Conservative Diary

Good Week, Bad Week

25 Feb 2011 16:38:29

Bad week for the Foreign Office, the United Nations and The Guardian

Tim Montgomerie

Week in Review yellow

Bad week for the Foreign Office: Getting Britons out of Libya did not go well. Andrew Neil tweeted yesterday that ministers were angry at the incompetence of FCO officials. And so they should be but that excuse cannot ever be used again. Lessons need to be learnt and lessons need to be learnt quickly. Another country in the region could be the next domino to fall. Cameron established the National Security Council to coordinate foreign, defence and homeland protection policies. It needs to recommend a way forward - perhaps putting the military in full charge of overseeing emergency evacuations.

RIFKIND NEW Good week for Tory foreign policy. Cameron edged to a more hopeful view of democratic change in the Middle East and it's not just he who is moving. In an important article Sir Malcolm Rifkind also suggested that there are good reasons to think democracy could now flower in the Arab world. Michael Gove will feel vindicated for all the reasons set out here.

Bad week for the United Nations. Yet again it has proved itself little more than a talking shop. At some point Conservatives need to become as UNsceptic as they are EUsceptic - only more so. We need to move to a world of maxilateralism - not waiting for the slowest, most reluctant nation in the convoy in order to make progress on an issue but to form coalitions of the willing, involving the maximum possible number of willing nations.

Good week for Eric Pickles. The best Tory councils are showing you can cut budgets AND protect frontline services. See this piece from the Leader of Southampton Council. We have another such encouraging story on the Local government blog tomorrow.

Statistic of the Week: "An analysis of papers sent to Downing Street and the Cabinet Office has revealed that just 40% are directly related to the Coalition's programme. Roughly 30% come from the Whitehall bureaucracy and another 30% from the EU." The new Downing Street structure - profiled here - is designed, in large part, to force Whitehall to focus more more on the Coalition's agenda. A key component of that agenda is a new presumption that alternative suppliers can deliver public services, ending the state monopoly.

Continue reading "Bad week for the Foreign Office, the United Nations and The Guardian" »

18 Feb 2011 18:14:28

Good week for Eric Pickles, Andrew Turner and, yes, Caroline Spelman

Tim Montgomerie

Week in Review blue

Frontbencher of the Week: Eric Pickles. Last week ended with nearly half of the LibDem establishment in local government attacking the Communities Secretary. A fightback is now well and truly underway with the Sun, Telegraph, Express and Mail doing (1) a particularly good job at highlighting waste in those councils making the biggest cuts in local government and (2) also the massive inflation in councillor remuneration. The BBC has also started to pick up on the changed narrative with Nick Robinson comparing Tory Trafford's budget with that of Labour's shroud-waving Manchester. At the moment voters are blaming central and local government almost equally. How that changes will be interesting to watch.

Grayling Chris Newsnight Team of the Week: The Work & Pension ministers. Both IDS and Chris Grayling took more important steps towards a reshaping of the welfare system that makes work pay and focuses help on the genuinely needy. Some of the facts highlighted by Chris Grayling are chilling:

  • 300,000 young people who have left school or college since 2007 and have never held down a job;
  • 200,000 young people who left school or college between 2002 and 2006 and have never held down a job;
  • 100,000 young people who left school or college between 1997 and 2001 and have never held down a job.

Rebel of the Week: Lord Lamont. The former Chancellor led the ultimately unsuccessful effort to get a 40% turnout threshold for the AV referendum. He convinced unlikely Tory peers including Lord Howe and Baroness Trumpington to vote with him. The Commons prevailed although I haven't met a Tory MP who doesn't (privately) agree with the case that Norman Lamont made in Monday's Times (£).

Continue reading "Good week for Eric Pickles, Andrew Turner and, yes, Caroline Spelman" »

11 Feb 2011 17:34:38

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.

4 Feb 2011 15:42:56

A Good Week for Nick Herbert, Another Bad Week for Ken Clarke

By Tim Montgomerie


Screen shot 2011-02-04 at 15.41.51 Good frontbencher of the week: Nick Herbert. His crime maps really caught the public imagination this week with five million hits an hour at one stage. Over time they'll become an important tool via which the public will be able to hold the police to account. Watch him explain the policy.

Bad frontbencher of the week: Ken Clarke. The Justice Secretary and his weak approach to crime are big vulnerabilities for the Coalition. The Sun called for him to be sacked yesterday. Today they paint him as being less than honest on knife crime. The newspaper is going to pursue the Justice Secretary until he is moved or sacked.

DAVIS-DAVID-208 Backbenchers of the week: David Davis and Dominic Raab. The former Shadow Home Secretary was the first prominent Tory to say that Parliament should say 'no' to the European courts who wanted Britain to give votes to prisoners. The Government first proposed that prisoners should have voting rights unless they'd been sentenced to four years or less but are now giving backbenchers (and PPS's) a free vote. Mr Davis recommends that the Coalition stands up to the Whitehall lawyers who are always ready to agree to European instructions. Dom Raab MP made similar arguments in a superb piece for yesterday's Telegraph. The Mail described the whole episode as "a line in the sand". "Tory MPs," it said, "are to be given the green light to assert the supremacy of Parliament in a defining battle with the European courts."

Good rebels of the week. The twenty Tory MPs who voted for an in/out referendum on the EU. They are listed here. Their time will come.

Naughty rebels of the week: The three Conservative MPs who voted with Labour against sale of forestry lands. For the reasons I outlined here Tories shouldn't assume private ownership is bad and public ownership is good.

Non-rebellion of the week: The NHS Bill. Not a single Tory MP (or Lib Dem) voted against the government's NHS plans.

Cameron moment of the week: The PM's robust BBC interview defending the NHS reforms - proving (again) that he's best with his back against the wall.

Mindreader of the week: Ed Balls. Mervyn King may have said, re the deficit reduction plan, that ‘The right course has been set and it is important to maintain it’ but the Shadow Chancellor told Andrew Marr that the Governor of the Bank of England didn't really believe it.

Tweet of the week: Since 2005, Britain's economy has grown by 2%, the eurozone's by 4%, Brazil's by 25%, India's by 47% and China's by 69% ...from @plegrain.

Opinion poll finding of the week: Ed Miliband is seen as more left-wing than Brown.

Photograph of the week: Sally Bercow in that bedsheet. If she really doesn't want to be seen as a bimbo ("A woman regarded as vacuous or as having an exaggerated interest in her sexual appeal") she really shouldn't act like one.

If you have a suggestion for next week's Review please email it in.