David Green: The Budget failed to end Coalition policies that obstruct economic growth. In particular, ‘green’ policies are forcing up the cost of electricity and endangering major industries including steel, ceramics and chemicals. Economic self-harm will not make any difference to global warming. UK emissions are less than 2% of the world total. Whether carbon emissions are a serious problem or the result of a global-warming scare story, closing down our two main aluminium smelters (in Anglesey and Lynemouth) has not reduced global emissions. Thousands of jobs have gone and aluminium is simply being made in other countries.
The Budget should have cut taxes on ‘the rich’. It is accepted by all the main political parties that the energy and initiative of our small and medium enterprises is vital to economic recovery, and they got some encouragement today. However, over 80% of business start-ups are funded by personal savings. Only a little over 10% comes from banks. If we want to reinvigorate entrepreneurship, we need to allow individuals to become wealthy. Heavy taxation has squeezed out middle-class wealth. There are not enough people with the spare cash to back businesses. When we have flourished in the past we have had a large economically independent middle class. Raising the tax threshold to £10,000 is useful, but the Government should have cut the higher rate of income tax to 40% and increased the threshold so that no one who earns under £100,000 pays it.
David Cameron delivers his speech on Europe at the Bloomberg HQ in London, © i-Images
Richard Ashworth MEP, Leader of Tory MEPs: "He has set out his vision for the future of Europe and the UK's relationship with a reformed EU. The speech reinforced his preference for membership, but made clear this cannot be taken for granted. I call on fellow Conservatives to rally behind this vision, support the strategy and meet the challenge of helping the EU become a more flexible and friendly place for Britain. We will get a vote on membership, appropriately, once the renegotiation process is completed, some time in the next parliament. It was a thoughtful speech. These were core Tory aspirations which should reassure the party faithful and the country."
Martin Callanan MEP: “David Cameron has given the right speech at the right time and I fully support it.
As someone who’s taken part in many Euro negotiations, I think David Cameron’s European agenda is eminently deliverable and he is right to try.
Britain is in a strong position to ask for a more flexible arrangement and if the EU is to hold together through this crisis then it needs to realise that the model of ever-closer union is antiquated and needs to change. It's not only the UK that is more than reluctant to become part of an inward-looking fiscal and political union.
Of course, European federalists will scream that David Cameron’s agenda is undeliverable and will undermine the Single Market. This is complete nonsense. The only thing the Prime Minister wants to undermine is the outdated principle that only one-size-fits-all is the way forward for the EU.
As parts of the EU continue to integrate then the likelihood of the UK leaving will only increase, unless we can forge a new flexible alliance that allows national governments to ask at which level powers are best exercised.
The British people should have their opportunity to finally have their say. If only we had resorted to asking the people about the relationship they want with Europe in the past then it would not face a crisis of legitimacy today.”
Nadine Dorries MP: “On Monday afternoon a former Labour Minister asked me why I thought Labour were only 5 per cent ahead in the mid-term polls.
This speech will in part answer his question.
Not only are the British people fully realising that Labour left us with the worst deficit in the Western world and are to blame for almost bankrupting the country, they will now see a Prime Minister who has stepped out of No.10 with a well thought-through vision for the future and a plan to deliver.
With one hand tied behind his back by his Lib Dem partners, David Cameron promises to draft legislation in this Parliament ready to enable an in/out referendum in the first year of the next, should a Conservative Government be elected.
The speech fills a political vacuum and introduces a degree of gravitas to a government which has been tainted by the accusation of pursuing issues which don't matter in times of austerity, such as gay marriage and Lords Reform.
This speech won’t make me vote for an increase to the EU budget at a time when we are cutting some council budgets by 20 per cent, and I will remain someone who wants a self-governing nation which places equal importance on trading with all countries in the world, not just those in Europe – but this speech is audacious and brave. It shines a spotlight on the future under a majority Conservative government and it’s a future many will want to share.”
Matthew Elliott: “Big speeches, like Budgets, take a while to digest. But taken at face value, this was an extremely bold speech delivered in a typically measured way. While the precise details of the renegotiation will be subject to endless debate over the next five years, the five principles set the bar pretty high. The debate will now turn to whether the PM will be able to achieve these objectives and, if Treaty change happens before the election, whether the renegotiation will also come sooner. For Eurosceptics, one thing is clear. The starting pistol has been fired on a referendum. We must now shift our focus from debating amongst ourselves and instead take the fight to those who argue that it is too risky to negotiate a better deal for Britain. Let battle commence.”
Daniel Hannan MEP: “This is an extraordinary moment. A British Prime Minister has promised an In/Out referendum. Instead of the ministers and mandarins deciding whether the deal is good enough – which is what has led us to the present mess – the electorate as a whole will decide. As recently as two years ago, David Cameron said he saw no need for an In/Out referendum, because he wanted to remain in the EU. What has changed his mind? Partly the People’s Pledge, one of the most successful campaigns I’ve ever been involved in. Partly the heroic 111 MPs who showed which way Parliament was moving on this issue. Partly the eurozone crisis. And partly UKIP. Which is why it is so puzzling to see friends in that party sulking this morning when they should be awarding themselves a medal. The PM has just embraced the policy they have been demanding for 20 years. That policy doesn’t become wrong just because someone else is proposing it. Stop carping, my UKIP friends, and start preparing for the referendum.
Thanks to all ConHome readers who signed the People’s Pledge. And thanks to everyone who made the argument for a referendum within the party, patiently and courteously. It worked. This is your victory.”
Bernard Jenkin MP: “The Prime Minister’s speech represents a watershed. His commitment to a referendum is historic – a pledge to re-engage the British people with the question of our EU membership. Our EU partners must decide whether to accommodate our legitimate wishes for democratic self-government while we remain signatories to all the EU Treaties up to and including Lisbon, or if the repudiation of the ‘ever close union’ means a new treaty between the EU and the UK, based purely on ‘trade and political cooperation’. That is what the British people want and should be the mandate for renegotiation contained in our 2015 manifesto.”
Andrea Leadsom MP: “David Cameron is right to say that Europe must change and the EU needs to serve the interests of the British people much better. The status quo in Britain’s relationship with the EU is no longer an option, and the Prime Minister seeks to negotiate a deal that promotes our national interest. It is also right to seek fresh consent from the British people.
The speech sets out a clear choice for the country: under a Conservative government, the UK will negotiate a new settlement with the EU and voters will be given a say.
I believe the country will unite behind this approach and we can focus our efforts on a robust but achievable renegotiation.”
Andrew Lilico: “This speech will unite the Conservative Party and divide the Labour Party. The considerable majority of Conservatives would prefer to stay in the EU on renegotiated terms, whilst those that want to leave will have a better referendum than they ever hoped for – not simply a status quo versus leave referendum, but a referendum in which the status quo isn’t even an option! When Cameron and Hague have tried to avoid talking about the EU, it has created splits in the party. Engaging properly will, by contrast, build political capital for deficit reduction, welfare reform and other policies. Spot on.”
Louise Mensch: “As a libertarian, I’ve always been in favour of hunting. And the sound we just heard was Cameron shooting Farage’s fox.
This was a very Tory speech. One many in the party have been hoping for years he would make. Ask for a mandate for total renegotiation, and if we don't get it – a straight in/out referendum.
Maximum leverage on the Eurocrats. And a major shift for the PM. This speech saw the George Osborne/Michael Gove wing of government triumphing over the Nick Clegg one. Previously, with one eye on coalition, Cameron had stated he would never want to leave the EU. Now he says he wants to stay – but only if our demands are met.
Canny Tories will take this and run with it. There is no huge appetite to walk out of the EU right now. Taking our powers back or we quit; that’s what voters want.
Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are left totally flat-footed. Cameron’s move is both populist and measured. He leads; they splutter. George Osborne is a tactical genius. Miliband had a chance to offer a referendum ahead of Cameron at party conference season, but he fluffed it. He will forever be playing catch-up.
One last point: I *loved* how Cameron stuck it to Clegg towards the beginning of his speech. Europhile former MEP Clegg had huffed saying that Cameron's speech would be delivered ‘as Tory leader, not as Prime Minister.’ Cameron put the squawking yellow budgie firmly back in its cage today: ‘I speak as British Prime Minister...’
And after this move today, he probably will speak again as Prime Minister when he presents our non-negotiable demands to the EU in 2015.”
Mark Reckless MP: “In the early hours of Friday 7th May 2010 I made a speech at what is now called Medway Park.
After I had thanked constituents, campaign team, police and officials I repeated my campaign promise that I would use my election to fight for an In/Out referendum so that Britain could again be an independent country.
The local BBC reporter covering the Medway count asked me afterward if that was party policy. I said ‘No, not yet’.
It is now.
Within eighteen months, 81 Conservative MPs voted for an In/Out referendum.
A year later I got a majority in Parliament to cut the EU budget.
Now the Prime Minister has promised an In/Out referendum.
It is therefore time for everyone, whether they believe in an independent Britain, or simply in democracy, to get behind the Prime Minister and campaign finally for that In/Out referendum.”
Laura Sandys MP: “I welcome the strength of the PM’s commitment to shaping and winning the debate around a reinvigorated European settlement with the British people. Mainstream Conservatives share the PM’s desire for Europe to be a success and support his personal commitment to the UK’s continued and growing influence in the EU.
Despite the frustrations of all international organisations, we would not contemplate leaving the UN Security Council, NATO, or even the IMF. It is therefore extremely reassuring that the Prime Minister, while offering a referendum, will be supporting Britain’s role as a vocal and leading member of the largest trading bloc in the world.
The referendum offers an opportunity to reboot our relationship in Europe and will reconfirm the nature of our relationships with the EU. We have a challenge to help shape Europe around Cameron’s growth strategy. This we believe is a strategy that can be won across Europe, further strengthening the economic value of Europe to Britain.”
Throughout this week we've compiled a special Jury to answer five questions:
Here are four answers to the fourth question — from Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute, Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Ryan Bourne of the Centre for Policy Studies, and the ConservativeHome columnist Andrew Lilico.
Eamonn Butler: “We need some principles with the strength of constitutional law. Not principles like Gordon Brown's 'Golden Rule', or the Maastricht Conditions, that were abandoned at the first sign of a problem. Balanced-budget rules, maximum-deficit rules. But the most useful thing we could do is this: establish the principle that every Bill coming before Parliament must contain an estimate of its future costs over the coming years, decades and generations. Then politicians would not be able to vote benefits for this generation without paying any regard to the future cost. It would get us out of Ponzi-scheme politics.”
Philip Booth: “In the short term, there must be radical spending cuts, welfare reform, other supply-side reform and rises in state pension ages in order to raise economic growth, reduce taxation and reduce borrowing. This could change things really quite quickly. Indeed, we have such a dysfunctional tax and benefits system that we could create a win-win-win situation quite easily. This goes back to Reagan's 1964 line that there are simple answers but no easy answers (in terms of the vested interests that would be disturbed). This does not remove the fiscal headwinds. In the long term, we must move to much greater pre-funding of health and pensions for the younger generation. This would raise savings, make provision more efficient and responsive, and also create much better economic incentives for the types of behaviours that will help deal with the many problems that will be thrown at us over the next 50 years.”
Throughout this week we've compiled a special Jury to answer five questions:
Here are two answers to the third question — from Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute and Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs:
Eamonn Butler: “Politicians have discovered that they can fund spending and benefits for this generation by passing the cost onto future generations through borrowing. But why should future generations sign up for this one-sided contract? I was one of those who, in the mid-1970s, joined the 'brain drain' rather than take the same sort of deal then. So I know that young people in particular are mobile, and once you have lost their talents, you have usually lost them for good. I am unusual in that I came back and helped Margaret Thatcher tackle these problems.”
Philip Booth: “Yes, though there are not a great many safe havens that young people might find attractive! Most countries have either similar demographic problems to our own or a similar debt position or a slightly better situation in one respect and a much worse situation in the other. The outcome is grim across OECD countries, though the problems are not always the same.”
> Tomorrow: What can and should still be done now to reduce the danger of a future debt burden?
Throughout this week we've compiled a special Jury to answer five questions:
Here are two answers to the second question — from Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs and ConservativeHome columnist Andrew Lilico:
Philip Booth: “In considering the burden of debt, there are three big issues in my view. It is true that we have had debt levels like this before and ‘grown’ out of them. However, this is the first time that such huge debts have accumulated in peacetime to finance current government spending (though, under the Brown days, you could argue that at least some of the problem was caused by the "one-off" banking crisis). Even in the 1970s debt did not change much as a proportion of national income. Wars come and go, but the political pressures for big government in a democracy, predicted by public choice economics, just intensify. Secondly, we are close to our taxable capacity - increases in tax cannot be used realistically to deal with the deficit/debt. Thirdly, we have huge forthcoming social insurance obligations due to having pensions and health systems that rely mainly (in the case of pensions) and totally (in the case of health) on taxpayer funding on a pay-as-you-go basis. Such obligations, calculated in inter-generational models, probably come to about four times the explicit national debt. Even if one ignores those calculations, at the very least it is fair to say that the coming fiscal headwinds are huge (as, indeed, is indicated in the OBR's fiscal sustainability reports).”
Andrew Lilico: “Britain’s debt burden is only not unprecedented if measured solely in terms of direct liabilities through government bonds. But in the past when government’s had higher debt to GDP ratios than today they did not have our implicit liabilities – they did not have unfunded public sector pension liabilities, or state pension liabilities, or guarantees to the banking sector. Furthermore, when our debts were higher in the past things did not turn out happily. Remember: our post-World War 1 debts may have been higher on narrow gilts definitions, but (a) nominal GDP fell 28% from 1920-1923 and did not exceed its 1920 peak until 1938; (b) we had a ‘voluntary’ bond swap in 1932 which vastly wrote down our first world war liabilities; (c) the US first overtook us as the major world power and then dismantled our Empire; even after all that we still gave up and inflated our debts away in the 1970s. I think saying ‘Our debts were higher in the past and it turned out okay’ is wrong on both counts – they weren’t higher then; and it didn’t turn out okay then.”
> Tomorrow: Is there a danger that the most talented young Britons will leave high taxed Britain in future years for less indebted nations?
Throughout this week we've compiled a special Jury to answer five questions:
Here are two answers to the first question - from Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute and from Ryan Bourne of the Centre for Policy Studies:
Eamonn Butler: “Last time we had a debt burden this high, at least we had use the money to save Europe from Nazi tyranny. This time, there is not a lot to show for it. We've actually borrowed the money to fund our own past extravagance, and to bail out overstretched banks that should have been broken up and reconstructed by market forces. It took a very long time to pay off our war debt, and it will take a very long time to pay off this one. The difference is that we are simply adding and adding to our present debt, and have scant plans ever to pay it off.”
Ryan Bourne: “Newspapers often focus on the effects of the rocketing debt burden on our immediate ability to borrow. Though this is important, the main reason we should be concerned about the current high debt burden is because economic evidence suggests debts at our current levels lead to protracted economic stagnation and slow growth. The Chancellor knows this. His Mansion House speech cited the important work of Reinhart, Reinhart and Rogoff, who found that during episodes in which gross government debt crossed 90% of GDP, the typical episode lasted 23 years and was typically associated with slower annual growth to the tune of 1 percentage point per year. The cumulative cost of this over the whole period on income is stunning. And the alarming fact is that the UK's gross debt was this week forecast to peak at 97% of GDP in this Parliament.
The question then becomes: why does high debt lead to slow growth? Might the causation work the other way? Of course, this is possible. Large exogenous shocks can lead to huge increases in debt. But the duration suggests high debts and slow growth are self-reinforcing. The problem is that the policies typically used to deal with the debts slow growth through the discouragement of investment: whether it be because of a burst of unexpected inflation, higher taxes, financial repression or the confiscation of wealth. Many of these policies have been mooted or attempted across the Western world in recent years, and we're likely to see a variety of them in the coming years. This means that without other substantial supply-side measures to raise the medium term growth rate (including restraining government spending in itself), and with the demographic pressures round the corner, it could be a tough couple of decades.”
> Tomorrow: It may not be unprecedented by historical standards but isn't today's UK borrowing significant by international standards?
Lord (Michael) Bates: "British interests are in seeing continued economic recovery in the UK’s largest export market and to avoid being dragged into more costly (human and financial) military engagements. Romney may be slightly ahead of Obama in the first but behind in the second. In navigating the perilous global icebergs into clearer seas we need a ‘Steady as she goes’ hand on the tiller and Captain Obama scores here although Romney’s First Mate, Paul Ryan has also shown impressive political grip. A deciding factor in favour of Obama would be what he represents for the American people—a triumph over prejudice and the embodiment of the American Dream. It will go down to the wire though."
Andrew Boff AM: "Republican economic policies are impressive in opposition and disappointing in government; maybe because they spend so much time having to pander to the prurient and chauvinistic appetites of their mid-West core vote or their latent protectionism. Obama speaks drivel but boy does he speak it well and is hardly a socialist. I don't want the Democrats to win, I just want the Republicans to lose-big time. Only then will the non-weird Republicans have the impetus to transform our slightly deranged cousins into a modern centre-right party which we can confidently call our ally."
Dominic Schofield: "It's a close one, but on balance hope it's Romney. Economically I suspect Romney 'gets' what needs to be done more readily than Obama. Overwhelmingly US business (large and small) has felt short-changed by the current administration and poverty and unemployment have gone up. Romney's track record at Bain Capital and his record as Massachusets Governor all lend him greater credibility than Obama, and his promises to set about tackling the deficit are believable. The Romney/Ryan ticket stand for genuine fiscal conservatism - and America cannot continue spending and borrowing from the Chinese much further. On the international stage I believe he will combine pragmatism (a la George H W Bush) with the will and guts to stand up for American interests and Western truths. America's enemies (who are our enemies too by the way) will fear him in a way they won't fear a narrowly re-elected (and weakened) Obama administration."
Ryan Bourne: "Romney. Obama's stimulus and recover plan was supposed to generate growth of 4.6 per cent per year by now with 5.4% unemployment. Instead growth is 2% with unemployment at 8%. And many people have simply given up looking for work - real unemployment is much higher. No wonder Obama's economic advisors stopped tracking the stimulus costs when it hit $317,000 per job 'created'. But even if you think a Keynesian stimulus in 2009 was right, Obama's still shown no leadership on the longer term fiscal challenges. $6 trillion will be added to the debt under his watch. He set a Commission to look at fiscal sustainability and tax reform on a bi-partisan level, but was unable to bring forward any of its recommendations despite widespread support for much of it - a lack of leadership which we've seen during the debt ceiling crisis and with the looming fiscal cliff for 2013. Mitt Romney at least seems to understand an economy run with more government will be inefficient and stifle competition and innovation. Plus, he has a good record as a businessman, public official and as a politician working with a Democrat legislature in Massachusetts."
Mohammed Amin: "If I were an American, I would vote for Obama. He inherited a terrible economic mess and has faced enormous Republican hostility in Congress. Even in the first two years, the filibuster rules in the Senate allowed many of proposals to be blocked. Despite all that, he managed to get healthcare reform through Congress, get the stimulus package through despite it not being a big as he would have liked, and repaired America’s image in the world. In a second term he can do much more, especially in the Middle East."
Luke Bozier: "If Obama would commit to seriously reforming the American
corporate tax system for small businesses, and reducing the red tape on
entrepreneurs, I'd say Obama. Because that would be a Clinton-esque
move which would boost growth and let American entrepreneurialism
loose. However, he has been very coy about what exactly he would do. Romney on the other hand has been more specific; he gets that the tax and red tape burden on American entrepreneurs - much bigger than it is in neighbouring Canada or even in Britain (where we have one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the G20) - hurts everyone, by keeping growth slow and job creation even slower."
Spencer Pitfield: "On the back of the UK achieving 1% GDP growth for the last quarter I have no doubt that in this global world a Republican Presidency is my hugely preferred outcome. A Romney victory would strengthen American growth and as such help boost growth here in the UK and across the world. Global growth will drive-forward prosperity for nation states and help pull Britain firmly out of the worst recession since the 1930s."
John Bald: "Romney doesn't understand the need to pay for spending with taxes, and doesn't see that some of Obama's actions, particularly on the auto industry, were needed to prevent a slump. However, his gaffes and lack of general knowledge don't seem to be holding him back, and I don't think he's dangerous to us. Obama's healthcare legislation has bucked the US constitution, which may cost him. He is mildly hostile to British interests - he wouldn't start another Falklands war, but wouldn't mind much if someone else did. A lot of Black British people expected much of him, and will hurt if he loses. I never expected anything and, for once, don't much care who wins."
Murdo Fraser MSP: "On very few levels can Romney be viewed as a strong Presidential candidate for the Republicans. Whilst I would still expect Obama to win, the fact that the polls are so close indicates what a poor President he has been. After all the hope and expectation following his election he has been a huge disappointment, failing to tackle the issues that matter to ordinary Americans. Obama may win, but he doesn't deserve to."
> Recent International post: 43% of Tories would vote for Romney and 23% would support Obama.
Earlier this week Peter Hoskin used his column to argue that not every person has remembered the Thatcher years correctly. Three of ConHome's jurors respond by answering a related question - "In what ways - if any - is the Coalition more radical than the Thatcher governments?"
Paul Abbott: "The Coalition is pursuing shock and awe reform, in almost every Whitehall department. Police pay and pensions. the NHS Bill. Reductions in the armed forces. Academy schools. Localism. The universal credit. Utility bills. Quantitative easing. Re-regulating the banks. Top-up fees. A bonfire of the quangos every three years... Conservatives are fighting on all fronts, without an outright majority. By contrast, Margaret Thatcher's government was careful to avoid an all-out confrontation with Britain's vested interests. Her Ministers took not one, but SIX successive Acts of Parliament between 1980 and 1993 to curb militant trade union power, for example. Thatcher was more incremental, and more cautious. As the saying goes, she knew how to eat the elephant. (Many small bites.)"
Spencer Pitfield: "The radicalism of Thatcher Governments is best encapsulated in a political philosophy and economic policies emphasising flexible labour markets, deregulation and privatisation. I have no doubt that this Coalition Government's greatest radicalism, and the one for which it will be most remembered for, relates to education policies and, in particular, the implementation of Free Schools. By creating 'indepedent state schools - free from LEA limitations and local bureacracy - and allowing school leadership teams to lead, Michael Gove has across the board set state schools free to finally achieve their full potential."
John Bald: "Education was a weak spot for Margaret from the time she was bamboozled into appointing her sworn enemies to the Bullock Committee in 1975. They duly did the opposite to what she wanted, and abolished the national reading test. Local authorities took this as their cue and, except in Union matters, ran rings round her and her ministers. David Cameron and Michael Gove have cut the ground from under their opponents by abolishing their quangos, exposing their fiddling of examination and test results, opening more free schools and academies, and being (mostly) much more careful in their use of advice."
Members of the new ConservativeHome Jury offer their thoughts. These thoughts were first submitted a week ago and appeared in the ConservativeHome Party Conference newspaper.
ANGIE BRAY MP: Nick Clegg is probably a better partner for the Conservatives because instinctively he is a Liberal rather than a Social Democrat and doesn’t carry the Labour baggage Vince Cable does from the past – what he needs is a bit of spine-stiffening to remember that sometimes.
MOHAMMED AMIN: At the next General Election we need the Liberal Democrats to take votes from Labour rather than taking them from us. Vince Cable definitely has more left wing appeal than does Nick Clegg, especially after Clegg broke his promise on tuition fees. Indeed Clegg could easily pass as a left wing Tory. Accordingly we would be far better off with Cable leading the Liberal Democrats, as he would have minimal appeal to Conservative leaning voters, but strong appeal for Labour leaning voters.
RYAN BOURNE: “From an ideological perspective, the Tories would find it much easier working with a 'liberal' Liberal Democrat like Nick Clegg. Electorally, the picture is more complex. I suspect the appointment of Cable would give the Lib Dems a poll boost - if this means current disaffected Lib Dems returning to the party in Con-Lab marginals, the Tories win. Where it leads to more Lib Dems votes in Lib-Con marginals, the Tories evidently lose. On balance, Clegg will be better for the Tories if they don't think there's much chance of winning a majority anyway and would rather remain in Coalition post-2015 than occupy the opposition benches.”
ANDREW BOFF: Electorally, clearly Cable would be the best leader for the Lib Dems. There is a huge opportunity for the LibDems to use their base in government to say to anti-Tory voters "We were the ones that stopped the Tories being awful, not Labour". Clegg is a little bit too orange book for that part of the electorate.
MAX WIND-COWIE: In terms of governing Britain with a partner, Nick Clegg is clearly the lesser of two evils. He is a man we can do business with, a man whose liberalism is broadly of the modern centre-right, freedom over ‘fairness’ type and a man who has demonstrated his readiness to make tough compromises. But that’s different to the question of who it would be better for the Conservative Party to be running against in 2015 – strategically, Vince Cable would be a better bet. He is a social democrat, has made it clear that he would happily work with Labour and represents little differentiation from Ed Miliband. Vince vs. Ed vs. Dave would leave broadly centre-right, ‘let’s keep Labour out’ voters with only one real choice: The Conservative Party.
RYAN SHORTHOUSE: Here comes another hung parliament. Who will the Lib Dems go with in 2015? It depends on the maths, of course. But assume there’s a choice. If Vince Cable takes the reins, he’ll go with Labour, no question. Clegg – if we’re a bit nicer to him, and give him a bit more credit –may well stop the bed-hopping. Broadly, he’s an economic and social liberal; a good partner. And he may well see a richer future for the Liberal Democrats in another Coalition with us. If Conservatives want a second term, Nick Clegg could be our best chance.
SPENCER PITFIELD: “I have no doubt that in a perfect world Vince Cable would be the better Lib Dem leader for the Conservatives to go head to head with. His age coupled to his unbridled (or should I say uncontrolled!) social democrat views make him a much easier target. Having contested the Sheffield Hallam seat against Nick Clegg I can honestly say from personal experience that he is most likeable. Indeed, prior to the tuition fees turn-about-face debacle, Clegg has been warmly embraced by the constituents of Sheffield Hallam. Oh, and by the way, Orange Booker that he is, Mr. Clegg is no doubt much closer to we of the blue order than his yellow colleagues. A Lib Dem who we can do business with!”
BRIAN CONNELL: Any change of leader will be a massive distraction from getting the economy fixed: risking the implosion of the coalition and opening up the prospect that our economy gets buffeted as the markets speculate on the UK's ability to meet the coalition's concrete financial commitments. The answer for the country must be that Nick Clegg should remain as leader. The question though isn't 'what's good for the country' but 'what's best for the Conservative Party'. As so often in life, the answers are the same - Nick Clegg. Inconsistency and opportunism have been the hallmarks of LD campaigning: it took Clegg to call their inner bluff and say 'if you're serious about politics, then you must take your opportunity for power'. With a record of delivery, and a critical media there is less space for the ‘ambiguity and apple pie’ that they’ve thrived on. Nick Clegg is a permanently weakened leader and his party will be weakened with him.
Members of the new ConservativeHome Jury offer their thoughts. These thoughts were first submitted a week ago and appeared in the ConservativeHome Party Conference newspaper.
ANGIE BRAY MP: We need a robust response on prisoner votes and, more topically, the rights of trade unions as they persuade the European Court of Human Rights to re-examine issues like rights to secondary picketing. We need action, not just words, on repatriating a swathe of regulatory powers.
LOUISE MENSCH: Not an in-out referendum - the Europhile's dream. Proposed by ex Euro MEP, this question almost demands a 'Yes' vote. We should have a referendum on new terms of membership - a semi-detached relationship. Cameron and Osborne should define the terms. Then the referendum should offer three choices. (Can you see UKIP's fox cowering in the corner? We're about to shoot it.) 1. Leave the EU altogether. 2. Demand new membership terms (as listed) and leave if we don't get them. 3. Remain as we are. Can anybody doubt a massive victory for point two?
This referendum should only be announced before the election, as the LibDems, knowing people will go for option 2, will leave government before they will allow it to be brought. They are radical Europhiles. Therefore, this is a game-changing, election winning strategy that George Osborne, master tactician, should keep in his locker for 2014. Enough Lab and Lib rebels will vote for it to get it through. Cameron knows the ecstatic reception this would get - and his enormous polling boost. He would, however, have to agree that we would leave the EU rather than not get our terms in option two if the Eurocrats revolt. It's an old fashioned game of chicken - but Europe, as we've seen in the Greek crisis, won't kick anyone out no matter what they do. With guts and firmness, Britain will be safe. And UKIP will be a florid-cheeked, tight-collared memory.
MAX WIND-COWIE: It’s a modern myth that the Conservative Party is ‘divided over Europe’. Divided how? Aside from Ken Clarke – and perhaps a few in the House of Lords – who are these pro-Euro or pro-federalism Tories? That being said, we still behave as though we’re divided over Europe. Cameron’s indecision on when, how and if a referendum might happen being a case in point. The truth is that UKIP – with its wildly opposed conservative and libertarian instincts – is only united by Europe. We can deal with UKIP by offering an in-out referendum in the first year of the next Parliament. We should make that promise now.
DOMINIC SCHOFIELD: The key to dealing with the UKIP threat is how we respond to the changing face of the EU. As the Euro Zone faces the chaos of a choice between fracture or federation, we must clearly stand for the comprehensive renegotiation of our relationship within this changing Union. This, plus a clear determination to fight UKIP on the ground (rather than conduct backroom deals), will stem the flow of ex-Tory voters to UKIP and win back voters we have lost. Our messaging needs to get tougher: Tory voters who vote UKIP will get Miliband pure and simple: Vote Purple, Get Red.
LUKE BOZIER: A referendum on Britain's place in the European Union is a distraction and should be, although tempting, avoided. UKIP's appeal is among a group of people who Thatcher won and kept for the Tories for a long time. They no longer feel that the Tory Party is the party of the hard-working man; that has to change in order to neutralise UKIP. That means reducing the high cost of hard work - tax, in all its guises.
ANDREW BOFF: Giving attention to self-harmers merely gives them justification for their abuse. We should offer a referendum (tomorrow, preferably) because it's the right thing to do, not because we want to deal with attention seekers.
RYAN BOURNE: “Conservatives continue to dither on our future EU relationship. The Eurozone crisis rumbles on. UKIP win the popular vote in 2014, and Nigel Farage hails the British people have 'sent a clear message'. As leader of the best supported party, he demands a platform on the 2015 Leaders debates. Fantasy? It could well happen. The Conservatives therefore must have their desired new relationship with Europe, based on an opt-in model, mapped out by 2014. The 2015 manifesto should include it with an in-out referendum pledge if the EU fails to agree. It's what the public really want, and it's what we all want to.”
DAVID NUTTALL MP: By guaranteeing an ‘In/Out’ referendum on our membership of the European Union. This could be done by legislating in this Parliament for a referendum to be held early in the next Parliament. As Chairman of the ‘Better Off Out’ Group of MP’s and Peers I know many will take the view ‘well he would say that wouldn’t he’. But if the polls are right the majority of the British People who have never had a vote on our relationship with the European Union want a referendum. I think the silent majority deserve the right to be heard.
SYED KAMALL MEP: We have to show how UKIP never engage seriously in the European Parliament. This tells the electorate all they need to know about how badly they would conduct negotiations for the UK to have a new settlement with the European continent. They often behave in a childish fashion and they have little respect. Of course those of us who believe in free trade and national democracy can get frustrated with the EU but you don't get the best outcome for your country simply by cocking a snook at the others; we have to command respect to negotiate the best possible terms of trade for the UK.
PAUL ABBOTT: Only a referendum will do it. However, if a referendum is not yet possible, the Conservative Party can and should pick fights with Brussels on symbolic issues. This would show character. The excellent EU Act 2011 is very clear that European law only applies to Britain, if Parliament wants it to. So why not be more muscular about areas like crime and justice? The Lord Chief Justice has said that he is "furious" about the delay in Abu Hamza's extradition. So are most of the public. So are most MPs. Why not change the law for these extreme cases, and speed up our deportation process?