Conservative Diary

After Cameron

3 Sep 2013 11:21:15

Boris, Gove and May all up in our next Tory leader poll

CHBy Paul Goodman
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  • Boris is up from 21 per cent to 23 per cent.
  • Michael Gove is up from 20 per cent to 22 per cent.
  • Theresa May is up from 16.5 per cent to 17 per cent.
  • William Hague is down from 16 per cent to 13 per cent.
  • David Davis is down from 14 per cent to 11 per cent.

The three leading contenders from last month's poll have thus pulled ahead of the next two down.

Boris maintains his narrow one point lead over Gove, and May's recent advance inches further forward.

Continue reading "Boris, Gove and May all up in our next Tory leader poll" »

2 Aug 2013 06:50:37

How Boris plans to run the Ultimate Bandwagon Leadership Campaign

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-08-01 at 18.07.04

"He is the Ulysses of our time, and sees the leadership as his Penelope. The Mayoralty is only Calypso - a stopping-point on the way back to what he sees as his own, as his possession. His competitors are the suitors.  He is coming for them with a quiverful of fiery arrows."

The Mayor of London's leadership ambitions are haunted by what Donald Rumsfeld would call a Known Known and a Known UnKnown.

The Known Known is the unhappy timing, from his point of view, of the next general and Mayoral elections.  The first takes place in May 2015.  The second takes place a year after.  Were Boris to re-enter the Commons in 2015 and David Cameron to lose, the election the former would not be able to enter an immediate Conservative leadership contest without being seen to break his word to serve a full-term as Mayor. (It is one thing to be both Mayor and an MP, as Ken Livingstone has done.  It would be another to be both Mayor and a Party leader.)

The Known UnKnown is the general election result.  I write above about the possibility of Cameron no longer being Prime Minister after 2015, but it's far from certain that this will be the case. He may well return to Downing Street at the head of another coalition government - either a recasting of this one with the Liberal Democrats, or a new one with the minor parties.  A Boris who had re-entered the Commons would, in these circumstances, be entitled to a Cabinet post: given his twice-victorious record in London, a Labour City, it could scarcely be otherwise.

Continue reading "How Boris plans to run the Ultimate Bandwagon Leadership Campaign" »

1 Aug 2013 06:34:56

Gove now almost level with Boris as Party members' favourite for next Tory leader

By Paul Goodman
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Gove Looking RightWhen we last reported on who Conservative members want as Party leader after David Cameron, the Mayor of London was the clear leader.  Preferences divided up as follows in May:

  • Boris Johnson: 30 per cent.
  • Michael Gove: 17 per cent.
  • David Davis: 16 per cent.
  • William Hague: 16 per cent.
  • Theresa May: 12 per cent.

The results of our latest survey, conducted late last week, now find as follows:

  • Boris Johnson: 21 per cent.
  • Michael Gove: 20 per cent.
  • Theresa May: 16.5 per cent.
  • William Hague: 15 per cent.
  • David Davis: 14 per cent.

Gove's steady rise will reflect the view of members that he is the Government's most effective Minister - in terms both of shaping policy to Conservative ends and taking on the left.

There's no convincing reason for Boris's fall of ten points other than the obvious one: he hasn't been in the news much during the past month.

This poll should be read in conjunction with James Forsyth's column in this week's Spectator.  James sets out the Mayor's planned path to the Premiership - which we will return to.

More directly to the point, as far as this poll is concerned, is Boris's apparent belief that Gove will now not run for the leadership post-2015 if David Cameron loses.

James claims that the Mayor now sees Theresa May, the deporter of Abu Qatada, as his main potential rival.  She's up in our poll - but her rise is modest.

Gove may not stand for the leadership if his friend, David Cameron, vacates it.  Or he may.  But one thing is certain: he has no shortage of admirers who would urge him to.

These include the Prime Minister himself.  George Osborne, of course, is not on easy terms with Boris, to put it mildly.

The prospect of the Cameron and Osborne duo pleading with Gove to stand - and preserve their legacy from the ravages of Boris - is not so far-fetched as to be beyond raising.

7 Jul 2013 08:04:50

Theresa May, Strong Woman

May Theresa Home Office
By Paul Goodman

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Abu Qatada could have launched a last ditch legal appeal, rather than get on that plane from RAF Northholt.  Why didn't he?  Perhaps life in Belmarsh was proving unpleasant.  Perhaps he and his family were slowly ground down by all the negative publicity and its consequences.  Perhaps he simply thought he'd lose in court.  But whether so or not, he and his lawyers must certainly have been persuaded that he will now get a fair trial in Jordan.  And the factor that would have made the difference in this calculation would have been the new treaty between Britain and Jordan, drawn up after months of toil by James Brokenshire and Theresa May.

This is a huge moment for the Home Secretary.  She has already notched up Abu Hamza on her office wall.  Now she can add the name of Abu Qatada, one of Al Qaeda's most senior players.  The Government's critics will say that we shouldn't be in the ECHR at all and that, were we not, Qatada would have been forcibly deported many years ago.  They are undoubtedly right on the first point, and probably so, too, on the second, since our courts have twice upheld efforts to expel him.  But they are missing an important point.  The word on the street is that Britain's politicians are lost amidst a swamp of human rights laws - to the scorn of benefit-claiming terrorists.

Continue reading "Theresa May, Strong Woman" »

28 Jun 2013 10:53:24

Is the Defence Secretary really on manoeuvres?

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-06-28 at 09.58.42What is the best course to take in an interview if your name has been touted as a future Conservative leader - and you might not be averse to the prospect? Phillip Hammond provides a masterclass of how to navigate such choppy waters in his interview with Paul Waugh in this week's House magazine.

  • Deflate your prospects - but deny nothing. "Well I think they probably haven’t checked my birth certificate. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for that kind of thing. Look, I’ll be nearly 60 by the time of the next election.”
  • Attack the LibDems: it never does any harm. “I think it’s people who want to cut spending on the deterrent and really don’t care about maintaining our deterrent capability. That’s not naivety, that’s recklessness with Britain’s national security.”
  • If asked about your state school education, remind readers that you're not a posh boy (and know the price of milk). "I could give you, if you wanted, a list of very expensive public schools that don’t provide a very good education."
  • If portrayed as a Guardian reader, threaten to sue. "The scruffy hair, the tie undone, I’ll accept all of that... But what I absolutely will not accept is the Guardian under my arm. Never in a million years. Actually, I went through a phase of being an FT reader at school.

But is the Defence Secretary really "on manoeuvres"?  An important difference between Hammond and those others mentioned in the same breath as the leadership - Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May - is that there is no suggestion, no sign of a Hammond team: of an operation that works on his behalf.  (Up to a point, this is also true of the Education Secretary.)

His public demand for a further scaleback in welfare spending can be seen simply as a Minister defending his Department.  And his following in Gove's footsteps on how he'd vote in an In/Out EU referendum were one held today could be read as a man speaking his mind - as could his vocal criticism of Downing Street over same-sex marriage.

None the less, the accumulation of events is suggestive.  But what's good for the goose is good for the gander: having written earlier this morning that it's too early to take a firm view about Boris, it follows that it's too early to take a view on anyone else.  And Hammond has work to do: keeping our armed forces out of the Syrian swamp, for a start.

28 Jun 2013 07:51:56

He has protean strengths and is a proven winner. But it's too early to say that Boris should be the next Tory leader.

Screen shot 2013-06-28 at 07.38.34
By Paul Goodman

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The sum of Lord Ashcroft's stupendously sizeable poll about Boris Johnson this morning - Ashcroft Polls will soon be taking samples from the entire country - is that the London Mayor is more popular but less rated than the Prime Minister. Our proprietor writes on this site today -

"When asked who would make the best PM, each of the three party leaders or Boris, David Cameron came out narrowly ahead on 33 per cent, two points ahead of Ed Miliband, four points ahead of Boris and 26 points ahead of Clegg. Among Conservatives, Cameron was the clear winner over Boris, by 81 per cent to 18 per cent."

Stephan Shakespeare wrote recently on this site about a YouGov poll on Boris, which found that "30 per cent of the intending voters in this sample said they would vote Conservative with Cameron in charge, and 36 per cent said they would vote Conservative with Johnson".

However, as Shakespeare himself pointed out, polls that ask how people would vote today were the party leaders different are highly speculative.  His polling converges with Lord Ashcroft's in finding that Boris scores well with UKIP voters, despite his shape-shifting views on Britain's EU membership.

All in all, Boris has protean strengths, some weaknesses and a proven track record as a Conservative election winner in what is essentially a Labour city - as well as a marvellous sense of the challenges facing ever-pullulating London.

But there is no evidence that he is better placed to succeed David Cameron than Michael Gove or  Theresa May or the unexpected candiate who pops up in leadership elections and usually wins.  Furthermore, the timing of a Boris Commons re-entry and a post-2015 poll don't fit neatly: he remains Mayor until 2106.

And finally, the whole caboodle may never arise, since Cameron could well lead a re-formed Coalition after the next election.  I end in oleaginous agreement with the proprietor: the case for Boris as leader isn't proven, and it's too early to start making it.

7 May 2013 16:41:46

Boris remains the activists' favourite to succeed Cameron as Party leader

By Paul Goodman
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Boris_Cameron8According to the latest ConservativeHome survey, the figures are:

  • Boris Johnson: 30%
  • Michael Gove: 17%
  • David Davis: 16%
  • William Hague: 16%
  • Theresa May: 12%
  • Philip Hammond: 6%
  • Adam Afriyie: 2%
  • George Osborne: 2%

The Davis support is hardcore.  When asked who should lead the Party into the next election, 14% of respondents name him. 15% plump for Boris.

But the overwhelming favourite to lead the Conservatives into the next election is...David Cameron, with over half the vote: 55% to be precise.

Apart from Davis and Boris, no other leading Tory gets out of single figures.  William Hague comes the closest, at just over 5%.

Just under 1850 people responded to the survey, of whom over 800 were Conservative Party members. The figures above are taken from the latter's views.

9 Jan 2013 13:22:30

PMQs: Miliband shows his strategic weakness

By Paul Goodman
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Ed Miliband could scarcely do otherwise than focus his questions on the bits of the Government's mid-term review that David Cameron didn't want to publish. And David Cameron could scarcely do other than answer that he had always intended to publish it anyway.  This ensured that today's Prime Minister's Questions was pantomime to such a degree that the Christmas season seemed still be stretching on.

None the less, I think the session cast just a little bit of light on the great debate about whether or not the result of the next election is already clear.  The three examples of allegedly broken promises that Milband cited related to the NHS, women, and "tax cuts for millionaires".  The first and third especially are Labour heartland concerns.  But the party's biggest strategic problem is voter lack of trust in it to manage the economy.  As usual, Miliband's questions had nothing to do with trying to solve this problem.

Continue reading "PMQs: Miliband shows his strategic weakness" »

22 Aug 2012 06:20:41

Urrrggghhh! Arrrggghhh! An angel and the devil wrestle for Boris's soul

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-08-20 at 10.02.23Devil: Come on, Boris, old bean.  This is your moment!  Cameron is unpopular.  You are popular - loved, idolised, adored: look at the Olympics.  The Party knows that he won't and can't win.  Just look at this morning's borrowing figures - benefit spending up, corporation tax receipts down: Osborne in crisis.  Get back in the Commons now!  Mount a coup!  Take over, call a general election and win!  Go for glory!


Angel  :  Look, Boris, my old chumaroo, this is all a pyramid of inverted piffle.  First of all, being an MP and Mayor is one thing - though are you certain you'd find a by-election that suits? - but being Leader and Mayor is quite another.  There'd have to be a Mayoral by-election - in which case the media and some London Tories would round on you: adventurism, selfishness, abandoning the capital to Labour - you know the score.  Or else you'd have to try both jobs at once - and get the same reaction, but on a national scale.  This is madness, my friend, sheer madness.

Boris: ...Er...ah...

Devil: Bunkum and balderdash!  You can find a way of fudging it!  Look at the polls - the voters want you, and outside London too.  If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly!  Screw your courage to the sticking place!


Angel  : Hang on for a minute.  Take this polls business.  One solitary poll - just one - put you marginally ahead in London and the regions.  But its headline finding put you level with Cameron. Another poll on the same day found you made no real difference.  ConservativeHome found that 18% of respondents want you to lead the Party into the next election.  49% want...Cameron!


Devil: That'll change when voters get a real choice: you or Miliband.  You can transform the mood and change the psychology.  Infirm of purpose!  Give me the daggers!

Boris: ...Er...Yikes!

 Angel : It won't change.  Cameron's problem isn't the current polls.  It's that he's stuffed without the boundary review.  He can't get seven points ahead of Labour, let alone ten points - and that's the kind of lead he needs to form a majority Government. And nor could you! You'd be taking over the wheel of the Flying Dutchman!

Boris: Cripes!...Er -

Devil:  - Let's tackle that head-on.  The boundary review problem will get no easier after an election.  So your bird in the band is worth two in the bush.  You can't afford to hang on.  There may be some other strong runner by 2015, or whenever the election takes place.  Hammond.  Greening.  An unknown!  By 2015 you could be yesterday's man!  They flee from me that sometimes did me seek, with naked foot stalking in my chamber...

Boris: ...Arrgghh...Urrgghh...

Angel : Go on then!  Just try it - and see what happens.  Do you really believe that even if you somehow find a seat, win a by-election, contrive a no-confidence vote in Cameron, and then win a leadership election that there would be no consequences?  Cameron, Osborne and many others would never, ever forgive you. The party's loyalties would split asunder.  Months of intense briefing of the most vile, no-holds-barred, personal kind!  And he who wields the knife, etcetera: remember Heseltine!

Boris: Urrrggghhh!...Arrrggghhh!

Well, dear reader, there you have it.  Those are the arguments either way.  I can't help thinking the angel has the better of them.

But we're talking Boris.  And with Boris, you never quite know what will happen next.  He is the great exception to every rule.  Indeed, I dreamed of him last night. His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear'd arm crested the world: his voice was propertied as all the tuned spheres, and that to friends; but when he meant to quail and shake the orb, he was as rattling thunder...

19 Aug 2012 10:02:07

I'm back from holiday with a conclusion. Cameron's 2015 aim is to re-form the Coalition.

By Paul Goodman
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Returned from a fortnight on the Isle of Wight.  The isle is full of noises...

Here is the situation as I see it as the conference season comes into view.

  • Miliband's vote is vulnerable...  The most striking opinion poll finding about the three main parties since 2010 is the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote.  Some traditional LibDem voters are reflexively anti-Tory.  At the last election, Labour won 29% of the vote.  Its last five daily YouGov totals have been: 43%, 43%, 42%, 42% and 44%.  The only reasonable way of reading these totals is that, with the LibDems marooned at 10% or lower, Ed Miliband is scooping up a big chunk of those former anti-Tory LibDem voters.  On paper, these could account for Labour's entire poll gain since 2010.  In practice, this is unlikely to be the case: none the less, Mr Miliband has not yet gained a poll rating near anywhere near Blair's opposition maximum (53%) or Kinnock's (56%).  Labour is thus attracting fewer switchers from the Conservatives than his predecessors.  As Lord Ashcroft noted recently from his Corby polling, Mr Miliband's own poll standing is unimpressive, and the polling consensus suggests that voters prefer David Cameron as Prime Minister and don't trust the Miliband/Ed Balls team on the economy.  All in all, Labour's lead remains highly vulnerable.

Continue reading "I'm back from holiday with a conclusion. Cameron's 2015 aim is to re-form the Coalition." »