Friday, July 29, 2005

A Fine Line

Given the current tense security situation, normal political debate has been put on hold. And it's quite right that we must show unity and determination in the face of terror.

Last night DD took part in BBC1's studio debate A Question Of Security. Naturally, the audience comprised the typical BBC cross section of minorities and hippies who laid all the blame on the government and the Met. It was a classic wind-up, with which I thought the panel generally dealt quite well. Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti- someone with whom I do not often agree- made a very powerful contribution on democracy before bombs.

DD made a solid responsible contribution, taking on the audience where required, and maintaining a unified front with Lord Falconer. But it was a wartime front to defend our security- not a blank cheque to the government, and certainly not tipping over into any form of hero worship.

I couldn't help recalling David Cameron's unfortunate exclamation during Sunday's session with Adam Boulton on Sky News: “I’m proud that we have a Prime Minister who has responded so magnificently to this crisis”.

I didn't blog about it at the time, because these are difficult times, and we are all in it together. But it did strike me as being one more instance of the New Labour worship we find so concerning in our "modernisers".

And even if I'm wrong about that, what it showed was Cameron's lack of experience. Whereas Davis was able to strike exactly the right note, despite the pressure from a hostile audience.
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Peasants Joined By Rebel Barons

We revolting peasants have been joined by a group of dispossessed barons as we all struggle to retain our leadership voting rights.

Barry Legg, the former party chief executive and fundraiser for Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership campaign, is at the helm of 'A Better Choice', described as 'slick, aggressive, and well-funded'.

'The campaign has been planned secretly for months and finally swung into action from offices cheekily located only doors from the Tory party headquarters. Its aim is to prevent the party executive from removing the vote from grassroots Tories as they choose a new leader. It claims the active support of more than 100 constituency chairman, as well as about £50,000 from backers.'

The aim is to stop the proposed constitutional change getting the required two-thirds majority at the National Convention on 27 September.

'A Better Choice has recruited scores of volunteers to man its call centre, reaching constituency chairman at home to argue their side. “We are going to win,” a spokesman said. “It just doesn’t work for the party to say we trust the people on the ground to run their lives and then to say they don’t trust anyone in their party to have a say."

So now it's not just scythes and pitchforks- barons have got those big steel balls with spikes swinging on chains. Yes, and siege machines and stuff.

And we have a feeling the castle doors are actually pretty rotten. The coffers are so empty that the party is soon going to return to its old HQ at Smith Square. And so many staff have been laid off that they haven't even been able to process the Tylers' membership renewal.

Forward to Victory!


PS ABC's web address is http://www.abetterchoice.co.uk/index.php. Go there now to register support.
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William Still Unimpressed By Ken

Despite Ken's good poll showing yesterday, William Hill remains unimpressed. Spokesman Rupert Adams says:

'Considering the speculation that has surrounded Ken Clarke in the last few weeks, we are surprised that we have not seen any money for him. The betting at present suggests only two real contenders, and if anyone thinks otherwise then the 10/1 is a cracking price.'

Hill are currently offering: D Davis 1/3, D Cameron 4/1, M Rifkind 10/1, K Clarke 10/1, L Fox 12/1, W Hague 16/1, G Osborne 25/1, A Lansley 25/1, D Willetts 33/1, A Duncan 33/1, T Yeo 40/1.

So Hill put the probability of a DD victory at a dead cert 75 per cent.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

New Leadership Poll

A new leadership poll from Populus 'confirms that David Davis would run Kenneth Clarke close among Conservative voters, and would trounce David Cameron'.

Among all voters, Ken beats DD by 29 to 12 per cent, with other candidates nowhere. But among Tories, Ken's only ahead by 29 to 26 per cent. So Ken's support among non-Tory voters is the same as his support among Tories, whereas DD's support is concentrated among Tories. That's very similar to the picture in the YouGov poll conducted immediately after the election, although both have increased their ratings significantly since then.

So what of the other candidates? None really registers, and:

'In a direct choice with David Cameron, Mr Davis would win by 32 to 15 per cent among all voters, with 53 per cent don’t knows. Among Tory voters, Mr Davis would win by 53 to 14 per cent. Mr Davis has strengthened his position more than any other candidate among Tory voters since early June.'

So in the polls, Our Man is doing well against everyone except Ken.

And on Ken, we think he's fast achieving celebrity status as the nation's fun loving grandad. Long since retired, he no longer needs to get embroiled in any of the nastiness around him, and is all the more appealing because of it. But nobody really thinks it would be wise for him to take to the air again.
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Maples On Why David Davis

Seasoned campaigner John Maples gives his own take on the Case For DD. Like us , he stresses DD's leadership qualities, his convictions, and his ability to connect with ordinary voters.

'David Davis has...a convincing presence and an excellent relaxed style on TV and radio. He is a good communicator. At the last two elections we failed to get our ideas across; research has shown that many of our policies are attractive to voters, until they are told the policies are Conservative ones. David Davis would be able to connect our values and policies to people’s lives, their hopes and fears. That is only partly an agenda issue; it is far more important to be able to get people to listen by talking in a language and a tone to which they relate. It is much easier to do this if you understand the lives of ordinary voters, which I believe he does.

We have a very negative image and are thought to be out of touch, for the rich, living in the past, unsympathetic etc. It is vital that our new leader clearly belies those prejudices. David Davis’s background is absolutely not that of a typical Tory. He has a warm and classless image, in tune with modern Britain.'


We've seen a lot of comment to the effect that we should not reduce this contest to a cartoon Tory battle between toffs and oiks. And of course that's true.

But one of DD's real strengths is his ability to connect way outside the M25. True, Ken also has that ability. But- even setting Europe aside- only Our Man has demonstated the right convictions (which we would probably have emphasised a tad more than Maple does). Specifically, we believe that Davis has the conviction and energy to drive through that crucial agenda of reform in the public services and local government (as summarised in for example Direct Democracy).

'We must choose a leader who has the ability and skill to communicate the message of modern conservatism to the electorate. I believe that David Davis best fits the specification. He might even be as good as Thatcher.'

I say, steady on.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 18

One of the most thoughtful bloggers on the leadership contest is Watlington at the Social Affairs Unit. He says:

'There is a real battle going on...which could define the very nature of the Conservative Party over the next few years. It is a battle between privilege and patronage versus aspiration and merit. In one corner are the Notting Hill set, all from highly privileged backgrounds, Eton, Oxbridge and recipients of vast inherited wealth. They also have the patronage of Michael Howard. They are the new Tory patricians, the people who believe that they have a divine right to rule the Tory Party and that only they understand and can reverse Conservative Party decline.

In the other corner are David Davis and Liam Fox, candidates who represent aspiration and merit.'

Of the two, Watlington clearly favours Our Man, and has made a number of useful suggestions to strengthen the campaign. These include getting David Willetts on board as prospective Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor.

But he is concerned that the message is not yet coming over as clearly as it should:

'Aspiration and Merit versus Privilege and Patronage. This must be the modern Tory story. We know who is standing for privilege and patronage but do we know who will stand up for aspiration and merit? Come on Mr Davis, it is time to give the Notting Hill set a run for their money.'

He talks of potential supporters 'wanting to be swept off their feet', which is strongly reminiscent of another post on Conservative Home.

We've posted before on the hero factor, and concluded that one man's hero simply may not be another's. DD should certainly not pretend to be sombody else.

But the message is different. Watlington's thoughts on how this can be developed and focussed seem 'right on the money'. There is an extremely powerful message here that will resonate far beyond the heated in-fighting of the leadership contest.
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Monday, July 25, 2005

New Poll Puts Davis Ahead

A new poll puts DD ahead of other leadership contenders among Tory voters. He gets the backing of 32%, followed by 20% for Seb and 19% for Ken.

Hmm...well, it's a bit of an odd poll all round. For some reason Cameron wasn't even included.

It's also reported that Lord Patten 'suspects...Cameron will be thought more charismatic as a potential leader.' Pray don't get too excited, my Lord. When asked about DD's chances, he said 'it's about time we elected somebody who would be a Prime Minister. I don't think the Conservative Party does itself any favours by talking to itself.'

I once saw Lord Patten waiting at a bus stop. Yes, well, I was waiting at a bus stop- he was slipping into the back of a limo.
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Tyler's Cornerstone List: Correction

When the Cornerstone Group grilled the leadership candidates a couple of weeks ago, I hazarded a guess that it mainly comprised old IDS supporters. It now looks as if I was only right in parts (ie I was quite wrong in other parts).

Tim Montgomerie has now published 15 of the actual names (my correct guesses in bold):

'Brian Binley, Peter Bone, Julian Brazier, Douglas Carswell, William Cash, Christopher Chope, Robert Goodwill, John Hayes, Edward Leigh, Ian Liddell-Grainger, Owen Paterson, Andrew Rosindell, Lee Scott, Desmond Swayne and Angela Watkinson.'

I stand corrected, with apologies to those I falsely fingered.
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Sir Max Opines On Davis

Wreathed in cigar smoke, Sir Max Hastings stretched back on the overstuffed club chair and took another pull on his Normandin-Mercier Très Vieille Grande Champagne. 'Davis is favourite chiefly because of what he is not - Etonian - rather than what he is. Some Tories like the fact that he looks, indeed is, something of a thug.'

Lord Bufton stared blankly. 'Old Carthusian like you, eh Max?'

Hastings ignored him. 'He is filled with the violent hunger for power that is indispensable to success.' Half an inch of grey cigar ash fluttered onto his magnificently tweeded thigh. 'The forces that propelled Major to office in 1990 - exaggerated respect for his humble origins and allegedly classless style - are at work again.'

Bufton sadly shook his head, dabbing a rheumy eye with his crisp monogrammed kerchief. 'But surely...'

Hastings was not to be interrupted. He was speaking for England. 'For those who believe that the revival of a credible opposition is a vital interest of British democracy, it is a sorry picture. MPs find the choice bewildering and depressing. Whatever individuals thought of Clarke, Major, Hurd and Heseltine, all commanded passionate support as leadership candidates. The remedy proposed by Saatchi - finding "a vision"...' He snorted contemptuously. ' Seems as helpful as inviting Conservatives to form a focus group to invent Buddhism, Christianity or, for that matter, Satanism.'

He paused for Churchillian effect, and drained the remainder of his brandy. 'They are flummoxed. They must hope that events turn dramatically in their favour, because there seems little hope of any of the available leaders winning an election.'

Lord Bufton's monocle fell from his eye as he mopped the flecks of spittle from his moist slack lips. 'How true. How very true. If only the party would listen to you Max.'
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Sunday, July 24, 2005

One Nation Leader

Crispin Blunt is putting the case for Malcolm Rifkind. He says:

'Rifkind is the most articulate advocate of One Nation Conservatism, which combined with unequalled political judgement and personal qualities of charm, decency and humour can provide us with a leader of a cabinet of ‘all the talents'...He is a genuine One Nation Conservative.'

Meaning?

'He knows that the party must appeal across ethnic, social and other minority divides, which it has failed to do for the last eight years. One Nation means the whole of Britain geographically as well as metaphorically – Malcolm can revive the party beyond the limits of the South East and the countryside.'

Well, yes...except that none of the leadership contenders would argue with any of that. I'm sure Crispin gives it his best shot, but to be frank, the whole thing comes across as a bit half-hearted. Maybe it's Rifkind's slim odds (14/1), or maybe it's because gentlemen never get too excited about anything.

And all that One Nation stuff...I must admit I've never really 'got it'. Blunt's reference to 'One Nation liberalism' is particularly baffling.

We know what Disraeli said:

"Two Nations Between Whom There Is No Intercourse And No Sympathy; Who Are As Ignorant Of Each Other's Habits, Thoughts, And Feelings, As If They Were Dwellers In Different Zones, Or Inhabitants Of Different Planets; Who Are Formed By A Different Breeding, Are Fed By Different Food, Are Ordered By Different Manners, And Are Not Governed By The Same Laws."

But if we want a leader who can bridge that gap, one candidate is ideally qualified. And it's not Rifkind.

The truth of course, is that One Nationism these days is code for something else. Blue Labour, New Labour Lite, call it what you like. It boils down to Big Statism.
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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Too Posh To Win

The punters at Political Betting have been discussing poshness again. In fairness, there's a split decision on whether David Cameron is too posh to win. But there's loads of entertaining stuff on poshness in general and poshness in British politics in particular.

In terms of origin, we all know 'Port Out, Starboard Home', but there are other possibilities discussed here. And in terms of defining it today, perspectives vary dramatically. For example, Tabman- clearly something of an expert- says:

'Someone can be wealthy, privately-educated, a graduate of Oxbridge, wear handmade suits and shoes, drive a Bentley (never a Rolls), live in a stately home etc etc, and still not be posh.'

Really? I must admit I'm struggling to think of anyone like that who isn't posh.

'Its beyond definition, though let me direct you to the works of Nancy Mitford, specifically Noblesse Oblige for an insight into the whole thing. It can be summed up by the example of Alan Clark (posh) describing Michael Heseltine (not posh) as 'the sort of man who has to buy his own furniture.'

Hmm. Interesting that Clark was a big fan of Our Man. Does that make him posh? I suspect AC simply couldn't stand MH.

Mind you, Tabman also offers this famous election leaflet from a Northern constituency:

'Dear Elector,

Can it really be four years since last I visited the Northern Wastes?

As I sit in a leather armchair in my Gentleman’s Club on Pall Mall penning these words to you, I muse on how the years have flown by and on how, preoccupied with important affairs of state, I have given barely a thought to your quaint towns and the numerous queer and charming people therein. Even when the demands of high office have eased so as to allow me time to visit your boroughs, matters of personal business have intervened and, alas, commerce has called me away.

But I have never forgotten the words of my mentor, Col. Sir Tufton Bufton. “The people of the North,” he said, “may be curious and wretched souls, but they are of good English stock and the backbone of the Empire. It is our role to be concerned with matters of statecraft. But we must not be dismissive of - although neither must we trouble ourselves unduly with - their petty, dreary, everyday concerns.” How right he was.

A word about my opponents. The Socialist candidate is a modest man of modest abilities. He says he is a teacher but not at one of our great public schools but at a “comprehensive", a simple factory for tomorrow’s beasts of burden. He is equipped neither intellectually nor morally for a career in public service. As for The Liberal Candidatrix, it is laughable that a mere woman could cope with the pressures and vicissitudes of public life.

No, dear elector, you must re-elect a man of dignity and honour. The type of man who has made this nation what it is today. I am that man.'

Very good. And I'm going to resist any temptation to recast it in terms of Nottinghillese.

The Political Betting post also has a new probability chart showing that Cameron is still improving- now above 20 per cent. But our man is still above 60 per cent, and all the others are nowhere.

It's time for the stragglers to withdraw.
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Friday, July 22, 2005

More MPs Backing Davis

According to BBC News, all three of our Welsh MPs- Stephen Crabb, David Davies, and David Jones- are expected to back DD. (Well, actually, I'm pretty sure Davies already declared his support on...er, the BBC. But we take the point.)

And following our earlier encouragement, the grapevine is insistent that Alan Duncan will also do the right thing and support Our Man.

Excellent.

Now, if we can just persuade that National Convention to retain member voting rights, what with Gordo's economic miracle seriously on the blink, I'm really going to believe the party is about to lift off.
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

DD And The Party Of Opportunity

We've posted before on how David Davis embodies our belief in opportunity and aspiration over privilege and patronage. As blogger Watlington put it: 'Herein lies a kernel of a modern Tory story'.

Today the Express shows us just how well this story will play out in the tabloids. Under the headline 'Who Can Modernise the Tory Party Now?' Political Editor Patrick O'Flynn compares DD very favourably to his main rival David Cameron:

'Davis has noticed something which has passed Cameron by: social mobility- the measure of those from ordinary backgrounds who go on to achieve great things- has actually declined under Labour. Life chances are getting much more skewed in favour of the very rich.'

Of course, we political anoraks already know how, whatever their intentions, Labour's high tax centralised statism is actually holding back the great majority. But the crucial step is to convince the electorate, and to show them a better alternative.

'Davis has a compelling life story, mixes comfortably with people from all backgrounds and is clear that the task...is to explain how a smaller state and lower taxes can prove the key to advancement for those born at the bottom of the heap as well as the top.'

In fairness, O'Flynn goes on to say that DD 'is not yet good at projecting kindness and can come across as too much of a Tory hard-nut.' But 'were he to address that lingering weakness, he would indeed be a formidable candidate.'

We have no doubt that the kindness is there, and expect to see it more in evidence over coming weeks as he becomes ever better known.
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Davis On Disenfranchisement

DD was interviewed on BBC R4 Today this morning, telling us he didn't vote yesterday because it was 'inappropriate' in his position: 'a bit like a footballer going onto the pitch and saying I'll have the rules changed please.'

He said he had 'some sympathy' with members who are arguing for continuing the present system, but recognised the problem with the eventual winner only likely to have achieved approximately one-third support among MPs. As we saw with IDS, this can lead to a less 'stable outcome'.

'Another way of doing this- and frankly the one I might have preferred- would be just to reverse the sequence: to have the party in the country come first, and then the party in Parliament come second. Or have an electoral college. But those options weren't available.'

Personally, as an ordinary member, I'd prefer to stick to the current system. But we all have to recognise that does put a huge onus on MPs to come up with that shortlist of two, 'either of whom they'd be happy to work with'. Which was the original Archie Norman plan, as I recall.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that was never very likely, because MPs are...well, let's face it, they're politicians. Their entire lives are governed by infighting that we on the touchlines can only gawp at in disbelief (eg that whoop of joy Doris K let out in 2001 when she heard Miguel hadn't made the final cut: made Lee Bowyer look like an amateur).

So reluctantly, down here in the real world, I conclude that Davis is right. What we should really be going for is either reversing the voting order, or an electoral college (say 60/40 MPs/Party).

But what we must not lose, under any circumstances, is our right to a formal vote. As John Strafford of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy also said on Today, the proposed 'member consultations' would be 'a charade'. In fact he splendidly described the whole deal as 'a squalid and miserable little proposal.'
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

They've Only Been And Done It

So those completely hopeless MPs really have voted to disenfranchise us.

It beggars belief that they can really think this is a step forward. What should we make of all that stuff about trusting people and decentralisation?

It makes you want to weep.


Update: I've dried my eyes, kicked the cat, and had a good snort.

This cannot stand. We need to get a list of all those Chairmen and "activists" who are on this National Convention and somehow get them to stick up for us.

My own Chairman has already promised to fight to the last man, and on Conservative Leadership Blog another ("Derek") promised to do likewise. As it happens, I'm seeing a third on Monday.

Ideas please.

We can't just sit here and let those self-obsessed vainglorious MPs freeze us out.
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Economist Backs Thatcher (Not)

Just indulge me on this. We know the Blairite Economist is anti-Davis, and pro-Cameron. And I've posted before on this (here and here), shaking my head at how that once robustly laissez-faire organ has degenerated into an apologist for consensus statism.

I felt sure it used to be better, and decided to check out its position during the 1975 leadership contest. An hour in the excellent LSE library has now produced the goods.

Alas. Just like its present position, it was strongly pro-Heath and anti-Thatcher. A few weeks before the contest (ie well after the famous U-turns, the three-day week, and Heath's defeat in two elections within eight months) the Economist opined:

'Mrs Thatcher is not ready for the leadership. She has held no high office; she was unhappily, and not successfully placed at the Department of Education; she has not proved that she is up to the battery of critical exposure that a party leader...must be able to turn to advantage.

There is an extra complication. In spite of the issues of personality- or perhaps because the personailities are not large enough- the party is entangled in something approaching an ideological debate.

It would be foolish for the party to vote for anyone other than Heath.'

Duh.

Of course, four years later, after Wilson/Callaghan had come within a whisker of destroying Britain, and we'd had all those bodies piled up in the streets, then the Economist jumped on the new metropolitan consensus to back Maggie.

But I think we can see how its instincts work.
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Hammond Backs Davis

Frontbencher Philip Hammond, Shadow Chief Secretary has come out for Davis. He says:

'The party needs someone with a clear vision of what needs to be done and an iron determination to do it. Anyone who has worked for David, as I have, will recognise those qualities in him.

I, for one, am sick of listening to apologies for Conservative values. What we need now is someone who has the belief and the ability to show how those Conservative values of smaller government, localism, individual freedom and above all, opportunity, offer the best hope for the future for the least advantaged members of our society.'

We couldn't have put it better.

And Conservative Leadership Blog reckons Patrick Mercer is also about to declare for Davis.
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Ken Just Can't Leave It Alone

Despite his age, and the fact that several of his natural backers have already declared for other candidates, it looks like Ken is really going to give it a go.

'The more I consider my options, the prospect of my becoming a candidate by the autumn becomes more attractive. I am listening to my parliamentary colleagues. Whatever I decide, I know this, that it would be a real privilege to be the person who could lead this party from Opposition to Government at the next election.'

That bit about 'a real privilege' is important, because of course his original musings suggested he'd only do it if the party begged him on bended knee. Like De Gaulle.

Presumably his latest intervention has been timed to coincide with today's vote of MPs on the leadership voting rules. He's saying 'change the rules and you can have me: you can stop those batty old members fouling up again.'

On Monday night we were able to compare Ken with Ted Heath. Ken was on C4 News discussing the Heath legacy, and it must be said he looked bouncier than for some time: Mrs Tyler wondered if he'd got himself a personal trainer. Or been at the monkey glands.

Ted appeared in Michael Cockerell's obituary profile, based round one of those interviews where you see the subject watching clips from old newsreels and others commenting on him. It was tragic. So much bitterness: a life unfulfilled.

So I guess if we were in Ken's shoes, we'd probably also give it another shot. Even though it's a very long shot indeed (14/1 when last sighted).
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bloggers Survey Backs Davis

Conservative Home have published their internet leadership survey. Tim Montgomerie reveals they had 935 reponses, of whom 77 per cent were party members.

'63% to 32% say that MPs should have the final and decisive say in the election of the Tory leader.'

Which personally I find surprising.

'But this figure is almost exactly reversed when the question of any ordinary membership voting is raised. 67% to 30% believe that ordinary party members should have a vote at some stage of the process.'

The most heartening part of the survey was the solid support for Davis:

'Which of these people would you consider supporting as the next Conservative leader? (Participants were encouraged to tick as many as they wished).

64%- David Davis
37% - Liam Fox
36% - David Cameron
28% - Malcolm Rifkind
25% - Kenneth Clarke
15% - Theresa May
13% - David Willetts
13% - Andrew Lansley
6% - Damian Green
6% - Tim Yeo'

So at this stage, roughly two-thirds of repondents would consider having DD as leader. Interestingly, that's roughly the same as the bookies' probability of him winning.

And also, just like at the bookies, there's a long tale of pretty hopeless stragglers. Certainly those below Ken could do us all a favour by retiring gracefully right away.
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Tracking Down The "Tory Taliban"

Andrew Grice and Colin Brown are trying to track down the 'Tory Taliban' fingered by Alan Duncan yesterday. You will recall a disappointed Duncan laid into the party's 'moralising wing':

"Our Achilles' heel has been our social attitude. Censorious judgmentalism, which treats half our countrymen as enemies, must be rooted out."

So who are they?

'Mr Duncan was not naming names. But a guessing game was under way in the Commons tearoom, where speculation among his fellow modernisers centred on right-wing Tories including Laurence Robertson, John Hayes and Gerald Howarth.'

Well, blow me down. Those three names all check off on Tyler's List of suspected Inquisitors. The ones that tried to pop Our Man up onto the rack last week.

Now for Westminster insiders I'm sure none of this comes as any surprise. But for we wide-eyed party members from beyond the M25, it's really quite useful to find out what axes are being ground by whom. Lets us put all that jockeying into its proper context.

Hope Alan now takes the natural next step. Which is to back DD.


Update: Two MPs on Tyler's List have signed this morning's Telegraph letter defending the rights of members in leadership selection. So Edward Leigh and, er yes, John Hayes, go up in our estimation.

Complicated old business this, isn't it.
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Monday, July 18, 2005

Hames For Davis

Tim Hames has another piece supporting Our Man, and taking issue with Matthew Parris' (narrow) preference for Cameron. Hames spells out a couple of home truths:

'Cameron understands that the problem that confronts the Conservative Party is less its philosophy or policies than its public personality. He can see that the manner in which Tories look, sound and smell to the voters is vital. His weakness, and that of the Notting Hill Set with which he has been lumbered, is that one of the images that must be dispelled is that of rich young things who hang out in smart parts of the capital and head for the country clad in Barbours at the weekend.'

Whereas, of course, DD's 'narrative', or 'backstory', 'is so electorally compelling that he could have bought it off the internet (www.workingclasshero.com). It is not merely the by now familiar single mother/council estate/school of hard knocks yarn, but that he was a businessman before entering politics and has made his way up the Tory party by his own efforts.'

But like us, Hames believes Cameron could still come right in the future:

'Mr Cameron is an intelligent, reasonable, and energetic soul. By 2015 he could be a successful Conservative leader, having had the space to shape his own narrative. To put him in the lions’ den now, armed with no more than a smile and the vague hope that he might turn into Superman when faced with the challenge, is verging on insanity. It risks further political hell for his party and humiliation for him.'

All of which sounds like simple common sense to us.
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Duncan Drops Out

A naturally disappointed Alan Duncan has dropped out of the leadership race. He recognises his lack of support:

'To be popular in the country one must first establish popularity among MPs. It's simple - I have no henchmen. So there you have it: no gang, no launchpad, no progress, no chance.'

Duncan has done the reponsible thing. For the sake of party credibility, it would be good to see some of the other stragglers follow suit.
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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gossip Won't Stop Davis

Interviewed on BBC News24, DD dismissed the wild rumours circulated by some well-wisher to the effect that William Hague, IDS, and Michael Howard were all going to support Doc Fox.

Davis said: "I will be very surprised if any of the recent party leaders come out in favour of anybody in truth. I have seen stories of all sorts - different people backing different candidates. I think I have seen William listed as backing two different candidates at different times. I think most of them are just gossip."

He went on: "The important thing is to get very solid support in the Parliamentary Party and also, frankly, solid support in the country and I think I will be able to do that."

DD's unshakable confidence is one of his hallmark qualities. And at present it seems to be irritating the hell out of rival leadership camps.

But once he's installed in the top job, that same confidence will be a huge asset to all of us, as he leads us out against our real political rivals.
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Mather: "The Remarkable Rise of David Davis"

Graham Mather, President of the European Policy Forum, has just circulated his assessment of the leadership race to EPF subscribers. Mather of course has had a long and distinguished career, and is a seasoned and influential observer of Conservative leadership contests. His views are worth listening to. So hoping he doesn't mind, I'm reproducing it in full.

'I was reflecting recently, after attending a number of speeches and meetings concerning the Conservative leadership, on the remarkable nature of the rise of David Davis, something which press commentators seem not yet to have fully picked up.

Several weeks ago David Davis’s position did not seem at all secure. Certainly he was in the lead amongst the contenders but it seemed perfectly possible that, for example, Sir Malcolm Rifkind would mount a significant challenge. Other contenders including Liam Fox were also likely to rally some support. And there were expectations that David Cameron would have sufficient votes to “stop Davis”, with the weighty figure of Ken Clarke lurking in the background ready to enter the race at a late stage.

At the moment this all looks very different. As one member of the Shadow Cabinet put it to me, many of the candidates are “virtual candidates” with no declared supporters. Alan Duncan and Theresa May seem to fall into this bracket. It looks as though many of these second level contenders will not in fact put their names forward in a vote for fear of gaining a miserably low level of votes.

When David Cameron made his major speech to date, to Policy Exchange, it seemed to give him a powerful advantage. The speech was emphatic that Conservatives should not oppose for the sake of opposition and should look at Labour ideas, including road pricing, on their merits. He won plaudits for his line that “we do think there is such a thing as society, we just don’t think it is the same thing as the state” and that “Conservatives believe profoundly that there is a ‘we‘ in politics as well as a ‘me’”. The Cameron picture, of aspiration and compassion in equal measure, and his threefold test for policy ideas - is it true to our fundamental beliefs and principles?; is it in the long term interests of the country?; and will it work? - all seemed to make sense.

A sensitive approach to quality of life issues, with time becoming the enemy of family life in modern society and a focus on rigour in exam standards also seemed to suggest that there was a good policy mix in the Cameron package. Oliver Letwin’s coming out in favour of David Cameron also carried some weight.

Yet more recently the Cameron initiative seems to have faded and the Davis thrust to have advanced. At the Centre for Policy Studies it was remarkable how the Davis approach, based on traditional conservative values applied in a dynamic way to the problems of modern society, captured this largely Thatcherite audience.

This approach, drawing on Damian Green’s idea of market techniques applied in a one nation approach to social problems, thereby legitimising vouchers for the centre left of the party, also seems to be being taken up by David Davis. The fact that Damian Green and Ian Taylor from the Ken Clarke wing of the party are firm Davis supporters is proving influential and at a recent gathering of The Parliamentary Mainstream Davis scored a tour de force with a masterly presentation covering both his anti terror Home Office responsibilities and broader policy issues.

The approach was that too many voters don’t care about us because they think we don’t care about them. Davis’s approach, he said, would be to help the victims of state failure. It seems that the Davis approach will draw from European examples of public services which work far better than the ‘monopoly stupidities’ of the British state sector. The Davis approach will focus on things which are both ‘good for me’ as well as ‘good for my neighbour’ and reach out to the constituency which seeks to base its political approach on the ‘decent thing to do’, rather along US Republican approaches.

The Davis approach is firmly supply side, looking at the beneficial effects, including for public spending, of low tax rates. It is a decentralising agenda with a focus on local government performance, which some see as critical to the re-election of a national Conservative government.

It is, however, not just the ideas which seem to appeal but the way in which David Davis has conducted himself over the last months, hitting precisely the right note on every occasion - in the House, to the Thatcherites, to the pro-Europeans and displaying a surefootedness which has not really characterised Michael Howard’s leadership.

David Davis will be tested further as the government attempts to secure consensus around a toughening of anti terror legislation and in particular on the way in which evidence against suspected terrorists will be presented in court. But the signs are that he is well on top of this subject.

There are many bridges to cross before the end of the lengthy leadership process, not least find an agreement on the final shape of this process itself, where there is to be a vote in the 1922 Committee next week. But at the moment the impression is that Davis is pulling ahead of the race.'
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'Modernisers' Exposed

We've already admitted our mistake in initially missing the upside in Michael Howard's protracted leadership contest. Not least the chance to have a good hard look at the so-called 'moderniser' agenda.

For example, today's Observer carries an interview with George Osborne. It nicely exposes some of the key elements in moderniser thinking.

On public services, Osborne 'believes the Tories' best hope is to present themselves as Blairites par excellence, promising to take Labour's tentative experiments with private sector provision, and pursue them much further.'

He reckons that 'Gordon Brown is a much, much, much easier opponent than Tony Blair.' The theory is that Brown is an unreconstructed command and control socialist, who will vacate Tony's Third Way territory, leaving it for us to grab.

So that really is what it comes down to.

Blue Labour. As practised by such distinguished Blurites as Byers, Milburn, Mandelson, Jowell, etc.

Hardly surprising then, that Howard himself is reported by the Sunday Telegraph to be back-peddling furiously on his previous (presumed) support for David Cameron. Whatever we may think of his election campaign, there's no doubting Howard's True Blue Tory credentials, and he must be appalled at some of the guff currently being spouted by the Notting Hill branch of Moderns.

Of course, his peddling is also being fuelled by Cameron's unforgivable disloyalty:

'The Tory leader is said to be dismayed by Mr Cameron's recent criticism of party strategy and his attack on the policy of scrapping university tuition fees. Mr Howard was said to be "furious" with Mr Cameron's suggestion that the party had been criticising Labour for the sake of it.'

Unfortunately, Howard isn't going so far as to endorse our man- he reportedly prefers the Doc- but he's obviously had his mind concentrated wonderfully.

As we all have.
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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Point Taken- The Velvet Revolution

Much has been made of Our Man's "abrasive style". From where we sit, we'd describe it as grit and determination, so deperately needed to take our party forward. But we all recognise that our new leader has to reach out, to unite, and to demonstrate that he will draw a line under past quarrels. However heated, and however much they've festered over the years.

So it's heartening that in today's Telegraph interview DD goes out of his way to address concerns about his leadership style:

"This is going to be a velvet revolution. We want everybody on-side. We want everybody to go with us, to enjoy the thing; there will be no retaliations."

Enjoy. Now, isn't that a good word to hear from the prospective leader of our beleagured, angst ridden, bickering party?

But he certainly recognises the style issue:

"I'm very forthright with people and that can be a vice. If I think I'm right, I'll argue the case very hard, whomever I'm arguing with...That isn't always comfortable...I pick very spiky friends - Alan Clark, Alastair Campbell, Derek Conway. They're completely unswerving in telling me [when] I'm useless. I like people who are really quite tough."

That all sounds spot on to us. It may not be true that he can break necks with his little finger, but he is most definitely a man of action.

Matthew Parris, who today (narrowly) comes out for Cameron, gives an interesting assessment:

'David Davis is quick-thinking, tough-minded, modern, plain-speaking, direct and brave. He also has an ability often overlooked but never unimportant in politics, a talent Margaret Thatcher hardly advertised but depended on until it finally deserted her, whereupon she sunk. I mean the ability to learn. I’ve watched Davis grow into jobs. I’ve written some of the rudest things that have been said about his skills in public speaking. He was dreadful when he started. Now he is never less than solid as an orator, and impressive as an interviewee.

As a loner he has not always been good at selecting and captaining a team but nor was Margaret Thatcher at first, and she learnt — there is no reason to think Davis would not.'

From his interview today, we can see that Our Man is already on the case.
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Friday, July 15, 2005

One Man's Hero...

Just after recording how I'd finally met my hero, I was brought up sharp by yesterday's open letter to DD, posted on Conservative Home.

The letter is from a Lauren Booth (not, I'm assured, Cherie Blair's sister) who met DD at one of his several recent speaking gigs. And just like me, she got to shake his hand.

But there our experiences diverged dramatically. Whereas he chatted with me, looked me in the eye, and generally bowled me over with his warmth (all before he found out I do this blog), Lauren was left feeling seriously slighted:

'I am the ordinary woman whose eyes you failed to meet as you moved quickly on to speak to someone more useful and more influential. I am the ordinary woman who walked away from you feeling disappointed.'

Which is a great shame. And nothing like the feeling he left among those he met last night.

So what's going on? One possibility of course was that when he met Lauren he was just having an off-day. But she points to something else. Something deeper than an over-hurried handshake in a crowded room.

'There is much talk amongst Conservatives that they have lost touch with the ordinary person in the street. As someone who lives very much in that street let me tell you what I need. I need a leader who will take risks on my behalf. I need a leader who will fight for me. I need a leader who will have the courage to move away from the well-rehearsed soundbite and speak with words that are ignited by a passion for what he believes in. Your policies are sound enough, but until they are lit by this internal fire of conviction, to the electorate they are merely words they have heard before. I suppose, Mr Davis I want a hero.'

Now, I look at that and say 'but DD will take risks- he's already taking them in what he says. Fighter? He's not just a fighter, he's a street bruiser. And as for conviction...he'll be the first conviction leader we've had had since you know who.' And from the sound of it, Lauren liked his actual policies.

But it's that hero thing, isn't it Lauren. You're holding out for a hero.

And who are we to say you're wrong?

Sure, we can remind you that heroes like that are pretty rare outside Hollywood, or rose-tinted memory. And that we have to deal with the actual choices that are available to us here in the real world. And we can point out that politicians who pull on that mythological hero mantle (JFK, TB...) can so quickly turn out to have feet of clay.

But we can see none of that really answers the need.

It's just that for me, Davis is a hero. He's battled his way up from pretty close to the bottom, and he has not forgotten those he left behind. I think he really does believe we can use those 'timeless insights of Conservatism' to tackle the problems in our public services. And that we candeliver much better opportunities for all- particularly those at the bottom.

Maybe his conviction doesn't burn as brightly as you would like, and that's your call. But to me it comes through loud and clear; and I believe it's genuine and heartfelt.

DD will never be Tony- who I bet always makes eye contact, and who emotes better than anyone else on the contemporary political stage. But give me DD's steady dependable practicality any day.
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Tyler Meets Hero

Last night I actually got to meet David Davis. And I can report that he's exactly as billed: warm, direct, and brimming with confidence.

He'd been due to give the Adam Smith Lecture on The Future Of Conservatism, but in the wake of last week's terrible events he's quite rightly put all that stuff on hold. Instead, he joined us in a crowded Westminster basement to chat, over some Bulgarian Chablis- although unlike your correspondent he and his guys stuck strictly to water.

Through the years I've seen various politicians 'work the room', and Davis is a natural. He has tangible presence- smile, twinkley eyes and all- and we punters, young and not so young alike, were hanging on his every word. Just like on the telly, he talks in clear, everyday language- miles away from the spin and slippery legalese to which we've become only too accustomed in recent years.

That much you'd expect. But he also does something that is much less common in big-name politicians- he makes eye contact, listens, and engages.

I asked him what we ordinary party members could do to help secure his election? Apparently unphased by that egregious attempt by some to change the election rules (thought by many to be a blocking move against him), his only suggestion was that we contact our MPs to let them know our preference (so if you haven't already done so...)

As I made my way home, I almost broke into a smile. And it wasn't just the Chablis. We can all remember how someone once talked about 'one of us', and Davis certainly fits that bill. He looks and sounds a normal everyday guy just like the rest of us; a guy you'd definitely have a beer with. But he's also someone who shares our convictions about improving lives, particularly those who are still down where he started. And he has the confidence of a winner, already propelled by natural ability and determination from pretty well the bottom to pretty well the very top.

Having met him, I am more certain than ever that David Davis is The Man. And the sooner he takes the controls, the better.


PS I also met Iain Dale, DD's Chief of Staff. As Davis worked round that hot crowded basement, Dale was keeping the whole show on the road- organising, dealing with journalists, juggling mobile phones, and of course remembering to smile. I hope I didn't hog too much of his time. Although at least it proved that I exist, and I'm not just his new blogname. Not sure how he felt about that, but I certainly found it comforting, in some existential sense.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Leadership Odds

Political Betting have begun charting the leadership betting odds as implied probabilities. This is extremely helpful for non-punters because it's a much more intuitive way of seeing what's going on.

Their current chart shows how DD's probability of winning has doubled since 6 May to 60 per cent.

The probability of a Cameron leadership has also roughly doubled, but only to just under 20 per cent. Ken stands on about 5 per cent.

PS PB.C also speculate on my identity, even suggesting I might be the Great Man himself, or at least Iain Dale, his Chief of Staff, who used to be a very active blogger. I'm happy to reassure you that I'm neither of those esteemed parties- just your everyday party member, blogging away here in my pyjamas, who happens to believe that DD is by far and away the best man to lead our party. And, electorate willing, our country.
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The Court Of Inquisition

According to Conservative Leadership Blog:

'Last night a group of about twenty socially conservative MPs interviewed David Cameron, David Davis and Liam Fox about their leadership ambitions. Each candidate was asked a dozen or more questions in meetings that each lasted about fifty minutes. The minuted meeting was organised by MPs John Hayes and Edward Leigh.'

Apparently, it was felt that DD "went backwards", appearing resentful about answering the MPs' questions, and "thin-skinned" about criticism. Cameron didn't fare much better, apprearing to 'lack depth', and more 'a creation of the Times' than having real support. The winner was Doc Fox, 'described as “relaxed”, “funny”, “coherent” and “intellectually interesting”... "impressive".

So the obvious question is who are these twenty self-appointed inquisitors?

Alas, TLB don't tell us. But apart from Leigh and Hayes, we wonder how many of the following are included:

Angela Browning, Jonathan Djanogly, Julian Brazier, William Cash, Christopher Chope, Michael Fallon, Mark Francois, John Hayes, Gerald Howarth, Bernard Jenkin, Edward Leigh, Dr Julian Lewis, Patrick Mercer, Owen Paterson, Eric Pickles, Laurence Robertson, Andrew Rosindell, Andrew Selous, Richard Shepherd, Mark Simmonds, Desmond Swayne, Sir Peter Tapsell, Andrew Turner, Angela Watkinson, Bill Wiggin, Nicholas Winterton.

Who are they?

They're the original supporters of IDS when he launched his leadership bid in 2001 (ex 2005 departures).

And as we all know, the IDS camp somehow got it into their noddles that Our Man was plotting against him from Day One. So they dripped all sorts of poison into all sorts of ears- not to mention wells- including the idea that DD was a very ineffective/lazy chairman. An accusation which funnily enough resurfaced during yesterday's inquisition:

'Davis reacted angrily to suggestions that he was an undistinguished party chairman who had neglected his fundraising responsibilities. In this reaction he confirmed fears that he might be a harsh leader who would not listen to MPs’ views.'

Among these people are undoubtedly some of those who got poor old IDS so overwrought that he summarily sacked DD via a brief conversation in a US phonebox. Even David Brent wouldn't do that.

But what's past is past, and by going along to this grilling Davis was obviously holding out the hand of reconciliation and party unity. Recognising the need to make a fresh start.

It doesn't altogether sound like his trust was repaid.


PS I've just noticed another detail in the TLB report: 'David Cameron paid particularly strong tribute to Iain Duncan Smith’s one nation strategy.' Yes, I bet he did... although it doesn't sound like it was quite enough to get him the thumbs up.
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Progress Dismisses Davis

'Having coffee with a Conservative moderniser last week, I was astonished to hear him say that he believed there was a strong social democratic consensus in the UK that the Tory party needed to recognise and adapt to... My companion saw the 1980s and early 1990s as a 'blip' and believes that the Conservatives will not regain power until they accept the progressive consensus.

There is a chasm opening up between those like John Redwood and David Davis who still believe in small government and low taxation, and those who recognise that the Conservatives cannot win while they go into elections without supporting strong public services.

Nick Gibb [a moderniser Tory MP], on the other hand, argues that we should accept central control of spending. He suggests that real accountability means politicians taking responsibility for the state of the public services and that this can only be meaningful if those politicians have some control over the way in which those services are provided.'

Who says? None other than the latest edition of Progress Magazine.

Who they? 'Progress is the independent organisation for Labour party members and trade unionists...currently undertaking a year-long progressive deficit dialogue. Progress is chaired by David Lammy... vice chairs are Parmjit Dhanda, Tony Robinson and Ruth Turner...honorary president is Alan Milburn.'

By their coffee companions shall ye know them.

If I ever hear Lammy or Milburn big up DD, this blog will close down.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bloggers for Davis 17

After yesterday's blockbusting Guardian profile, not much to report today. But blogging continues apace.

Gary Munro says: 'I generally like the things I hear David Davis say so I’m hopeful for him. And, although I actually prefer well-spoken, educated politicians - nothing wrong with a bit of class, you know - his working class roots will deaden the accusation that the Conservative Party is a party that only represents the upper classes.'

It's hardly surprising that Gary values good English: he's from the renowned centre of Received Pronunciation- Ilford.

Making a related point over at the Brothers Judd, Bart comments that DD 'can do an end-run around the Wets and appeal to those upwardly mobile voters who support Blair now, but who supported Thatcher in the 80s...He can run as the standard bearer of the Thatcherites against all those upper class twits...Let the toffs move to the Lib Dems where they'd be much happier.'

Which all has echoes of the argument made in that excellent post by Watlington at the Social Affairs Unit Blog: 'Davis was saying that as someone from humble origins who had made it to the top, he knew about aspiration and merit as opposed to privilege and patronage. Herein lies a kernel of a modern Tory story.'

Meanwhile, The Englishman says: 'I'm becoming more attracted to David Davis the more I hear...Howard is quite right in one way to say we don't trust politicians to deliver "tax cuts" - certainly didn't believe his wishy-washy promises. "Tax cuts" aren't just about the money, in fact the money is the minor consideration. It is the concept of rolling back the state and letting people spend their own money how they want, rather than believing in a system that says that 4 out of every 10 pence I earn will be more wisely spent by The Government than I could manage to do.'

To which the splendidly splenetic Rob Read responds:

'I want to hear spending cuts for failure reward schemes. Opt-outs from Individual State programs like the NHS, Pensions and Education. Regulation roll backs. How many extortion funded wednesday grauniad reading non-jobers will be handed p45s.Flat Income-Tax. Lastly I DEMAND tax-cuts.

Contact me when it happens, I'm off to coutries that are already on their way there.'

Which is a shame, because he'll miss the chance to have tea with DD. According to the Midsummer Music Madness Blog, it's the pick of a long list of items to be auctioned in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Other possibly less enticing lots include a signed photo of the Deputy Prime Minister (this is an event on Humberside), and a Jeffrey Archer signed DVD of A Matter of Honour ("including interview").

Actually, it turns out the Madness took place last month so we've all missed it. Shame.
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Monday, July 11, 2005

Heaven Help us!!

The Guardian has a factual, non sneering profile of David Davis. Its well worth a read for those wishing to learn more about him.
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Doing The Right Thing

DD's main rival David Cameron must mean it because he keeps on saying it:

"I didn't go into politics to just disagree with people or position myself in some way against other people. I went into politics to do the right thing, to get things done for this country and so, if you agree with something, you should say so."

And who could disagree with that? (In the spirit of party reconciliation let's set on one side DC's close involvement with Michael Howard's narrow, and many would say, opportunistic election campaign.)

But the question is not whether we want a leader who 'will do the right thing'. Of course we do. The crucial question is how will the leader know what is 'the right thing'?

Cameron says the key is "to stick to your principles and ask yourself the question, 'Is this a measure that is in the long-term interests of the country? Is it something that will help deliver the dynamic economy that we all want? Will it deliver a decent society that we want to see in this country? Does it accord with Conservative principles'?"

Apply the opposites test. Would anyone seriously argue that we should enact measures that are not in the long-term interests of the country, etc?

The only one of his questions that has substance is the last: 'Does it accord with Conservative principles?'

And even then, he needs to elaborate on how he understands those principles.

Blairite managerialism is not enough. We've been there, done that, and the tee-shirt has shrunk in the wash.
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Sunday, July 10, 2005

"We Must Be United"

There are some comments floating around the blogs and elsewhere to the effect that DD is about to play politics with terrorism.

Those who are suggesting this might like to reflect on his powerful statement to the Commons on Thursday when he pledged full support to the government. Or his piece in today's Sunday Express:

‘We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible’. Churchill’s words, spoken in the House of Commons chamber at the height of World War II, should resonate with us all this weekend as we digest the appalling aftermath of Thursday’s terrorist attack on our country...

There will be a time to review our defences against terrorism, now is the time for us to display unity, not division.

The UK should learn the lessons from Spain where the terrorists tried to influence a General Election and split the political parties...


That is why one of my primary concerns on Thursday as MPs gathered in the Commons’ chamber was to assure the Government of the Conservative Party’s wholehearted support as they set about the crucial task of tracking down those who carried out the atrocities on London’s streets...


Thursday’s bombs did not distinguish between colour, race, religion or background. They were an attack on us all. Those responsible have shown that they view us as all the same. Our response must be to show that we are indeed one nation.

A nation united; a nation undaunted in our pursuit of freedom; and inflexible in our resolve to say to the terrorists: the British people will not be cowed. The terrorists will never win. '


Those are the words of a man who knows how to conduct himself during a time of peril; to put the needs of the nation first.

The words of a leader, not an opportunist.
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New Davis For Leader Blog

We are delighted to see that the excellent Tory Leadership Blog is slowly swinging its weight behind DD. It will soon be 'David Davis For Leader Mark2'.

Yesterday they quite rightly gave Our Man a +3 in their weekly candidate scores (just a bit of fun you understand), praising his 'brave speech' at the CPS, and noting it 'confirmed his reputation for bold thinking'.

They also quoted extensively from a very supportive post by Watlington at the Social Affairs Unit Blog:

'Davis was saying that as someone from humble origins who had made it to the top, he knew about aspiration and merit as opposed to privilege and patronage. Herein lies a kernel of a modern Tory story.'

Forget toff victimisation- that's spot on.

This morning CLB go one better, asking 'Has 7/7 tilted the Tory race towards former SAS man David Davis?' This is over a piece written by Fraser Nelson, Political Editor of The Business, which argues:

'The Conservatives… have a new prize: to portray Labour as ineffective on terrorism. This, in turn, may tilt its leadership contest more towards David Davis...The market for former SAS men like Davis has risen in the past few days: the market for old Etonians such as David Cameron has fallen.'

DD will not be so crass as to hammer that line. But he really doesn't need to.

Certainly his rivals can see the danger, as witnessed by the anti-DD piece somebody clearly got placed in the morning's Sunday Times. Suggesting DD's opposition to ID cards and other authoritarian measures was weak on terror and driven by personal ambition, it says:

'Terrorism [is] a dangerous subject for a man who regards himself as a future Conservative party leader to be scoring party political points with.'

Right. We'll bear that in mind.
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Saturday, July 09, 2005

At Last- A Real Choice

We've posted before about how Michael Howard's six month leadership hiatus is actually turning out to be rather helpful.

Because as the contest shapes up, we can see that in Davis and Cameron we are being offered genuine alternatives. For the first time in thirty years.

Yes, Ken vs IDS was a choice of sorts, as was Ken vs Hague. But Ken's provocatively Europhile views meant that he was out of the question for large parts of the party. Whatever his personal merits, or his views on broader issues such as public services, he was stymied by a single (albeit vital) issue.

This time it's different. We're all euro-sceptics now, and neither of the Davids hold showstopping views on any other single issue. Instead, we are being given a real choice between two broad visions of Conservatism in the modern age.

On policy, Cameron is offering a widely touted version of modernism, aimed at getting us onto the centre ground currently in sole occupation by New Labour. It's a latterday re-run of 1950s Butskellism, and it means pretty well accepting Labour's spend and tax approach to public services, in the hope that we can manage it better. This approach is supported by wide sections of the media, including the BBC and Polly Toynbee.

Davis offers us a more radical vision, based on the Conservative tradition of consumer choice and competition. It will produce lower taxes and a smaller state, but its main attraction is its promise to reshape and improve those public services. It is the choice of the Torygraph, not to mention most of the Tory blogosphere.

We know which we prefer, but we recognise that free market radicalism and statist consensus have both brought us electoral success at various times in the past.

We're also being offered a real choice of leader. Depending on your preference, this is either Council House Boy vs the Toff, or grey Mr Basher vs gorgeous Mr Telegenic.

More fundamentally, we're being offered the choice between a modernised Tory patrician, and an archetypal self-made man. Again, we've had some success with both types in the past (although with the possible exception of John Major, it's difficult to think of any who have travelled quite as far as DD).

For us, there is no doubt. The best interests of both the Party and the Country lie with the radical platform articulated and led by council house, single-parent Davis- the man who is the very embodiment of the opportunity society we all want to promote.

But we do accept that this is a real choice. Thanks to Howard's extended contest, each of us has the chance to make a considered judgement on the issues as well as the candidates. And when we do set off again, our direction will be the one we have chosen together. Not the result of another grubby leadership fight where victory is secured only because the winner isn't somebody else.
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"Noisy But Not Yet Deep"

The Economist's Bagehot (sub required) returns to the leadership contest.

We've already posted on Bagehot's last comment three weeks ago, which comprehensively dissed Our Man for seeing Blairism as an 'ebbing tide', thereby failing to grasp that 'Mr Blair's synthesis of economic efficiency and social justice is something that Tories should seek to improve on, not oppose.'

Consensus Third Way mush from an organ that was once so dependably and radically in favour of lassez-faire.

They also said that the Tories needed to '...set a direction that they stick to even when it is uncomfortable to do so. What is worrying about Mr Davis is that he has not yet given any indication that he understands this. Perhaps that is because he feels that as the man to beat, the safest course is to stick to platitudes and give away as little as possible. On the basis of two recent interviews of numbing banality, that certainly appears to be his favoured course. But it may also be because he really doesn't understand it.'

Maybe they hadn't taken the time to examine DD's beliefs, or maybe they just didn't get it.

Well, it seems that three weeks is a long time in the world of the Economist, because at least it now has some inkling of what DD is about:

'His remedy [for failing public services] is to take spending power from central government and put it firmly in the hands of patients and parents, who will be free to buy whatever health care and schooling they want from a variety of eagerly competing providers. By cutting marginal rates of tax, the resulting economic dynamism would generate the additional revenues needed to pay for it all.

Mr Davis has a compass and it is pointing him out into clear blue water.'

Naturally, the statist Economist still prefers managerialist David Cameron, characterising our man's passionate beliefs and clearly articulated policy framework as "a positioning exercise".

And of course, Davis has a much broader set of beliefs than the Economist has yet grasped.

And of course, his support is much stronger than their dismissive 'noisy but not yet deep'.

But at least it's a start.


PS Next time I go to the LSE library, I'm going to look up what the Economist had to say about the 1975 leadership contest.
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Friday, July 08, 2005

Dealing With It

Writing in the Telegraph Alice Thompson reports she was actually interviewing DD when news of the bombs came through:

'Mr Davis was joking in his office. "I won't be cutting the tape at the 2012 Olympics, that will be the Queen." He laughed. "But I hope I'll be standing beside her." We began the interview.

There was a knock at the door. "There have been some incidents, shadow home secretary." Mr Davis kept going. Every few minutes the phone would ring. "Two buses, one Tube station… No, one bus, three Tube stations." The police and Home Office kept him informed. Slowly we realised something serious was happening.

Mr Davis was meant to be going to a memorial service. "There are no taxis, the Tube has stopped," said his aide. The ex-SAS reservist suggested running. "They want you to reply to the emergency statement to the House." Mr Davis cancelled everything. "Get me D1, D2, D3 briefings for a major terrorist assault."

His jaw tightened, but he continued with the interview, apologising occasionally as notes were handed to him. He tried his mobile phone once but it wasn't working. Nor were ours. An official explained the network had been cut off and Westminster was now on red alert. Mr Davis left for an emergency shadow Cabinet meeting. Was it nuclear, biological, chemical or suicide bombers?'

Later he made his statement to the House. Simon Hoggart reports:

"The British people will not be cowed, and the terrorists will not win," said David Davis, and for once it was his quiet, downbeat delivery, without ostentation or displays of instant fury, that made his words both effective and affecting.'
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Shoulder To Shoulder

'It goes without saying that the Government will have our full support in dealing with this assault upon our society. We stand ready with them to play our part.

A prime aim of terrorists is to demoralise and divide our communities. It is right that we should be angry at today’s atrocities. It is no less essential that we remain clear-headed and united. We say to the terrorists: you will not succeed in setting us against one another.

Britain has long experience of terrorism. We have joined together to fight it in the past. Today, we do so again. For now, the terrorism that walks the streets of London has no face. But whatever its origin, whatever its motive, our response is the same: the British people will not be cowed and the terrorists will not win.'

Davis in the Commons yesterday.
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Davis Surges Ahead"

Under the headline 'Davis surges ahead', the Telegraph reports that DD's support among MPs is now 'north of 50'.

Of course, as the Tory Leadership Blog has reminded us, this is one of the least dependable (ie trustworthy) electorates anywhere. So we can't really be sure of anything until actual votes are counted.

For what it's worth, TLB put Our Man's 'known' support at 27, including the four new declarations we recorded yesterday.

By way of comparison, the Telegraph puts both Ken and David Cameron neck-and-neck on about 25 each. Whereas TLB puts Cameron on just 9, and Ken on some share of the 30 they identify as being for the Clarke/Lansley/Rifkind composite beast.

Overall, TLB reckon they have identified the voting intentions of 78 of the 197 Tory MPs. So still a deal of uncertainty.

Much more compelling is the weight of money behind DD. The bookies have him on 1/2, equivalent to a 67 per cent probability of success. Cameron they put on 20 per cent, still well behind but a significant improvement following India Knight's declaration of fanciability.

Poor old Ken is now trailing way behind on 16/1, a barely visible 6 per cent probability of winning. Still, the bookies were wrong about Paris getting the Olympics, so Ken may figure they could be wrong again.

He probably shouldn't hold his breath.
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When Can We Get Started?

I've just re-read DD's speech to the Centre For Policy Studies on Monday. It reads even better the second time around.

The really exciting thing about it is that combination of normal everyday language with strong underlying substance. Take this bit:

'Opening up government monopolies would allow the independent and voluntary sectors to offer services to the many, rather than the privileged few. Putting the State's spending power in the hands of patients and parents would give them unprecedented control. The natural forces of competition would drive up standards.'

There are those who argue that people don't want more choices: they just want better services. Some of the other leadership contenders follow that line.

But that just leads to a load of vacuous pieties about how we can manage stuff better than Labour. Yet we know that managerialism has failed, and we underestimate the voters if we think they can't grasp that. Competition and choice are the only way forward, and we will gain credibility if we consistently stick to that message.

As for people not wanting to be choosers, the great thing about choice and competition is that it actually only takes a few customers to be active chooser/switchers to have the desired effect on service standards for all. Over recent months a few thousand customers have switched from Asda to Sainsburys. The Asda management has immediately jumped to attention and taken the kind of action public sector monopolies wouldn't dream of taking in fifty years. So all their customers can now look forward to an improvement in standards- even those who never even considered switching.

But you see, there I go again- drilling down into far too much 'stuff' for most people.

One of the key skills of leadership is to put across substantive ideas in simple language. The ability to convey the substance, without befuddling everyone with too much detail.

Davis has that skill, and the sooner he is shaping our overall message, the better.
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More MPs declare for Davis

Four more MPs have come out for DD.

Former Treasury minister John Maples, shadow Europe minister Graham Brady, and the newly-elected Nadine Dorries have all said that they would be backing the shadow home secretary. They join Shailesh Vara, the party's only Asian MP, who declared support earlier in the week.

These declarations underline Our Man's ability to draw support from right across the party. Maples for example is from the centre-left, and backed Ken in the 2001 contest.

Meanwhile, there are encouraging signs of a rank and file rebellion against that egregious power grab by MPs at the 1922 Committee.

Some senior MPs are showing the guts and common sense to stand up for members. We have already heard from Theresa on this, and she's again urging activists to “fight for all you are worth” to keep a say in the leadership contest.

Even amiable old toff Michael Ancram now says:

“Rather than restricting or removing the franchise, we should be looking to extend it in a way that will attract the enlistment of a much wider representation. To do that we must show our membership that we value them.”

Cheers, Mike. Although surely it can't be true that, as the Times suggests, your statement is mainly 'to prepare the way' for your own leadership bid.

We're all for Toff Rights, but...well...streuth...are you 'avin' a larf?
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Monday, July 04, 2005

Exchange Of Bullets

DD has returned fire after last week's assertion by Michael Howard that tax cuts are not the Tories' electoral 'silver bullet'.

Davis said tonight in his speech to the Centre For Policy Studies:

'Some argue that low taxes aren't a silver bullet for the Conservative Party. And of course there's no single remedy to the position we're in.

But accepting the high tax, high spend terms of the debate set by Gordon Brown is certainly a bullet to the heart of electoral success.'

Excellent stuff.

He went on to say that delivering low taxes does not mean "slashing" state spending, just ensuring that spending does not increase faster than growth of the economy.

It's a measured conservative programme, and it's important to understand he's not just making it up on the hoof. He is following the direction already set out in some detail by Reform, the thinktank he was instrumental in establishing.

Last February, they published their Manifesto For Reform, which among other things called for a Growth Rule to govern public spending. Their rule was for trend spending growth to be set 2 per cent per annum lower than trend GDP growth, thus allowing substantial tax cuts over time.

Davis doesn't need to start a new policy agenda from scratch- he's been working it up for at least the last five years.


Update: Tory Leadership Blog reports that DD's speech was largely penned by Nick Herbert. Herbert of course is now the MP for Arundel, but he was previously head of Reform. He is also a member of the Direct Democracy group of new MPs. What we're being offered here is not a one-man band, but a team in waiting with a properly researched policy platform.

Please don't let those vainglorious 'anybody-but-DD' MPs blow us up again.
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Mr Fixit Will Be Needed

DD vs DC- it's shaping up as Mr Fixit vs Mr Empathy (two of Mrs Tyler's favourite Mister Men).

Mr Fixit is going to sort those failing public services, grip the dependency culture, and beat up the bad guys. Just like Clint he'll clamp his cheroot between his teeth and do what has to be done.

Mr Empathy is going to talk a lot about healing our broken society, how we'll all pull together, and how there's good in everyone. Just like Hugh, he'll take you for a cappuccino, talk to you, hold your hand, and be very concerned (well, obviously he won't do that stuff in the parked car, but you know what I mean).

No prizes for guessing which one I prefer. And sometimes, when it's dark and stormy, and Lee Van Cleef has just ridden into town, we all want Mr Fixit. But most of the time, a disturbingly high number of people go for Mr Empathy.

And you know what? A lot of them are women. Indeed the Political Thinker says:

'For women it isn’t what the politicians say, it’s more their looks, their style, their charm … It’s not what they say, it’s how they say it, and it’s also how they act.'

I'm not sure we post-modernists are really supposed to say stuff like that, but let's suppose he's right. Given that problem with those missing famale votes, does it mean we should go for Mr Empathy?

If this is our choice, we need to be very careful. We wouldn't want to go into the forthcoming maelstrom of New Labour's economic comeuppance led by someone who might be great on empathy but doesn't know how to shoot straight.
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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Words With Mrs Tyler

I'm afraid I've had to have words with Mrs Tyler. It was over all this stuff about women liking the look of David C.

In truth, she's always felt that Our Man lacks a certain...well, what would you say? A certain sparkle. And today we've had a couple of female commentators backing “young, charming, telegenic and altogether less macho than Davis” Cameron.

So now Mrs T is going on about all those female voters who've got to be brought back, and how DC is warm, super-articulate, normal...and, while she hasn't actually admitted to an India Knight style crush, I'm definitely concerned.

Yes I've tried all that stuff about DD's 'matinee idol/grey-haired US news anchor looks', and how 'he makes Tory ladies swoon', but it didn't really work. Mrs T wasn't swooning, and in fact she always did prefer Macca to Lennon (yup, we really are that old).

Of course I went on about Cameron's lack of experience, and how we don't want another Hague problem. But she wasn't convinced, reckoning that Blair was young and inexperienced when he took over. 'Cameron would offer a fresh start.'

So I laid into all that drivelling managerialist nonsense Cameron's been coming out with, and she just stared at me. 'Wat, nobody cares about all that except you guys with your blogs and too much time on your hands. We can't do anything unless we get elected, and I'm beginning to think we'll have a much better chance with DC.'

This is not good. Not good at all.

So David (our David), if you're listening, don't waste any more time on me. I'm convinced. I know you're wired up the right way and you're going to pursue the right policies as leader.

Stop worrying about me. What you've got to do now is win back Mrs T.

You've got to use your upcoming 'future of Conservatism' speeches to really show you care. She wants to feel warmth, fluency, optimism, and the dream.

Lennon's OK, but it's Imagine, not Money.
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With Friends Like These...

Two declare for David C this morning.

Ollie Letwin says Cameron is 'someone who believes in free markets, a stronger society, a more civilised Britain and a more civilised politics'.

Yes. Well, Ollie...the thing is we all believe in that, but the question is how we deliver it. Not all of us agree that merely aping Blair is the way to go.

Actually, I like Ollie. It's just that he shouldn't be in the messy compromised business of politics. He's like an innocent wandering around a war zone- you don't want to stand too close to him in case something goes off bang (his latest landmine is the CAP- see here).

Then there's...gasp...I'm not sure I can do this...no, big breathes...India Knight.

Pass me that oxygen mask...under the headline 'At last, a fanciable Tory', India witters on in her usual vacuous pampered way about how Little David 'actually seems like a person you might have a conversation with. That he looks, you know, nice. That the things he says are humane and intelligent and make sense.'

Proclaiming she has never voted Tory in her life, she goes on to contrast DC with Our Man, who 'makes rather an enormous deal of having been raised on a council estate'.

Well, I don't imagine India was raised on a council estate, and I don't imagine she sends her kids to state schools, and I don't imagine she uses the NHS, and she once wrote a book called The Shops, summarised by one reviewer thus:

'India Knight lives in a world where godparents start laying down wines at Berry Bros. for a christening present, and suggests you buy boys of six-to-eight dinosaur eggs that start “at a couple of hundred quid.” Her book’s the most shameless piece of showing off that I’ve ever witnessed. And the really, really cringeworthy bits are when she occasionally remembers poor people might be reading and says, of course, if you can’t afford perfume for Les Senteurs for your mum’s birthday, you can draw her up a voucher to say that you’ll paint her nails. Or better yet, when she suggests that to reach the “true Heaven” of a £335 goose feather duvet, you could: “get everyone you know to donate a fiver at your next birthday.”

Her protestations that she isn’t a “repulsive capitalist monster, urged on by greed and the need to acquire and amass” ring a little hollow after a while, especially as every time she’s defending the thrill of shopping she mentions, say, flowers, hair bobbles and lollipops, whereas the rest of the time she’s insisting that the only straightening irons worth buying cost £88, and that if you “can’t be arsed to cook but shun the microwave” you want to order “thyme-rich” beef stew and “pistachio meringues that look like works of art” from The Grocer on Elgin. Oh, not an oven-chip sandwich then?'

She should live in Notting Hill.

Update: Make that three declarations for DC- Suzanne Moore in the Mail On Sunday (not available without a sub, but see Tory Leadership Blog)
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Davis Rattles Blair

As the Serf has consistently pointed out here, our tortuous six-month leadership campaign will at least allow more people to focus on DD's leadership qualities in action.

This morning we have more evidence of how he's rattling Labour. The Torygraph reports that Tony is so concerned about Charles Clarke's dire showing against Davis, that he's grabbed the Home Office controls himself.

Time and time again, Our Man is exposing the yawning chasm between Labour's high-flown waffle, and the incompetent shambles they actually deliver. From ID cards, to ASBOs, to illegal immigrants, Davis is on the front foot and knocking seven shades of- I'm sorry- shit out of Clarke and his ineffectual team.

Things are so black for Charlie that Downing Street has already uttered the dread words :"The Prime Minister has complete confidence in the Home Secretary."

So it seems quite possible that DD will be the first Shadow Minister ever to see off not one, but two successive Cabinet opponents.

We look forward to the time he stands toe to toe with Tiger Tone himself.
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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ouch!

As you may know, we eschew knocking copy on DD's leadership rivals. But the splenetic Stephen Pollard observes no such niceties. This morning he has a real go at Little "Moderniser" David:

'The only two aspects of Mr Cameron’s life to have entered public knowledge are that he was educated at Eton and Oxford, and that he is part of the so-called “Notting Hill Set”. He has left no other discernible mark on the planet. However, since he was policy co-ordinator for the last Conservative manifesto, it is surely a reasonable assumption that he supported it.'

Scheesh.

It's unclear who does get Pollard's support (or maybe I missed it), but since he used to head the Social Market Foundation, I'm guessing it's Two-Brains. Who does have genuine "moderniser" credentials, but who- as we've observed before- sadly lacks leadership twinkle.


PS: For the full frontal lobotomy on Cameron's managerialist modernism, see this at Stumbling & Mumbling
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Friday, July 01, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 16

It's been a while since we updated our bloggers list.

Babbleblog says DD 'is ready for leadership NOW'- difficult to disagree with that, although he adds:

'It does seem bizarre though, that the main candidates of the Conservative Party leadership battle is going to be between a homosexual [Alan Duncan] and a bastard child of a single parent.'

Although a battle between an old Etonian and a grammar school boy is much more par for the course.

Fuzzer70 reports 'i thro £20 on David Davis last night to be next tory leader @4-1 with Hills'. Smart boy- he laid his money down on 6 May. (Further down the same site there's a posting about Michael Barrymore that quite put me off my tea- not recommended for those of a sensitive disposition)

And in terms of new bloggers, that's pretty well it. Except for we long-haul bloggers, the novelty of a six month leadership contest has worn off after less than two.
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Has Howard Done Us A Favour?

We've argued before that Michael Howard's decision to go for a six month leadership contest was going to inflict on the Party a lot of entirely avoidable damage. And we can already see it in terms of slumping morale among grassroots members, and perhaps even more pressing, the collapse of donor funding, forcing a wave of redundancies among party staff.

Of course, our MPs are enjoying it. Hugely. Once they'd kicked Monbiot's plans for MP performance objectives way off into the long stinging nettles, and then grabbed back the sole right to elect the leader, they could turn their full attention to the one thing they like best- plotting. Plotting, and being the centre of attention. The two things they like best...

But not everyone takes this view. Longtime party supporters the Grauniad reckon:

'Mr Howard has never done his party a greater service than to insist that he would hang around long enough to ensure that his party developed the habit of being serious about itself. The Tories should pick a new leader when they understand what kind of leader they need, not before...and...the lively debate in the Tory party is good for politics too.'

Hmm.

'At last the Tories seem to be shedding the instinct to move to the right in order to take Labour on. Instead, they seem now to grasp that they must win in the centre or not win at all. There is no better check or balance in our political system that the existence of an effective opposition. The Tory party needs to be able to scare its opponents.'

Ah. It's that Polly line again. So I guess it's only a matter of time now before they come out for Little David, although they won't like his Mary Whitehouse views on normal families and telly filth. So maybe they'll join Mary Ann in backing Willetts.

Anyway, setting aside the morale and finance issues, is there any truth in the idea that Mikey has done us all a favour?

I must admit to changing my view on this. Amid all the vacuous positioning speeches/articles, I think the Party is in the middle of one of those generational mindset changes. For the first time in thirty years we are seriously confronting the choices the nation faces on public services and the Welfare State. And together, we're realising there are some real practical alternatives that lie between Labour's hopeless managerialist big state, and the scarey libertarian minimalist 'Law and War' state. And we are the only people who can take them forward.

David Willetts' excellent speech to the Social Market Foundation is the meatiest contribution thus far, but Our Man will be making his own Big Speech shortly (by some miracle- and entirely independently of DD- I've actually got an invite; hurrah).

Engaged debate is taking place all over. From Bulgarian champagne evenings in the Home Counties, to the blogosphere (with your indulgence, see eg Once More). Three election defeats are concentrating our minds, but it's the Mikey leadership hiatus that's giving us the window.

The future is bright. The future is blue. And when we're back in power, I have a feeling we will be giving M Howard at least some of the credit.

Even if the Party is bankrupt.


Update: Turns out I haven't got an invite to the Big Speech- at the CPS next week- but only to a mass market re-run the following week. Hope it's not just going to be a tribute band reprise.
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