Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 23

Peter C Glover at Wires From The Bunker posts:

'For me none of the current candidates has a truly conservative vision. But David Davis is, as I have always said, perhaps comes closest to having one and is my pick of the Tory 'hooded' bunch.'

Coming from Mr Glover, that's a major endorsement. So he definitely joins our list.

(htp Eu Serf)
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Rummaging In Ken's Attic

Rummaging through the dusty scrapbooks piled up in Ken's attic produces this:

'As for the national health service...The principle of managing any giant organisation is that one devolves responsibility locally as much as possible, so long as local bodies remain accountable to the centre and one can give them clear objectives regarding the standards and quality that they are meant to deliver...quality standards such as waiting time targets, pupil achievement targets or rates of detection targets for those who deliver the service.' (Commons speech 14 July 2004).

Nothing could show more clearly why Ken- Big Beast that he undoubtedly is- has had his day. Because that's exactly how he tried to reform our underperforming public services fifteen years ago. And it's exactly how Labour, after their initial hesitations, have been trying to do it ever since.

But although Ken hasn't noticed, while he was spending the last eight years pursuing other interests (see how I resisted saying 'earning a squillion quid?') , Conservative thinking has moved on.

That managerial stuff might have been worth a try back in Ken's hey day, but it simply hasn't worked. And the rest of us can see that.

So Tory thinktankers from Reform to Policy Exchange have been hard at work developing alternatives. And those alternatives are based not on top down managerialism, but consumer choice, competition, and fiscal decentralisation. It is an exciting development which will play a major role in returning us to power, will deliver vastly better public services, and will in time, transform the relationship between state and individual.

Which is precisely why David Davis is making it a central part of his platform.

In contrast, and sadly, all we can expect from Ken is that he will dust off those scrapbooks of when we was fab, and tell us once again that he already knows all the answers.
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Ken's Net Campaign On The Blink

Having recently acquired one of those new fangled facsimile machines, Ken has apparently wasted no time in launching himself onto the net.

Except that every time I've tried to access http://www.kenclarke.co.uk/ , I get a message that says "Under construction- Lanz".

All rather concerning, particularly since the word Lanz is certainly not British. Possibly something to do with that sinister Bilderberg connection.

Update- Seems to be working now. Off to have a rummage.
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Best Leader Lib Dems Never Had?

Given that it's going to be Clarke vs Davis, we're thinking about keeping our Clarke powder dry until we can see the whites of his eyes.

But he does make one statement in his Mail interview that can't be allowed to pass unremarked:

"If I were a Liberal Democrat, I'd be more alarmed at me becoming leader than any of the other candidates. Some of the younger [LibDem] MPs would have difficulty explaining why they weren't in a Clarke-led Conservative Party. I won't name individual MPs, but I regard it as reproof to the Conservative Party of the last ten years that some of these people wound up as Liberal Democrats at all."

Well, I guess we can see why he's saying it, but quite a few of us Tory party members have difficulty in explaining why Ken isn't in the Lib Dems. He agrees with them on so much: not just Iraq, but Europe and statism as well.

And while it would be electorally handy to win back votes from the Lib Dems, Ken would be most unlikely to win back votes from UKIP, that most estimates suggest cost us 20 seats or so in May. In fact, he would make that problem worse.

Luckily for Ken, the Lib Dems themselves are looking for a new leader. So...
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Davis Vs Clarke: Where Now For Cameron?

The formal launch of Ken's campaign means the final will be between him and DD. Already he's surged past David C at the bookies, and while he remains a long way behind Our Man, the gap has closed.

Cameron's one remaining hope is that the 27 September Convention rejects the change to our leadership voting rules so that members retain the final say. In those circumstances- whatever may be hinted- it must be unlikely that Ken would actually go through with it. So he and his supporters better get canvassing those mysterious Convention members.

All this of course is deeply ironic. Howard, Maude and others tabled their proposed changes to our constitution specifically to get poor DC elected. And all they've actually succeeded in doing is to get their boy savaged by an old Beast they thought had nodded off for good.

Cameron presumably has his escape plan ready. Which we assume involves executing the Davis Dash at some stage. The question for him is how long he can leave it before all the good jobs get snaffled by those who are quicker off the blocks.

Tricky.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Life In A Parallel Universe

I've been criticised for not taking Sir Malcolm Rifkind (25/1) seriously enough to criticise him. I don't think that's quite fair, but it's difficult to criticise a man who lives in an entirely parallel universe, summarised by a supporter thus:

'It's no good being the favourite in the first round. Malcolm does have backers and enough to see him into the second and third rounds. That's when the real politics begins.

Malcolm has experience, the Scottish background and the gravitas needed for the job.

We think he's got enough support now to get to the crucial stage when he could slip through the middle as the candidate of unity. And everyone knows that like Ken Clarke he does have the brains, the charisma and the gravitas to give Tony Blair and Gordon Brown a hard time.'

I particularly like the bit about 'the Scottish background', but the whole thing is reminiscent of that wonderful episode of Yes Minister when Hacker slips through the middle to become PM.

If only real life was like that, eh Malcolm?
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"Good Judgement" Ken

According to Andrew Grice, Ken Clarke is about to play the Iraq card:

'Allies of Mr Clarke insist it is legitimate for him to raise the Iraq issue because the continuing problems on the ground in Iraq bear out his good judgement - his main "selling point" to Tory MPs.'

Good judgement, eh?

Would this be the same KC who wanted to take us into the Euro and the EU Constitution?. Or the one who still thinks it's OK to draw a million quid from BAT?

As one of his allies says:

'If he had been Tory leader, the political landscape would have looked very different.'

Indeed it would.

Indeed it would.


Update: On Conservative Leadership Blog, Selsdon Man adds:

'From the Evening Standard on 26th August: "Publisher of the Independent newspaper, Independent News & Media, paid him about £50,000 as a director of its UK division and for sitting on its international advisory board of political and business thinkers".
We can expect the Indie to back its employee. Would he still have been an employee if he had vigorously supported the Iraq War?'
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Monday, August 29, 2005

The Green And Scaly Option

From his vast Commons office overlooking Parliament Square, Sir Malcolm 'Vitality and Energy' Rifkind warns us:

"If the Conservative Party wants to choose the one nation tradition of Conservatism as the way in which it will regain the confidence and support of the public, then I would be proud to be its leader.

If the party, in its wisdom, chooses to go green and scaly then obviously it should look elsewhere.

I think that's a real choice and I think it's important that in appealing to the public, the party should first be clear what its own priorities are".

Well, OK...what he actually said was: "If the party, in its wisdom, comes to the view that a more right wing policy concentrating on immigration, on Europe and issues of that kind are the way forward then obviously it should look elsewhere."

But I think we can all spot the green and scaly option when we see it.

You see, Sir M, none of your rivals is proposing that. And having watched in horror how the Howard campaign team positioned us during the last election, I can't believe many of us members want it either.

Now...just remind me...who was on that campaign team?
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Labour Hopelessly Split Over Leadership

The Blairites back Cameron, the Brownites back Davis, and now we learn that 'senior Labour figures believe that a Conservative Party led by Kenneth Clarke would represent the biggest threat to their chances of winning a fourth consecutive general election.'

Obviously they're hopelessly split, just like they used to be over Iraq, Europe, public service reform, etc etc.

Surely this time we've found an issue we could and should exploit.

Time for the kill.
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dream Ticket Revisited

Long, long ago, when the world was young and the leadership contest was just getting underway, we put forward the idea of a Davis/Cameron dream ticket. We reckoned it would provide an excellent blend of right and left, trad and mod, youth and experience. And the 17 year age gap would give us a built in succession plan much more tenable than any grubby Granita deal.

Of course, we subsequently heard rumours that relations between the Davis and Cameron camps were arctic, and we were also discomforted by some of the younger David's pronouncements: in particular, he seemed rather too smitten by New Labour managerialism for our public services. So we shelved the idea.

But things have moved on again. For a start, Ken Clarke's virtual declaration- with its attendant split in the leftish vote- seems to have concentrated DC's mind. In fact, he's taken to speaking quite warmly of Davis:

"We get on very well. We both worked for John Major in 1990. I was responsible for going to help brief John Major for Prime Minister's Questions and David Davis was the whip who was also helping and we used to get up very early in the morning and read the papers together and wander across to Downing Street."

We know he discussed his recent speech on security with DD, and it is notable how he has aligned himself with the Davis rather than the Clarke positions on Europe and Iraq.

It's always seemed to us that the inexperienced DC never really believed he would win this time. And we've wondered if those who pressured and flattered him into standing were really doing him any great service. As an unnamed Clarke supporter says:

"Cameron does not have the support to win the contest himself. He needs to double up with someone who is older and more experienced and Ken is someone with serious clout and a desire to be prime minister."

We agree with that...except for the last bit, obviously.

So perhaps it's time to revisit that Dream Ticket: the two Davids would be an unstoppable combination. One that would not only cruise to a comfortable victory in our leadership election, but which- contrary to the hopeless defeatism of some fairweather Tories- would be odds on to beat Blairless vacuous Labour in 2010.


PS According to Miguel, Ken's broken his nose, presumably to keep up with DD. If he's prepared to do that, he must be keen.
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Miguel Flip-Flops...Again

Michael Portillo comes out today for Ken:

'With Clarke, we know the man if not the policies. It is clear that his popularity extends well beyond those who vote Tory. The media find him impressive. He is unflappable on television and in the Commons. There is no doubting his ability to lead. In the general election people would still plump for Brown rather than Clarke. They would choose the younger man from the more attractive party. But I believe that Clarke would get a better result than Michael Howard did and better than any of his rivals could.'

Sheesh. That's backing? Ken will lead us to a less worse defeat than Howard?

Who dares wins, Mig. Did you never hear that?

And why have you deserted our own ranks? In June you wrote about Our Man:

'You have to be impressed by this shrewd political operator...also has a remarkable knack with people...he is acquainted with real life in a way that few Tories are...even though the media have wearied of hearing about it, his background remains an asset for him.It is impressive that he has spoken out against identity cards and the government’s disregard for human rights in its anti-terrorism legislation. Nonetheless he is seen as a right-wing figure (which will help him to be chosen by MPs). Even so I would not be surprised if once elected he emerges as a Trojan horse for the modernisers.

If I were still in parliament I would consider voting for him.'

Well OK, that wasn't exactly ringing either...but, then this is Michael Portillo.

Mr P inflicted huge damage on our party when he was an MP. Backstabbing, plotting, defeatism, and a complete absence of policy backbone (see eg Tory Wars, by Simon Waters)

So it's business as usual from Mr Showbiz (third from the bottom...as it were).
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Yeo For Ken. Yo.

Tim Yeo has suddenly woken up and declared for Ken:

"In my view unquestionably the most likely person to defeat Labour and to see off the threat from the Liberal Democrats is Ken Clarke."

How old is Tim Yeo? 60? 70?

You know, it's difficult to tell. He certainly didn't look that great the last time I saw him talking about his leadership bid.

And what job has Ken promised him? It must be more than Shadow Minister For Golf. Shadow Chancellor?

(Yes, I know all about my new leaf. But Tim Yeo? Why did he ever think he was qualified to lead me?)
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A Reform Leader

There is a view you see trailed around the blogosphere that DD doesn't have any policy ideas of his own. That his pronouncements are either devoid of intellectual content, or where they have content, they're penned by Nick Herbert. That, while he may have latched onto ideas promulgated by the Reform think tank, that's only because he has none of his own.

Unsurprisingly, we think that view is totally wrong.

First, take the Reform think tank. It seems to us to have done excellent work in fleshing out a radical agenda for public sector reform based on consumer choice and competition. And it has been absolutely resolute in asserting its independence. It says:

'Reform was set up in 2002 by a team of individuals who believe that a new type of organisation was needed to promote the case for radical public sector and economic reform.

We are determinedly independent and strictly non-party in our approach. We believe that there has been policy failure in relation to public services over a period of years under all governments, and we want to persuade all parties that there is a better way. Our non-party approach is reflected in our cross-party Advisory Board and Council.'


All absolutely correct, as you will see if you check out its Board and Council.

Except...we're not quite sure it entirely captures story of its foundation. Because the way we heard it- from an inpeccable source, not DD's camp, and some time ago now- Reform was 'David Davis's think tank'. Just as Policy Exchange was Francis Maude's.

We confess we don't know exactly what that meant in terms of practicalities, and it was not something that was shouted from the rooftops. Which is why Googling around produces only one corroborating story, bizarrely from EDP24- "The site where Norfolk really matters"- dateline October 31, 2001:

'The supposedly independent campaign organisation called Reform...is being established by supporters of...David Davis.'

Hmm...yes, well OK, a bit thin. But do you really think it's coincidental that Nick Herbert, Reform's first Director, is now one of DD's closest lieutenants?

Which is why we expect to see DD roll out a policy platform that is pretty similar to Reform's. Which we think is spot on.

So does it matter that it's not all Davis' own work? That Two-Brains does all his own policy crunching, while Davis relies more on others?

Talk sense, will you? DD's role is to lead a team. He needs to keep a firm grip on the big picture and put around him people he can trust to take care of the detail.

Just like that woman we're not supposed to talk about any more. And all those excellent thinkers she drew on to fuel her transformational politics.

We don't need a think-tanker.

We need a leader.


PS For those who've not read it, the Reform Manifesto is here, and the associated Briefing is here. James Bartholomew's critique is here.
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I Am Big

There's more than a touch of the Norma Desmonds about Ken:

"You're Ken Clarke! You used to be in Tory politics. Used to be big.'

"I am big. It's the politics that got small.'

And when you look at it that way, you can easily understand why he won't submit himself to the votes of mere party members.

And why he won't meekly trot along to one of Stuart Wheeler's dinner parties. Or provide an endorsement post on the excellent Conservative Leadership Blog.

It's demeaning. Big Beasts shouldn't have to do any of that stuff.

So I suggest he gets this guy to do the chores.

(And while we're here, just check this out!)
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Vaizey: Sorry About Newsnight

Ed Vaizey reflects on that depressing Newsnight leadership discussion:

'Last week I lost my Newsnight virginity. I appeared on the programme in front of Kirsty Wark. It felt a bit like an audience with the Queen.

My co-panellists were Michael Brown and Ann Widdecombe. By the time we had finished, we had made the royal corgis look models of good behaviour. We were supposed to be discussing the leadership of the Conservative party. We ended up having a shouting match.

The whole spectacle must have been completely unedifying. It will have switched off many more than a handful of neutral voters. I agree with the many who have told me that this is not the way to conduct a leadership campaign. Lesson learned.'

We like the look of 37 year-old Ed, and we think he holds great promise for the future. And let's be honest, he isn't the first to wake up in the morning with a headache and a feeling of embarrassment at his virgin performance with an older woman.

So we applaud his openness in admitting he's still got a lot to learn.

Interesting too are his further comments about the leadership race. Describing Ken's 'near-as-dammit' declaration as 'electrifying', he says there are two big concerns:

'However widely loved someone is as a potential candidate, that love soon cools when they are leader. He will be judged on different criteria than whether or not he is a good bloke.'

Excellent point.

'Second, there has so far been little evidence that Ken has done some of the hard thinking needed on the issues a Conservative government would need to tackle if it was elected in 2009. His conversion on the euro is a decade too late - and even then it is one of practicality rather than principle.'

You certainly can't argue with that.

He reckons- as we do- that the real choice is between DD and DC. On Our Man, he says: 'Davis has been much-maligned, unfairly so.' And in stark contrast to Watlington's rather strange comment, he adds 'There is much to recommend him, not least the support of Nick Herbert MP and his chief of staff Iain Dale, two men I have huge respect for. I am sure that Davis, too, would be an effective leader. '

Naturally, Ed is still backing his friend DC: 'I think he measures up to Davis in terms of charisma and intellectual ability. But I believe he has something else in his favour. One of the charges laid against him - his inexperience - is actually a strength, in my view. The public want to see a leader of the Conservative party who sends out a clear message simply because of who he is - a fresh start.'

We think there are some important differences of belief as well ( eg DC being rather too fond of Labour-style managerialism), but we certainly respect Ed's view.

Except of course, we think that inexperience thing is a show-stopper. It did for poor William Hague, and at this stage of his career it would do for David Cameron.

For the first time in living memory, our Parliamentary party is buzzing with young talent. It must be cherished and nurtured, not shredded.

An inexperienced late-night fumble with Kirsty is one thing: being pitched into the first morning of the Somme is quite another.
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Friday, August 26, 2005

Davis On Clarke Challenge

DD was interviewed on BBC R4 Today this morning. Although a BBC technical gremlin means we can't hear replays, we do know that he called for the suspension of the new licensing Act, the so-called Binge Drinkers' Charter:

"What we need to do is suspend this whole thing, full stop, until we've got the current problem, which already exists... under control."

This amplifies his previous statements, and reflects mounting anxiety nationwide about the operation of this half-baked measure.

He was also asked if he thought Ken Clarke was a serious challenge for the leaderhip, responding: "No, I don't think so. We're in the middle of August. Most parliamentarians, I suspect, are elsewhere, they're not even here and they're the ones, by the looks of it, who are going to have the vote.

"What we're seeing in the course of all this is a lot of newspaper manoeuvring which will have very little effect at all on the end result."

Sounds like DD takes the same view as us: Ken isn't going to win.

But unlike us, he's far too statesmanlike to propose the cuddly one's immediate withdrawal. He's also too polite to give that tobacco dagger another twist, merely noting that the BAT job is neither a "qualification nor a disqualification for anything".

He's similarly even-handed in his comments on David Cameron's bar and nighclub interests: "The only question is does a parliamentarian misuse their position. I'm quite sure David hasn't."

And on that tricky subject, poor DC seems to seems to be getting himself in a right old tangle. One story has him resigning from the Board of bars group Urbium plc, while the next has him denying it.

Update: The BBC gremlin has now been slain- hear the interview here. And listen to how many times Davis laughs. I made it four times in nearly 8 minutes, rather different to the "he's as bad as IDS for nervous giggling" stories put about by some anti-DD bloggers.
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Experience Really Does Matter

Given my new leaf, I wasn't going to mention it. But since the inestimable Guido has now done so, I suppose I might as well.

We're talking about DC's speech to the Foreign Policy Centre, where as G notes, Dave felt it necessary to address his glaring lack of experience:

'...For much of the last parliament I sat on the home affairs select committee. Following 9/11 we examined these issues in some detail......And as a Home Office adviser in the 1990s I know the awesome responsibility on the Home Office to get it right...'

Guido comments that DC 'has been a spin merchant and a drone at CCO before becoming a minister's SpAd, prior to being elected to parliament a mere 4 years ago. Is that a thin CV for someone who wants to be PM in 4 years time?'

Well, now you come to mention it Guido...yes, I see what you mean.

And Dave also needs a crash course in stopping hares running around. Compare and contrast these two recent interview reponses:

“I don’t rule anything out” Dave on a KC/DC Dream Ticket, Today Programme, 17 August.

“I’m not interested in [joint] tickets and deals. All this talk about deals is hopelessly…” Dave on a KC/DC Dream Ticket, Today Programme, 23 August.

Er...

Yes, of course it's easy to scoff, and God knows it's not so easy to do.

But that's precisely why we need someone with some serious experience.
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Do The Decent Thing Ken- Withdraw

So David C has rejected the idea of joining Ken's "Dream Ticket", saying that their views on Europe are too divergent. As we noted yesterday, this is a very sensible move by DC, both for himself and the party.

Now as a DD supporter, half of me thinks Ken should stay in the race. After all, he's likely to split the support for a leftish candidate possibly making things easier for Our Man. Which is presumably why DC is now trying to woo the party's right.

But there's no way that two-time loser Euro-Ken is going to win, however much people like Mrs Andrew Marr urge him on us. And whichever voting sytem we eventually go for.

As Matthew D'Ancona says today:

'What matters most is that the candidates ask the right questions, ditch the tired arguments of the past, and seek to construct a genuinely new Conservatism. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr Clarke, for all his experience, brio and irrepressible "blokishness" is capable of, or even interested in, this intellectual task.

But why bother with such complexities when you regard yourself as the solution? Denied his "dream ticket", Mr Clarke prepares to wade into yet another contest that could rejuvenate his party, or wreck it. And, if he loses, who is to say he will not try again? And again?'


A good question.

Ken should put aside his delusions of grandeur and for once in his life, put the party first.

He should withdraw, leaving us with a clear choice between DD and DC.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Yet More Good Sense From Cameron

According to the Times, DC will today put an end to the rumours that he is about to join Ken's "Dream Ticket".

'In a speech restarting his own leadership campaign after the summer recess, Mr Cameron will strongly take issue with Mr Clarke’s disagreement with the Iraq war...His strong backing for the Iraq war is intended to show the stark differences between his views and Mr Clarke’s.'

Excellent move David. What's more:

'Many of his supporters believe Mr Cameron, 38, would back David Davis, the frontrunner, rather than Mr Clarke if he fails to make it to the final run-off.'

It's not quite the original Davis Dash, but it's definitely heading in the right direction.
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How To Turn Round A Party

Ever since we started this blog, we've been trying to get find a copy of DD's book 'How To Turn Round A Company'. He wrote it after turning round a troubled subsidiary of his then employer Tate & Lyle.

At long last, we can read selected highlights in today's Telegraph:

"The turnaround expert is often portrayed as a hero. In the aftermath of a rescue it may look that way but when he enters the company this is rarely the case. In a typical crisis situation the key decision is the change of the leader. From this decision virtually all others flow."

A new leader must have "psychological control", "challenge everything" and "follow up everything". He must take brutal decisions, such as redundancies, first. And his brisk demeanour should "ripple through the organisation".

Any successful turnaround expert will have two characteristics. "Firstly, it will be very apparent, or he will make it apparent, that without radical action on his part all will be lost"; and secondly, because he is not associated with past disasters, he will have a honeymoon period of about 100 days.

Before developing his strategic plan, a turnaround specialist must identify the causes of decline. These can include management failure. "Occasionally, the managers who created the company's success will neatly see it into its grave." Companies can become prisoners of their history and "over time, all successes eventually become obsolete".

If Mr Davis does become leader, he will remember that it was when the party lost its reputation for economic competence that it got into real trouble. "An organisation's accounts provide the single most consistent, most reliable, and most relevant information available," he writes.

He emphasises the importance of marketing and of recognising a failed organisation's "inability to analyse the market and organise a strategy based on a clear understanding of the company's position".


Interesting.

When William Hague tried to turn us around, he gave his shadow cabinet colleagues copies of Philip Gould's 'The Unfinished Revolution- How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party'. Sounds like DD should give them a copy of his own book.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rumour Mill

Yesterday's rumour was that the Cornerstone group of socially conservative MPs were so dismayed by the existing choice of candidates that they were going to put up one of their own. The names in the frame were Edward Leigh or Bernard Jenkin.

The sole result was to call down a great steaming heap of ripe ordure from the blogosphere onto this unfortunate duo. "Vain" and "stupid" were two of the nicer epithets.

Of course, the whole thing sounded highly improbable at the time, and today we learn that 'one mooted candidate, Bernard Jenkin, ruled himself out. The other, Edward Leigh, is on holiday.

"It's true that the [existing] candidates have been unsatisfactory for us. None of the three who came to dinner with us seemed sufficiently robust," said another member of the group, referring to David Davis, David Cameron and Liam Fox. But he added: "I have heard no suggestion we will put someone forward."

We'll never know where the original rumour came from, but at least we do now know those Cornerstone grillings took place over dinner.

My, but those candidates must be putting on a few pounds.
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Hezza Positions Himself For Davis Victory

This morning the BBC ran another of its regular public service ads for Ken Clarke. As usual it was fronted by the ever popular Hezza "Huge Influence In The Party" Heseltine.

"Ken's a professional bruiser, someone who's forever landing punches on the government...head and shoulders above...as for left or right- it's just an academic argument...trying to argue about policies is a very destructive process...Cameron is extremely personable, obviously young, who might welcome a period under...etc etc"

So far, so predictable.

But then he was asked about David Davis.

"David would be an effective leader, enthusiastic, energetic, and experienced."

What? But surely that's what we say.

Sorry, my Lord. Shouldn't you have said "I don't particularly want to discuss the other candidates: I'm here to promote Ken.'

Or could it be that even Hezza realises poor old Ken is about to go down for the third time, and is aligning himself with the new reality?
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Rudderless Ken Cuts Across

In a desperate bid to reach the finish line, Ken Clarke has apparently junked his Euro-charts and is now sailing blind.

"I thought [the Euro] would lead to increased productivity, efficiency and living standards and stimulate policy reforms. On that front it has been a failure...one-size fits all...I do not think there has ever been a time when the British could have joined with complete security and confidence. I doubt it is possible for 10 years or more."

And the Constitution?

"Effectively dead...there is no way of rescuing the treaty - although I was in favour... "

This being a "nice" blog, we'll leave it to others to point out how no sensible economic analysis of the Euro ever said it would be good for Britain, and how Ken blindly ignored that because of his Bilderbergian commitment to the integrationist European Project. And how he so loved his party that he joined Tony's road tour opposing our European policies. And how he spent the whole of the 2001 leadership hustings provoking the party with his totally unacceptable Europhiliac ranting.

And how his overweening ambition has now led him to ditch what he told us were deeply held personal convictions.
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Rees-Mogg Joins Peasantry

Probably more used to dealing with pheasants than peasants, Lord Rees-Mogg of Hinton Blewitt adds his mighty voice to ours in opposing the move to strip party members of their leadership voting rights:

'There would be no votes from the big cities, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle or Sheffield. There would be one vote from Scotland and three from Wales. Women would have 17 votes. That the board supports this shows its lack of political judgment; that it should be proposed by the leader and the parliamentary party suggests that too many of them are are not real democrats, or even good politicians. The Conservative Party needs mass support; this is the way to alienate the public.'

God save yer reverence!

Reminds us of the time when you last stormed the bastions of establishment privilege to spring young Mick Jagger from clink.

All we need is one-third of that National Convention to vote against the change.
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"Ordeal By Dinner Party"

So what must it be like at those Wheeler dinner parties? You're the candidate, up there in Stuart's Mayfair penthouse, facing not just the man himself, but also a battery of 'commentators' who've been invited along specially to make the evening go with a swing.

And you'd better come up with the right answers, because this man's pretty important in the old party purse-strings department. The man with the golden chequebook, who finally did for poor IDS, and who could stop you in your tracks.

Feeling hungry yet? Because you're going to have to eat. Wonder what it would be? Some light modern British creation perhaps? Easy to slip down. Hmm...more likely to be traditional school dinners. Trencherman helpings. Well, you'd better not eat anything else that day.

Particularly since DD will be in his element: “I’m a meat and potatoes man. I don’t like all that poncey muck” (Davis quote in The Daily Telegraph June 2oo1).

At least you know what Stuart's looking for, because he tells us:

"The new leader has got to say what he or she means. He has got to say, 'This is the right thing to do. It's not popular, but I'm going to explain why it's the right thing to do.'

For example, on pensions, it's too obvious that people are going to have to work longer and get their pensions later. It's right that politicians come out and say that."

No wonder David Cameron- only half Wheeler's age, and due round this week- has been talking up the need to develop "inter-generational" pensions policy. And doubtless he'll be working up something suitable on single mothers.

Actually, I once had a chat with Wheeler, although I only found out later who he was. I recall someone who's pretty sharp, but also quite warm. So maybe he'd let you eat first, then grill you after.

In any event, we do know that his choices for leader in 2003 were Howard, Davis , or Letwin (er...). So I'm pretty sure that at the end of all his eating he'll come to the same conclusion as the rest of us:

DD For Leader.
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Lord Tub Writes Us Off

Lord Tub of Lard, one of Britain's leading experts on losing elections, crows:

'Whoever becomes the next Conservative leader, he or she (Theresa May being no more risible a prospect than Liam Fox) is never going to be prime minister. But the Tories' clear unsuitability for government so undermines their political health that it will not be long before the electorate turns off the life support system. As a democrat, I ought to mind. But as I contemplate the imminent demise of what once claimed to be the natural party of government, I think of Oscar Wilde on the death of Little Nell. Only a man with a heart of stone could prevent himself from laughing.'

On Our Man he says:

'David Davis's irresistible attributes are said to be a broken nose, membership of the Territorial SAS and a birth certificate which confirms that he was born in a council house. If that is what it takes to become Tory leader, potential Conservative prime ministers are to be found in most job centres.'

My Lord of Lard, your slings and arrows we thank you for:
When we have match'd our rackets to your balls,
We will in 2010, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike your fat complacent face into the hazard.
(Henry V, Act I)
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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Knights Of Malta For Davis

In Scotland On Sunday Gerald Warner writes:

'If the Tories eventually pick Davis, they will at least have a leader with the pugnacity to savage Blair, Brown and all the rest of the New Labour charlatanry.'

Certainly agree with that. Gerald goes on:

'The party has to come to grips with its identity. That means seeing off the vociferous but basically insignificant faction of "modernisers"...Tories blah, blah ought to be proclaiming the timeless values of patriotism, sovereignty, monarchy, civility, marriage, family, self-help fuelling philanthropy, low taxes, diminishing state power etc etc.

They should be propagating these values, not at the behest of focus groups, but because they are what Tories have believed for centuries...blah, blah... It is time the Conservative Party set about actually conserving something. Burying neophilia and political correctness once and for all is Toryism's natural agenda.'

Well, I go along with most of that, although you have to edit it because it's starting to foam at the mouth. Almost the sort of thing I write, in fact. And neophilia? Isn't that...you know, a little weird?

No, it's OK- Google reckons it's 'n. love of novelty and new things, ideas, etc'.

So I Google Gerald Warner, and come up with a jaw-dropping blog on The Knights Of Malta Ball:

The evening was 'organised by Mr. Gerald Warner whose visceral lashings in print of all the senior hubrisarchs of our day are published weekly in Scotland on Sunday. Alas, Mr. Warner was exposed to mumps recently, and thus could not come for fear of spreading the contagion, but he very kindly gifted us two tickets...We ran into Zygmunt von Sikorski-Mazur, a Knight-of-Malta/society-photographer, Fra' Matthew (the Grand Prior of England), and Joanna [who] had been invited to Rome for the beatification of the Emperor Charles of Austria this October past, since she had written a short biography of the Blessed Charles. She was deeply moved to see Dr. Otto von Hapsburg, MEP, current leader of the clan and at least 90 years old, kneeling down to kiss the ring of the Pontiff...'

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm wondering if this is a spoof (particularly since it also refers to 'Sir Henry At Rawlinson's End', with which the blogger claims to be unfamilar, but which I happen to know was a product of the late lamented and wonderfully hilarious Viv Stanshall).

Anyway, I have to admit it does make you wonder a teensy bit about old Gerry.

And Google couldn't help on hubrisarchs.
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Ken "Must Cut Tobacco Tie"

Recently we picked up some flak for raising the old issue of Ken's directorships, and the conflicts of interest they entail. Indeed, we were 'moderated' on another blog, and even accused of polluting the unsullied blogosphere with "bile".

So we're heartened to see today's Observer picking it up:

'Clarke is not expected to sever his business links unless or until he actually becomes leader, meaning they would be fair game in a leadership contest. The issue is already increasingly discussed on the widely read leadership blogs run by David Davis supporters and within other rivals' camps.'

Eh? Hang on...hang on- don't they realise that DDFL is the premier DDfl blog? We want a PROPER PLUG!

Anyway, they home in on his Deputy Chairmanship of BAT:

'He could kind of get away with it then [in 2001], and say "I'm just a bloke down the pub who smokes" and people think, "Well, Ken's Ken",' said a source close to David Cameron's camp. 'There is a new climate now, a younger set of MPs who take a different view.'

Actually, for us it's not the cigar smoke per se, but the conflicts of interest- we think outside paid employment is incompatible with being an MP, let alone being leader. And the article shows exactly how such conflicts can arise:

'Clarke's portfolio as non-executive deputy chairman of BAT includes corporate social responsibility, which an internal discussion document suggests is regarded as a way of fending off criticism. The 2000 paper notes: 'The process [of CSR] will not only help BAT achieve a position of recognised responsibility, but also provide "air cover" from criticism while improvements are being made.'

A second document obtained by The Observer shows that Clarke attended a meeting in Geneva in 1999, in which the company discussed with Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco ways to ensure that the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - the first global attempt to curb tobacco consumption - would not hurt their profits.

Among the topics discussed were ways the tobacco firms could work together to resist advertising bans and fund research into the links between smoking and disease, countering claims made by anti-smoking groups.'

In fact, CSR- or Corporate Social Responsibility- has been a major growth industry over recent years, and is a notorious exercise in PC box ticking. All large companies want to be seen as nice rather than...er, nasty, so have rushed to set up CSR committees and codes of practice. They are glossed up in annual reports and even TV ads, and the key is to establish some veneer of "independence". Hence the widespread employment of ex-Cabinet members and superannuated public servants.

Because when it comes to "air cover", a couple of barrage balloons will always come in handy.
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Hezza Snubs Cameron

Poor David Cameron has failed to persuade Lord Hezza that he should be leader:

'Talks at the peer’s London home were held at the request of Cameron, [who] wanted to gauge whether Heseltine...would back him. But Heseltine is understood to have told Cameron...that he is still a firm supporter of Clarke.'

Apparently, his Lordship sent Dave away with a flea in his ear, telling him that he 'could gain valuable experience running as Clarke’s No 2.'

After all, as one unnamed Hezza sidekick noted, “It is not like Gordon Brown waiting years for Tony Blair to give up the top job; Ken is 65 so he is not going to be hanging around for much longer.”

Hmm. Remember the last fat cigar chomping Beast who became leader at 65? He hung around until he was 80 and pretty well ga-ga, all the time believing his deputy wasn't up to the job. DC should have a chat with Anthony Eden about that.

Oh, is he? Sorry, I didn't know.


PS The S Times report reckons Hezza's 'past interventions over the Tory leadership have been influential'.

What? Do they mean his role in bringing down Maggie and then failing to win the leadership himself? Or do they mean his backing of old mate Ken in his failed attempts in 1997 and 2001?

Sounds like it was lifted straight out of the Hezza Book Of Bigging Up Hezza.
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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 22

Big htp to Bishop Hill for clocking Stephen Pollard as our latest blogger for DD. Pollard writes:

'David Davis is far from the ideal candidate but he has seen off two Home Office ministers and been the main focus of opposition within his Party to ID cards – an issue which ought to be pivotal in separating Conservative liberals from Labour authoritarians, and thus in commending the Party to its natural supporters once more.'

And coming from him, praise gets no higher.

The good Bishop himself adds:

'Davis is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He interviews poorly for a start. He is said to be unpopular with the parliamentary party - but no party leader is ever perfect. Either they grow into the role or they don't. And Davis may be the only candidate who can take on the role without destroying the party completely. Cameron would not have the support of the membership, Clarke would split it completely.'

Naturally, I take a somewhat more bullish view of DD. But the Bish remains onside.
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Cameron Talks More Sense

Interviewed by the FT, David Cameron seems to be talking more sense:

"My default setting is one of a compassionate Conservative who believes in the ladder up which all can climb and a net beneath which no one should fall. That's who I am: if you cut me down the middle that's what my core is."

Which is terrific, because it shows he's taken on board what DD told us about his own beliefs right at the outset:

'I was drawn into politics by Churchill's dream of a Britain in which "there is a limit beneath which no man may fall, but no limit to which any man might rise".

Fine. And in the interests of party unity, let's gloss over the fact that DC again distances himself from the last election campaign, of which he was a supervising architect. Instead, listen to what he says about co-payment for public services:

"We all know we're going to need to build some more roads. It seems to me fairly obvious that the road users are going to have to pay for some of those roads. We all know that we want Britain's universities to be the best in the world. That will mean that there ought to be some method of co-payment for people going on to higher education. These sorts of points should be part of our strategy to make Britain's economy the most dynamic one in the world."

You know, that's very nearly right. OK, road users already pay through the nose via licenses and petrol duty, but we know what he means. And it's certainly an improvement on some of the managerialist nonsense he's come out with previously.

The point I think he's still missing is that raising the money isn't the core issue. Co-payment for services provided by monopolistic state producers isn't enough. You've also got to have choice and competition. Our politicians and civil servants don't have a clue what's best for us- we need to decide for ourselves, just as we do with food or cars.

Still, it's encouraging progress. Maybe he could still work his way back onto our dream ticket.
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Keep 'Em On The Back Foot

Once DD is leader we can look forward to an unbroken stream of punishing jabs raining down on Labour, mercilessly exposing their manifold weaknesses and contradictions. Talk about a whirling maelstrom- they'll be lucky to stay in the ring.

I say, steady on Major. We're the nice party now. Remember?

Right. Yes. Sorry.

Anyway, in case you missed it, DD has just landed one on the unfortunate Labour MP for Aberavon, Hywel Francis, who 'voted nine times in favour of the Government's controversial new licensing laws. But he has now written to Westminster Council saying allowing his local pub to stay open later would "destroy the peaceful character" of the area. "This is overwhelmingly a quiet residential area and a licence of this kind would destroy the peaceful character of the locality," he wrote.'

The Morpeth Arms in London's Pimlico asked for an extension so it could stay open an hour later once a month to take advantage of late opening at the nearby Tate Britain gallery. So not exactly 24 hour binge drinking.

As it happens, DD is a regular at the Morpeth. He rightly points out the hypocrisy:

"This is a typical 'do as I say, not as I do' approach. [Francis] is prepared to visit all-night misery and mayhem on our towns and cities in the form of 24-hour drinking but objects to even an hour's extension on his own doorstep."

Note three things about this. First, it is no wild jab- Davis is picking up a media attractive story that connects with and supports one of our key policy positions.

Second, it connects with that long running sin of Labour politicians- the immoral mismatch between their policies and their private behaviour (eg Diane Abbott's school choice etc etc).

And third, DD makes his point in the clear everyday language we've come to expect. Measured but bruising.
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Cameron To Support Clarke?

The BBC wants it- well, they would, wouldn't they.

The Daily Mail wants it- well... er, why do they support left-wing Europhile Ken, exactly?

And Peter Oborne, previously a Cameron supporter, now says: 'The emergence of Clarke is disastrous for David Cameron. One close member of the Cameron camp acknowledged this week, ‘If Clarke stands, that really screws up David.’

Cameron has run an attractive and serious campaign. But this news of a Clarke candidacy means that he is more likely to end up playing the part of a kingmaker rather than contender. His most promising role might be as the young, thrusting chief executive alongside Clarke’s avuncular chairmanship.'

That elusive Dream Ticket- KC/DC live in concert- nothin's gonna stop us now.

And yet...and yet...why would DC actually want to do this?

For one thing, if the party's National Convention on 27 September throws out the proposed change to leadership voting rules, there's no way Ken will stand. He knows party members would never vote him in. Thus, despite earlier bravado, it's 'not clear yet whether he will drop all his boardroom interests the moment he declares for the race, or will put them into abeyance pending the outcome.' Don't hold your breath.

So if DC jumped in with Ken now, come 28 September, he could well find himself hung out to dry.

And even setting that aside, going in with Ken would still be risky. The cuddly one's chances of winning are not great (even now only 10/1), and DC might be burning some rather important bridges. Oborne reckons: 'Cameron faces a dilemma: backing Clarke would do yet more damage to his already edgy relationship with David Davis.'

So if you were sitting at that North Kensington kitchen table offering DC advice, what would you suggest he say? Probably exactly what he did say when asked if he'd sign with Ken: "I certainly don't rule anything out."

Quite.

Just as we don't rule out those little green men from Mars.
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Wat: "What Watlington?"

Blogger Watlington scores the teams assembled by the leadership candidates: 'the teams are assessed under the Airey Neave Test: (i) Do they have senior and respected MPs behind the campaign; (ii) the quality of the apparatchiks; and (iii) the level of funding.'

Amazingly, he gives the highest score to Doc Fox's team, despite the fact that even the Doc's own supporters are dismayed at his lacklustre campaign, and despite only having 10 confirmed supporters among MPs (Telegraph survey).

Watlington seems particularly impressed by someone called Bill Clare, who is the Doc's Chief of Staff. 'Mr Fox met Mr Clare during his stint at the Foreign Office (Mr Clare was a Civil Servant) and Mr Clare has worked for Mr Fox ever since. Highly experienced, Bill Clare has worked overseas and under Alastair Campbell and is highly accomplished in working with the media.'

None the wiser, I Googled him. Impressively, he turns out to be moonlighting as the Technical Administrator at Sexshop365 ( "Hover over images for a naughty peak !!!" ). Although on reflection, it's possible he's actually the 2001 Tory candidate for West Derby, coming fourth.

All in all, Watlington's assessment seems a bit strange. Especially comparing the Fox camp to DD's impressive team, which includes the excellent Iain Dale and Nick Herbert. And especially considering DD's 62 confirmed supporters among MPs, and his support from key party funder Lord Kalms.

Of course Watlington, we don't actually know your identity.

You're not Bill Clare, are you?
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More Advice From The Other Side

Matthew D'Ancona has been whiling away 'the slow depths of summer' by chatting- possibly over some suitable refreshments- with the 'Prime Minister's closest confidants' and 'the Chancellor's allies' (all unnamed) about our leadership contest. We're given to believe that Blair backs Cameron, while Brown backs DD.

"Cameron is just like Tony when he was that age...he understood what his party has to do to regain power", enthuses one Blairite.

But a Brownite reckons "A Tory who was raised on a council estate by a single mum and talks like an ordinary person when he goes on television is trouble for us. It presses a lot of buttons."

D'Ancona comments: 'The Brownites, with more insight than many Conservatives, have also grasped the nuance of Mr Davis's position: his advocacy of "a new Tory idealism", in contrast to Mr Cameron's professed "pragmatism"; his insistence that the test of every new Tory policy should be that it helps the vulnerable; and his iconoclastic opposition to what he calls the "Tory establishment", in contrast to Mr Cameron's demand at the weekend that Conservatives should not "trash their own brand".

Can't follow the last bit- DD more than anyone has always insisted we take pride in our "brand". But actually, the rest sounds spot on and captures much of what we like about DD.

Anyway, given all this helpful advice we're getting from the opposition, some of the posters at the Tory Leadership Blog recently amused themselves by reciprocating on Tony's successor. Someone to preserve the glorious legacy, rather than trash it as Brown is sure to do. Milburn? Byers? Tessa? Patricia? Winners all. But my favourite by far is Mandy, and if Matt would stand me a couple of sherbets I'd be delighted to elaborate.
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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ken To Do Right Thing?

Back from a couple of days strolling along the prom, and I'm pleased to hear that Ken Clarke intends to 'sever his business links and directorships worth several hundred thousand pounds, including his deputy chairmanship of British American Tobacco.'

Of course, we'll believe it when we see it, and he's only contemplating it at all because he thinks they might block his leadership bid, and he'll only do it if the Convention strips members of their leadership votes.

But still, sounds like Ken may be taking our advice, for which we should be duly grateful.

Maybe he'd like to consider some other advice: Ken, don't stand because most of the members don't want you as leader.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Follow Tyler For Best Tory Form Guide"

Political Betting (yes, those guys that moderated me last week) have put up a very kind post advising punters to follow us for the best guide to Tory leadership form:

'Punters wanting to find out which contender members of the Davis Davis team consider to be the greatest current threat should go to the blog of the Shadow Home Secretary’s internet cheer-leader and the comments on this site by the man behind it and who uses the alias Wat Tyler - of Peasant’s Revolt fame.

For almost every day visitors to his site are treated to fierce, biting and usually amusing attacks on the contender, one assumes, who is seen as the biggest current threat - after all you don’t kick a dead dog. In addition “Wat Tyler” adds considerably to the colour of PB.C’s discussion forms with regular “revelations".

Too kind guys...what can I say? Almosy enough to make me forgive you for last week.
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Maude Lays Into Us...Again

In an interview with epolitix, Chairman Maude has again laid into us party members. Well, in fairness, he chooses his words with more care than in the past (just as I'm trying desperately not to call him Chairman Maode, despite his anti-democratic behaviour):

"Are our grassroots representative of the country as a whole? Not fantastically." But "I don't think that's a problem in itself...We need to broaden it for sure but that's not a criticism of our members. For the most part our grassroots members are serious, nice, tolerant people."

How very gracious. Wonder if I'm included.

Meanwhile, Michael White blends the Maude interview into a hostile story headlined 'Davis silent on rule change as Tory leadership contest hots up'. This returns to the theme that Davis, along with the other leading candidates, has not expressed a preference on the proposed voting rule change:

'The frontrunner in the Conservative leadership contest is refusing to campaign for, or against, the change in the contest's rules that may decide his fate, it emerged last night.

As another Tory moderniser [Maode] warned his party that its problem is that it "does not like modern Britain," friends of David Davis, who looks set to succeed Michael Howard in the autumn, revealed that it would be "too dangerous" for him to take sides in the divisive rule change.'

That's a teensy bit rich, even for the Grauniad. Apart from the rather clunking conjunction of people who 'don't like modern Britain' and DD, and the deployment of those unnamed 'friends', it ignores the fact that Davis has not been silent. On 21 July he said:

'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.'

I've said before that I'd like to stick with the current system, but I would certainly prefer one of DD's alternatives to what our MPs propose.


PS The epolitix story includes a rather unflattering picture of the Chairman. For those who feel that we live in degenerate times, far removed from the Golden Age when politics was about issues not personal abuse, I seem to remember that Maode's father Angus used to be known by everyone as the Mekon. Personally, I'd stick with Maode.
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Monday, August 15, 2005

Cameron Talks Sense

In keeping with my new leaf, I'm delighted to report a very sensible comment from David Cameron:

'There is a great danger for Conservatives to endlessly trash their own brand. You do not get anywhere in life by trashing your brand.'

Absolutely right, David.

Well done. You may have noticed that this is something David Davis has always stressed.

Of course, some cynical types might suggest DC was actually putting the boot into rival "moderniser" Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Who, as you will be aware, said yesterday that for the party 'the last eight years have been deeply, deeply defective.'

But I'm sure DC wouldn't stoop to such depths. He is simply drawing on his private sector experience in creating a premium brand.


PS I missed the actual BBC interview, but it's interesting which particular punches he chose to throw.

"Don't trash the brand", Malcolm! Whap!

"Environment and open spaces", Tim! Pow!

No mention of public services? Looks like a bit of positioning within the "moderniser" camp.

And asked about DD, he said: "He is a very attractive politician and he is a senior Conservative figure with a lot to say."

Is it still too late for the Davis Dash?

PPS Political Thinker has pointed out that at present you can still watch the interview here (bottom right button).
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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bloggers For Davis 21

Over at Political Betting, Dee writes (comment 241):

'I live near David Davis’ constituency and I’ll be rooting for him to be the next Conservative leader.'

Good for you.

'Perhaps he’ll be able to break through the tartan ceiling and and stand up for equal treatment for England... I for one have had enough of Scottish MPs forcing discriminatory stealth taxes onto the English.

It’s enough to make your blood curdle, knowing that there is a certain (Scottish) Conservative who not only drools for the top spot, but thinks that the English should pay 3% MORE tax than his fellow Scots! It’s even more disgraceful that there are English Conservatives who agree with him! With prats like that in the party, the English have a long haul before they can even hope for access to an equal democracy.

It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for another Scot/Welshman in any party.'

Crikey, Dee. Don't know if you're thinking of Sir Malcolm R, with his contentless interview in the S Torygraph today. But using terms like prat and Welsh...I don't know...we all understand what you mean, but those fastidious punters at PBC might have you moderated for defamation. So just take it easy.
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“Dance With The One That Brung Ya.”

Lynton Crosby sets out 'Seven ways for the Tories to storm back'. In fairness, I don't think he's actually come up with seven, but that's the number fixed by Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 7 Up, Seven Brides for Seven Dwarves, 007, S Club 7, The Magnificent Seven, etc. So seven it is.

Anyway, he does make a couple of extremely good points:

'Ronald Reagan once said, and John Howard often repeats, “Dance with the one that brung ya.” It should be hung in every opposition leader’s office. When rebuilding your party after a defeat you must recapture and lock in your base. Your base alone will not be enough, but without it you risk being washed away.'

And:

'A successful party puts up candidates who are part of, and can relate to, the local communities they seek to represent. Look at the many high quality new Conservative MPs who won on May 5. But the party needs to consider this: the best candidates at a local level really are local, living and working in the constituency. '

I humbly suggest that Chairman Maude and other centrist centralisers would do well to reflect on those points.
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Cameron Exit Strategy

Following this post, I've turned over a new leaf as regards disseminating what one critic called my 'bile about corrupt party pinkos like “Chairman Maoude” and traitors, etc' .

So you can imagine how pleased I am to report some good news about DD's leadership rival David Cameron. As we noted here, DC had unfortunately got into a spot of potential embarrassment over binge drinking and his non-exec directorship at Urbium PLC, the 'premium bars' operator.

But now it looks like he might be presented with a quick exit. Because according to today's S Times:

'ELECTRA PARTNERS, the private-equity firm, is in exclusive talks to buy Urbium, the bar group behind Tiger Tiger and a string of other central London venues. The buyout firm...is thought to be prepared to bid more than £10.75 a share.

A deal at that level values Urbium at £114m and represents a large premium to its current value of £96.2m. That would prove a highly satisfactory outcome for the Urbium board, led by chairman John Conlan, and its adviser, Jag Mundi at Numis Securities.'

Highly satisfactory indeed: board directors could cash out their shares and options at a gratifyingly healthy profit. And DC could walk away from the whole situation without embarrassing anyone any further.

Glad it will all be cleared up so neatly.

(And for those who still think it's OK for MPs to have paid outside employment in addition to their main job, this is a real example of where it can lead to potential conflicts of interests. Nobody says DC is bad or corrupt, but he's ended up in a very difficult situation that he could so easily have avoided by junking his directorship. Which is precisely what Ken should do.)
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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Heavy Hint From Norman

Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Tebbit asks: 'Other than providing jobs for politicians, what is the Conservative Party for?' He says:

'At the heart of Conservatism is the belief that, since man is born free, laws can only make him less so.'

And he follows up with his catalogue of freedom policies, ranging from lower simpler taxes, through education vouchers, to a rolling back of Europe.

Alas, he doesn't actually come out for any of the leadership candidates. But as hints go, this one's pretty weighty.
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Friday, August 12, 2005

Tone vs Substance

Following my last post, I've reflected further on the issues of presentation vs substance in the leadership contest.

I freely admit that I may sometimes have got rather overexcited about the contest, and my tone may have turned- to use B2W's term- 'shrill'. The same applies to any number of blogging supporters of all the various candidates. Now as far as I'm concerned that's actually one of the joys of blogging- the normal niceties of public political discourse are dropped, and it becomes more like one of those late-night no holds barred discussions you had at uni.

But many people are understandably turned off by yah-boo, and DD himself is never less than calm and measured. Which is one reason why he will make an excellent leader, whereas I wouldn't.

So tone, yes- we must at all times present ourselves as the reasonable rational people we actually are (well, most of us, anyway). We must persuade, not shout.

But substance- that's completely different. Politics is about deciding between competing views of what? who? how? etc. Conflict is built in, and we need to be very wary of arguments that go like this:

'When we were a winning party we were not pure and unsullied, we were always a coalition of various views from Unionist to National Liberal from left to right Tory, free marketeer to state interventionist. Everyone of Mrs T’s Cabinets was a mixture of wet and dry, right and left, libertarian and dirigiste. Howe lived with Keith Joseph, Clarke with Tebbit and so on.

What has happened with Blair is that he has not only stolen our policies but, and more important, he has stolen our strategy too. He dropped the ‘better pure than in power’ left wing agenda Labour stuck to in the 70’s and 80’s and moved to ‘better power than purity’ on the basis that in power he could change things but without power he can only protest at what is changed.

I want the policy of Macmillan and Thatcher, Baldwin and Churchill: power not purity.'

Wrapping in Thatcher is novel (and completely misleading), but this is the Blue Labour line, and I for one don't want it.

So tone, yes. Substance, no. Which is another major reason we need Davis.
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tyler Must Do Better

I post this in the spirit of contrition and humility.

As you may know, when we began this blog, our aims were noble and pure. They were to highlight and disseminate David Davis' unrivalled credentials to lead our party. And definitely not to badmouth his rivals.

Yet, try as I might, I constantly stray from the paths of righteousness. I truly am a miserable sinner, deserving nothing but your contempt.

My latest lapse was to post certain musings about Ken on Political Betting. I'm afraid I rose to the bait of seeing others propose he would be a better choice for leader than Our Man, and I humbly suggested they take a look at Ken's outside interests. As a result, I was "moderated", the blogmaster noting:

'...we saw yesterday on the site how one of the people linked to Bloggers for David Davis was ready to rush in and put the boot into the former Chancellor. In fact some of the language used was possibly defamatory and for the first time in several months I had to moderate a comment.' [For blogging innocents, moderate means censor.]

Let me admit my fault. My choice of words- while involving a light-hearted term of endearment common among younger members of the Tyler household- was, I can now see, open to misinterpretation by more fastidious punters. I apologise.

I apologise too for any implication that Ken should not have paid employment outside Parliament. You see, I have this idiosyncratic belief that MPs should devote all their paid energies to representing us, and moreover that taking outside jobs with companies and lobbyists can under some circumstances lead to conflicts of interest. Although obviously not in Ken's case. Obviously not.

So to make amends, I posted a clarification on PBC this am.

Sheesh. Looks like I may have outstayed my welcome:

'Wat Tyler- It was not just the particular phrase that was inappropriate but the whole piece. If we have learnt one thing it is surely not encourage the image of the Tory party being ferrets in a sack going over Niagara Falls.

I would have thought a rather different style is appropriate. More measured?

Its alright for us plebs to be casual and have a blast at candidates and other parties but as the chief blogger cheerleader for DD ( running a blog called David Davis for leader) I must assume that the style, which is reflected in your blog, is compatible with the candidate you support.

As such you may have just made up my mind for me about who is not suitable as leader.'

Well, hang on a second Blue2Win- certainly trash me, but you should leave Davis out of it. Let me repeat what we've said before. This blog has got nothing whatsoever to do with David Davis- other than, as ordinary party members, we are desperate to see him as leader, and blogging is just about the only means we have to help achieve that.

Fortunately, others seem to understand this distinction. Max says: 'As to what B2W said about Wat I think some of us in the party are probably more concerned about his (DD’s) supporters than the man himself.' Fair enough.

And Jon Gale says '...sites such as David Davis for Leader (by which i mean bile about the corrupt party pinkos like “Chairman Maoude” and traitors, etc) and Derek Conway do not indicate that DD’s supporters have grasped that, although the man himself seems alright.'

Good point, Jon. Although, actually I spelled it Chairman Maode, being what I thought was a rather neat play on the fact that neither Mao nor Maode seems to believe in party democracy (well OK, I know the fat one's passed away, but I've still got his Little Red Book).

And as for the bile about pinko traitors, you're quite right. What can I say? It's not clever, it's not funny, and...er, I'll try to do better.

(PS. Actually, there's another poster on PBC who says:

'Wat is spot on in his assessment of Clarke. If anything, I reckon he’s been overly restrained.
Frankly the man doesn’t deserve to call himself a Conservative after having stabbed leader after leader in the back all these years.
His views are basically those of the liberals (if liberals have ‘views’), however much he tries to hide them.
If our MPs are stupid enough to vote for him (and it looks more and more like it’ll be in their hands) then he’ll rapidly discover he hasn’t got a party left to lead.'


She's called Iron Lady, and I have to admit she sounds like my kinda gal.

Am I allowed to say that?)
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Ken Enters (Again)

Hold the front page- this morning's Guardian discloses 'Clarke ready to enter Tory race'.

"He'll pull the rug from under Cameron," one shadow cabinet member said bluntly yesterday. "Ken would do real damage to Dave," a Cameron supporter admitted last night. At 65 Mr Clarke is being presented as "a counter-intuitive choice, a moderniser who is not associated with the party's recent past."

Counter-intuitive maybe, but moderniser? Are we talking about that guy who is "old, fat and has controversial directorships"?

And what about Europe?

"It would be nice if Ken could say we wouldn't join the euro if he became prime minister. He now says it's wrong to join now," said one ex-ministerial ally, also pro-European.

Guh? The members will never swallow that!

'Few insiders believe that 900 constituency chairmen and other local officers of the party will reject Mr Howard's plea to hand back power to MPs when they vote on September 27.'

Ah. Now I see.

"The biggest statement the Tory party could make to show it's changed is to elect Ken and show it's learned its lesson. David Davis is Iain Duncan Smith with hair. Ken would reach out beyond our core vote," the MP said.'

Svelte Euro-sceptic Ken still languishes at 14/1.
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MSM Catches Up

The Independent has caught up with the Cameron binge drinking issue. It quotes a Davis supporter as saying 'it totally knackers Cameron. He's now lost moral high ground, and must be very careful about giving interviews: one awkward question on this and he's a goner."

That may be a tad OTT, but it certainly isn't going to help DC.

(The Indie's done quite well here. It's caught up with a story that only hit the blogosphere yesterday- even if it was clearly fed some clues to help. But the more you blog, the more you realise how shakey the MSM is with anything that doesn't come in a packaged press release. Even in this case, they say 'by pure co-incidence, David Cameron's odds of beating Davis slipped to 3/1 yesterday.' Well- apologies for being an anorak- but first, DC's odds are actually now 5/2, and second, these are actually his best rating since the off- an implied probability of 29 per cent.)
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

View From The Lib Dems

The compulsive Political Betting carries acres of discussion of the leadership contest, much of it from Labour and Lib Dem activists. As you'd expect, their usual line is that we'd be mad not to choose pink-rinse Ken.

But sometimes you get a more thoughtful piece, like this from bullseye:

'As a former LibDem PPC, my view is not that the Tories have to appeal to people like me, but to the 10% of the electorate who abandoned the party over the Black Wednesday fiasco. These electors voted for Blair in 97 & 01 and split between Labour & the LibDems in 2005.

The problem with Fox is that he has never shown any inkling at all of having any idea how to win them over, as well as being a fairly weak media/Commons performer.

Davis, who I dislike, could potentially have a George Bushesque quality- I’ve always thought he comes across as a real human being (albeit a rather too thugish one for my tastes) and as such could make a breakthrough.

Cameron on the other hand is a good Commons performer, understands the Tories' problem, but the more I see of him on TV the less I think he has that extra spark the Tories need to break out of their 30-33% box.'

Bullseye is not the first to make the Bush comparison, but it's interesting coming from someone who is clearly no fan.
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Outside Interests

Further to probing Cameron's drinks industry connections, I've taken a bit of a rootle through the other leadership candidates (courtesy of the excellent They Work For You).

DD's entries on the Register of Members' Interests are rather boring. They comprise various donations to the Haltemprice and Howden Conservative Association from longtime party supporters like Lord Kalms and Michael Spencer, who it is believed supported a number of Tory candidates thought vulnerable to Lib Dem decapitation at the Election.

At first glance, David Willetts looks much more interesting. Besides an honourably declared freebie to Wimbledon, courtesy of the BBC (clear value for the licence payer), he's involved with a mysterious German company called Sensortec, which has a James Bondish tie-up with 'the Russian Quark Corporation (POI "Polysius")...for the territory of Western Europe, covering ring lasers, laser gyros and inertial navigation platforms.' But Willetts as the mastermind behind Drax Industries? No, not really.

Which of course leaves Ken. Who has a fabulous slew of conflicted entries, including four other non-exec jobs, besides the deputy chairmanship of BAT.

The best has to be his participation in the secretive and sinister Bilderberg Group, founded by Hugo Drax himself. Believed by many to be a front for the Illuminati, this shadowy web of intrigue and high living is thought to include such undesirables as Lords Patten and Brittan, Mandy, and even the Lord of Darkness in person.

Makes Cameron's little indiscretion pale.
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Cameron Barred

Talking of 24-hour binge drinking and the drinks industry lobby that has suckered our rulers into the licensing lunacy, we probably shouldn't expect to hear too much from one of DD's leadership rivals.

Turns out that clean living David Cameron is a director of Urbium PLC.

Who they?

'Urbium PLC operates premium bars in high footfall venues in major urban markets. Urbium has a pre-eminent position in the West End of London and the City of London markets. It's [sic] Tiger Tiger brand has a strong presence in prime regional sites.'

The Manchester branch of Tiger Tiger of course is the very establishment where Wayne Rooney was alleged to have decked some student in the early hours, after taking refreshment with team-mates Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Roy Carroll.

Right classy.
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Kind Words From Lord Howe

Lord Howe has chipped in on the leadership contest. He reckons DD is a 'seriously minded man' who has experience of jobs outside politics. But 'he's never struck anyone as a really great orator, or a very thoughtful person.'

Unlike- one presumes- his Lordship, who in 1975 stood for the leadership against Maggie. Presumably on the basis that he was better than her in terms of oratory and thoughtfulness. He got 19 votes.

Actually, I heard Howe speak back in 1976. The LSE ran a series of lunchtime sessions with various frontbenchers, and the previous week had been Wedgie Benn (Tony's 1970s stage-name), who had packed the main lecture theatre and been brilliant. Howe was allocated a small seminar room, and I was one of half-a-dozen students who went to hear him. He was monumentally tedious, but it was simply too embarrassing to leave. I've still got the scar on my thigh where I stabbed in the pencil to stay awake.
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DD On 24-Hour Licensing

The police oppose it, the judges oppose it, and we residents oppose it. DD says:

'We need to call time on yob behaviour. The Government should defer 24-hour drinking until it has got a grip on the problem of binge-drinking then only pilot it so that residents can see the consequences - and apply it appropriately.'

Sounds emminently sensible, so why on earth are the government so insistent on this lunacy?

Page 46 of the 112 page (!) Labour Election Manifesto explains:

'Excessive alcohol consumption fuels anti-social behaviour and violence. The new Licensing Act will make it easier for the police and councils to deal with pubs and clubs that cause problems. Local councils and police will be able to designate Alcohol Disorder Zones to help pay for extra policing around city centre pubs and clubs, with new powers to immediately shut down premises selling alcohol to underage drinkers, and bans from town and city centres for persistent offenders. Police will be able to exclude yobs from town centres for 24 hours when they issue a Penalty Notice for Disorder.'

Er, yes. All that sounds fine. But what about this 24-hour licensing that we're all so concerned about? You didn't even mention that.

The fact is that the childlike gullibility of our rulers has once again got them suckered by an industrial lobby. Last time it was gambling, before that PFI contractors, and now it's the drinks industry.

What we need is a leader who has had experience out in the real nasty world of business. Someone who can recognise a self-serving sales pitch when he sees one.

Now, who might that be?
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

More On DD And Multiculturalism

We have already commented on DD's article on multiculturalism (here and here). Since then, several bloggers and msm commentators have homed in on that hoary old issue- whether we can define Britishness.

They reckon Davis hasn't done it. So in The Business, Fraser Nelson comments that while Davis 'is now calling for the "common values of nationhood" to replace multiculturalism...he seems lost for an idea of what these values should be, other than nebulous ideas of tolerance and kindness.'

But if we try to bottom that out, we'll be here for ever. And as Janet Daley, and others, have pointed out, the US approach- pledge of allegiance, civics lessons, saluting the flag and all- already provides a workable and urgently needed template.

And if we need any confirmation of the urgency involved, we should all peruse the BNP website. Try these comments on DD's article:

'Under the plans of David Davis and the simpering wreckage of the Conservative Party, that gutless cabal of politically correct aristocrats and ex-council estate social climbers, not a single illegal immigrant will ever be removed from the country. Instead under David Davis and his witless party we will just get more of the same multi-cultural poison this country has had to endure for the last fifty years.

We have a new vision. The end of Multi-Culturalism and the restoration of British Culture. This country does not need further Integration, just accelerated deportations. Under the BNP you will get that.'

The BNP got 200,000 votes in the General Election, a quadrupling since 2001. And the really scary thing is that they're not all crackers. I chatted to one of their tellers at a polling station in May, and he seemed a very decent guy. He used to vote Labour, but has despaired of Westminster politicians who he feels have just given up on the country.

We can't afford another blatherfest from Tony and his ilk. As in so much else, we need to import that American know-how. And we need to get on with it.

(Maybe DD will return from his hols with a discreet 9/11 style Union Jack lapel badge. That would signify intent, and his public recognition would soar).
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Bloggers for Davis 20

Jonathan Sheppard comments on Nick Cohen's piece in the New Statesman:

'Now I am certainly not in a position to comment on the merits of David Cameron - I'm sure he is very capable. What I do know is that if we are choosing a leader for today - and that's what we are doing, we need someone who can inspire our activists and engage with the public. That means engaging with people not just in leafy suburbs in the South - but reaching out to the millions of voters who have deserted us in many urban areas in the North.

We aren't choosing someone who might be ready to win in 10 years - we need someone with the capabilities to win now. If you are looking for a winner then in my book it has to be David Davis.'

Quite right. For Labour, the point about Blair was that he could reach parts of the leafy suburbs that Old Labour couldn't reach. But that's not our problem. We need someone who can reach the other parts- the bits that Old Etonians might not reach (doh, I've just broken my self-denying ordinance on mentioning the toff factor).

JS was a Parliamentary candidate in May, and although unsuccessful, seems to have good contacts at the Palace:

'A couple of weeks ago - before recess - I was waiting for my boss before we headed off to a Parliamentary reception. Gwyneth Dunwoody approaches from the left - walking with purpose and booms at me, "Are you lurking or hiding my dear boy," to which I feel like I am suddenly back in infant school - and blurt out "Lurking - I think I'm definitely lurking". If Gwyneth and myself keep meeting - people will start to talk you know.'

Cripes.

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