Conservative Diary

Compassionate conservatism

7 Aug 2013 08:32:43

Greening is right about aid transparency

Greening long
By Paul Goodman
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Oxfam is undoubtedly right to say that Dame Barbara Stocking, who was paid £119,560 as it Chief Executive, "could expect to earn at least £75,000 more for a comparable job in the private sector".  One might question why that that salary increased by 19 per cent in two years - she was paid £100,008 in 2009/10 - when inflation hasn't risen as fast, but the main point holds: by comparison with business, charity chief executives are not well paid.  Oxfam claims that "median pay of other large charity chief executives was £135,700". It was responding to a Daily Telegraph investigation which found that "the number of executives receiving six-figure salaries at Britain’s 14 leading foreign aid charities has risen by nearly 60 per cent, from 19 to 30, over the past three years".

Continue reading "Greening is right about aid transparency" »

20 May 2013 09:47:53

A precondition for victory is unity – but unity requires boldness and generosity from Cameron

Tim Montgomerie
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Even now, despite the economic difficulties, the Tories are still preferred to Labour on questions of economic competence. That's before any economic recovery.

More people blame the last Labour government for the deficit than blame the Coalition.

Cameron beats Ed Miliband on nearly every measure of what it takes to be Prime Minister.

Ed Miliband is not seen as a PM-in-waiting. His ratings have hardly improved since he was first elected Labour leader.

On welfare and immigration Labour is still out of touch with voters - not least in its own heartland constituencies.

Whether in London against Boris or in Scotland against Alex Salmond, Labour is struggling to win the big match ups.

Labour is refusing to give the people a referendum on Europe.


Reasons like those listed above should give Tory members hope. The next election is far from lost. It's not going to be easy for reasons that ConHome has warned about for a long time... but victory is possible. A precondition, however, is party unity and in today's Times (£) I set out two ways of achieving unity.

Continue reading "A precondition for victory is unity – but unity requires boldness and generosity from Cameron" »

22 Apr 2013 15:10:51

David Cameron doesn’t need to legislate for an aid target to meet his aid target

By Peter Hoskin
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The last Conservative manifesto contained a commitment not just to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid, but also to ‘legislate in the first session of a new Parliament to lock in this level of spending for every year from 2013.’

The Coalition Agreement made a similar promise to ‘enshrine this commitment in law’.

But – what’s this? – today’s Times reports (£) that the legislation to enshrine the 0.7 per cent commitment into law will not be mentioned in this year’s Queen’s Speech, which will be delivered on 8th May. Three years into this Government, and this particular pledge still hasn’t been met.

At which point I should probably say that we at ConHome are – on the whole, and with all the usual caveats about transparency and efficiency, etc – sympathetic to the aid target. I won’t reheat the reasons here, not least because most of them are contained in Robert Halfon’s post for our Compassionate Conservatism series today.

But, even so, I still think there are good reasons for David Cameron not to enshrine the target in law – or at least understandable ones. Some of them are political: any attempt to legislate will provoke an awkward level of opposition from Tory backbenchers. We have already seen this in miniature, with Christopher Chope terminating the Labour MP Mark Hendrick’s efforts to this end.

And other reasons are more fiscal. As George Osborne confirmed during his Budget speech this year, Britain is going to become the first G8 country to achieve the aid target anyway. That hasn’t required reams of legislation. It’s just required a Chancellor with a mission.

Of course, the idea is that legislating for 0.7 per cent will dissuade other Chancellors from backing away from it in future. But, as important as the aid target is, I’d prefer our finance ministers to enjoy flexibility to act as the situation demands. As Labour’s child poverty targets have shown, legal requirements can quickly be subverted – and yet politicians still unfairly catch flak when they then try to take a different approach.

When it comes to enshrining the aid target in law, much depends on whether you believe manifesto commitments ought to be inviolable. But, in any case, given the polling, I doubt too many voters will weep if Mr Cameron gave this one a miss.

17 Apr 2013 06:15:34

Margaret Thatcher's legacy should be a Conservatism For Bolton West

By Paul Goodman
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Majority StepsThe Conservative Party is itself in poor health as it gathers to bury Margaret Thatcher.  It hasn't won an election in over 20 years.  The effects of vote distribution and out-of-date boundaries conspire against it breaking the habit next time.  It has lost Scotland altogether, and is the third party in much of the urban north.  It won 16% of the ethnic minority vote in 2010: by 2050, ethnic minority members will make up one in five of the total.  It has a serious political competitor on the right, UKIP, for the first time in living memory.

Labour's rout on welfare earlier this month, and its squabbles over leadership and policy last week, have cheered up some Tory MPs - unduly so, all considered.  A doctor's diagnosis of their party's condition would find serious illness, perhaps terminal decline.  And the structural obstacles to a Conservative majority would remain even were this not a Government of which the whole is much less than the sum of the parts.  So what can the Conservatives learn from the most potent election-winner in their history - the woman who they will honour today?

Continue reading "Margaret Thatcher's legacy should be a Conservatism For Bolton West" »

8 Apr 2013 08:09:40

A week of Compassionate Conservatism on ConservativeHome

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 08.03.36We planned this week's series on Compassionate Conservatism, which opens with today's article by Jesse Norman, long before last week's clash of attitudes, ideas and culture over welfare.  It has an even wider application.  If a single survey finding should be embedded into the consciousness of every party activist and supporter, it is the one which found that 58% of those polled said they were open to voting Conservative, but that 70% were open to voting Labour.  Tim Montgomerie wrote: "Depressingly the Centre for Social Justice found similar results in 2004 when I was working for Iain Duncan Smith. There is a low glass ceiling for the Conservatives and it's persistent."

There isn't a single answer to the problem, but it would be surprising if the continuing story of Compassionate Conservatism, which the Deep End will write about later this week, doesn't hold a large part of it.  The sense that conservatism has a moral purpose, that the Conservative Party is its political expression, and that it is for everyone who agrees with that purpose is indispensible not only if that party is to win in 2015, but if it is ever again to become Britain's natural party of government (which, at present, is Labour).

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27 Mar 2013 12:21:41

What is causing the stagnation of wages? Matthew Hancock MP sets out a Tory agenda for the low-paid.

By Tim Montgomerie
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I've just come back from an event at the Resolution Foundation. Matt Hancock MP was setting out a Conservative agenda for tackling low pay. You can read his speech in full here but the two big things you need to know about the event and the speech are...

  • A Conservative minister was addressing the subject, not pretending that wage stagnation wasn't real or that it wasn't important. He talked about how those on the median income (£21,583) had missed out on much of the boom years. He called that "unjustified".
  • He then set out three ways of tackling the problem:
    • "Strengthening" the minimum wage by ensuring there was always an appropriate incentive gap between being on benefits and earning. He said most academic evidence suggested no negative consequences for employment/ unemployment of the existing minimum wage although he said that that could change if it was increased too quickly.
    • Taking the low-paid out of the income tax system by raising the income tax threshold.
    • Making the workforce more productive by improving their skill set. He focused on the apprenticeship policies that he inherited from John Hayes MP.

Continue reading "What is causing the stagnation of wages? Matthew Hancock MP sets out a Tory agenda for the low-paid." »

21 Mar 2013 08:25:30

Cameron can claim three historic moral achievements --- 0.7% spent on aid. 2.7 milion people lifted out of income tax. Gay marriage.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Numbers with union jack1

In my other blog this morning I give the Coalition low marks for its record on deficit reduction. Progress has been dismally slow. Let me celebrate two other things that the Budget delivered, however, and point to three big achievements overall.

First, Britain will become the first major economy to spend 0.7% of national income on international development. I realise that most readers of this website and most voters object to spending more on aid when domestic budgets are so tight but the plight of this nation is nothing compared to the plight of many hundreds of millions of people in parts of the developing world. It's true that some aid is wasted and some goes into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians. Most, however, puts food in hungry bellies, innoculations in vulnerable bloodstreams and resilience in subsistence farmers' crops. We should be very proud that a Conservative Prime Minister and Chancellor have delivered this commitment and have done so in the teeth of very significant opposition from people who give the impression that our aid budget is much bigger than it is and that incidences of corruption are the norm rather than the exception. Even readers of this website become much more positive about aid when the very specific benefits of it are spelt out. What is vital is that the reforms begun by Andrew Mitchell and maintained by Justine Greening are accelerated. They include greater transparency of the aid budget, redirection of aid to poorer countries, more market-driven aid and streamlining of the DFID bureaucracy.

Continue reading "Cameron can claim three historic moral achievements --- 0.7% spent on aid. 2.7 milion people lifted out of income tax. Gay marriage." »

14 Feb 2013 17:19:53

Grayling's new plan for young offenders: "We cannot go on just doing more of the same"

By Paul Goodman
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  • Screen shot 2013-02-14 at 11.31.16The vast majority of 15-17 year olds in Young Offender Institutions have at some point been excluded from school at some point.
  • Half of those in this age group are assessed as having the literacy levels to that expected of a 7 -11 year old.


  • A youth custodial place costs £100,000 per annum (indeed, as much as £200,000 in some cases).
  • 73% of young offenders who leave custody reoffend within a year.

                                                     -                                                       @i-images

You can see where Chris Grayling's mind went when mulling over these facts, given the  combination of social failure and Treasury pressure that they represent.  So no wonder he has announced today that young offender institutions will be closed down and replaced with new secure colleges.  The Mail's take on the scheme is that -

"The Justice Secretary will invite private schools to bid to run the new centres, which have been inspired by the Government’s free schools policy.  It raises the prospect of schools such as Eton helping to put tearaways back on the straight and narrow."

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10 Feb 2013 06:53:30

Tories and Lib Dems agree on capping costs of long-term care. No elderly person will have to sell their homes in order to meet care bills.

By Tim Montgomerie
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"From April this year, no one will have to sell their home to fund care.
Those unable to afford fees will get the right to defer paying."

That's the Coalition's big promise to the elderly as made in today's Sun and across the Sunday newspapers. Proving that the Coalition parties can still work together Jeremy Hunt will announce tomorrow that, from 2017, the elderly will have to pay a maximum of £75,000 towards their care costs before the taxpayer starts to help them.

The £75,000 cap - double the amount recommended by Andrew Dilnot's Commission - is said by Tory spindoctors to strike the right balance between supporting those who've saved without imposing heavy new taxes on working families.

One of the ways in which the Coalition will fund what is expected to be a £1 billion reform is a further three year freeze in inheritance tax thresholds. In opposition George Osborne famously promised to abolish inheritance tax for all but millionaires. This second three year freeze - following one already introduced by Alistair Darling - will raise about another £200 million per year for Treasury coffers.

Continue reading "Tories and Lib Dems agree on capping costs of long-term care. No elderly person will have to sell their homes in order to meet care bills." »

23 Jan 2013 07:22:38

Four reasons why Cameron's In/Out pledge could be very good news for Conservative chances at the next election

By Tim Montgomerie
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There is a huge new divide in British politics. Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg want to deny the British people a vote on their future. Nigel Farage's party is too small to deliver a referendum and give anyone born after 1957 a say on whether their country should be part of this huge European enterprise. David Cameron can and will deliver an In/Out referendum if he is still Prime Minister after the next election. That will be guaranteed if Britain votes for a Tory majority in the House of Commons. If there is another hung parliament the Tory leader's aides have told the Daily Mail that he will make a referendum a pre-condition of coalition negotiations.

Last night I published extracts from Cameron's big speech.

In his Opinion Pollster column Stephan Shakespeare notes a 27% swing in favour of EU membership in just eight weeks - simply because pro-EU voices have joined the argument. He also suggests that the speech will make it "slightly" more likely that Cameron will still be PM after the next election.

Continue reading "Four reasons why Cameron's In/Out pledge could be very good news for Conservative chances at the next election" »