Conservative Diary

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Good week for rebels, George Osborne and Boris

Tim Montgomerie


A big week in politics. Difficult to choose the biggest moment:

  • Was it yesterday's historic vote by the Commons, asserting the right of Westminster to decide on issues such as votes for prisoners? I shouldn't make David Davis my backbencher of the week (again) but he deserves it. He took the courageous and principled position that we shouldn't bend our knee to the Strasbourg judges but should draw a line in the sand. Who knows what he's now started? Just see Nick de Bois MP's essay on the ECHR today, seeking a free vote on Britain's membership of the ECHR. The Eurosceptic genie looks like it is out of the bottle again.
  • Was it the biggest rebellion within the Coalition so far - by Lib Dem councillors against local government cuts? This could be seen as simple posturing ahead of May's elections, allowing Lib Dems to present themselves as opposed to the "nasty Tory cuts".
  • Was it today's u-turn by Caroline Spelman on forestry privatisation? Do read Jonathan's excellent blog on lessons to be learnt from the episode.

The third story is not obviously as big as the first two stories but they have a uniting theme: rebellion. The challenge for all of us - activists, bloggers, pundits, politicians - is to understand that more frequent, bigger rebellions are going to be the stuff of Coalition government. Few MPs and councillors feel loyal to the Coalition or the Coalition Agreement in the same way they are loyal to their Party or their Party's manifesto. Tory MPs, rebelling in very large numbers, aren't so much rebelling aghainst Cameron but against the Coalition. Rebellions that would be of crisis proportions if we were a one colour government need to be seen differently.

Frontbencher of the Week: George Osborne. I didn't like him announcing an £800 million tax increase on the Today programme but he got the balancing act right on the banks. He did just enough to ride the public's anti-banker mood but not enough to undermine the City. He also bested Ed Balls in their first Commons battle.

Good move of the Week: Boris got big coverage in the London Evening Standard for his announcement of more police officers for the capital's streets. Harry Phibbs noted it here.

David Cameron's moment of the Week: His multiculturalism speech. It was exactly the right message on extremism and will reinforce his security credentials.

Bias of the Week: The BBC probably deserves the award... every morning I wake up to the Today programme and another cuts story - one day they'll lead on waste, or the burdens facing British business but unlikely... but I'll give this award to the Local Government Chronicle for the latest in a lengthening line of anti-Coalition stories.

Worry of the Week: On last night's Question Time, Francis Maude was roundly jeered for blaming Labour for the deficit. It was a Question Time audience and not necessarily representative but we need to explain the deficit reduction programme in more varied terms. I've argued that a moral explanation for living within our means is essential.

If you have an idea for next week's Review please email Tim.

> Last week's Week In Review.


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