Conservative Diary


17 May 2013 07:50:24

When it comes to Europe 17% of voters think Cameron is driven by beliefs but 64% think he's driven by tactical calculations

Tim Montgomerie
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There's an interesting YouGov poll in today's Times (£). We know what most voters think of Europe. They want it changed back to something more like a free trade area. We know what voters think of a referendum. They want to have one. But do voters think the politicians are genuine about the European and referenda policies that they hold? YouGov asked voters whether they thought politicians were holding their European policy positions because "they feel strongly about the issue" or "mainly because they are making a tactical calculation about what to say". The results are telling...

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  • 55% of voters thought Nigel Farage was genuine and only 22% thought he was tactical.
  • 43% thought people like Ken Clarke took the position they did because of strongly held views and only 32% thought they did so for tactical reasons.
  • But when it came to David Cameron only 17% thought he felt strongly about the issue and 64% thought his European position was simply a tactical calculation.
  • Ed Miliband's numbers were slightly better than Cameron's but not much. 20% thought the Labour leader felt strongly about the issue but 52% thought he was largely motivated by tactical considerations.

Continue reading "When it comes to Europe 17% of voters think Cameron is driven by beliefs but 64% think he's driven by tactical calculations" »

19 Dec 2012 15:46:39

Get that lamp from under that bushel! Tories need to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Rosette with heart2Michael Howard wrote a good piece for yesterday's Times (£) in which he worried about the regulatory demands that the state is placing on the hospice movement. He was championing the same issue on this morning's Today programme. The ex-Tory leader was speaking as Chairman of Help the Hospices. I wonder if people who never much liked Mr Howard when he was Employment and Home Secretary or Leader of the Opposition might have been willing to give him the benefit of more of the doubt if they'd known about what has been his long-standing support for the hospice movement. More broadly I wonder if more people might be willing to give the whole Conservative Party more of the benefit of the doubt if they knew the extent to which Tory parliamentarians in general support good causes....

  • Michael Gove on faster adoption...
  • Robert Halfon against petrol prices...
  • Damian Hinds against excessive payday lending rates...
  • Andrea Leadsom arguing for childhood early intervention...
  • Jeremy Lefroy leading parliamentary efforts against malaria in the developing world...
  • Mark Pritchard campaigning for a ban on circus misuse of animals...
  • David Burrowes for the release of Gary McKinnon...
  • Nick de Bois against knife crime...
  • Gavin Barwell and Charles Walker campaigning for greater understanding of mental illnesss..
  • Steve Barclay for the victims of dangerous driving...
  • Cheryl Gillan on autism...
  • Nadhim Zahawi's campaigning and fundraising for vaccination programmes in Afghanistan...
  • Tim Loughton on freedom for Tibet...
  • Robert Buckland's leadership on human rights freedoms...
  • Baroness Berridge and Angie Bray on religious freedom...
  • Paul Maynard for language therapies...
  • Claire Perry against online porn...
  • Andrew Murrison, Liam Fox and our own Lord Ashcroft for military veterans...

Continue reading "Get that lamp from under that bushel! Tories need to wear their hearts on their sleeves." »

10 Dec 2012 00:01:00

Sir John Major becomes latest senior Tory to endorse gay marriage

By Tim Montgomerie
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Yesterday saw the launch of the Tory-led Freedom to Marry campaign - a joint effort to advance the cause of gay equality; broaden the institution of marriage and protect religious liberty. F2M's core principles are listed here.

Major John Pink Tie 2Today former Prime Minister Sir John Major becomes the latest senior Tory to endorse equal marriage. He issued this statement through Freedom to Marry:

"The Prime Minister's instinct to support equal marriage is a courageous and genuine attempt to offer security and comfort to people who - at present - may be together, yet feel apart.

I fully understand that there are many who will find this difficult to accept, as will the Churches.  But the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Churches will be free to make their own decisions upon whether to conduct such marriages - and that is entirely the right approach.

We live in the 21st Century and must move on: every couple should have the opportunity and the right to formalise their relationship."

> Bruce Anderson on ConHome today: "If anyone told David Cameron that a centuries-old coral reef was about to be destroyed, the PM would rush into action. Yet institutions are the social equivalent of coral reefs, and the PM shows little interest in preserving them. Who would have dreamed that a Tory-led government would propose the effective abolition of the House of Lords, plus a change in the order of succession to the Throne, plus a radical redefinition of the nature of marriage?" Read the whole piece.

28 Oct 2012 13:52:58

Thatcher seen as most competent of living Prime Ministers and Brixton's John Major as least out of touch

By Tim Montgomerie
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The latest YouGov poll for The Sunday Times not only suggests that Labour's lead may be narrowing it also asked questions about all five living PMs. It found that Margaret Thatcher was seen as the most competent and Gordon Brown as the most incompetent. Tony Blair was seen as the most in touch and John Major as the least out of touch. The results are summarised in the table below - please follow the colours ---


It's hard to judge Cameron at this stage of his time at Number 10. If the economy recovers over the next few years and he embeds the Gove and IDS reforms his numbers will improve substantially.

> The original numbers can be found in this PDF.

7 Oct 2012 07:17:07

Nearly everything you've ever read about 'the Tory brand problem' is wrong

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Tories should stop banging on about Europe if they want to win.

The Tories are too hard on immigration and crime.

The Conservatives are homophobic, anti-women and sometimes even racist.

How many times have we heard things like this said by commentators, our opponents and even Tory über-modernisers?

A new YouGov poll for ConHome suggests that these obsessions of the chattering classes are not, actually, the explanation for why Conservatives have struggled to win more than a third of the vote at four successive elections. The reasons are perhaps more straightforward, obvious and, at the same time, more challenging. The party needs to prove that it is committed to the public services and is on the side of ordinary families. To put it another way - our problem is not that we're too right-wing or insufficiently libertarian but that we aren't seen as committed to 'Britain's social contract' - to the NHS, to pensioners, to a basic safety-net.

Continue reading "Nearly everything you've ever read about 'the Tory brand problem' is wrong" »

1 Oct 2012 06:34:01

It's too easy to challenge a Conservative leader. It should be made harder.

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By Paul Goodman

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Fewer Conservative MPs were needed to mount the first formal challenge to Margaret Thatcher than can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  In 1987, the party won 376 seats under her leadership.  But only three Tory MPs were required to force a ballot on it two years later - Sir Anthony Meyer, the "stalking donkey", plus his proposer and seconder.

Sir Anthony lost by 314 votes to a miserable 33, but his candidacy was significant none the less, because it signalled a culture change among Conservative MPs. Some were now prepared to oust their leader in mid-term (and succeeded a year later, when Michael Heseltine's challenge brought about Lady Thatcher's fall).

Almost certainly, those who first framed the rules that governed such challenges had not foreseen this shift in outlook.  Little wonder, then, that Tory MPs decided that these should change.  In 1998, as part of a wider review of the leadership election rules, it was agreed that the requirement for a suitably-nominated MP to issue a challenge to the leader should be abadoned.

Continue reading "It's too easy to challenge a Conservative leader. It should be made harder." »

16 Sep 2012 09:58:25

Sir John Major whispers what Downing Street is saying privately -- a slow recovery is underway

By Tim Montgomerie
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Major John Sept 2012 470

John Major was the main guest on this morning's Andrew Marr show and his interview was notable for five main things...

First, he suggested that economic recovery was probably underway. Twenty years ago Norman Lamont said that the green shoots of recovery were emerging and he was shot down for saying so. But, said Sir John, he was right. Today, he suggested, it was also probably true: "Recovery begins from the darkest moment. I am not sure but I think we have passed the darkest moment." The former PM pointed to employment and manufacturing data that suggested Britain had turned the corner, as did stock market sentiment. The recovery would be slow, he continued, but it was underway. This was Lord Bates' argument this time, last week, on ConHome.Downing street thinks the same but won't say so until there's a lot more data in. What they can't work out is whether economic recovery will lead to political recovery. Will the return of a modest feel good factor overwhelm the pain of difficult cuts?

Second, Major urged the Conservative Party to unite behind David Cameron. There is, he said, an "inevitability" about division and leadership speculation in politics. For the last thirty years the Conservative Party has been divided in different ways - first between economic wets and dries and then, in the 1990s, over Europe. “If the Conservative Party has learnt anything," Sir John told Andrew Marr, "it’s that regicide is not a good idea.” The man who benefitted from Lady Thatcher's "regicide" and went on to win the 1992 election as a result, praised the Mayor of London as an "attractive, able" politician who is "doing a supremely good job". Boris Johnson is not in parliament, however, and keeps saying he has no intention of challenging David Cameron. People talking of a leadership challenge were filling newspapers but weren't living "in the real world". The party, Sir John said, needed to remember that "disunity costs votes".

Continue reading "Sir John Major whispers what Downing Street is saying privately -- a slow recovery is underway" »

5 Aug 2012 21:33:22

Blair, Coe and Major win Gold in the Political Olympics; Boris gets Silver; Cameron and Hunt win Bronze

By Tim Montgomerie
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Politicians podium2
I might be one week too early but I'm awarding gold to Tony Blair, Seb Coe and John Major.

Blair and Coe won the Olympics for London. Coe, in particular, deserves his medal. He's been Lord Continuity through the whole process. He was there at the beginning of the bid and is still at the heart of the whole show now. Some ConHome readers say he should run the overhaul of British school sport, suggested by Lord Moynihan. I wonder if he should be the next Tory candidate to be Mayor of London?

Sir John deserves his medal, not so much for the Olympics - in which he has had very little direct involvement at all - but for starting the National Lottery and establishing the Lottery's investment in British sport. The top people at Team GB have generously acknowledged that we wouldn't be enjoying such a medal rush without this cricket lover's vision.

Continue reading "Blair, Coe and Major win Gold in the Political Olympics; Boris gets Silver; Cameron and Hunt win Bronze" »

5 Aug 2012 09:00:56

Put Sir John Major in charge of a review of sports policy

By Tim Montgomerie
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What an unforgettable night. For years to come we'll be remembering Britain's golden day. The Olympics is turning into a golden moment for Britain as a whole. The world is looking at a nation which is more self-confident, more patriotic and more at peace with itself than some of us dared to imagine. What a contrast with last summer's riots. The backdrops to the sporting events, from historic Hampton Court to beautiful Weymouth, are showing Britain at its best. Despite all of the worries the organisational side has been close to perfect. Let's hope the final half of London 2012 is as good as the first.

Continue reading "Put Sir John Major in charge of a review of sports policy" »

4 Aug 2012 13:14:14

Boris wins Rupert Murdoch's support for *2014* and Michael Howard's forgiveness

By Tim Montgomerie
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Two pieces of news about Borismania.

As I reveal in my column for today's Daily Mail I understand that Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson met recently and there was active discussion of a scenario in which David Cameron was replaced as Tory leader in 2014. The clear implication was that Mr Murdoch would throw the weight of The Sun behind Boris Johnson if, if, if he was in position to stand as Tory leader. Boris did not protest. Yesterday the media baron was Boris Johnson's guest at the Olympics. The Mail has a photograph.

I think the chance of Boris becoming Tory leader in this parliament isn't much higher than 20% but contrary to the consensus I think it's more likely in this parliament than after the next election. Boris equals a big gamble. The party will only embrace him if it feels it's in a very bad place. Unless Cameron changes course the next election is going to be very tough to win. After the next election, if the Tories lose, the party will probably choose someone who will deliver a long-term rebuild. If things are looking bad in two years' time, however, there'll be no time for a big strategic shift. The party will need a quick fix and that quick fix could be Boris.

Continue reading "Boris wins Rupert Murdoch's support for *2014* and Michael Howard's forgiveness" »