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This item rings very true. I think that the Conservative Party has really reverted to its pre-Thatcher position of broadly accepting what the Left proposes, but just offering to do it more efficiently.

But whereas the Conservative Party then could rely on a huge well of class solidarity (among the middle classes) and deference (among the working classes) I think that's all gone now.

"This item rings very true. I think that the Conservative Party has really reverted to its pre-Thatcher position of broadly accepting what the Left proposes, but just offering to do it more efficiently."

Which is along the same lines that Peter Hitchens highlighted recently. Worrying isn't it?

If Peter Hitchens said it, then the chances are it is complete bollocks.

Indeed Iain not everything thng that comes out of York is wonderful! ;)

Come on, there been more than a few signs that this is true.

The question is: What to do about it?

If Cameron turns out to be like Major or even worse Heath I do seriously wonder what we can do about it. Should we resist and protest? Should we attempt to influence the direction Cameron take us? The problem is that it could well make us appear divided once again. But which is worse, being divided or unprincipled?

Trying to influence John Major never proved worth the effort. Who wants to wait all this time--12, 13, 17 or even 18 years--just to get a continuation of Major-Blair-Brown?

If there has been an accomodation with Labour it's on the neoThatcherite Blair agenda - not the leftist one. Blair successfully cloned many of our policies - or at least our language, What Cameron has recognised isn't that we need to create clear blue water; with Labour moving right under Blair that means moving towards more extreme policies.

What we need to do is reclaim our policies and language. Show that we have always been interested in building a stronger social fabric, that its our values that support families, enterprise, good educations for all, better provision for pensions and health. Its the optimistic "what we are for" narrative rather than the "what we are against one".

Churchill's acceptance of the welfare state in 1951 resulted in 13 years of Tory government. He recognised that voters wanted free health care, wanted the education reforms - accepting that shift allowed us to concentrate on how we could better manage the economy and for example housebuilding (a huge 50's need).

Cameron recognises that overcoming the "if it doesn't hurt it's not working" inheritance from Major means a narrative around better public services, not tax cuts. He's instinctively eurosceptic but not anti European Union so it's not about strident sceptic opinion but about change for the better.

Major's problem was positioning himself as Thatcher's heir to get elected but then building a government around Heseltine, Hurd and Clarke (the very people rejected by the MPs). Cameron hasn't mislead, he's been clear on direction and clear that it's about rebuilding trust. I know we are impatient for power but lets have a well thought out strategy to win it before we start arguing about what to do when we are a government.

I'm bemused by the perverse spin being put on some remarks I made to a recent meeting at the Adam Smith Institute. The Spectator blog has the absurd headline "Top Cameron Aide [Nicholas Boles] Tells Right - Drop Dead". That's bad enough but the article beneath contains something claiming to be a direct quote: "If you’re hoping for tax cuts, school choice and a tough line on the EU – forget it,"

For the record, I said nothing of the kind. In fact, I favour a low tax economy, Policy Exchange, of which I'm the Director, has just brought out a new publication arguing for more school choice and I'm an outspoken supporter of the decision to withdraw from the EPP.

I'm obviously the target of mischief making. I've got reasonably broad shoulders but I don't want anyone to be mislead - hence this clarification.

That's bad enough but the article beneath contains something claiming to be a direct quote: "If you’re hoping for tax cuts, school choice and a tough line on the EU – forget it,"

But that doesn't claim to be a direct quote...

Glad that's clarified Nicholas. But, if you *had* said it, I wouldn't have been surprised....because of Cameron's:

- commitment to continued growth in spending ('sharing the proceeds of growth' and all that);

- abandonment of the patient's passport and commitment to just manage the NHS better than Labour do;

- support for half-hearted blairised education reforms (soon to be watered down to placate Labour backbenchers), and refusal to come out fighting for selection on ability;

- minimal interest in immigration and asylum, and promise to be "more sensitive";

- withdrawal from the EPP may or may not have been kicked into the long grass. We'll have to wait and see on that one.

I'm not saying any of the above are right or wrong - just that he's not leading in a Right-ward direction.

Dominic Cummings writes the Spectator blog. What's he doing posting misleading stuff like this? Sad to see a man of his talent joining the ranks of the refusenik right, especially given the elevation of his friend and fellow neocon, Michael Gove.

Dominic Cummings writes the Spectator blog. What's he doing posting misleading stuff like this? Sad to see a man of his talent joining the ranks of the refusenik right, especially given the elevation of his friend and fellow neocon, Michael Gove.

Er, excuse me, isn't the Prime Minsiter in favour of "a low tax economy" and "more school choice"? He says it but he doesn't mean it. Of course, he doesn't campaign for tax cuts or vouchers so as Nicholas says, or is reported to have said, we shouldn't be surprised that he doesn't govern like that. The only problem is that David Cameron doesn't propose to campaign like that either. Presumably if he were to raise the Tory vote share from today's 32% and win an election, we shouldn't expect him to do so either.

Are we now to assume that the truth of what someone says is irrelevant? Nicholas Boles has corrected the smear against him but 'Coxy' responds by saying "if you *had* said it, I wouldn't have been surprised."

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm pleased to see that the Spectator has now removed the defamatory item from its website. Thanks to everyone who alerted me to it.

What else to expect from Dominic Cummings?

Good for Cameron and the team, the right need to stop being extremist, we've had a whilke election campaign based on immigration, tax cuts and cuts in spending... It didn't work.

What many propose and do not recognise is creating a sea between Blaie and the tories.

WRONG...

Blair stole our policies, and anything liberal by Cameron appears to conservatives as lefitst. Thats not true... Its a true middle-ground conservative, only when Blair or Brown is forced to retreat into leftist territory will right-wing tories realise its not bad at all..

"I'm pleased to see that the Spectator has now removed the defamatory item from its website. Thanks to everyone who alerted me to it."

Interesting that no-one seems to want to talk about what was actually said at this meeting, the main point being to remove any evidence that Cameron might not deliver what some of the think tanks eg ASI, IEA etc want. Perhaps this is yet another example of spin being more important than substance.

Perhaps someone who was at the meeting would like to clarify--especially in relation to the Q&A which appears to have inspired the Spectator online.

Would anyone who listened to the exchanges, as opposed to the speaker, like to comment?

Could someone tell me who Dominic Cummings is please.I've never heard of him.

Its hilarious to read Polly Toynbee in the Guardian urging Brown to be more left wing. As Cameron eats away at Labour's confidence some of their supporters will start to repeat our mistakes of recenty years (ie - "we've gotta be more right wing so we're distinctive").Our editor should keep an online record of this developing theme. Perhaps it could be called 'Clear Red Water'...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2270238.stm

Some Cameron supporters have a bad habit of disliking what they say at meetings in Westminster being reported. But The Spectator has not always been as compliant as it was today:

Copyright 2002 The Spectator Limited
The Spectator

CONSERVATIVE COWARDS;
Nick Herbert says that Tory modernisers are happy to accept tax hikes and put up with outdated public services

THE other week I was invited on to Radio Five Live's Nicky Campbell phone-in to debate tax. A black hole had appeared in Gordon Brown's spending plans and callers were asked who should pay to fill it. I was put up against Carolyn, a Unison representative and unreconstructed member of the Socialist Workers party. She argued excitedly that it was time to squeeze the rich. Her view appeared to be that the multimillionaire Philip Green, the man who saved BHS, could single-handedly fund the NHS.

It has become fashionable to believe that there has been a mass conversion in Blair's Britain to the cause of contributing more tax to fund public services. So there was general surprise when the overwhelming majority of callers said that they were paying quite enough. They had been willing to hand over a bit more to improve the NHS, but Gordon had been given his chance. A few of the callers felt that the rich could pay more. But most agreed that it wasn't a good idea to penalise entrepreneurs who created jobs and might otherwise pack their bags.

Carolyn was dispirited. She had hoisted the red flag, declared war on the superrich, and found herself alone. But if Radio Five Live listeners' attitudes reflect a changing mood in the country, it is the government that should be worried. The public may not realise that the worst is yet to come. The biggest tax rises were deferred until next year, and independent experts are now warning that the Chancellor's imprudent spending and over-optimistic growth forecasts will mean a deficit of GBP 20 billion in four years' time. Taxes are no longer rising by stealth. They are advancing in the glare of headlines.

Opinion polls before the Budget suggested that the public would be willing to pay more tax if the money was spent on the NHS. The explanation isn't difficult. Mortgage rates are at an historic low, wages have been rising steadily, and most people still feel relatively well-off. But the polls also showed that the public were envisaging unfeasibly small tax rises. Paradoxically, they don't actually believe that spending increases will significantly improve public services. And yet when no one has offered an alternative, they believe something must to be done to rescue services that are collapsing before their eyes.

The sheer scale of Gordon's spending spree is enough to make any analyst's eyes water. The government is to increase spending over the next five years by GBP 143 billion, or nearly 40 per cent. The rise is equivalent to GBP 10 a day, or GBP 3,650 a year, for every household in Britain. On current trends, Britain's spending will converge with the European Union average within a decade, throwing away at a stroke hardwon competitive advantages as resources are transferred from the efficient and productive private sector to a state sector that is exactly the opposite.

But the impact on competitiveness is only half the story. The real problem for the government is that spending isn't working.

Insiders say that the sense of panic in Downing Street and the Department of Health is palpable. NHS resources have increased by a third since 1997, but output has remained flat and waiting-lists are stuck above a million. Estelle Morris discovered the hard way that extra resources alone do not improve educational standards. Polls show that the public think services are getting worse. The only winners, at least in the short term, have been public-sector unions who have benefited, as the Prime Minister unwisely boasted, from pay that is rising faster than in the private sector.

All of this would seem to present a stellar opportunity for the official opposition. But far from exploiting Gordon's black hole, the Tories have dug a large pit of their own.

Last year the shadow chancellor Michael Howard said that the needs of public services came before that of tax cuts. The thinking appears to be that the party's new commitment to 'put public services first' cannot be reconciled with its traditional adherence to reducing taxation. And it is this strategy of self-emasculation that is causing increasing unease in party circles.

Early last week at the Centre for Policy Studies, watched over by the unsmiling portraits of Lady Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph, the self-styled Conservative 'modernisers', who prefer not to be called 'the Movement', told a stunned audience that the party's opposition to tax-and-spend must be abandoned. Those who argued against this extraordinary proposition, on the grounds that it is unprincipled, wrong and strategically stupid into the bargain, were labelled 'Bennite', standing in the way of a moderate and appealing new party platform.

I had thought that Bennites were people, like Carolyn, who believe in socialism, punitive taxes and more government. Apparently, the new Bennites are people, like me, who believe in enterprise, lower taxes and a smaller state. Last Sunday, the former shadow Cabinet minister John Bercow made common cause with Michael Meacher and Peter Hain by criticising capitalism and championing workers' rights. Another shadow Cabinet minister is said to have threatened to resign rather than go into the next election on a platform of lower public spending for his department. With Bennites like these, who needs enemies?

The 'modernisers' like to remind us that the world has moved on. So it has. We live in an age of consumer empowerment, where people expect to make informed decisions over every aspect of their lives.

Yet we continue to expect the public to put up with substandard, monopolistic, state-run public services, designed 50 years ago and offering little or no choice.

Reforming them would be a truly modern agenda. Conversely, failing to see that the stale tax-and-spend consensus could break open is truly backward-looking. The Movement's plan seems to be to modernise the party but leave the country and its public services in the middle of the last century.

The whisper is that there is a top-secret, extremely clever strategy afoot: go along with spending rises now, but return to a taxcutting agenda when - if - the party is reelected. So the repositioning of the Tories is to be based on a lie; a fact that is unlikely to escape the public. The Conservatives gave a small hint that they were not 'living the brand' (in Movement-speak) when they voted against the Budget's tax and spending rises. They still won't say if they would reverse them. Iain Duncan Smith is haunted by a public confession last year that he would like to see public spending reduced to 35 per cent of GDP. The party is now trapped in the worst of all worlds, damned as serial cutters for failing to back the government's spending plans, but unwilling to offer a credible alternative programme to reduce the size of the state.

The tactical calculation that public services must take priority over tax reductions has been bought at the price of a vital concession: public spending is the only way to improve services. The argument that lowtax economies make nations richer can no longer be made. It is incredible that while Russia introduces a flat tax of 13 per cent, increasing revenues by 70 per cent as a result, the British Conservative party should have lost the courage to argue for a central and proven principle of free-market economics.

Reducing the size of the state and delivering better public services are not mutually exclusive alternatives. They go hand in hand. The failure of today's public services is a consequence of ever-expanding government. Taxpayers get a poor bargain from government which takes 40 per cent of their money and spends it badly. The deal we should offer is to take less of their money away and let people make their own choices over high-quality healthcare and education, using state credits to guarantee access for the less well-off. State spending per pupil is about to overtake that in the private sector.

That gives us an opportunity to give every parent the right to choose their own school, whether private or public. Such bold reform is closed off while the Conservatives remain attached to the grip of state-ownership and control in a quest to make tax-and-spend work better.

Every politician around is spouting the rhetoric of public-sector reform: choice, decentralisation, delivery. Tony Blair is doing it. Alan Milburn is doing it. Even Charles Kennedy is doing it. But real reform means breaking monopoly. It means introducing competition. It means putting the power of genuine choice back into the hands of the people. And it means challenging vested interests. The public-sector union officials, some of whom were given a platform at the Conservative party conference, represent the biggest single obstacle to building responsive public services around the needs of users, because they - not their members - would be the losers.

The spend-fest that bought the Iron Chancellor so much popularity just a few months ago is already beginning to look rotten. Taxes will go up in April. They may have to go up further as revenues fall.

Brown's 'golden rule' of borrowing is, like Estelle Morris's 'gold standard' of A-levels, about to be devalued. Productivity in the NHS is actually falling. The unions are queuing up with inflationary pay demands.

The country is swamped with useless and counterproductive regulations, initiatives, targets, taskforces, delivery units and tsars.

Crime is at record levels. This is today's Britain. It is time the modern Conservative party said something conservative about it.

I must say, as an early supporter of Cameron's:

I supported him on the understanding and belief that he was an adherent of the Conservatism AND....theory.

I understand a lot has happened and we need to correct our image...hence the 'AND...' stuff, but it is and should be in service of CONSERVATISM.

There are, some, worrying signs that DC is ditching that essential part.

If he really will, I for one will withdraw my support.

Ah, the infamous photo of Lamont admitting the economy is falling and that interest rates are going up again, with Cameron looking like his world is falling apart around him. That will appear in the election literature come 2009, I can promise that much.

What a shame when he was obviously trying so hard to stay out of the photo. How wide is that lense?

'did the truth slip out again' is Innocent Abroad. And we all know who IA is, don't we?

Sorry but I'm someone else.

If DC is anti-localism and believes that schools and hospitals should have to uphold basic standards - instead of teaching Urdu and encouraging urine therapy as an alternative to medication - that is all to the good.

Is it me or are we still waiting to hear from Nicholas Boles how this apparent "misunderstanding" came about?

One thing that's always struck me about this image every time I've seen it is how the shadowy figure in the background is less David Cameron and more David Dickenson.

The Spectator has re-checked and re-posted the story:

XCLUSIVE: Top Cameron Aide Tells The Right – Don’t Expect Tax Cuts, School Choice, Right Wing Conservative Government


[This story is slightly different than the version posted earlier. The reason is that Mr Boles complained that the story was wrong and demanded it be withdrawn. Phone calls have been made to check facts to ensure we are being fair. After speaking at length to people in the room, we think the following is a fair and accurate account…]

Last Tuesday, as Cameron prepared for his coronation, one of his top aides, Nick Boles, addressed a private meeting of right-wing think tanks and campaign groups at the Adam Smith Institute.

While the hope of many Conservatives has been that Cameron is “really” on the Right but would use better PR to sell a Thatcherite agenda, Boles made clear to the audience that they would be disappointed.

The issues of tax cuts and school choice were raised. Mr Boles said that they would not campaign for vouchers and “choice” was not their priority. In reply to questions about tax, he said that tax pledges and guarantees had been tried before in previous elections, they had failed, and they could not commit themselves to cut taxes beyond the current aspiration.

Mr Boles said to the audience that, just as Blair said that he won as New Labour and would govern as New Labour, so – “Dave has run as a compassionate conservative and will govern as a compassionate conservative”. [Mr Boles has confirmed that this quote was accurate as we originally reported it; one participant remembers the phrase as “centrist” instead of “compassionate conservative”. Different sources have given an almost but not quite identical form of words for a further comment to the effect – “if you’re expecting a right-wing Conservative Government, you will be disappointed”.]

As we commented earlier…

Whereas Labour is gearing up to claim that Cameron is secretly a hard core Thatcherite who is using clever spin to shield an extreme agenda, it se that Cameron is as he seems – a traditional conservative who does not think there is much wrong with Britain, and will resemble Macmillan and Major, not Thatcher, albeit with better PR. Gove is useful bait to attract some elements on the Right, but the ideological tone will be set by Edward Llewellyn, his new Chief of Staff and former Chief of Staff to Patten.

Ironically, therefore, the emerging Labour attack on him as “really deep down right wing” will help Cameron for a while because it will reassure the Right, many of whom voted for him nervously and mainly because of Davis’ extreme incompetence.

However, the ideological right have been told in no uncertain terms: if the Cameron project works out, then you face another decade plus of political irrelevance, no money, and no influence. This is unwise of the Cameron team. First, even in their own terms (ie. gaining power, not medium-term change, is the real goal), it is foolish to tell the Right this so starkly; it would be more effective to lie (at least until they could then use fear of an election to impose discipline). Second, they will not be able to build a new movement of self-consciously “moderate” activists; if they really have rejected the idea of building outrider organisations to act as “icebreakers of the revolution”, they are condemning themselves to medium-term operation within a culture defined by Labour and the BBC which provides only a choice between destruction and cooption. Again ironically, this may actually help organisations on the ideological Right as donors and members realise that pressure from the Right is the only way to influence Cameron.

Lord Garrel-Jones said privately the other day, “Great. An OE with the common touch – and Ed [Llewellyn] in there…” For those on the Right not of this disposition, a bleak future looms – unless the initial Cameron plan fails and there is a major rethink…

Basically, I think this comes down to the fact that many people on both the left and the right of the party have chosen to see what they want to see in David Cameron.

But he can't please everyone. It isn't possible. *Trying* to please everyone will result in a watered-down Toryism, which in effect will mean a managerial-style Conservativism ala John Major, Ted Heath etc.

A few people on the right have seen Cameron as a trojan house: making a few left-wing noises to get the media on side while remaining firmly conservative in direction and purpose. I was hopeful of this too at first (what other choice do I have?) but I think his adoption of Theresa "Nasty Party" May's identity politics agenda is the first indication that this is false.

The big truth is that we made the worst possible mistake in electing Cameron as leader. It could set back the cause of true Conservativism for a generation. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

Oops that was meant to be Trojan horse. Ha.

"The big truth is that we made the worst possible mistake in electing Cameron as leader. It could set back the cause of true Conservativism for a generation. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it."

Lets put it another way, a conservativism that was ALREADY dying as very few young people would touch the party witha barge poll.

If an attempt is made to remove Cameron, I can say this...Any hope of winning the 2009 election is over, and maybe we should look forward to yet...what...another decade of labour?

Rightwing Conservatism was dying..and will continue to die until it is watered to suit normal people. Thatcher's early conservatism was almost the same as Blair's conservatism.

The RIght-winger must accept, they will not win an election again until they give in to the changes Cameron is proposing.

Many in the party want to pursue the sort of policies outlined in the Spectator article, but the majority felt that of the two leadership candidates on offer, they preferred DC because they judged he had the vital communication skills. They were also persuaded that he would continue with the sort of policies that were in the last manifesto. This seemed reasonable because as he reassuringly said at the hustings, he was largely responsible for writing it.

Of course if we remember back to IDS, he was elected because of his reputation as a eurosceptic, but he deliberately soft-pedalled on EU issues, much to the frustration of many who wanted him to put in place strong policies to re-negotiate the treaties.

In my opinion it is still much too early to judge what a Cameron manifesto would be like. We will just have to trust him, and remind him, when necessary, what we believe is needed, though I'm sure our friends in the Speccy and others will do it for us.

Well at least be clear what you're getting. You want a return to Majorism? Fair enough. Your choice.

That's not what I want.

Imagine, for a minute, DC but with the convictions of a Ronald Reagan....of course he would win a General Election.

I seem to recall that Maggie did rather fine in the '80s, winning the odd landslide.

I must say that I have been a member of the Conservative party for four years and the man who aroused my interest in Politics was Sir John Major in the mid nineties when I was in my early teens.

While accepting that Michael Howard was an excellent competent leader, I am very pleased at the direction that David Cameron is leading the party (social liberalism with eurosceptism and a dose of moderation) and I look forward to the next Conservative government a month or so after my 27th birthday.

David Cameron and his team have achieved an excellent start.

"Imagine, for a minute, DC but with the convictions of a Ronald Reagan...."

If only...

Lady Thatcher did rather fine in the early eighties, but unfortunately it wouldn't have resulted in a fourth victory for her.

However, if she had stayed on and lost a 1991 Election (for example), we could well be on our 2nd or 3rd term back in now.

I suspect even IDS would have made inroads against someone like Michael Foot. However odious Brown and (particularly) Blair are, they are formidable opponents. We are not going to get anywhere by comparing ourselves with our successes in the eighties.

Thatcherism was right for the 1980s. I do not believe that is so right for the 2000s.

A return to Majorism?
I never thought it would happen.

If it is going to happen, I am delighted!

"Thatcherism was right for the 1980s. I do not believe that is so right for the 2000s"

What *is* right for the 2000s?

Majorism? Heathism?

Neo-Blairism?

A cross between Majorism and Neo-Blairism without the sleaze and lies with have associated themselves with the two????????????

I mean .... which has associated themselves with the two????????????

Cameronism ;)

Tight media control, liberal social policies, pro-business (I hope..but not heard) and in europe but not run by europe.

So it's government of crap soundbites by crap soundbites, then Jaz.

Hmmmm. Ah, it could be worse!

I do like Cameronism. In some ways, it is what Michael Portillo wanted to do for the party.

"It is what Michael Portillo wanted to do for the party."

Ugh.

What? Adopt a loser mentality. Abandon Conservative policies. Become no use to man or beast.

No, not abandoning Conservative policies, far from it! It is by modernising our approach, liberalising our social policy, showing our commitment to public services and sharing the proceeds of growth.

This, + charisma = electoral victory.

We have after all tried a different approach in 2001 and 2005 and we lost.

"No, not abandoning Conservative policies, far from it!"

Then why has it involved abadoning Conservative policies on education, health and the economy?

"It is by modernising our approach, liberalising our social policy, showing our commitment to public services and sharing the proceeds of growth."

So it about meaningless soundbites and a loser mentality.

"We have after all tried a different approach in 2001 and 2005 and we lost."

We tried *this* approach in 2005. The party lost its tax cutting profile, commited to increasing public spending, and failed to mention its structural polices on health and education.

This = political cowardice = election defeat

"Then why has it involved abadoning Conservative policies on education, health and the economy? We tried *this* approach in 2005. The party lost its tax cutting profile, commited to increasing public spending, and failed to mention its structural polices on health and education."

Policies haven't been abandonded as such, but it is very early on in this parliament and we need to resassure swing voters (who voted for us in 1992) that we are serious in making everybodys lives better and more prosperous. The flat tax proposals which are being developed would be a great help.

"So it about meaningless soundbites and a loser mentality."

Without winning the support back from Labour and the Lib Dems which we had in 1992 we could not win the next election and we need to show ourselves to be heading back to the centre ground, which we ceded in 1997.
This = political renewal= election success


Personally, I expect more from Conservatism than simply apeing our opponents (but offering to it a bit more efficiently), though it's clear some here are happy to settle for that.

"That doesn't explain why Tony Blair is winning though..."

Yes it does. We tried a useless, cowardly approach at the last election where we accepted high state spending, made no arguments for lowrer taxation, and all we could say about health was "cleaner hospitals" and about was "school discipline".

"Because none were vote winners..The only vote winner in 2005 was immigration and crime."

So you admit to having a loser mentality.

Those policies were selected by focuse group. They were then unpopular and we lost. Surely this is a condemnation of the "parrot" approach?

"Which country was this? I remember days of arguments over Tory "tax cuts" and that the numbers don't add up. We tried both at the same time..."

That's because we had the useless Letwin in the Shadow Chancellor's role. Firstly, he didn;t offer actual tax cuts, he offered deferred tax increases. Secondly, he never made a case for lower taxation. Thirdly, the "cuts" he proposed weren't ones that would stimulate economuc growth.

He mucks up, so what do we do? Abandon an approach he didn't try and put him in charge of policy.

All Cameron is offering at present is the 2005 campaign without Howard, immigration, or even deferred tax rises! I don't think that will be good enough. It's an approach that's admitted defeat before we start.

"Personally, I expect more from Conservatism than simply apeing our opponents (but offering to it a bit more efficiently), though it's clear some here are happy to settle for that."

I agree, Sean. Sadly this likely outcome of a Cameron leadership was obvious from his first speech as Shadow Education Secretary. The man is managerialism made flesh.

James,

Do you want to win the next election or do you want us to become an ineffective rump?

"Yes it does. We tried a useless, cowardly approach at the last election where we accepted high state spending, made no arguments for lowrer taxation, and all we could say about health was "cleaner hospitals" and about was "school discipline"."

We did not exactly accept higher state spending, but we all need to understand that the people of this country want high quality public services! I am on an annual salary of under £13,500 and do not drive. These issues are important to many people.

So you admit to having a loser mentality.

"Those policies were selected by focuse group. They were then unpopular and we lost. Surely this is a condemnation of the "parrot" approach?"

Well, no. This is a condemnation of the navel gazing approach. We were talking to ourselves.

"All Cameron is offering at present is the 2005 campaign without Howard, immigration, or even deferred tax rises! I don't think that will be good enough. It's an approach that's admitted defeat before we start.
It is time for us all to rally behind David Cameron. His reforms will make us electable once again and I am delighted that Francis Maude is Chairman and Oliver Letwin is Policy Supremo."

I wholeheartedly disagree. Not only are we now showing to be socially liberal to a greater extent than the general election, but we are finally giving the environment the importance it deserves in our party.

David Cameron is doing a brilliant job by realising that having a right wing administration while the opposition is in the centre, will NEVER EVER win us the next election. NEVER EVER.

I would like to clarify.
Having a right wing Conservative oppostion while the Labour government is in the centre, will NEVER EVER win us the next election. NEVER EVER.

The surest way for an Opposition to best position itself in the leadup to an election is to make itself as small a target as possible. It goes a long way to minimise the potential for a Government-run scare campaign (i.e. You think we're bad? What about them? They want to etc etc etc).

Unfortunately I think the Conservative Party needs this strategy to help build its electoral competitiveness to such an extent that many already within the Part will find it difficult to swallow. Nonetheless at this stage it seems necessary.

For those within the Conservative Party with what he is saying in order to build this political capital and electoral potential, why not focus on getting in to Government and THEN selling the policies internally that you'd prefer to see?


What? Ha! Blair is the fake. He's the fake Tory who stole our policies, and continues to do so... only Cameron has stood up to this, and to his advantage it would seem!

"For those within the Conservative Party with what he is saying in order to build this political capital and electoral potential, why not focus on getting in to Government and THEN selling the policies internally that you'd prefer to see?"

BECAUSE then it will be too late: see, for example, The Spectator online:

EXCLUSIVE: Top Cameron Aide Tells The Right – Don’t Expect Tax Cuts, School Choice, Right Wing Conservative Government

[This story is slightly different than the version posted earlier. The reason is that Mr Boles complained that the story was wrong and demanded it be withdrawn. Phone calls have been made to check facts to ensure we are being fair. After speaking at length to people in the room, we think the following is a fair and accurate account…]

Last Tuesday, as Cameron prepared for his coronation, one of his top aides, Nick Boles, addressed a private meeting of right-wing think tanks and campaign groups at the Adam Smith Institute.

While the hope of many Conservatives has been that Cameron is “really” on the Right but would use better PR to sell a Thatcherite agenda, Boles made clear to the audience that they would be disappointed.

The issues of tax cuts and school choice were raised. Mr Boles said that they would not campaign for vouchers and “choice” was not their priority. In reply to questions about tax, he said that tax pledges and guarantees had been tried before in previous elections, they had failed, and they could not commit themselves to cut taxes beyond the current aspiration.

Mr Boles said to the audience that, just as Blair said that he won as New Labour and would govern as New Labour, so – “Dave has run as a compassionate conservative and will govern as a compassionate conservative”. [Mr Boles has confirmed that this quote was accurate as we originally reported it; one participant remembers the phrase as “centrist” instead of “compassionate conservative”. Different sources have given an almost but not quite identical form of words for a further comment to the effect – “if you’re expecting a right-wing Conservative Government, you will be disappointed”.]

As we commented earlier…

Whereas Labour is gearing up to claim that Cameron is secretly a hard core Thatcherite who is using clever spin to shield an extreme agenda, it appears that Cameron is as he seems – a traditional conservative who does not think there is much wrong with Britain, and will resemble Macmillan and Major, not Thatcher, albeit with better PR. Gove is useful bait to attract some elements on the Right, but the ideological tone will be set by Edward Llewellyn, his new Chief of Staff and former Chief of Staff to Patten.

Ironically, therefore, the emerging Labour attack on him as “really deep down right wing” will help Cameron for a while because it will reassure the Right, many of whom voted for him nervously and mainly because of Davis’ extreme incompetence.

However, the ideological right have been told in no uncertain terms: if the Cameron project works out, then you face another decade plus of political irrelevance, no money, and no influence. This is unwise of the Cameron team. First, even in their own terms (ie. gaining power, not medium-term change, is the real goal), it is foolish to tell the Right this so starkly; it would be more effective to lie (at least until they could then use fear of an election to impose discipline). Second, they will not be able to build a new movement of self-consciously “moderate” activists; if they really have rejected the idea of building outrider organisations to act as “icebreakers of the revolution”, they are condemning themselves to medium-term operation within a culture defined by Labour and the BBC which provides only a choice between destruction and cooption. Again ironically, this may actually help organisations on the ideological Right as donors and members realise that pressure from the Right is the only way to influence Cameron.

Lord Garrel-Jones said privately the other day, “Great. An OE with the common touch – and Ed [Llewellyn] in there…” For those on the Right not of this disposition, a bleak future looms – unless the initial Cameron plan fails and there is a major rethink…

"We did not exactly accept higher state spending"

So matching and beating all of Labour's spending commitments wasn't "accepting higher state spending"? Michael Howard saying that it was fine for public spending being more than 42% of GDP wasn't "Accepting higher state spending"?

The Conservative party adopted Labour's agenda, only leaving tiny areas to do with management (clean hospitals, school discipline) and immigration on which to differentiate itself.

Cameron looks like doing the same thing again, except WITHOUT the differentiation!

"Well, no. This is a condemnation of the navel gazing approach. We were talking to ourselves."

And the preoccupation with the EEP and "A" lists is not talking to ourselves, how?

"Not only are we now showing to be socially liberal to a greater extent than the general election"

I must have missed the absence of women candidates.

"but we are finally giving the environment the importance it deserves in our party."

By adopting bad policies. Yes, what a good approach.


I fundamentally disagree with the view that we should try to pretend that we're something we're not, and then start implementing our real agenda once we get into power.

Unless we are prepared to argue the case for a Conservative approach to tax and spending, public services, crime and justice etc., over the course of the next four years, how on Earth will we win people round to our point of view once we get elected?

"will NEVER EVER win us the next election. NEVER EVER"

Why not?

The Spectator stands behind its story despite the protests of Nicholas Boles:

"The issues of tax cuts and school choice were raised. Mr Boles said that they would not campaign for vouchers and “choice” was not their priority. In reply to questions about tax, he said that tax pledges and guarantees had been tried before in previous elections, they had failed, and they could not commit themselves to cut taxes beyond the current aspiration.

Mr Boles said to the audience that, just as Blair said that he won as New Labour and would govern as New Labour, so – “Dave has run as a compassionate conservative and will govern as a compassionate conservative”. [Mr Boles has confirmed that this quote was accurate as we originally reported it; one participant remembers the phrase as “centrist” instead of “compassionate conservative”. Different sources have given an almost but not quite identical form of words for a further comment to the effect – “if you’re expecting a right-wing Conservative Government, you will be disappointed”.

Would someone like to tell Guido that the Spectator have stood up and stood by the story about the Boles meeting. It looks like his love affair with the Cameroons is clouding his judgement again.

When will Guido get the message? Thew Cameroons are not libertarians like him. They are Big Government conservatives for whom, as the Spectator reported, tax cuts and school choice are not a priority, and not to be campaigned for.

Really, Guido is too intelligent to be such a dedicated follower of fashion like this.

In today's soundbite world image is much more important than substance for the average voter. DC has made a terrific start on his image. Of course he and his aides are not going to publicly announce that they have a hidden right-wing agenda. That would be crazy. We have to accept that the voters liked Blair until the Iraq war and all the lies about WMD etc. Now the voters are looking for someone with the Blair appeal, but who they think they can trust to tell the truth and run the country in a competent way. Cameron is the right man at the right time. We have no other choice, than to trust him to deliver a true Conservative government.

"Of course he and his aides are not going to publicly announce that they have a hidden right-wing agenda. That would be crazy."

So Derek, are you saying that Cameron & Co's strategy is to lie to the electorate by pretending to be Mr Centrist and Centraliser, only to then turn around and prove to be a "true Conservative" once elected?

If they have a right wing agenda, I'd rather they said so, and fought to be elected for what they are, than be elected on a falsehood. I'd also say that if they don;t have a right wing agenda, they should be open about that, rather then string people along with a nod and a wink.

What is a "true Conservative"?

The only edifying glimmer I can detect in the above strand is the absence of a right-wing, left-wing dingdong. But the laments of those who are disappointed with David Cameron's start -- surprisingly predictable in their comments -- appear to have an internal solid ideology, against which they can measure accurately any statements from the leadership. Anything that deviates from this rod of Tory truth is labelled as Heathism, Majorism, Neo-Blairism (quite like that one actually) -- ie the intent is to show that the deviation is unConservative and intellectually floppy, by deliberate conjuring images of unsuccessful crap governments. I paraphrase (with apologies!): If only we could be more like Thatcher! Or Heffer! Or any "real" Conservative. Add to this the appalling desire of the leadership to have more talented women in parliament ... well! And sometimes they want to influence the candidate selection process -- even if that means removing a shred of power from the self-selected, unsuccessful cabals in every failed association in the country.

Well I'm wandering a bit, so apologies. That's what happens when I don't read the blog all day and try to catch up late in the day!

No matter with whom I agree more -- Jaz for example -- or less -- James (and I do admire this man's style) -- could we, umm, in the spirit of the season, try to look for some win-win's here, rather than trying to "prove" a point one way or another, as though the argument was deductive and there's a QED round the corner that will settle this debate once and for all? It has, I believe, been raging at least since the Corn Laws, and it's the policies that are forged FROM the dialectic that are useful to the party, not the actual positions held.

I love practically everything that David Cameron has done since becoming leader. I never actually believed again there would be leadership of this party that matched my own internal values. I tell you! From clause 28 onwards I had those bathtime moments, when you sit looking at your navel, thinking "what on EARTH am I doing delivering leaflets for this endeavour?". That never happen to anyone else? But your tribal Toryism takes over and so I managed to remain an active member of a party that selected someone as vile as that Exeter GP mentalist (rejected by the sane denizens of that town) to stand for parliament.

Let's end the year in a happy, trusting mood. We have a confirmed leader who has, in two weeks, discombobulated the most successful Labour leader ever & effectively ruined the holidays of the LibDems. We are setting the media agenda (I loathe the BBC like the most virulent Tebbitite by the way, but it's the route for our message, and if they hate us, our job gets even harder) and being discussed AS THOUGH WE MATTER in every media outlet. We've publicly confronted the things that the middle classes and the young loathe about us, and started dismantling them, to the extent that we are leading in the opinion polls. We're never all going to agree on any particular policy, but as far as I can see we've done all this while staying true to core Tory "principles" (I don't know what these are but the manifesto cover from the last election was probably a distillation) and I can't remember an end of year when I felt so happy and confident to be a Conservative.

Now of course the Tory dialectic is vital -- but it's also X factor final night. Time to prepare.

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