Conservative Diary

Mission Week

7 Sep 2009 06:00:00

Beyond Afghanistan, Liam Fox makes the case for investment in defence

Liam Fox is making a speech today in which he'll promise to reform the Ministry of Defence. There is currently one mandarin for every two members of the Armed Forces.  28,000 officials oversee a procurement budget that is over-running by £35bn and five years.  28,000 officials mismanaging procurement and only 34,000 in the whole Royal Navy. We are getting close to that Yes Minister sketch with the hospital that didn't have any patients but lots of bureaucrats. ConHome will publish the full speech later.

During his time as Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox has made a number of interesting speeches in which he has been alerting us all to to the threats that Britain will face in the years ahead. Many oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hope for a few years during which Britain can avoid spending so much on defence. Dr Fox's speeches remind us that there is a dangerous world out there and Britain needs to be defended against it.

FoxSpeeches Listed below - as the sixth part of ConservativeHome's Mission Week - are key arguments made by Dr Fox in some of those speeches.

Our energy security is too dependent upon hostile powers and under-defended supply routes: " "The real problem is not so much scarcity of resources as concentration of easy-to-reach supplies in politically-difficult areas, along with the additional problem of transporting these supplies through areas that are equally difficult politically. The focus is not merely on the country with the hole in the ground, but also the transit countries through which the gas flows, and the sea lanes through which the oil must be transported. Instability and interruption of supply in any one transit country along these latter-day “silk routes” is as damaging as it would be at source... Osama bin Laden has not described infrastructure such as oil refineries as the “hinges” of the world economy for nothing." Read ConHome repoort on this May 2006 speech and David Blackburn's brief case for naval investment.

Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon will be a gift to terrorists and could spark a region-wide arms race: If Iran gets a nuclear weapon the risk is not just that they might use it against Israel, he said, but that they might provide a dirty bomb to one of Tehran's terrorist surrogates; not least Hamas.  A nuclear Iran will also trigger an arms race across the region - provoking Turkey and Saudi Arabia to seek nuclear weapons. (Paraphrasing by ConservativeHome).

Continue reading "Beyond Afghanistan, Liam Fox makes the case for investment in defence" »

6 Sep 2009 12:57:30

Compassionate conservatism is getting stronger and deeper by the day

This is the fifth part of ConservativeHome's Mission Week. The final part - on defence and foreign policy - will come tomorrow. We have already highlighted (1) Patriotic renewal, (2) Key themes for David Cameron's Party Conference speech, (3) Representing the grassroots and (4) Championing new media.

For me the most important theme of David Cameron's leadership has been his determination to make our party a true party of social justice. If we are not in public life to help every member of our society we should not be in public life at all.

Our party has a great tradition of social reform but we have sometimes hid our light under a bushel and allowed Labour to claim a monopoly of the moral high ground. That is stupid politics. Many voters deserted us in 1997 because - although they, personally, had profited from the Thatcher-Major years - they felt too many people were being left behind. A winning conservatism, as Iain Duncan Smith says, will convince voters that we will be good for them but also their neighbour. The prize if we succeed is the complete realignment of British politics.

Ten themes seem important as we build a compassionate conservatism:

CommitmentCompassion Basic reassurance: David Cameron has made it clear that the NHS will remain free-at-the-point-of-use. Conservatives are also prominent defenders of the basic state pension and David Willetts was ahead of Labour in saying that it needed to be reconnected to the rise in average earnings. Michael Gove has underlined his commitment to poorer families by suggesting higher funding for schools in very disadvantaged communities. As James Forsyth has noted, David Cameron has made social conservatism fashionable again by (among other things) respecting same-sex relationships.

GOVE MICHAEL NW Education reform. Michael Gove's Swedish supply-side revolution is likely to be the most radical idea in the next Conservative manifesto. Alongside reforms that would allow schools to choose to use different methods of examination system and to set teachers' pay and conditions it will cause big clashes with the teachers' unions. The one hole in the policy is the prohibition on new schools being able to make profits. There is speculation that this might change.  My own view is that start-up schools that combine a real vision for teaching of British history with a strong disciplinary code will be particularly popular with parents.

Prison and welfare reform. While at Justice Nick Herbert set out some very interesting ideas on how to reduce reoffending. They included payment of prison governors by results. Jonathan Aitken in a report for the CSJ has recommended a range of measures to tackle the drug problem in prisons and to encourage more volunteer mentoring of prisoners.  Theresa May and Lord Freud are now developing the tough requirements to seek work that were first announced by Chris Grayling.  

The Shoestring manifesto for the poor. We all know that money is going to be tight for the next Conservative government but a chapter of ConservativeHome's Shoestring Manifesto was dedicated to policies that would help the poor and can be implemented immediately, with little or no cost.  Those ideas included financial literacy education; action against loan sharks; divorce law reform; enactment of a Right-to-Move for council house tenants; a massive simplification of the system which delivers care to parents of disabled children; and protections for faith-based welfare groups to receive fair funding.

Support for marriage and the family. There are opponents of David Cameron's commitment to recognise marriage in the tax system but the vast majority of Tory members and the next generation of Conservative MPs are supportive (and rightly so). It would be very wrong to see Tory family policy only in terms of the marriage commitment. Probably more important is the commitment to invest in relationship education and to abolish the worsening couple penalty in the benefits system.

Continue reading "Compassionate conservatism is getting stronger and deeper by the day " »

2 Sep 2009 12:14:19

Please submit your ideas for 'the grassroots manifesto'

Over this 'Mission Week' we are highlighting some of ConservativeHome's biggest themes:

  • We began on Monday with Frank Field MP writing about the need for reform of the teaching of history. This forms part of our hope that patriotism will be a big part of the next Tory manifesto. Jeremy Hunt added to the theme yesterday with a Platform piece on British sport and today Brandon Lewis writes about British tourism.
  • Yesterday I published a draft speech for David Cameron's Party Conference speech.  The speech contained many of ConHome's favourite themes including the need for much more honesty about the public finances, the need for a fair sharing of the pain of austerity and, third, a balanced conservatism that blends the traditional and modern dimensions of our politics - not least social justice and social conservatism.  The idea that there are massive tensions between the different conservative traditions is nonsense.

Part III of this 'Mission Week' is the next stage of our championing of the Tory grassroots.

Grassroots Up until now we have sought to represent the grassroots in three main ways:

  • Monthly polling of a panel of members (a panel that very accurately predicted the outcome of the 2005 leadership election). We poll on policy and grassroots' members' views of shadow ministers' performance.
  • Protecting the rights of members in internal party elections and selections. We won victories in 2005 on the party leadership and since then against the party's efforts to keep the A-list secret and as the only mechanism through which Associations could choose candidates.  We have been defeated on MEP selection and by new efforts by the party leadership to centralise shortlisting. 
  • To counter the way many in the media caricature the grassroots.  We will continue to argue that Tory members are much more enlightened and much more balanced in their views than is regularly suggested.

Throughout September we will be conducting a weekly poll rather than a monthly poll in order to have the very latest information on what most concerns the people who give so freely and energetically to the Tory cause.  The results will form a little blue book we will be publishing on the eve of Tory conference.  Please use the thread below to suggest questions that we should ask.

Tim Montgomerie

1 Sep 2009 08:59:11

Draft #1 of a speech for David Cameron to give at the Party Conference

Throughout this week, 31st August to 6th September, ConservativeHome is reaffirming some of our core themes. We started yesterday with our hope that the next Conservative government will act to renew a sense of British history and pride. Jeremy Hunt MP explores that theme today - examining sport's contribution to national identity.

Today in a very draft set of suggestions for the speech that David Cameron will give in a month's time - at the Manchester Party Conference - I've put together other topics that are regular concerns of this blog. It is not a 'wordsmithed' speech but underlines the themes we hope the Tory leader might address.


GratitudeToActivistsI want to start by thanking every person in this hall and members of the Conservative Party listening or watching at home for all you do. Most of you do not get paid. Supporting the Conservative Party actually costs a lot of you a lot of money. You do it because you believe that the country you love can be better. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. No Conservative MP would be elected if it wasn’t for you. I promise that I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget that it is a privilege to be the leader of this great party.

MPexpenses QUICKLY INTO> In recent times some MPs did forget their privileged position. They were a minority but they brought disgrace to every politician. Saying sorry is not going to be enough to put things right. So let me offer some concrete steps that will start us on the long, hard road back to the point where the British people might begin to respect their Parliament again:

  • Every MP will publish their expenses online so that every voter can see how their taxes are used.
  • We don’t need as many politicians and that is why I’ll cut the number of MPs by 10%.
  • I’ll cut ministers’ pay by 10% and I’ll cut the number of ministers by 20%. We now have more ministers than when the British Empire stretched all around the world [CHECK FACT].
  • [NEW POLICY] Most ministers will lose their government car. It is time for politicians to share in the sacrifices being made by every family in the land.
  • [NEW POLICY] And like every person in a normal job, MPs who do wrong must be sackable. Conservatives will introduce the right for constituents to replace MPs that misbehave even when it’s not election time.
  • We’ll cut quango pay. We’ll scrap regional assemblies. Councils who want to make big increases in council tax will have to ask voters for permission. It’s time for voters to have more power over politicians.

ScaleOfDifficulties Another step forward for democracy will come from a little more honesty from politicians. So let me say this to every person in this country who is thinking of voting Conservative. The party of the red flag has left Britain in the red again. Deep, deep red.

Continue reading "Draft #1 of a speech for David Cameron to give at the Party Conference" »