By Tim Montgomerie
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For my review of the last Tory general election campaign I was fortunate to interview all of its key architects including George Osborne, Steve Hilton and Andy Coulson. My first question to all of them was to ask 'what was the election campaign's key theme?'. They all gave different answers. If they were unclear as to the reason why the Tories should win power you couldn't really complain about the voters not getting it.
In his interview with today's Times, Grant Shapps confirms that that central weakness of the last Tory general election campaign will be addressed: Someone will be in charge and that person will be Lynton Crosby. There will be message discipline. There will be no repeat of the Big Society fiasco - where the main theme of the manifesto wasn't even poll tested. And there may be no debates. The Tory Chairman says he is "open minded" about debates happening next time. Moreover he admits to having had "very mixed feelings" about last time's debates. Sir Humphrey would have been proud of those three words. "Very mixed feelings" is, I suggest, diplomatic code for outright opposition. An impeccable source tells me that Lynton Crosby was also opposed to the 2010 debates and from the outset. Like ConHome, he predicted that they would be a gift to Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. The experience of election debates in three or four party systems is that debates are nearly always a boost to the smaller parties who are normally starved of attention.
By Matthew Barrett
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Mr Tyrie advocated making Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England and Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee, more accountable. Mr Tyrie said:
"Well, there might be nothing wrong with [greater powers for the Bank of England] but if we're going to do that we've got make sure that he's accountable to Parliament and to people who are actually going to be affected by his decisions. Take for example the decision to take out a mortgage: he's going to be given the power to decide loan-to-value ratios, as they are called. He's going to effectively have the power to decide whether you or your kids can have a mortgage, and if you're going to hand that sort of power to an unelected official, then we have got to find a way of making sure he's fully accountable. There's a second, big issue there too, which is that so much power is now going to be vested into this Bank of England super-quango to end all super-quangos that we might create a position where we have a governor who is a single point of systemic risk to the whole economy if he starts making the wrong decisions."
By Matthew Barrett
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Ahead of the Commons vote (which Number 10 claims will attract 85 votes for a referendum), David Cameron has written for the London Evening Standard this afternoon, setting out his reasons for opposing a referendum on our relationship with the European Union.
Firstly, the Prime Minister focuses on the national economic picture, urging a "single-minded" drive for growth:
"We need to be utterly single-minded about meeting the great challenges that face our country today - getting on top of our debts and getting our economy to grow. And that single-mindedness should apply to the subject we're debating in the Commons today: Europe. We need the European Union to contribute to economic growth, not hold it back. That means tackling the crisis in the euro zone that is having a chilling effect on our economy."
Mr Cameron then contrasts that drive for economic growth with the consequences of leaving the EU:
"Of course I share people's frustrations about how the EU works. I'm driven as mad by the bureaucracy as anyone else. But we cannot ignore our trade figures - 50 per cent of that trade is with Europe. I visit countless small businesses whose livelihoods depend on exports to the continent. For their sakes - for all our sakes - it's no use just saying 'Europe's not working for us' and pulling out; single-mindedness means recognising that our membership of the EU gives us a seat at the table at which the rules of that market are made, and we must make those rules work for us. "
That is the question which is being asked by the Libertarian Alliance for its 2009 Chris R Tame Memorial Prize, with one writer of an essay answering that question in 3,000 words being eligible for a £1,000 prize (sponsored by former Conservative MP Teresa Gorman, no less).
During my teenage years I would characterise myself as having been a "Daily Mail Conservative", but once I went to university my views developed, and I returned from York very much more of a libertarian Conservative, erring on the side of minimising state interference in individuals' lives. So I would regard myself as a libertarian and a Conservative, although I am sure I would not be regarded as a proper libertarian by many LA purists.
David Cameron said at the party conference last year:
Meanwhile, I recently heard someone remark:
So, can a Libertarian also be a Conservative? Discuss...