Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tories (courtesy of Smamms)

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Polls. Uh oh…

There’s not a whole lot of good polling news for the Tories at the moment. Comres, Populus, and, as of today, ICM put us below 40%. As I have pointed out before, the Tories are very unlikely to win an overall majority with less than 40% of the popular vote, due to the inherent bias in favour of Labour, whose vote is more evenly spread in the FPTP system.

My uniquely biased Conservative polling average currently stands at Con 39.5/Lab 35.5/LD 14.25 and using UK Elect, this yields:

Lab 311 (-36)

Con 285 (+72)

LD 25 (-35)

Others 29 (-1)

Lab short by 13

We must constantly be reminded of how far ahead we must be in order to win, and also how quickly a 20-point lead can disappear.

I am still unsure, based on better Labour polling figures, whether or not Gordon will go to the country in early to mid-2009. I am also unclear as to if we would be able to win such an election. We have not yet been able to convince the electorate of the government’s fiscal recklessness – nor, do I believe, are people convinced that Gordon Brown’s chancellorship is one of the major causes of the current crisis. It is highly likely that the electorate would vote substantially against Labour in the latter stages of the recession, and when the inevitable tax rises come along. As we now enter (probably) the worst phase of the downturn, however, many people feel obliged to trust Labour to sort things out. The Conservatives are at a natural disadvantage anyway, as they are not able to be seen to be doing things. Gordon can stalk around claiming to have saved the world, and that everybody agrees with his approach – bar a carefully selected German few – whilst good old David Cameron is pretty much stuck with motherhood and apple pie along with a bit of anti-borrowing rhetoric. Unfortunately, credible though the cause is, such an approach is inadequate at this stage.

In January, it is highly likely that DC will carry out a fairly extensive shadow cabinet reshuffle, with Ken Clarke strongly tipped to return to frontline politics. I am a Clarke fan, and no matter what Tim Montgomerie says, I believe that he is a popular figure who can provide immense gravitas and experience, especially with such a poor economic backdrop. The favourites to leave are Duncan, Villiers, and Ainsworth – Peter has had enough chances in the shadow cabinet now, and should return to the backbenches. Villiers has been weak at transport, despite her bold opposition to a third runway at Heathrow. Alan Duncan seems to me not to be serious enough about high office, and lacks the necessary firepower to deal with Lord M. Clarke for Shadow Business? I hope so. I would also like to see Michael Fallon and David Davis return. We shall see. Apparently Dominic Grieve is safe where he is, but of his two current jobs, there may be a vacancy at Shadow Attorney General which could be ably occupied by a senior figure in the Party. This could provide David Davis with a stepping stone to higher things. He deserves another opportunity to become Home Secretary in a Conservative government.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On India’s Victory (Cricket)

Nobody can deny that India’s performance in the last four sessions of this test match was exceptional. Their batsmen batted with great style and confidence. They were not, however, put under nearly enough pressure. This was mainly down to two things: Pietersen’s field placings appeared to be somewhat wooden in the circumstances. Off-spinner Swann was constantly worked through the leg-side for easy singles and twos; secondly, Anderson and Harmison bowled too wide and too short. It is critical that bowlers land the ball on a fuller length in India, and bowl consistently at or slightly outside off stump. Sehwag’s astonishingly innings was allowed to get underway quickly due to the bowling being deficient in this way.

It is a great shame that the margin of India’s victory shows little of what character England displayed for the majority of the match. Strauss played excellently in both innings. Collingwood showed us, once again, that he’s able to put a patch of dire form behind him and battle his way to a commendable hundred. Flintoff’s bowling was consistently of a high standard, always challenging the batsmen outside the off stump. Graeme Swann’s debut was certainly distinguished – and had he had better luck in India’s final innings, he might have picked up more wickets. The trouble is, England constantly failed to create pressure by bowling maidens. The pressure applied by a good 4 or 5-over spell from Flintoff or Swann was always squandered by the bowler at the other end, be that Anderson, Harmison, or Panesar, whose bowling appeared to be seriously off-colour.

Panesar appears to struggle to change his bowling speed and flight – he has been mechanical and utterly predictable in this test, with Swann getting far more turn that he did. He must learn that these Indian wickets will respond far more favourably to cannier deliveries which are tossed up and delivered above the batsman’s eyeline. Monty seems to be unable to drop below 55 mph, and his bowling trajectory is, all too often, far too flat.

It might seem a ludicrous suggestion, but I’d be tempted to drop Panesar for the final test in favour of Adil Rashid. Rashid brings better batting and fielding, and the mystery of a wrist spinner. His googly is far better than once it was. In combination with Swann, they should prove a greater threat to India. Of course, one has to allow for the leg spinner’s occasional bad deliveries, but this is to be expected of a debutant. Rashid is highly talented and is a great prospect for the future, and if Panesar isn’t careful, his lack of variation may prove his downfall. Quality English wrist spinners are few and far between, and I have no doubt that Rashid will prove to be a far better pick than wrist spinners of the past – Salisbury, Schofield, et al.

So, in summary:

Strauss – 9/10. An excellent game and more performances like this will make him a permanent fixture in the England team.

Cook – 4/10. No scores in this game, but got a devil of a delivery from Ishant in the second innings.

Bell – 3/10. Looks a bit out of sorts at the minute. His fluent style of batting may not be suited to these conditions.

Pietersen – 3/10, captaincy 5/10. He suffers from a bizarre inability to play Yuvraj’s tepid left-arm spin. His captaincy is fine when things are going well, but he lacked imagination in the final innings, which, perhaps might have been better handled by his predecessor.

Collingwood – 8/10. He was unlucky to be dismissed without hitting the ball in the first innings, but his second innings was a triumph of grit and substance.

Flintoff – 7/10. His bowling is still excellent, but, as ever, his batting lacks finesse and concentration.

Prior – 8/10. An excellent game for Prior, both with the gloves and with the bat. Unbeaten fifties such as that in the first innings will go a long way to convincing England’s selectors that he’s the long-term option for the team.

Swann – 7/10. Well played. He constantly posed a threat, and possessed more guile than Panesar by a country mile. A fine debut.

Harmison – 4/10. The pitch was not suited to him, and he seems to find bowling a more consistently full length difficult. If his length is lacking however, his line is much improved.

Anderson – 5/10. Bowled a couple of good spells in India’s second innings but lacks consistency.

Panesar – 2/10. Bowling was mostly poor and uninspired. His failure went a long way to handing India victory. Rashid, anyone? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

‘Saving the World’… oh no

A truly horrifying (and yet delightful) gaffe from Crashy at PMQs today – the Tory benches couldn’t quite believe their luck. It appeared to cause Gordon to lose complete momentum during his exchanges with DC, where DC continually berated the Prime Minister about the inadequacy of his £1bn plan to help small business lending, which is not working. The ‘do nothing Party’ line will not wash with the public for much longer, as Labour’s own measures are seen to not be working. The VAT cut will look completely ridiculous when we look back on this episode in a few months’ time – not that it doesn’t already, of course. An easy win for DC.

Clegg also managed to make himself look silly with a classic ‘single mothers have visited me’ line. He failed to recover from that. Lots of playground banter, as the substance of PMQs is overshadowed once again. Purnell’s stolen welfare reform plans will probably obliterate any coverage of the exchanges in tomorrow’s papers anyway.

Cameron 7, Brown 4, Clegg 4.

From ConHome - ‘Do we need a ‘no cuts here’ list?’

There is no theoretical reason why there shouldn't be cuts across the board, where it is deemed that public money is being wasted. It may be politically expedient to ring-fence 'sensitive' public servants, and Labour might find it more difficult to attack us for targeting our savings on management, however, political parties should not exist to provide somehow 'acceptable' policies. They should be the right policies.

All Conservatives should be agreed that the public sector should not grow indefinitely - the recession has now given us the stage upon which we can more confidently assert this. It is not yet clear whether or not a policy of 'cuts during recession' is good politics or not. The polls show that the electorate remains bewildered about the causes of this downturn, and there is no clear vote of confidence in either Labour's approach or the Conservatives' approach.

The question is, is David Cameron prepared to do what he believes is right, and risk losing the election? Unless the electorate agrees with us, we will not win. It is our job to persuade the voters that our economic policy is the best one. It should not be our role, in dire economic circumstances such as these, to fashion specifically an economic policy that is protected from Labour's attacks, or the give the electorate what it thinks it wants. The greatest achievement of any opposition party should be that it is able to change the electorate's mind in order to gain power. Hence, the next election may well have to be one that the Conservative Party has to win, not that the Labour Party has to lose.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is Cameron preparing for a New Year clearout?

A couple of days ago, over at the Telegraph, Andrew Porter suggested that Cameron might be planning a return for some Tory Party 'big beasts'. I sincerely hope that this is true, because at the moment, the Tory frontbench is in need of some bigger hitters, and bruisers such as Michael Fallon and Ken Clarke would be hugely welcome in the team.

However, now that Osborne appears to be an much firmer ground, Ken Clarke won't become Shadow Chancellor, but perhaps Shadow BERR Sec - he would be more than a match for Lord M. I've always liked Ken Clarke - he was, in my view, the best leader after the 2001 election, and I briefly backed him in the 2005 race, before changing to David Davis, and then to David Cameron.

He has a tremendous record, having, rescued the country from a very poor economic position in the early nineties, and had left Labour a golden economic legacy by 1997. He is the ideal straight-talking candidate to take on Mandelson, who, at the moment, looks intent on destroying the electoral platform the Conservative Party has ventured to create for itself, be it by stealth or by dastardly spin.

A return for Iain Duncan Smith is also a possibility. He has done terrific work at the Centre for Social Justice, and despite the difficulties he faced as leader, he deserves a post in a future Cameron Cabinet, possibly at a re-hashed Work and Pensions department.

The Polls

The link above provides access to my unique Tory-biased poll collection, which carefully selects only the finest (and freshest, etc) Tory results every month from the various polling entities. The worst results are not included in the data table, including, for example, ComRes' latest poll which showed the Tories only one point ahead.

I can, however, claim there to be reason in this blatent bias. Mike Smithson on Political Betting has long proclaimed that the most accurate poll at any time is the one that shows Labour polling worst; although, admittedly, that is not necessarily the same as the poll showing the Conservatives doing best. Never mind.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From ConHome, 'One-third (sic) of Tory members expect election within six months'

If there is to be an election within the next 12 months or so, which I doubt, we should not already be giving up trying to win it!

Yes, we've squandered the large leads over the summer and Labour appear to be gaining significant ground, but it is worth bearing in mind that the recession has not hit home with the electorate just yet. The PM is still basking in the supposed glory of being master of the financial bailout universe. There is a strong possibility that Brown will suffer once unemployment mounts up and the economy contracts more.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the bank bailout is not having its desired affect - the government may have to implement some sort of ultra-socialist lending approval mechanism if the situation doesn't improve. That could prove politically disastrous.

On the other side of the argument, however, is the 1992 election. Labour enjoyed considerable poll leads during the 87-92 parliament, but mostly because Labour was not trusted with the economy (and appeared triumphalist and complacent), they lost the election during a Tory recession.

If we are not bold, and choose not to formulate straightforward policies which the electorate understand and whose benefits are appreciable, we will lose. At the moment, it appears as if we are unwilling to help people through the recession because there is 'no money left' with which to do so. This is nonsense. There's plenty of money to be saved. The electorate understands that Labour has squandered millions of hard-earned taxpayers' money, so now is the time to put that right.

During a downturn such as this one, sacrifices have to be made. If that sacrifice is public spending, so be it. We must not allow the absurd statist consensus of the bloated public sector to prevail over the coming years.

Words of recession

'Fixing the roof when the sun is shining'

'This is a serious time for serious people'

'Boom to bust'

'Borrowing bombshell'

'Tax cuts are not just for Christmas'

I'm FED UP of hearing these phrases. We are completely failing to land any blows on Brown at the moment. He's getting away with everything - a devaluation of the pound, massive borrowing, enormous waste, bureaucracy, complacency, lies, smugness, incompetence - I could go on - and yet we, the Conservative Party, persist in using these lame soundbites to persuade a recession-doomed electorate that we are the best Party to deal with the current climate.

It appears that leading politicians have no faith that what might be considered economic 'jargon' is comprehensible by the public at large. Instead, we prefer to regurgitate weak and ineffective soundbites which best befit the language of the playground.

This is no time for weasel words.

Oh, there's another one.

I'm continually irked by Dave and George's approach on the economy. Until yesterday, DC looked ridiculous by continuing to abide by the pretence that the Tories would match Labour's future spending plans. We must be able to offer considerable tax cuts now, but not by borrowing - but by CUTTING. The electorate cannot continue to have it both ways. In times like these, if they want more money in their pockets, they should have to sacrifice something else. There is no doubt that there is money to be saved in the NHS, and we should not shirk from our responsibility to say so. The NHS is not sacred. The NHS is not the ONLY welfare solution. The NHS is wasteful, bloated and unaccountable.

We have, frankly, looked silly throughout the duration of this crisis. And the longer it goes on, the more opportunity we have to look more silly. Where are the big guns? Where is Ken Clarke? If we were so confident Labour would destroy the economy then why is the Shadow Chancellorship lumbered with such a lightweight? George Osborne comes across as an amateur, with little clue of how to handle events, and appears to suffer complete lack of nouse, lack of judgement and inability to attack the government properly. He still sounds shrill and is open to complete ridicule, allegedly considerable intellect notwithstanding.

I am in a state of utter despair. Our 'motherhood and apple pie' policies have been completely overtaken by events. The latest poll indicates that Labour would be the largest party in the House of Commons in the event of a general election. This is a disaster. If they win a fourth term, the consequences are unthinkably grave for the country and our Party. We need to get back to scoring consistent double-digit leads, given that, with the possibility of a 2009 election around the corner, Labour lies about 'cuts' will probably gain favour with some of the electorate. We therefore need a big lead going into any campaign in order to protect it.

We must also remember the lessons of 1992. Before that election, it was unprecedented for a Party which was behind in the polls at the beginning of a campaign to emerge victorious on polling day. That precedent has been set. We must never let the attack die down.

I have never despised Gordon Brown more than I do at this very moment - trouble is, I have never doubted the opposition's ability to win more than I do now.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tomorrow's probable Shadow Shuffly Stuff

It's being mooted that DC will carry out a limited shadow cabinet reshuffle tomorrow. If this is so, what are the likely moves?

Tipped for demotion:

Ainsworth - it is being said that he's had little or no media presence during his three-year tenure at Environment. If this is the only complaint, he should be replaced by a younger, more thrusting Cameronite. However, due to the scaling down of the Environment brief and the creation of the new Woodland Folk department, Ainsworth may keep his role anyway. I fail to see how his replacement by 'sidewards step' of, say, a Willetts or May would remedy the current situation.

Villiers - has apparently been poor at Transport and will probably more somewhere slightly more junior rather than leave the shadow cabinet altogether. New slimmed-down environment, perhaps? She would also have a far harder job shadowing Geoff Hoon rather than the easily massacrable Ruth Kelly.

May - I've never been much of a Theresa May fan, but I doubt Cameron will get rid of her - I do, however, wish he would. Her media performances are consistently unconvincing. She languishes in the backwaters of the shadow Commons Leader position, a position more usefully held by someone more senior, such as Clarke, Sir Malcolm, or even Michael Howard.

Willetts - he lost control of the most important half of the Education brief in the last reshuffle. I would rather he returned to the backbenches. I have always said I feel slightly sorry for May and Willetts - they have served the Party pretty well over the last 10 years or so, but their skills are now being eclipsed by MPs from the 2005 intake, some of whom are destined for very high office indeed.

Gillan/Mundell - one wonders if these two would make into a Conservative cabinet: personally, I doubt it. They'll do for now, and these shadow positions are such utter backwaters that they could be occupied by common household objects and neither the press nor public would notice. Watch out for Sir Malcolm in a 'Nations Sec' role in the future. I'm determined that his talents shouldn't be wasted on the backbenches.

Mitchell - many said that David Davis had secured his shadow cabinet position in 2005. My opinion of Andrew Mitchell has grown over recent months, having seen the excellent work he's been doing in Rwanda. Perversely, this has earned him absolutely no mainstream media coverage. He should remain in place. He's not just David Davis' former campaign manager, he's an good Shadow International Development Sec too.

Spelman - Cameron shouldn't and probably won't move her away at his stage. If she's found guilty by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, she'll obviously have to go: but to shuffle her away now would be in poor taste. I thought Cameron should have moved her away right at the beginning, when the media interest in her misfortune was at its peak, but the investigation has taken longer than I thought. And on that note: what's happening to Peter Hain?


Justine Greening - ever since her excellent victory in Putney I thought she looked like cabinet material - possibly even Chancellor one day. She's been doing well in the treasury team, and may well be given a more senior post. I think she'd suit Schools and Families if Willetts went elsewhere.

Greg Clark - this junior MP has been widely touted to enter the shadow cabinet at some point - he's extremely talented and, like Greening, I imagine him to occupy a very senior post at some point in the future.

Ed Vaizey - I would have been happy to see Ed occupy a shadow cabinet role at the previous reshuffle. He's an extremely affable chap and an excellent media performer. He must, surely, be brought in.


Maria Miller
Greg Barker
Chris Grayling (possible Chairman)
Eric Pickles (possible Chairman)

Now it's time for an 'expect in Government' list. These are the faces which I am almost positive will occupy Cabinet positions in the next Conservative government, unless they are eliminated through scandal or death:


Note that there aren't any women in this list. This poses a problem for DC.

Probably to go:




Those I haven't mentioned (shadow 'nations' etc) are pretty much unknowns.

The LordM Guest List:

Clarke (Leader of House or Cabinet Office)
Rifkind (Either of the above or 'Nations')
Redwood (Either of the above, but only once we're in government)

I would be delighted to see any or all these three back on the front line of politics. I'm sure most Tories would be.

It's difficult to predict what Cameron's going to do tomorrow. I doubt there'll be a direct 'response' to the Mandelson appointment. Cameron's known to dislike reshuffles, so I don't think he'll risk a gesture like the appointment of Sir Nick Winterton to the new Dept for Energy and Climate Change, for example. I think that sort of decision would match the idiocy shown by Brown in appointing Mandelson.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Shuffly Stuff


N. BROWN (Chief Whip)
M. BECKETT (Housing - probably part time)
L. BYRNE (Cabinet Office?)
C. FLINT (Cabinet Office?)
J. MURPHY (Scotland)


R. KELLY (Transport)
D. BROWNE (Scottish Secretary, Defence Secretary)
Baroness ASHTON (EU Commission)


G. HOON (Chief Whip - Transport)
J. HUTTON (BERR - Defence)
E. MILIBAND (Cabinet Office - Energy and Climate Change)


Department for Energy and Climate Change (Woodland Folk)


Chancellor DARLING
Home Sec SMITH
Foreign Sec MILIBAND D
Justice STRAW
Education BALLS
Work & Pensions PURNELL
Communities BLEARS
Universities DENHAM
International Development ALEXANDER
Chief Sec COOPER
Leader of the House HARMAN


Mandelson's appointment will be derided by the Tories and probably all the mainstream press, but Blairites will be delighted. Draper was doing the rounds on Sky and News24 calling it a 'masterstroke' and already predicting the end of the Tories. The reality is, Mandelson is a widely hated and ridiculed figure, and whatever his intellectual capacity to perform in his new role, Brown will probably live to regret his appointment.

Nick Brown was widely tipped to become Chief Whip - Hoon's demotion might come as a surprise given that he was said to be effective in the role. Nick Brown is a hardline Brownite and may cause considerable friction within the Party: but the Mandy appointment is designed to balance this potential problem.

Hutton will be delighted to move to Defence, a specialist area of his, given his authorship of a volume on military history and Barrow-in-Furness (shipbuilding) being his constituency. Des Browne was expected to leave cabinet, although maybe he could have kept Scotland. He doesn't.

The surprise appointment of Margaret Beckett to the common 'troubleshooting' role at the Cabinet Office shows Brown's determination to present an experienced and united front. It does, however, along with the Mandy saga, provide Cameron with a 'figures from the past' narrative.

The creation of a new 'Energy and Climate Change' office seems a ridiculous frivolity, and quite possibly a large expense. Ed Miliband is posted there - a considerable promotion to what is likely to be a difficult brief - but, I maintain, a silly move.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's time to make bold proposals to cut public spending

After a three month break, and given the severity of the current financial crisis, I thought it apt to write a post.

You might not know it, but it's actually the middle of Conservative Party Conference - the headlines this week were supposed to be made by Osborne and Cameron. The proposed freeze on council tax (the council tax 'rabbit' as many refer to it) should be broadly welcomed, as should many other attractive and sensible measure which will be lost in the hailstorm of the current financial turmoil.


As financial markets enter uncharted territory after Congress voted against the White House's $700bn bailout plan, the Tories don't seem to have a persuasive narrative. What would the Conservative Party do to help get Britain through this mess? The simple answer is: they don't know. Having said that, neither do Labour.

I was extremely cross with Nick Robinson this morning for suggesting that Labour are somehow leading the way in this crisis. The Prime Minister should have persuaded no-one that he's the best option to lead us out of this mess, of which he is a prime architect. He's doing nothing more than providing vapid statements to the media; vague comments about 'maintaining stability', and 'getting Britain through'. The fact remains that there is little or no stability to be maintained; and, if he thinks that 'Britain getting through' the crisis is something to boast about being able to do, it shows he has absolutely nothing to offer the country.

So what do the Tories do now? The polls have obviously shown a narrowing in recent days - Labour's bounce has been shown by all but one pollster - ComRes. This is despite headlines in The Independent alluding to the opposite - this has been caused by drawing comparisons between previous editions of newspaper-specific polls, which is misleading: ComRes carried out a survey for the Independent on Sunday only ten days ago, before the Labour conference and THAT speech. Compare the previous ComRes survey with the current one and the differences are as follows:

Con 41 +2
Lab 29 +2
LD 18 -3

Not really a Labour bounce there... (note the reverse-bounce of the Lib Dems)

Another alarming development is the apparent willingness of the media to give Brown another chance. They seemed to have grown tired of Cameron's large poll leads, and the Conservative Party's leading of the policy debate. Despite everything, despite all of the various idiotic incompetences over the past year, Brown will, to some extent, be let off the hook if current conditions persist.

This is why it has to be time for a fightback. A proper one. If the cupboard is bare, fill it up again - not with tax rises, but with revenues from spending cuts. I am confident that the Conservatives' 'waste' narrative is well entrenched with the general public. There will still be a considerable minority against public spending cuts no matter what, but this view is completely impractical in the current climate. We need to show that we're on the side of voters, so let's be bold in our commitments - a reduction of at least £20bn, cutting waste, freezing public sector recruitment, and removing costly managerial layers in the health service which diminish the quality of the service provided to patients. It is a proposal which Labour cannot copy. They believe in the all-powerful state. We do not, and we must never believe they have won the argument.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Cricket

I feel obliged to have a rant about England's woeful cricketing performances, both on and off (of) the field.

Batting is inconsistent, bowling is ineffective and selection is delusional and occasionally autistic. Never mind Pattinson at Headingley, why Collingwood at Edgbaston? No runs for Durham this season, no wickets, and an average of nine and three quarters for England in the last 5 tests. He shouldn't be playing for Durham's second team, let alone the England test team.

Michael Vaughan is also seriously out of nick. He's only scored a single century in his last 22 tests. He is, however, England captain. The trouble is, though, South Africa seem able to dismiss him with comparitive ease. Vaughan's form has never been better than his 2002 performance against Australia, when, incidentally, he wasn't captain. Since then, it's been pretty much downhill all the way.

I would now suggest that Vaughan be removed as captain at the end of this series to make way for someone else. It is, however, crucial that the replacement is someone who is selected consistently for the test side. Collingwood, for example, is a hopeless selection. Strauss is also dubious. Let's examine the selected 11 for this test and analyze their prospects:

Strauss - after being brought back to into the side, seemingly for no reason, managed to scrape together a couple of centuries, although both were against New Zealand. Needs a couple of scores against South Africa - if not, his place will once again come under scrutiny. For this reason, he's not a terribly good choice for captain.

Cook - must stop getting out for scores between 60 and 80. His conversion rate is only about a third. 50 should mean 100. He does still have technical problems outside off stump.

Vaughan - captaining still good, but can't buy a run and should relinquish the captaincy and his place in the side at the end of the series. Back to Yorkshire to get some runs for Geoffrey.

Pietersen - England player with the highest average. Sometimes does not control his shot selection as he might in more austere situations. Possibly the only undroppable player in the side.

Bell - Similarly to Cook, he needs more hundreds. His excellent 199 in the Lord's test should keep his critics at bay though.

Collingwood - What can I say? Shouldn't be in the side, shouldn't be captain. Desperately needs runs. If he is to be a proper all-rounder, needs to do something with his bowling. Why not learn wrist spin?

Flintoff - a couple of promising performances with the bat since his reintroduction into the side will breed more self-confidence. Bowling seems as good as ever, but needs more wickets in general.

Ambrose - keeping is fine but batting is not. Seemed very weak at No. 6 in the order in Leeds and now needs to make dramatic improvements if his place is not to come under threat.

Sidebottom - was brilliant against NZ but must be reminded that he can't take bagfulls of wickets all the time. His economy and consistency is still excellent, however.

Anderson - the most improved player in the side over the last year. Came back from the depths of despair during the NZ ODI series having been bashed all over the place by Brendon McCullum. Needs to bowl better to left-handers though - more inswingers, please.

Panesar - still by far the best spinner in England, but needs to learn more variations and flight the ball a bit more. Also - where's the doosra? Fielding and batting still leaves a lot to be desired.


Broad - a truly brilliant prospect and could almost be included in the side as a batsman going on present form. Bowling is terribly whole-hearted, but needs a lot of work. He will gain pace as he gets stronger.

Bopara - averaging around 55 for Essex in the County Championship, Bopara should have been far ahead of Collingwood in the queue for Edgbaston selection. Shah similarly.

Horton - my Lancashire pick. Should be in the selectors' minds. Needs bigger scores.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wherefore have we fought for so long, that we may destroy in an instant?

How this appalling government should be entrusted with such draconian legislation, I do not know. Why on earth does the [ConservativeHome] editorship trust this government to use these powers sensibly? I do not know. Why do MPs glibly afford themselves the right to vote in favour of this bill for the sole purpose of protecting an utterly useless Prime Minister? Again, I don't know.

Our ancestors have paid, time and time again, often with their lives, to protect our cherished freedoms, and yet a government with not a shred of credibility; not an iota of decency; and still less competence is allowed and IS CHAMPIONED to take a despicable retrograde step such as this.

What ARE those people thinking? It is truly a shaming moment in the history of, not only our 'liberal' democracy, but ALL liberal democracies.

The evidence is non-existent, the concessions were pathetic, the legislation made exponentially worse by each compromise, and the outcome is one of rank political expediency. This government and this Prime Minister survives to do us more damage.

The Lords will now do what they do best - with a level-headed, measured and reasonable approach, vote this abhorrent bill down and return it to the Commons.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Spelman may have to go

The revelation that Caroline Spelman, the Conservative Party Chairman, used public money for to pay a nanny for secretarial work done in 1997-8 is hardly earth-shattering. This is, after all, over ten years ago, at a time when the Conservative Party was still reeling from an historic election defeat. It may have been considered at the time that nobody would notice such an indiscretion, and yet this mistake (if that it what it was) may prove to be a resigning matter - or, perhaps more tangibly, a matter of dismissal.

Cameron may feel that he needs to replace Spelman as chairman anyway. I, for one, have not been a fan. Many others in the Party agree with me that she seems to be ineffective and that there are far better candidates available to take over - a certain Mr. Eric Pickles MP is surely the hot favourite to take over should she have to go/be sacked/be shuffled away.

The reshuffle is another option available to Cameron, should Spelman be exonerated. It would be considered a tough, but expedient move to take the chairmanship away from her. Many have suggested she is one of the most overrated and over-promoted members of the Party. I agree. The appointment of Eric Pickles as Chairman would be a highly popular move from Cameron, given the massive success of the Crewe and Nantiwich by-election campaign, so shrewdly managed by the brilliant Mr. Pickles.

It has to be shown that the Conservative Party will deal with MPs and MEPs who abuse their expenses in an effective and decisive manner. It remains to be seen what the ultimate damage will be to the House as a whole; whether or not individual cases will spark a move away from any particular Party, or if all MPs will be tarred with the same brush.

If, as is widely speculated, the Party hierarchy is organising a 'blitz' of new policies this Summer, it would be wise to carry out a reshuffle before this starts in earnest. There are certain members of the shadow cabinet who cannot consider themselves safe in their jobs, Spelman among them. My personal selection is:


It might be considered that those in fairly minor roles (Mundell, Gillan, Mitchell) might not be shuffled this time, but there is plenty of talent elsewhere on the Tory benches, some of whom may be ready for the shadow cabinet. Theresa May and David Willetts can consider themselves, in the grand scheme of things, unfortunate. Both could, potentially, have been important players in a Conservative government, had the political climate over the last ten years been different. Instead, their political decline has begun shortly before what will be, in all probability, a new and exciting period of Conservative government. Although some might argue that Willetts' influence has be prevalent over many years, having been a member of Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit before becoming an MP, New Labour's recent dominance has denied him the opportunity to use his enormous intelligence to its best effect.

But who are the potential candidates to replace shadow cabinet drop-outs? What about:

Greg Clark
Michael Fallon
Nick Gibb
Ed Vaizey?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Winnick needs to convince Labour

The Today programme held a short telephone conversation with David Winnick MP (Walsall North) this morning. He said that he remained unconvinced by the government's argument to extend detention without trial to 42 days. This is despite reports that many Labour rebels have now been won over by the government, due to concessions being made.

Mr. Winnick was one of the most passionate performers in the Commons when the 90-day detention bill was lost. I think he may have the ability to convert some former rebels back, and return Labour MPs to the fold, and I hope that he will try to do so. If the government wins 42 days, it is a dark and deeply illiberal day from Britain.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Conservative General Election win should now be the consensus

Congratulations to Edward Timpson MP. His election to parliament may go down in political history as the moment that the Conservative Party proved it could win the next General Election.

The results:

Edward Timpson (Con) 20,539 (49.49%, +16.93%)
Tamsin Dunwoody (Lab) 12,679 (30.55%, -18.29%)
Elizabeth Shenton (Lib Dem) 6,040 (14.55%, -4.03%)

CON MAJ 7860

The swing was 17.6%, Lab to Con.

I think the figures speak for themselves. Remember that this seat is the 165th most marginal for Labour. If we can increase our vote by nearly 17% here, ANYTHING is possible. This isn't just a poll based on asking people for whom they would vote. This is a Westminster seat. It's the real thing.

After all the electoral disappointments and humiliations of the last fifteen years or so, as we watched our Party crumble, and then failing in opposition, David Cameron has proved that our decision to elect him in 2005 was truly inspired.

It is good to be Conservative again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Murder on the Today programme - again

Terrible stuff from the Prime Minister on Today this morning. He stuttered, he floundered, and was skewered repeatedly by Humphreys. He had nothing new to say, nothing reassuring, and in the end, this whole media 'tour' will end up changing focus from policy to personality. Brown's appearance on TV and radio will carry, as Mike Smithson will undoubtedly agree, a reverse-Cameron effect. The more the public see Brown on their screens, or hear him on the radio, the less they will like him. The more they see Cameron, the more they warm to him.

Let's hope there are many more of these interviews in the future.

Friday, May 09, 2008

From ConHome: A Victory for New Labour?

'If we have a resounding enough mandate, we must play it safe to start with (see Lab, 1997-8) but we must then propose radical public sector reform, and not simply conform to the consensus that investment in public services is most important, and that to suggest 'cuts' is somehow a faux pas.

But we must remember that the Conservative Party is the whole reason New Labour exists - Thatcher's success forced Labour to consider generations in opposition. They had to change. The truth of the matter is, New Labour is not a political doctrine - it is an opportunistic hybrid of left and right, whose popularity, Blair and Brown believed, could consign the Conservative Party to decades in opposition. They were unprepared for government and have disappointed the millions who voted for them.

We must ask ourselves: where does New Labour go after a 2010 loss? If, by then, the public view it to have failed resoundingly, and after a 2010 election the Conservatives prove that improvement in public services can be achieved without wasting £millions, I would suggest that there is no need for New Labour to exist.

It depends upon the Party to show that New Labour has not created a new political consensus - we have to make that crucial distinction between waste and effeciency.'

Thursday, May 08, 2008

CON 49 LAB 23 LD 17 - 26% AHEAD

From ConHome:

'I don't have the required vocabulary to describe a 26% lead without heavy doses of euphoric swearing. I've reserved that for phone calls to fellow Tories.

UK Elect has fun with this:

Con 451
Lab 141
LD 21
SNP 12


On these figures, Labour are obliterated pretty much everywhere, even losing two seats in Nottingham, Leicester West (!), Wallasey, Bury South, Stalybridge, Oldham, and.... Darlington!

We now need other pollsters to fall into line. They must all show leads of over 15%, preferably 20%.

We have come so far over the last 2 and a half years. But there must be no let-up - we have to destroy this terrible government once and for all.'

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Labour's Future

There may have been many grand predictions over the last week or so forecasting the demise of the Labour Party. The Conservative Party was already doing well before last week, but since the brilliant Local Election and London Mayoral results, it seems that we must now prepare for government with altogether more realism and purpose. It seems apt, then, to see what ideological grounds there are for the continuation of the Labour Party as a viable force in British politics.

I would argue that New Labour, as a political entity, is ideologically bankrupt. When Labour won in 1997, it had a clear mandate and yet was not remotely prepared for power. After keeping to Conservative spending plans for a while, the Chancellor went on a biblical binge of public spending. Their mantra appears to count them in as both Conservatives and Social Democrats - 'Tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime', 'economic stability and fiscal prudence'; but also - 'education, education, education' and '24 hours to save the NHS'. New Labour chose what it liked from the left and right and slung them together into a melting pot of bare-faced opportunism, commonly known as the 'Third Way', a theory also espoused in times past by Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schroeder. New Labour has had considerable difficulty marrying the market economy with its so-called 'social justice' - I consider its approach to be electorally unsustainable, and ultimately, a failure.

The reality is, New Labour despises the populism of tax cuts and is fundamentally wedded to the expansion of the public sector, come what may. It is, hence, still dedicated to providing full employment. This fundamentally Keynesian principle is incompatible with the market economy. Full employment cannot be provided by any body but the government - it cannot exist as an objective in the private sector. New Labour has created thousands of new public sector jobs, many of which, I'll wager, are completely extraneous to the needs of struggling public entities, such as the NHS.

The failure of Labour to provide sufficient improvement to the NHS should, in theory, put the nail in the coffin of increased and unchecked increases in public spending. The NHS is a bloated and financially ravenous state monolith, the third biggest employer in the world, and completely unsuited to 21st century Britain. Labour have failed to convert it into a modern health service because they have relied solely on investment to achieve this - torrents of money have been buried in a bottomless pit of bureaucracy. Management structures were not reformed in time, leading to confusion, further layers of pen-pushers and, above all, monumental WASTE.

My point is, the Conservative Party cannot allow the issue of increased public spending to become an unspoken consensus between the political parties. We have to fight for lower taxes and radical reform of public services. If we can beat Labour on this issue, there is no longer the need for it, and there is no further reason for the electorate to vote for it. Its only plan in government was to maintain 'economic stability' at all costs - the famed 'stability' that Gordon Brown still crows about to this very day, even as it is unravelling before his eyes.

I do not expect Cameron and Osborne to conform to these ideas straight away once the Conservatives are returned to power. In fact, I'm glad that they're aren't doing. Even if the public are convinced that this approach is the right one, the Labour Party may still be able to use its age-old accusations of 'cuts' to hurt the Party, and jeopardize the outcome of an election. As New Labour did in 1997, the Conservatives must not rock the electoral boat to start with. However, if the mandate is as clear as I hope it will be, we must adopt a gradually more radical economic policy if we are to banish Labour to electoral oblivion. We must provide REAL improvements. Labour have failed to do that, and will never succeed with their current policies.

Unless something truly miraculous happens in the next two years, Labour will lose power in a 2010 general election. If Brown is still PM at that stage (which I hope for our sake he is), he will be forced to go - after which, the fun will really begin. Labour, I predict, will deal very badly with opposition. It is possible that the remaining socialists in Party (many of whom hold very safe seats) will break away to form a separate Party. Those on the right and in the centre of the Labour Party may join the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and/or form a pseudo-New Labour 'social democratic' Party. The trouble is, will any new centre-left bloc realistically have a chance of regaining power if the Conservatives are successful? Unless they establish a more substantially left-wing position (trade union power, abolition of private education, nationalisation of railways, etc), I doubt it. It is also worth considering that in the First Past the Post electoral system, that if Labour does split, it offers the Conservative Party the real possibility of long-term political hegemony.

With economic consistency comes political survival. New Labour's contradictory economic approach is irreconcilable. New Labour (not, necessarily, the Labour Party) cannot survive. Conservative notions of lower taxation, public sector restraint, economic freedom, fairness and entrepreneurialism will, and must, win the day. If we can prove that these values can be the basis for a public service revolution, Labour need never return to power.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Local Elections 2008

Ah, there's nothing like the smell of 44% in the morning.

Last night's BBC's coverage made for mostly excellent viewing - excluding, that is, Jeremy Vine's toe-curling and, frankly, patronising presentation of the results as they came in. Why on earth do people need to be shown the progress of the Liberal Democrats in the context of a shooting range on a Texan ranch? WHY? Where is my license fee going? It was awful.

Anyway, it rapidly became apparent that it was going to be a better night for us than many thought. Had we reached a glass ceiling? Was 40% the limit? No. The Southampton gain was, perhaps, the biggest surprise. Bury, of course, was symbolically the most important, where we gained 3 seats and finally took overall control of the council.

There are still around 50 results to come today, and, of course, the London mayoral race. The counting for that has begun this morning. I still think Boris must win to finish off a brilliant 24 hours for the Party.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

ICM: Labour to lose 92 seats

ICM's figures for a general election are

Con 39
Lab 29
LD 20

I think the Lib Dems are overstated here but still, my 41/29/19.5 prediction was pretty accurate. But the extra half-point for the Lib Dems and 2% less for the Tories makes a big difference to the number of seats Labour loses. It just goes to show that we have to place nearly as much emphasis on defeating the Lib Dems as Labour.

ICM: Labour to lose 131 seats

More bad news for Gordon, as ICM will reveal in the News of the World tomorrow that the Tories are 8 points ahead in the 145 most marginal seats, 40-32%. That's a swing of 9% in marginals since the 2005 election - that's tangible progress.

From ConHome:

'Very interesting figures.

After some fun on UK Elect, I managed to calculate an outcome for a general election which would mirror these figures from ICM:

Con 41.0 (+144)
Lab 29.0 (-129)
LD 19.5 (-22)

Con Maj 66

I still think that unless things become apocalyptic, Labour are unlikely to do this badly - but in the current climate, who knows?

I wonder what ICM will come up with later on this evening....'

There is a national ICM poll due later on. I wonder if my figures will come close...

Zimbabwe Recount

Some promising news emerging from Zimbabwe this morning. It appears that Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party have lost in their bid to win recounted constituency votes in the parliamentary elections.

If so, this shows that even if there has been fiddling, it has not succeeded, and the ZEC has remained supreme. This is despite widespread violence against white farmers and opposition activists. Their tenacity must be applauded. Mugabe must be fought every inch of the way by the MDC using the democratic tools at their disposal. The fact that President Mugabe was apparently willing to strike a deal earlier on means that there is, surely, a chance that he may choose to do so again, if he feels that the game is up.

We still, however, await the results of the presidential election.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Jazz musician and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue chairman Humphrey Lyttelton has died at the age of 86. He had a remarkable life as one of the most prominent British trad jazz musicians and a broadcaster.

He had presented ISIHAC since 1972, and had recently completed its fiftieth series. A truly irreplaceable man, he will be sorely missed by millions of British people whom he made laugh uncontrollably for so many years, myself included. His deadpan delivery and superb skill with words made him a perfect man for the role and a broadcasting icon.

26% and the economy

From CentreRight.com:

'The electorate is finally waking up to the extent of Brown's public sector binge. He assumed that the good times were going to go on forever. Even now, they still boast about low inflation, interest rates and unemployment. The fact remains that RPI inflation is running at around 4%, interest rate cuts are not being passed on (a friend of mine recently secured a variable rate of 6.7%); unemployment figures exclude thousands claiming bloated and undeserved benefits and they include many unnecessary appointments to an enormous public sector bureaucracy.

It is still unclear how severe any recession might be, but I would personally expect growth under 1% for 2008Q4 and of between 0% and -0.5% in 2009 Q1&2. House prices may fall 10-15% this year. RPI inflation may increase to 5% and beyond, leading to pressure for interest rate rises. If banks' liquidity problems are not solved soon, inflation-curbing interest rate rises could lead to severe difficulties for homeowners.

26% is such an awful poll rating for Labour, I cannot really see it going much lower. The Conservative vote, however, should gradually increase. We should set ourselves a target of not polling lower than 45% by conference season. Osborne v Darling polls must also improve. I still have my doubts about Osborne's ability to attack the government's record, whilst providing a coherent policy alternative. If things deteriorate rapidly, we must be prepared for government by the beginning of next year.'

Thursday, April 24, 2008

18% - from ConHome

'Utterly and almost unspeakably stunning news.

With such enormous defecits, Labour must realize that the only way to recover is to get rid of Brown. From a Conservative perspective, it's essential that he stays put for as long as possible. The best outcome, of course, would be a vote of no confidence - but Labour know that they couldn't possibly win a general election at the moment.

Note that this result for Labour is even worse than their paltry 27.6% they won in 1983. UK Elect handsomely predicts:

Con 397
Lab 191
LD 31

MAJ 146

It is ESSENTIAL that we gain Crewe and Nantwich. This poll represents a swing of about 11.5% since the 2005 GE and we only need 7.5% in C&N.'


Oh my. Eighteen whole percentage points ahead.

Con 44
LD 17


Con 397
Lab 191
LD 31

MAJ 146

Incredible stuff. The details will hopefully emerge later this evening. It's worth bearing in mind that even in 1983, Labour didn't poll as low as this. This is desperate news for Brown, and the u-turn is still not quite complete. Newsnight this evening is compulsory viewing. Watch the mayoral debate later.

Row defused?

Oh no. Has Brown mucked up the u-turn?

Frank Field is saying this morning that Yvette Cooper was 'badly briefed' for last night's Newsnight - she appeared very unsure as to whether or not the whole compensation package for the abolition of the 10p rate will be backdated to the beginning of the tax year. George Osborne was quick to pick up on this, accusing Gordon Brown's u-turn of 'not being what it seems'. Paxman's mock face of incredulity was beginning to look genuine.

Darling has to answer Treasury Questions in the Commons today, so he clearly needs to make a few things clear. If he can't, there is still plenty of time to put down a further amendment if anyone wants to....

Monday, April 21, 2008

10p and all that

It appears that today's announcement by Yvette Cooper that the government will expand the remit of an existing enquiry to include helping families without children will not be enough to satisfy rebel Labour MPs.

Unfortunately, the Chancellor does not have any money to give back to the British people. Reinstating the 10 pence tax band as it existed before would cost £7bn. Frank Field's proposals to increase the personal tax allowance (the amount of untaxed income allowed, currently £5,435 for those under 65) would cost £700m and compensate many of those who lost out in Brown's last budget.

It is a real possibility that the government may lose the vote. If they fail to make any more concessions, I have no doubt they will lose. It is difficult to see what further options there are for the Chancellor - Labour MPs want changes now but Darling simply cannot provide any without borrowing recklessly or cutting funds elsewhere. In the same way that Brown had 'no good option' last year when he failed to call a general election, his current dilemma poses a similar, but potentially much more damaging option. If he loses the vote, there will be havoc in the Labour Party - especially if it is seen as a vote of no confidence in the government. That may trigger an actual vote of no confidence, or a leadership challenge. If he wins, he may face several junior resignations.

Either way, this mess was entirely avoidable and is the definitive example of Labour's obsession with grabbing headlines whenever they can. This time, they may pay a very grave price indeed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody MP dies

Iain Dale disclosed an unconfirmed report earlier on - now the Labour Party and BBC News 24 have confirmed that Gwyneth Dunwoody MP (Crewe and Nantwich) has died.

She was a marvellous character, and a passionate and articulate parliamentarian. She was not a careerist, but a principled representative of the people of Crewe and Nantwich, and never afraid to criticize the government when she thought differently.

She will be missed.


Caroline Spelman is being awful on Question Time. If she can't give convincing answers on the abolition of the 10p rate or Jacqui Smith's moronic terror policy then she shouldn't be Party Chairman. The quality of her voice doesn't appear to endear her to the audience in Bristol.

This is why we're not 106% ahead.

Trouble on the Way

After today's contradicting headlines that Angela Smith MP (Sheffield Hillsborough) 'intended' to resign and then decided not to after a call to Gordon, we should be able to look forward to some fractious weeks ahead for the Brown administration.

42 days' detention still looks unwinnable - we can look forward to marvellous speeches from all sides of the House; hopefully David Winnick (Walsall North) can match his articulate and passionate speech during the 90 days' detention debate a couple of years ago.

The scenarios are these: if the government loses the vote, Brown's authority and judgement will be damaged further. Jacqui Smith should have to resign - although she probably won't, otherwise a PM would be into our fifth home secretary in only 4 years. If, unlikely though it is, they win the vote, our attention may be drawn to Jack Straw's position in the cabinet. He is widely rumoured to have doubts about the proposals. His resignation would be an almighty hammerblow to the government, and the Prime Minister, whose leadership campaign he ran. It would probably be comparable to the resignation of Geoffrey Howe or Nigel Lawson. A Jacqui Smith resignation would be embarrassing, but by no means fatal.

Abolition of 10p starting rate anyone?

The hideous smugness on Gord's face when he announced he was cutting the 22p tax band to 20p belies the attitude of this government - pull a rabbit out of the hat, make a few headlines, and to hell with the affect of it. It is people like me who are single, young, and earning a lowish wage who will be affected by this proposal. It is extraordinary that Labour MPs have taken so long to work out that this was never a good idea. There is real anger on the doorstep about this. It appears that Gordon is taking from the poor to give to the middle - and tax credit bonunses are not good enough. Labour cannot bring itself to give the people the tax break they deserve. They prefer to condemn them to complicated and unneccesary bureaucracy, which, hopefully, will deter them sufficiently from getting the discounts they rightly deserve.

The local government elections on May 1st will probably not be pleasant for Labour either. The Tories need to start winning properly in the north of England - Bury is a MUST this time. It's going to be difficult to break through in Yorkshire because of the number of indepedents, but we must at least make large inroads. Hopefully there will be more Conservatives in Salford joining Iain Lindley and the team. Surely the abolition of the 10p rate will play well for us here.

The mayoral election, however, is far more important. I have always been of the opinion that, if Boris loses, it is a major blow for David Cameron - he put his faith in Boris, not only to perform competently and prove his political worth, but also to win. He has to win. It appears that Ken is staging a fightback, so Conservatives must under no circumstances become complacent. Campaigning must be vigorous and relentless. London deserves so much better than an arrogant socialist cast-off like Ken Livingstone.

As for the polls, things are looking very promising. YouGov's 16 point lead would give us a majority of about 120 (44/28/17) but this needs to be backed up by other companies. I am reluctant to treat Mori's results seriously anymore, as they've looked increasing volatile as the Conservatives have recovered, with that imfamous 10% swing in 1 month 2 years ago. Populus always give better results for Labour, but it is crucial that we sustain a rating of over 40% with them if we are to be sure of success. ICM are yielding good results at the moment, and are pretty much in line with YouGov. It is looking increasingly as if the Conservatives are more likely to not only be the largest party in a post-2010 parliament, but to have a convincing and workable overall majority.

David Cameron is not the Conservatives' Neil Kinnock. It won't be a repeat of the 1992 election.

Monday, March 17, 2008

ICM for The Guardian

From ConHome:

'Another good poll - but unfortunately it's not enough to confirm a new trend in our favour. We need to poll consistently above 40%, and Labour likewise 30% and below. Labour's ratings in this poll and the Yougov poll are very encouraging for us.

What is not consistent about the two polls is the support for the Lib Dems - 5% is a considerable discrepancy. In truth, we need the Lib Dems to poll closer to 16% to maximize our chances of winning. But with Labour polling under 30% anyway, 41% would actually be enough to win a general election, even with the Lib Dems at 2005 levels. But with so long to go until a GE (2010 surely), Labour cannot be written off and could quite easily regain support IF economic conditions have improved by then.'

The poll figures are:

Con 42
Lab 29
LD 21

UKE projections:

Con 352
Lab 223
LD 43

Con Maj 56

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Two polls: one more excellent than the other

Some fabulous news for the Party today - a Yougov poll for the Sunday Times has the Conservatives 16% ahead of Labour. The figures are:

Con 43
Lab 27
LD 16

The other poll is for ICM:

Con 40
Lab 31
LD 20

Both polls are going in the right direction - it's a 4.5% swing with Yougov (Con +3, Lab -6) and 3% with ICM (Con +3, Lab -3, LD -1).

Such an enormous lead is quite out of the blue, what with Labour seeming to have closed the gap in recent weeks. It is, of course, entirely possible that the results of this poll might prove to be anomolous, but nevertheless - we might as well celebrate whilst we can!

The 16% story appears here on Times Online.

My ConHome post reads:

'The Yougov lead is astonishing, especially given Labour appear to have been making some sort of recovery over the last few weeks. 43/27/16 yields a majority of 118, according to UK Elect. I suspect that Labour's six-point shift may prove to be an exaggeration, but nevertheless, this is great news.

This sort of lead is reminiscent of leads shown in some Cameron/Brown polls taken before Tony Blair's departure. Maybe they weren't so fanciful after all...'

The point about the old Cameron/Brown polls is an important one - if Cameron can successfully show (subliminally) that Blair was a better PM than Brown is, the Tories might be on to a winner.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Latest Yougov Poll

Normally I wouldn't post on polls which I don't consider to be of great significance - and this Yougov poll is fairly unremarkable:

Con 40
Lab 33
LD 16

Forced choice (now):

Con 44
Lab 36

Forced choice (2005 election):

Lab 52
Con 35

The 'forced choice' figures are very encouraging, and show what enormous progress the Party has made since David became leader.

The telegraph's headline is 'Tories fail to profit from Brown misery'. This frustrates me. For 8 years we recorded poll ratings between the high twenties and low thirties. We failed to prove that we could change as a Party. David Cameron has been ahead for most of the time since December 2005 - and yes, consistent election-winning margins are not yet in the bag, but we must be patient.

I remember, during the IDS years, scouring the details of a poll to salvage anything remotely positive. Even a two-point defecit inspired a small nugget of hope: but realistically, the Party was going nowhere and was not going to even come close to winning.

Brown has, of course, had immense difficulties over the last few months. Northern Rock, lost data, PMQs performances, tax change flip-flops and the Peter Hain saga have all contributed to making this government look weak, inert and incompetent. The trouble is, to a large extent, politicians are now all tarred with the same brush. 'They're all incompetent' or 'they're all liars' are common complaints made by the general public with references to all politicians. Hence, the incompetence of the government does not necessarily lead to renewed faith in the Conservatives to show that they are a more capable alternative. It merely entrenches the feeling of doom in the current climate, and problems like party funding turn voters off even more. Indeed, New Labour is probably to blame for most of this disenchantment, but I don't believe the Tories can inspire people to vote on policies alone.

Cameron has recently sought to side with the public on the issue of confidence in the political system. At PMQs on Wednesday, he surprised Gordon Brown by asking him about televised debates, and public trust in the government on the issue of the Lisbon Treaty. Many commentators were puzzled by this line of questioning, but Guido's excellent blog on the subject may have hit the nail on the head. Read for yourself.

People should stop grumbling about the fact that we're not far enough ahead. I KNOW a margin of 7% won't win us the election but it WILL remove Labour's majority and it WOULD make us the largest single party in a hung parliament. I make no secret of the fact that I am in favour of a coalition with the Lib Dems if it ensures our return to power. Vince Cable, David Laws, Ed Davey and Clegg himself could all prove worthy proponents of Liberal Conservatism, which, after all, is Cameron's (and indeed my) brand of choice.

As for the electoral maths, the Tories have to be 9-10% ahead to be sure of an overall majority. According to UK Elect, the Conservatives would be 16 seats short of an overall majority with today's Yougov figures:

Con 308
Lab 282
LD 29
Oth 31

From the 'others' we should be able to count on the support of the DUP and the UUP, but that's only 11. The most significant remainders are Sinn Fein (5), SNP (5), and Plaid Cymru (4). We would have a majority of 8 with figures of 42/33/29 - WE ARE NOT FAR AWAY.

So I say to the Cameron doubters in the Telegraph: grow up! These polls must be put in context. To charge ahead with radical proposals now would be folly - it would simply be drowned out by the public's despair in the political system, and, moreover, the public's despair of the political classes. I am in favour of cutting tax, controls on immigration, tough policing and all the rest of it but the public will not accept our message until Westminster gets its act together on procedure, funding, declarations, and Mr. Speaker himself.

No single particular Party is out of touch: they all are, and it is their duty to show that MPs represent the entire electorate by becoming relevant to them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


ComRes - 41/30/17

An excellent poll at a critical time, when it looked like we were dipping below 40% and Labour was recovering. The Lib Dems are also not making very much progress.

London Mayor: Boris 44/Ken 39

This is truly excellent, and as posters on ComHome have pointed out, the London Mayoral Election result is hugely significant for the Party. I would even go as far to say that if Boris loses, it may ruin David Cameron's reputation - although electing Ken would obviously be far more calamitous for London than for the Party.

Also, Michael Portillo's television programme 'The Lady's Not for Spurning' is the best piece of political television I've seen for some time (although perhaps he needs to polish his MT impression a bit) - look out for classic Thatcher quotes like 'Take me to the battle!' at the 1976 Cambridge by-election.

Watch it on BBC iPlayer here

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cherry picking.....

Does anyone honestly believe that these twelve quotes accurately represent Cuban public opinion after half a century of one party rule? HMM. You decide.

New Zealand ODI Series Review

Right, cricket.

Shane Warne is right. England must stop making excuses if they're going to become a serious force in one-day international cricket. Peter Moores cannot stand there and sensibly say that, 'We've played on funny shaped rugby grounds with short edges where it has been difficult to play a spinner'. England seem to find it impossible to select a successful combination of bowlers in ODIs. Jimmy Anderson is all over the place at the moment, and doesn't seem to be able to acquire any consistency. Stuart Broad promises, but bangs it in short all too often. Ryan Sidebottom is the only consistent performer and his inclusion in the England setup is probably Peter Moores' most commendable achievement so far.

England did not learn enough this series - McCullum and Ryder continued on their merry way whilst England persisted in banging it in short. Anderson is the main problem, and as a Lancastrian, I take no pleasure in reprimanding him. His economy rate in the final game was 11.25, which, for a opening bowler (even in Twenty/20) is completely unacceptable. He looked clueless as to how to combat the aggressive batting of New Zealand's openers. Anderson, therefore, should be dropped. Broad's place in the side is also questionable.

Off-spinner Swann impressed in New Zealand but hasn't really been given the chance to bowl ten overs since - he should be a fixture in the side no matter what the pitch or overhead conditions are. A spinner is necessary to maintain control in overs 20-40, along with Collingwood's medium pace, and perhaps some overs from Owais Shah and/or Luke Wright. Dimitri Mascarenhas should be bowling ten overs, and why Paul Collingwood hasn't been allowing him to do so is a mystery.

The batting has shown occasional brilliance, but again, England are unable to learn lessons. It seems that when faced with a slow pitch, English batsmen still cannot adapt their strokeplay to the conditions. One might have thought that we have endured enough humiliation on the subcontinent to know about this. As for the opening partnership, Alastair Cook has to go. He is an excellent test prospect, but he is no one-day player, and, perhaps similarly to Michael Vaughan, he doesn't look like he has the power or ingenuity to post large scores. Phil Mustard has only made one substantial score, but England cannot afford to discard him so soon and re-open the travelling circus which is the debate over English wicket-keeping. We will have to make do with what we have. We do not have an Adam Gilchrist or a Kumar Sangakarra.

So, it now comes down to selection. Who should be kept in the ODI squad?

Mustard - low scores but shows promise
Bell - how shown ability to adapt but needs to convert more 50s
Pietersen - not in the best of form, perhaps, but it would be madness to drop him
Collingwood - is best in the team at adapting to conditions, and is the captain
Shah - too good a batsmen for no. 6 and isn't given enough of a chance to score
Wright - has scored useful big-hitting runs down the order and should bowl more
Mascarenhas - big hitter and canny bowler, he must stay and bowl more
Broad - strike rate is good but he's expensive. Should probably stay for now.
Sidebottom - England's best bowler and should be a permanent fixture

Dropped: Cook, Anderson

Bopara - not included this series and as looked all at sea recently
Tredwell - should have been given a game, otherwise, what's the point?
Ambrose - an excellent keeper, but seen as the test selection
Tremlett - he isn't Steve Harmison. Friendly bounce, expensive.

Suggested batting order:

[mystery fast bowler]


Sidebottom: 10
[mystery fast bowler]: 10
Broad: be prepared for only 5, but it should be 10
Swann: 10
Mascarenhas: 10 if Broad's wayward
Collingwood/Wright/Shah/Pietersen: 5

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hegemony and Economic Consensus

In postwar British politics, there existed one long period of consensus, and there currently exists another - the former being the 'Butskellite' consensus, and, currently, the market economy consensus, created by Margaret Thatcher.

Butskellism involved agreement between Labour and the Conservatives that governments should employ Keynesian economic policies, maintain full employment, increase public service spending and spend its way out of inflation. After the assembly of the welfare state by Labour between 1945 and 1951, Conservatives, under Churchill, were forced to accept the new order and reject the old laissez-faire attitudes of the 1930s. It appeared that post-war conditions required a larger and more interventionist state, to help reconstruct the nation after the Second World War. This idea persisted, largely unchallenged, until 1979, although some on the right (Enoch Powell, Arthur Seldon, etc) knew that this approach could not last forever, without dangerous consequences. The toxic combination of trade union power and poor control of public spending caused devaluation of the pound, rampant inflation and unemployment.

The Thatcher Years caused the Labour Party to think differently. Failures at the ballot box on four successive occasions forced those on the centre-left to revise their obselete economic policy, and accept what the Conservative Party had created: a dynamic, lower-taxing, lower-spending market economy with democratic trade unions and widespread ownership of shares.

Under Blair, Labour rescinded its commitment to public ownership and its 1997 manifesto declared that they would stick to Conservative spending plans for the first three years of its government, to attempt to prove to the public that its stewardship of the economy would be sound.

Labour has increased taxes at least 100 times since 1997. It has poured billions into the NHS, education, the New Deal and countless failed IT projects and bureaucracies. It has transformed the UK's 1997 budget surplus into a defecit; a defecit which now gives the Chancellor no room for manouevre in the current climate. Taxpayers' money has been treated with a reprehensible arrogance, which is synominous with New Labour's attitude across the board.

Labour seeks to create another consensus. It is, in essence, a market economy shackled by high and wasteful government spending and interference, one that is uncompetitive, and completely unsuitable for the twenty-first century. The political power afforded to New Labour at the ballot box has come at a high price, both figuratively and literally. Their politics has been cynical throughout, attempting to portray the Conservative Party as an irrelevance, our policies as incoherent and, worst of all, paradoxically, attempting to simultaneously demolish the record of the 1979-97 governments and yet claim their legacy for themselves.

The Conservatives must not accept Labour's spending plans at the next election, when we are elected to government. I would rather we endured another 11 years in opposition than were prepared to abide by such thriftless and reckless policy. We are not a Party of big government and not even a century in opposition should change our minds. After all, we were right in 1979 and we are still right now. Labour must not succeed in binding the hands of future generations when it comes to formulating policy for a successful UK economy. Conservatives must cut tax, and spend effeciently. Whilst I appreciate that the electorate must be convinced of our economic competence, in the same way that Labour had to make the case before the 1997 election, there is now a growing appetite for tax cuts and deregulation. Brown's cavalier spending is beginning to cause damage. Those who need to renew fixed-rate mortgages this year may discover this, to their cost.

We must be bold and united in putting forward the case for lower tax and smaller government. We must not succumb to the idea that public spending is somehow untouchable. It would be a betrayal of Conservatism, Thatcherism, and most importantly, the British people. If government has to tax at all, it has to spend the proceeds wisely and fairly. Labour have failed to do this and have squandered their years of economic and political plenty, and will be punished at the next election.