Clarke, lover of rule by Foreign Princes, is the true representative of Conservative values.

We meanwhile rather like the idea of a Conservative Party leader who is right wing, Eurosceptic and does not think the State has a God given right to the lions share of our income.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bloggers for Davis 10

The ever-dependable Blimpish is still on his hols, but I knew if I looked hard enough I'd find him speaking up for DD. And here he is commenting on Blunkett's resignation last December:

'Well done to David Davis for getting the scalp. Can I suggest we ignore the general election and start his leadership campaign? He seems to be about the only shadow cabinet member with the killer instinct together with some traces of competence.'

Wise words indeed, although I might have egged up the last bit a tad.

Commenting on the same post, Andrew Nontrivialsolutions noted: 'We need someone with balls. Davis has them in spades.'

Any man with spades full of balls is a man to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile the B Bunny slaps me on the wrist for being...well, limp-wristed:

'For an example of how limp-wristed British politics is, consider the otherwise admirable David Davis for Leader blog:

"The aim is for this blog to be positive about DD rather than negative about the other runners."


Yes, well, I certainly wrote that, so fair comment, maybe.

Fortunately, being from the colonies, BB has absolutely no difficulties in the limpness department, and passes on a couple of Lady Thatcher's barbs about DD's rivals. Rifkind's ' judgement was erratic and his behaviour unpredictable'; and Ken 'was a firm believer in state provision'. Not to mention K's late nights at various jazz clubs.

Finally, The Man on the Grassy Knoll- Oliver McCarthy- says:

'David Davis probably won't be brilliant, and may well suffer from the same fundamental problems as IDS. (I.e. the fairies at Smith Square will be trying to destroy him from the word go -- in fact they've almost certainly started already.)'

Which doesn't sound altogether positive, until you rescale it to adjust for his comments on all the alternatives:

'Fundamentally the problem with [Cameron and Osborne] is that they embody the culture of greed and selfishness that has alienated people from the Tories since the fall of Mrs. T.

Pompous old buffoons like Kenneth Heseltine and Michael Clarke are just as bad as pompous "young" buffoons like Andrew Duncan and Alan Lansley.'

And what he says about Rifkind I'm too limp-wristed to repeat.

So on that basis, and because he tells us he prefers DD to Notting Hill, TMOTGK is rescaled to a Blogger for Davis.

PS Don't quite understand what he means by 'fairies at Smith Square'- I thought they'd decamped, as it were, to Mollbank.

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Stay Calm Everyone

Interviewed on Breakfast With Frost today, David Davis declined to confirm his candidacy:

'We are talking about something that is six or seven months away at the earliest. My concern at the moment is that we learn the lessons from the last election and make sure that we're the next government.

I made my decision not to run last time a few days before it happened and I'll make my decision very clear when the day comes.'

Well, yes...but six or seven months of speculation and shadow chasing!

Who on earth thought this was a good idea?
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Clocked by the Guardian

We've been clocked by the Guardian Newsblog and we are happy to confirm we are entirely independent of DD.

Other than wanting to have him as leader, that is.
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bloggers for Davis 9

Tom Watson gives us a plug and says:

'Tips for the top spot? Hmmm. Tricky one that as we don't know what the electoral system is. I just cannot understand why they can possibly think that depriving the members of a vote will get the best outcome. It could be argued that last time, members of the Conservative Party were deprived of the leader they wanted - Michael Portillo - because Conservative MPs conspired to keep him off the shortlist.

It should be a generally regarded principle that members will vote for the most able leader who has the best chance of electoral success. MPs will vote for the rival they dislike the least ;-) OK, that was a bit tongue in cheek but its just crazy logic to deprive hard working members a say in who leads their party.

So basically, I haven't got a clue. Probably Davis but he does inspire peculiarly venomous responses from some of his colleagues.'

Oh, Tom Watson? Didn't I say? He's the Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

We'll certainly pop him on our list.

And 'I wasn't aware there were any grass roots Conservative bloggers' Zoe: there's me, I guess.
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Bloggers for Davis 8

David Vance at A Tangled Web says:

'Look - this is a no-brainer. Davies will get the job...We need to see the Conservative Party move to the right but with popular policies and a charismatic leader.'

He also picks up the egregious BBC bias:

'Did you hear the BBC pushing for Ken Clark to enter the contest? Unbelievable. Maybe the BBC dream ticket would be a Conservative Party led by Ken Clark and with John Bercow as his Deputy.'
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More on BBC Backs Ken

The BBC's report of its survey among Tory Party chairmen is a classic of BBC Bias.

Its news bulletins and website lead on the proclamation:

'Most Tory Party constituency chairmen want Conservative MPs to choose the party's new leader, a BBC survey says.'

Really? But surely-and correct me if I'm wrong- that would make it much harder for members' choice DD to become leader, wouldn't it?

The BBC report goes on:

'Ex-deputy PM Michael Heseltine said he was encouraged by the support to give more power back to MPs. He said...the survey showed a "deeper movement than perhaps one might have suspected".

Which was good news because '....the voluntary party activists are relatively elderly and seemed obsessed with Britain's relations with Europe, which is why the pro-integration Mr Clarke had been defeated in a previous leadership challenge in 2001.'

I see.

Except...wait a second, what's this small print about the survey?

'Sixty-six chairmen in the 197 Tory-held seats responded, with 36 saying party members should not be able to choose.'


So in fact, the response rate was only 33 per cent, and of those, only just over 50 per cent said party members should not be able to choose. So when we say 'most Tory Party chairmen', what we actually mean is 36 out of 197. And, as Sean Fear points out, once you take account of all 600 odd constituency chairmen, 36 represents about 6 per cent.

Now I know the BBC is staffed by a load of hopeless innumerates, but come on guys...

But it gets worse:

'In the survey for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, David Davis was the most popular choice for leader.'

OK. Well, at least they got that right. Except...

'However the small number of responses - only 26 chairmen chose to answer this question - made Mr Davis' popularity very unreliable, the survey suggested.'

What does that mean? 26 chairmen backed DD, and the rest didn't say?

And why is it OK to base the screaming headline about 'most chairmen' on 50 per cent of a non-random 33 per cent sample, whereas the same rules aren't applied to the support for DD.

Roll on privatisation.

Update: CLN picks up the story, commenting that the BBC survey 'may or may not reflect the mood of the rank-and-file'. It points out we are not told what options respondents were faced with, and questions whether Association Chairmen are representative of the membership at large- 'many are aspirant parliamentary candidates who may be afraid to upset Central Office.'

It also asks: 'Why were only Chairman in Tory-held seats asked? This is not very representative. Through their MPs they would still have some indirect say in a MP-determined election. All other Associations – not least in target seats – would be disenfranchised completely.'
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Today's Jockeying

An outbreak of denials today.

As predicted, following George's withdrawal, David Cameron's intentions are the subject of even more intense media scrutiny. He denies he's ruled himself out:

"I don't really believe in ruling things out. There is no leadership election now. It is not going to happen for months."

The speculation is that he has done a deal with George, but the latter denies it:

"I have made no deals with anyone."

Meanwhile the Times would obviously like to line up behind Cameron. There's a supportive profile, but it identifies a split image problem:

'There are two David Camerons hotly tipped to lead the Conservative party. One is David with a self-confessed “corny” CV, the Old Etonian with swept-back hair, golden boy to Thatcher, Major and Howard. He married into the upper classes, and has a faintly patrician air that fails to straddle the class divide.

The other is Dave, as friends know him, the Skoda-driving sports fan who loves The Smiths, Radiohead, and trashy TV. Dave married an artist, hangs out with bohemian types from his media days and cooks for his two young children, who he wants to go into the state system.


The trouble is, “David” is the Cameron who has the ambition to stand, whereas “Dave” is the man who could win.'

Also in the Times, anti-DD Mary Ann Seighart writes a piece highlighting the jealousy factor among the 1992-97 generation of Tory MPs:

'On one side are a bunch of MPs coming up to the age of 50, most of whom were educated at grammar or direct-grant schools. These politicians — such as David Willetts, Alan Duncan, Andrew Lansley, Damian Green, Theresa May and Caroline Spelman — have toiled away, mainly in opposition, to get to the top of the party. Suddenly they find themselves leapfrogged by a younger, privately educated generation.

They are extremely sore.

They do not doubt Messrs Cameron and Osborne’s merits, but they claim that privilege has allowed them to progress rather faster than they might otherwise have done.

“Our noses are out of joint for three reasons,” one of the rivals said. “It is a combination of youth, class and cliquishness. This Notting Hill set think they own the world already and no one else can join their gang.

“I should say to myself, ‘Sit down and don’t be consumed by jealousy or self-pity’. But I feel, ‘Bloody hell! I’ve been slaving here for 15 years and then these buggers get in’. "

Sounds only too real, and ought to be good news for the 56 year old grammar school educated DD.

Except that presumably Mary Ann's reason for highlighting the issue is to cast doubt on the motivation of these likely DD converts. And that means the Notting Hill running dogs are briefing all and sundry to the same effect, with the intention of devaluing any future declarations of DD support from those quarters.

Ah, politics eh?
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Hezza and BBC still backing Ken

Hezza popped up again on Today this am- the second time in a fortnight- to promote his old mate Ken.

Mr Naughty gave him the usual respectful hearing, obviously in complete agreement with H's point that only anti-European extremists could possibly object to Ken. Naturally Naughty failed to mention that Ken is a fellow BBC employee, with his new Jazz series starting on the wireless next week.

Two more Lords later appeared on The Week In Westminster.

The Badger thought the final contest would be between DD and Rifkind, although he also spoke very warmly of Cameron who was working for him during the great EMU disaster. (Incidentally, just whose brilliant idea was it to have poor old Norm read out his 'this has been a very difficult day' statement outside the Treasury all those years ago- ashen faced, blinking into the TV lights, nervously pushing back his hair, and looking exactly like the final days in the bunker? It turned a straightforward financial cock-up into an iconic image of Tory economic incompetence, added to the national family album alongside Chamberlain with that piece of paper.)

The second Norman Lord, Fowler, wouldn't even be drawn that far.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Non-Bloggers for Davis 1

Post George Osborne's withdrawal, the World At One carried interviews with MPs Julie Kirkbride and Ian Taylor, both of whom backed DD.

Moderniser Kirkbride, who has previously backed both Portillo and Clarke for leader, said:

“I think that he will create what we call down here in Westminster a sort of narrative of the Conservative Party... David has had a big rise from his humble origins. David came from a single-parent family when a great deal more discrimination applied to single families... He climbed up from that position to be a successful businessmen and to now be in a senior position in the Conservative Party.”

Taylor, previously a strong Clarke supporter, was a little less definitive, but the thrust was clear:

“In my view, David Davis will have to reach out to the One Nation Conservative vote and beyond to the several percentage points that we need to gain that are not currently voting for us... It is possible for a candidate who is deemed to be more on the right wing of the Tory Party to do that as well as a candidate on the left.”

Eric Forth, a longtime DD supporter, also restated his backing.
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His to Lose

I’m not sure whether it’s a vote of confidence or the kiss of death, but The Economist (subscription required) describes the contest as our man’s to lose.

On Michael Howard’s actions:
But many suspect that was not quite all Mr Howard intended—that he was also hoping to deny the top job to the bookies' favourite, David Davis, the shadow home secretary.
But Mr Howard is up against it, because Davis has strong backers.
Mr Davis, much-admired by party activists for his battered good looks, humble origins and robustly right-wing views. It is those views that set him apart.
His competitors are loath to discuss anything that might smack of an opinion.
Potential candidates declare their modernising credentials by turning up tieless in television studios where they spout wearingly familiar slogans about change and the need to reconnect with the voters
Like identikit stereotypes, they have no personality to woo the floating voters, or the credibility to talk tough without sounding uncaring.
Meanwhile, Mr Davis increasingly has the look of a man who believes the prize is his to lose. After three election defeats, the Tories may finally have learned at least one thing: it is sensible to pick the leader who has the greatest appeal to the widest number of voters. And Mr Davis, the son of a single mother who grew up on a council estate, is serenely confident that he fits that bill.
We just have to convince Conservative MPs that this is the case. Simple isn’t it.

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More Shuffling of Cards

George Osborne The Younger, has said he will not stand for party leader, which probably means that he will provide backing for David Cameron.
Mr Cameron, who is believed to be Michael Howard’s favoured choice, has played down talk of the leadership but has been careful not to rule out standing.
If he has any sense, he will accept that his age means that chances in the Future will be better.

The saga of William Hague should be a warning to those that wish for a wet behind the ears leader. Thrown into battle before he was ready, one of Parliaments finest was wasted before he had a chance to mature.

Experience and the credibility that comes with maturity is essential for anyone wishing to take on either the battle hardened Tony Blair or his likely successor self proclaimed prudent Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

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The Arithmetic of Age

Michael (age 63) thinks he's too old, whereas Ken (age 64) thinks you're only as old as you feel. Tony (age 52) is five times a...oh no, I'm feeling bilious again.

DD is 56, nine years off the current pension age.

Hmm...now, let's see...

DD becomes leader, and wins the 2009 election. Actually, make that the 2010 election, because the New Labour fantasy world will have unravelled long before then, and massive unpopularity will force them to cling on til the very last moment, just like Callaghan.

So he becomes PM at 61 (Ken of course would be 69). For comparison, Maggie was 54.

How long does he stay?

Assuming things go well, it's got to be one whole term, for sure. So he'll run again at 65.

OK, that's cool. Winnie became PM at 65.

Assume he wins again. Then what?

Well, it's 2014. David Cameron, the Chancellor, is 48, and George Osborne, Home Secretary, is 43. They've both had good wars, as have Ed Vaizy and a number of other senior Cabinet members.

The script says DD stands aside, proudly taking his place alongside Winnie and Maggie on the pantheon of All-time Party Greats. The man who restored the Tories to being the Natural Party of Government arranges an orderly transition to his chosen successor, selected from the immensely strong team he has nurtured around him.

But...well, successful PMs, you know what they're like...Winnie, Maggie...they all end up thinking they're indispensible.

So maybe he stays, even though it means deferring his pension. But that can't be right can it? He'd be 69 at the 2018 election. Up against a new bushy tailed Labour leader who's still got all his own teeth.

The rumblings begin. David, George and Ed find themselves sucked into a quagmire of speculation and suspected plots. If DD stays too long they might themselves get generation skipped. Those slithery things under the rock wake from their long hibernation. The show-trials and executions follow...

What do you reckon? Sounds horribly plausible doesn't it.

So if you were sitting in Notting Hill today, seriously contemplating the Davis dash, one of the things you'd be asking is whether superfit SAS DD looks the retiring type.

Hmmm.

Maybe Ken would be a better bet after all. I mean nobody wants to be unkind...but, well...in 2014 Ken would be 73...well, that is, if he...well, you know what I'm getting at.

All of which might be true. Except that to be facing such a problem ten years from now, sitting in the back of your ministerial limo, after five glorious years at the controls....that's what's known as a quality problem.
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George leaves the blocks

George Osborne has sensibly decided not to stand. He says:

‘There has been some media speculation about what I would do but I am making it clear I will not be a candidate. I have a big enough job being shadow chancellor, opposing Gordon Brown and developing an economic policy that broadens the appeal of the Conservative Party.’

Quite right too George. As a product of St Paul’s School, we know you are very bright, highly competitive, and scarily ambitious. Your marker is down, you have correctly calculated the odds of winning are slim, and you can see your eventual route to the top will be much easier if you are seen to behave responsibly now.

So who will you back? According to the Torygraph:

‘It is understood that Mr Osborne will almost certainly back Mr Cameron, the shadow education secretary, if he decides to stand.’

Almost certainly, huh? And the Torygraph can’t resist pointing out:

‘If Mr Cameron were to win the leadership, [Osborne’s] ambition could be thwarted for many years in a repetition of the Blair-Brown conflict that has split Labour.’

Anyway, will Cameron actually stand? The Times reckons:

‘David Cameron…is also said to be reluctant to enter the contest. Although the 38-year-old Shadow Education Secretary is described as “more persuadable” than Mr Osborne, both think they would be better off waiting until after the next election.’

Matthew d'Ancona has identified ‘the Davis dash’:

'The really interesting question is which of the so-called "Notting Hill Tories" breaks ranks and backs Davis first. As Michael Corleone would say: "It's the smart move." At this stage of what is set to be a painfully protracted contest, I make only one prediction: whichever of the Young Turks makes the Davis dash - thus resisting the temptation to stand himself - is the really ambitious one. By his deeds shall you know him: the patient young Tory who wants to be prime minister tomorrow more than he wants to be leader of his party today.'

Sounds to me like George is already off the starting blocks.

Update: Conservative Leadership Newsblog points out that George's withdrawal 'will only increase questioning of David Cameron about his intentions. If he refuses to rule out the possibility of standing people will assume that he intends to.'

Tricky.
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