If I had to draw up a list for reasons why the BNP are gaining ground my list would be topped by Labour sleaze, Labour's failure to control our borders and then Labour's record on crime, housing and poverty. But apparently I'm wrong. Tory European policy is apparently to blame.
"Slowly, the European election is coming to the boil. The Observer rightly highlighted the worry that the BNP will make a breakthrough. It was the Greens in 1989, UKIP in 2004, so perhaps in 2009 it will be the BNP. The Tories have prepared the ground with their constant xenophobic attacks on Europe."
Tory Community Cohesion spokesperson Sayeeda Warsi reacted furiously to the Labour MP for Rotherham's intervention (from MailOnline):
"It's much easier to blame somebody else than address the failings and shortcomings of the current government, which means some voters feel that a fringe party is an attractive alternative. I know more than anybody else what it's like to campaign against the BNP. They got 6,000 votes in my home town of Dewsbury at the last election. Labour either shout and scream that everybody who votes BNP is a racist or alternatively they try to blame us for raising legitimate issues to which they have no answer. It used to be immigration, now it's Europe. Most people who vote for the BNP aren't racist. I accept that they feel so frustrated by the sort of politics they see today that they feel the only way to be heard is to vote for a racist party. They would never want to have them in power. It's their way of giving the other parties a kick up the backside."
There are signs that Labour may be using the BNP to hide their own problems (see John Rentoul today). Something to watch.
Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers certainly believes the answer to the above question is "yes", based on this letter to yesterday's Sunday Times signed by a number of leading businessmen.
The signatories - including Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse, Justin King of Sainsbury’s, Ian Cheshire of Kingfisher and David Levin of United Business Media - insist that "many individuals in the business community do not believe that the rationale put forward for the third runway at Heathrow is sufficient to justify the Government’s recent decision".
Calling on the Government to rethink its decision, they added that the business benefits of Heathrow expansion are "unclear and unproven" and that the alternatives have not been adequately explored.
Theresa Villiers has responded to the letter by saying that Labour’s "misleading claim" that all business is behind the Government's plans for the third runway has been "blown out of the water":
“These are serious and very senior figures in the business world and they are telling Gordon Brown he has got it wrong on Heathrow. This is further proof that Labour is increasingly isolated and that they are on the wrong side of the argument on Heathrow. Only with a Conservative Government can we be sure that a third runway will not go ahead."
But John Cridland, the deputy director-general of the CBI, maintains that the signatories to the letter are in a minority:
“What the CBI has promoted is the strong view of the majority of companies that Heathrow is vital to the London economy and needs extra capacity.”
Pasted below are some highlights from a brilliant speech given by Lord Forsyth in Scotland to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister. Baroness Thatcher, four hundred Scottish Tories, including Lord Lang, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Annabel Goldie MSP and almost all the Conservative MSPs, several former Scottish MPs and many candidates were present to hear the speech. Pictured with Baroness Thatcher and Lord Forsyth is Jackson Carlaw MSP, Chairman of the Anniversary Dinner.
Margaret Thatcher's historic achievements: "We are here to celebrate a famous victory and to pay tribute to a great Lady who not only saved Britain but together with Ronald Reagan, ended the cold war, tore down the iron curtain, and enabled millions to escape the tyranny of communism."
Margaret Thatcher's work ethic: "My abiding memory of being in Margaret’s Government was of relentless work and pace. David Davis then a new member of Parliament stopped me as I was rushing through the member’s lobby and said, ‘ Slow down, Michael, Rome was not built in a day’. ‘Margaret Thatcher was not the shop steward on that job’ I said hurrying on."
Margaret Thatcher's personal ethics: "When Margaret wanted to redecorate the study in no 10 she paid for it herself. She always paid cash and never signed the bill in the members dining room and many of her colleagues who did so were given stern lectures on the dangers of debt and credit."
Margaret Thatcher's inheritance: "When Cecil Parkinson went to the Soviet Union as the new Trade minister his Communist opposite number told him they were no longer prepared to buy from Britain because of the poor quality of goods and the unreliability of deliveries."
Margaret Thatcher's economic revolution: "Breaking state monopolies, encouraging competition, lowering taxes and returning control of the trade unions to their members unleashed a new age of enterprise and wealth creation. Council House sales meant thousands of families were given the chance to have capital for the first time in their lives and freed from municipal controls that even decided the colour of their front door. Workers in privatised companies were given shares in the business as she set about achieving her vision of a meritocratic property owning democracry."
Margaret Thatcher's victory over Arthur Scargill: "By 1984 we had prepared for the day when Scargill would confront the Government. The miners strike was a disaster for the coal industry and was scarred by violence and intimidation as the leadership sought to defy the laws of the land and the laws of economics. The miners were lions led by donkeys. They deserved better and I shall never forget the courage shown by the working miners. One of them is now our chief whip in the House of Commons , Patrick McLoughlin. I would not advise any rebels to take him on! Ted Heath had asked the question in 1974 Who Governs Britain? And he had lost. But 10 years later the Conservative Government was ready to answer- resoundingly."
Margaret Thatcher's Iron quality during the Falklands War: "Enoch Powell speaking in Parliament which was recalled to sit on a Saturday referred to the Russians calling you an Iron lady. In the next week or two this house, the nation and the Rt Hon Lady herself will learn of what metal she is made’... After Victory was declared Enoch Powell asked the Prime Minister another question in Parliament: "Is the Rt Hon Lady aware that the report has been received from the public analyst on a certain substance recently subjected to analysis and that I have obtained a copy of the report. It shows that the substance under test consisted of ferrous mater of the highest quality and that it is of exceptional tensile strength, is highly resistant to wear and tear and to stress and may be used to advantage for all national purposes."
Margaret Thatcher's relevance to today: "She changed the way people thought about wealth creation, enterprise and the role of the state. Part of her legacy was the destruction of socialism and the creation of New Labour. Today we are back to the 70s in a Britain on the brink of bankruptcy thanks to the meddling excesses of Gordon Brown, the irresponsibility of some bankers and the searing incompetence of the regulators and monetary authorities here and in the United States. Old Labour is back. Margaret’s fixed ropes of sound money, living within our means, controlling public expenditure and smaller Government to release the enterprise of the British people are still in place. We know that we can climb this mountain and we have in David Cameron and Annabel Goldie a formidable summit party. In truth my mountaineering days are over but I am willing to be a Sherpa on this expedition as should everyone who cares about our country. We can succeed in putting Britain back on top of the world. It will take time, hardship, sacrifice and determination. Our inspiration lies in the victory in 1979 and the example of this great lady who saved our country." A PDF of Lord Forsyth's full speech.
Speaking on BBC1's Politics Show the Shadow Defence Secretary appeared to put an end to speculation that replacement of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent could be scrapped under an incoming Conservative government:
"There'll be a replacement for our Trident system under the Conservatives... The country requires it for its defence."
Dr Liam Fox would not set out the exact nature of the deterrent, however, avoiding direct questioning on the number of submarines that would be associated with the deterrent. He repeated however that a nuclear deterrent would be necessary to defend Britain from "nuclear blackmail" by states such as North Korea and Iran.
Dr Fox also refused to be drawn on other defence commitments. He said that an incoming Conservative government would have to take account of the "train wrecked" public finances. The Conservatives would, he said, conduct a strategic defence review, define Britain's national interest, the threats we'll face, and then set out the equipment and alliances necessary to meet those threats.
A clash with Britain's defence industry seems highly likely, however. Dr Fox is known to be sympathetic to the Canadian model where that country's armed forces are being renewed by purchasing cheaper, off-the-shelf defence equipment from overseas.
In terms of defeating the UKIP threat in June's European Elections a leaflet from Tory MEPs chooses to emphasise their MEPs' record of failure rather than addressing the independence argument head on.
Point 1 of a leaflet charges:
"UKIP let down their supporters. They returned 12 MEPs in 2004, but completely wasted their big opportunity. Their MEPs have been characterised by in-fighting and scandal; as a result, one third of their MEPs have left or been expelled."
The leaflet in the series that attacks Labour focuses on a failure to honour a promise to hold a referendum on Lisbon, Labour MEPs' support for joining the Euro, support for the Working Time Directive, support for an EU Space programme and also for a Euro Army:
"Labour MEPs have repeatedly voted in favour of steps towards a European army. For example, they voted in favour of an ‘integrated European Armed Force.’ Yet on another occasion, they voted that the EU should be a ‘nuclear-weapon-free zone.’"
The best of the leaflets is against the Liberal Democrats. The themes are similar to the Labour leaflet with LibDem Europe policy at least as bad as Labour's and much less known among the voters in, for example, the West Country, who still support Britain's third party in large numbers. Key quote:
"The EU Court of Auditors has been unable to give the EU accounts a clean bill of health for 14 successive years, but Liberal Democrat MEPs have voted year after year to approve the EU accounts."
Access a full PDF of the anti-Liberal Democrat leaflet.
> Last Monday we published the leaflet that made the positive case for voting for Conservative MEP candidates.
I know where the SunTel is coming from but let's never forget that Maggie was as much a tactical genius as a conviction politician...
She wasn't averse to putting politics first: She accepted Callaghan's pay deals with the public sector that delayed fiscal retrenchment until 1979.
She picked the timing of battles: Arthur Scargill sought confrontation with her in her first term but she knew she wasn't ready to win and gave the NUM what it wanted. She delayed confrontation until 1984/85 when she could win.
She left some things largely untouched: Think of the NHS, the BBC and the welfare state.
"I wanted to write and send my best wishes on this, the 30th anniversary of the great day when you first walked into Downing Street as our prime minister.
I still find it awe-inspiring to think of the state of the nation you inherited and the immense achievements of your governments. Getting the country to live within its means, bringing the trade unions within the law, rolling back the tide of state ownership, standing steadfast with our allies in the cold war ... but above all giving the British people back their pride and self-belief. The whole country owes you a huge debt.
It is with huge trepidation that I attempt, 30 years on, to get rid of an exhausted Labour government and start the process of mending the national finances and tackling some deep and entrenched problems that we face. If we are elected as the next government, I know that it will be extremely difficult work - but in your life and your work you have given all of us an example of real courage to follow."
Inspired by the Christian campaign, What Would Jesus Do? the Republicans in America already have What Would Reagan Do?What Would Maggie Do? is a favourite media template at the moment.
The Daily Mail uses the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election to urge David Cameron to emulate the Iron Lady. Last Saturday Matthew Parris suggested that Mr Cameron should follow Mrs Thatcher's example in opposition and not be too specific about his plans for government.
Of course there are lots of things Margaret Thatcher can teach us. Some of the parallels between 1979 and now are huge but there are also big differences between her times and ours. Here are a few that should be keeping Tory strategists awake at night...
Austerity began under Callaghan. Margaret Thatcher inherited a situation where - because of the IMF - the government had already begun some austerity measures. Alistair Darling's Budget showed that our current government is still in denial.
The civil service is a much less effective machine. It has been politicised in numerous ways. Francis Maude will need to think radically about new forms of delivery mechanism to ensure the Cameron agenda is enacted. Making the situation potentially much more tricky David Cameron also has a frontbench team that is much, much less experienced than the Thatcher team.
We've had a thirty year transfer of powers to the EU. Dan Hannan says four-fifths of UK laws are made in Brussels. Westminster is not nearly as powerful as it was in 1979.
Public trust in politicians is much lower now than in 1979. Their promises are much less likely to believed. This had led many Cameroons to believe in the politics of small (and supposedly therefore more believable) promises. What does it mean for today when only big reforms can save the public finances?
The media moves fives time as fast. Mrs Thatcher could appear on the BBC 6'o'clock News and be seen by twice as many Britons as she would reach today. She could write an article for The Daily Telegraph and it would be discussed for days. Nothing lasts as long today. Cameron has to work harder to reach as many people and the media is likely to get bored quickly. He won't have a honeymoon in power although Labour could be in desperate straits. It won't be long before journalists (and, of course, thousands of bloggers) are writing their 'David Cameron has had his worst week since coming to power' stories.
There is a Populus poll in The Times tomorrow which does not appear to cover voting intention, but rather asks the public what they expect they outcome of the next election to be.
The results are:
Conservative overall majority - 55% Hung Parliament with Conservatives as largest single party - 12% TOTAL EXPECTING CONSERVATIVES AS LARGEST PARTY - 67%
Labour overall majority - 18% Hung Parliament with Labour as largest single party - 7% TOTAL EXPECTING LABOUR AS LARGEST PARTY - 25%
Personally I am astonished that nearly one fifth of people still expect Labour to get a majority, given that it will require the party to lose only 24 seats on a swing of a mere 1.6% in order to fall into Hung Parliament territory.
A poll of 873 adults by PoliticsHome finds strong support for more co-operation between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
Conservative strategists are delighted at the politics of Wednesday's vote on Gurkhas. They believe it sent out two key messages: (1) Brown is isolated and (2) the Conservatives are the reasonable party, prepared to work with others.
ConHome reported in February that the Conservatives are considering "generous outreach" to the Liberal Democrats in the event of an election victory:
"A group of shadow ministers believe that one of Tony Blair's bigger strategic mistakes was to row back on co-operation with the Liberal Democrats when he won such a large Commons majority in 1997. These shadow ministers believe that - contrary to Labour's 'under-delivery' to the LibDems - the Conservatives should deliver more in practical co-operation in government than they promise in opposition."
At his monthly press conference yesterday Mr Cameron admitted that he didn't know Nick Clegg well but restated his December 2005 identity as a "liberal conservative" and he said that the Conservatives will work with the Liberal Democrats on issues of common interest, such as the environment, strengthening local govenment and opposing the surveillance state.
> On Seats and candidates today Leah Fraser explains how she is love-bombing Liberal Democrat voters in Wallasey.
Boris Johnson celebrates his first year as London Mayor today and most Tory members say that they are satisfied with his performance although a very large minority doubt that he is yet a credible Prime Minister in waiting:
He has made a massive impression on the public and Time magazine yesterday announced that he was one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
A ConservativeHome poll of Tory members finds that his role in the ousting of Sir Ian Blair was his most important act since replacing Ken Livingstone.
Freezing council tax, banning alcohol on the Tube, opposing a third runway at Heathrow and opposing an extension of the congestion charge also feature prominently.
In recent days Boris has announced a plan to devolve more power to local government in London. He has also been in the newspapers for apparently wanting to be Prime Minister after he has finished at City Hall. Last Saturday he told ConservativeHome that talk of him despising David Cameron was "tripe". He also said that the London Mayor job was "almost certainly" his last big job in British politics. Not many Westminster insiders believe him.
After some early difficulties with staff picks he is carving out his own brand of modern Conservatism in London. He has annoyed traditional Tories by expressing sympathy for an amnesty for illegal immigrants but delighted others with his fierce opposition to higher taxes on London's wealth creators.
He said that he was most proud of the efforts that he had made in fighting crime. London was getting safer and safer, he said, and putting more police officers on the beat and into the transport system would remain a top priority.
He issued a "massive Mayoral apology" to me after I told him that my fourth bike had been stolen - just last month. He promised a rent-a-bike scheme soon that might solve my problem. The environment would be a "passion" in the remainder of his term, he promised, and he hoped to make substantial progress in sponsoring Electric Cars across the capital.
Being London Mayor had so far been a "fascinating and demanding" experience. It was the most rewarding thing he had done in his life. He had very few frustrations although the London bureaucracy was sometimes "treacly".
"I want to stand for a second term" he said but had not taken a final, final decision. The Tories are currently 12% ahead in London but he will be running for re-election in what is likely to be the mid-term of a Cameron government and the Tories might be unpopular across the country because of painful decisions on the budget deficit. Boris has made a great start but re-election won't be a cakewalk.
That is the conclusion of The Times this morning, which calculates that of the £52 million received into party coffers over the last three years, "a growing proportion" has come in the form of individual donations of £50,000.
According to the paper's analysis of Electoral Commission figures:
"In 2006 the party received £17.6 million and there were 26 donations of £50,000, generating £1.3 million. In 2008, by contrast, the last year for which full figures are available, the party received £15.8 million in donations, of which £3.1 million came in 62 donations of £50,000."
However, it would seem that there is still some way to go before it becomes viable to introduce a £50,000 cap on donations - which David Cameron aspires to introduce and about which I expressed my scepticism quite recently.
Whilst the number of people giving £50,000 donations has increased over the last three years, The Times also notes a recent pledge of £1 million from Stanley Fink and the fact that the amount of money channelled into the party through Lord Ashcroft's company, Bearwood, has also increased during the that time:
"In 2006 Bearwood donated just over half a million pounds in cash and polling. Last year that figure had climbed to £1.6 million."
How broad will that growing donor base remain as the recession continues to bite?
When The Times described David Cameron's Conservative team as "women-free" I called it "unfair". CCHQ went ballistic - seeing it as a dangerous attack on the modernisation agenda. Team Cameron believes that the Tory leader couldn't have worked much harder to promote women into the shadow cabinet, into the House of Lords, into winnable Westminster seats and into the European Parliament. Rules for selection of MEP candidates were actually changed so that women won higher rankings on regional lists even if they secured fewer votes from grassroots members*.
David Cameron wrote for The Times yesterday, setting out the progress that he's made in increasing representation of women.
In tomorrow's Times a huge number of Tory women - led by our adopted candidates - have written a letter defending David Cameron's record on female selection.
A member of the shadow cabinet told me to look out for five things in the next few months that Team Cameron would be emphasing to show that "new Toryism" is still alive and kicking - despite the "age of austerity":
Further promotion of women and ethnic minority Conservatives.
Outreach to gay rights groups (yesterday we learnt this).
More emphasis on environmental policies. At Spring Forum in Cheltenham Greg Clark MP promised to make Britain the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy."
Loud trumpeting of the fact that the NHS and international development are the top two Tory spending priorities.
More initiatives on social justice with a greater role for Iain Duncan Smith.
The Tory leader was speaking at his monthly press conference.
10.30am, Highlights from Mr Cameron's press conference
On Trident and defence cuts: Mr Cameron was asked on three occcasions about making savings from the defence budget. He said that the Conservative Party supported all of the items currently in the 'forward defence programme' but given the scale of the budgetary crisis would not say if the aircraft carrier and Trident programmes were still affordable. I'm not going to start ruling things in and out, he continued. In the FT this morning David Davis had questioned the affordability of Trident.
On today's votes on expenses: Mr Cameron said the Conservative frontbench would abstain from the vote on second jobs disclosure because it is badly drafted, but added that he supports the principle of it. PoliticsHome has more on this aspect.
On the 50p tax band: He agreed with Fraser Nelson that the 50p tax band was bad for Britain but declined to agree that it might lose the Treasury money. He didn't know for sure, he said. In a follow up question Fraser Nelson said that rich people would not change their plans and move abroad if they knew that the 50p band would be repealed by a Conservative government. Mr Cameron said that he would not make a commitment now and that 50p would have to join a queue of other bad Labour measures that the Conservatives wished to repeal.
On working with Nick Clegg: He said that yesterday's victory on Gurkhas was hugely important and said that the Conservatives will work with the Liberal Democrats on issues of common interest, such as the environment, strengthening local govenment and opposing the surveillance state.
On Obama's first 100 days: He declined to comment on the American President's domestic policies but paid tribute to a "pretty successful" foreign policy. He highlighted an end to torture, the promised closure of Gitmo, the re-engineering of strategy in Afghanistan and engagement with Iran.
On Margaret Thatcher's thirtieth anniversary: I asked if he would be marking the anniversary in any way and if he was studying how she prepared for government... As Mr Cameron started to answer a military band started playing and marched past the window... Mr Cameron credited Andy Coulson with arranging the march past! After the journalists' laughter had died down he said that the best way of honouring Margaret Thatcher was to elect another Tory government. Yes, he was studying the period - the things she got right but also the things that were wrong including the decision to honour Labour's public pay commitments from the Clegg Commission that delayed the necessary fiscal adjustment until 1981.
As a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, David Davis was always likely to want to contribute from the self-imposed freedom of the backbenches to the debate about how to get the public finances under control.
And today, through an article in the FT, the former shadow home secretary addresses the question of where the Government - and therefore a future Conservative government - could find savings.
Firstly, he tackles the Labour language of "Tory cuts" head on:
"The choice we face is not between Labour growth in public services and Tory “cuts”. It is between taking a grip of the public finances and watching our people’s economic prospects, and our ability to afford decent public services, slowly dribble away."
Mr Davis goes on to suggest some of the ways in which he would find savings; several, such as abolition of ID cards and abolition of regional government, are already party policy - but others are not and therefore act as a useful contribution to the debate on the issue of how to tighten the nation's belt:
Following exchanges over the issue at PMQs earlier, a vote has just taken place during an Opposition Day debate initiated by the Liberal Democrats in which the Government was defeated on settlement rights for Gurkhas.
MPs voted by 267 to 246 in favour of a motion that the government should extend an equal right of residence to all Gurkhas.
Conservatives and Lib Dem joined forces along with, I imagine, a number of Labour rebels (28 according to sources around the murmurs around the Commons). In advance of this afternoon's vote, shadow immigration minister Damian Green said:
“We are supporting the Gurkhas today because we believe the Government is being ungenerous and unfair. A Conservative Government would give all Gurkhas and their immediate dependents the right to settle here, and we hope the Government listens and acts immediately on this matter.”
Paul Waugh notes that David Cameron and Nick Clegg made a joint appearance outside the Commons in the wake of the vote, which is the culmination of a long campaign, highlighted here last week.
Jonathan Isaby's verdict: A subdued session of PMQs, dominated as it was by swine 'flu and then the Gurkhas. Cameron was right to anticipate Clegg going on the Gurkhas and to take up the issue himself as well; and the Prime Minister's replies to both leaders on the issue were, as Nick Clegg said, "deeply evasive".
12.30pm Tory MP David Gauke highlights Labour manifesto pledge breaches on the EU referendum and tax rises. Brown prays in aid a quote from Ken Clarke on the Lisbon treaty; on tax Brown says that it is right that those who have benefited from increases in income should pay a little more.
12.23pm 1922 committee chairman Sir Michael Spicer asks: "Now that fiscal probity is back in vogue, why do we need a Labour Government?" Brown reels of a list of statistics in reply.
12.20pm Clegg says the answer comes from someone leading a government without principles.
12.18pm Nick Clegg also raises the Gurkha issues, claiming the PM has been "deeply evasive" in his answers. "If some one is prepared to die for this country, surely they've a right to live in this country?". Brown says he is making progress on the issue and there is "more justice" for the Gurkhas now than there was before 1997.
12.17pm Labour MP Martin Salter adds pressure on Brown to "deliver justice on Gurkhas at last".
12.15pm Cameron says if the figures were robust, then the Gurkhas would not have been gathering outside the Commons and dying as they wait for a response from the Government. He reiterates his proposal to change the Immigration Bill. Brown says of course he will always look at proposals being made. Proposals must be based on proper facts and figures, he said.
12.12pm Cameron says that a new category should be introduced in immigration guidelines for those who have served in the armed forces, primarily aimed at the Gurkhas. Brown does not accept the figure of 100 which the Gurkhas' spokesmen say is how many fit the current government criteria.
12.10pm Brown says the first action to help the Gurkhas has happened since 1997, creating equal pay and pensions for them, and doubloing the pensions for the pensions for those in Nepal. Brown says he keeps the matter of how many Gukhas to allow to settle in Britain "under review". He points out there ere no rights if settlement pre-1997.
That was the theme of this video that was launched on Sunday and shown before David Cameron spoke to the Cheltenham Spring Forum. The words are slightly hard to read on the small screen until 40 seconds in but are large enough after then.
Many superlatives are regularly being used when considering the sheer scale of the economic challenges which an incoming government led by David Cameron is likely to face next year.
And this is no surprise, given the speed at which the economy is currently shrinking as unemployment and borrowing are rising.
But how will the scale of the task facing David Cameron compare with that taken on by Margaret Thatcher, elected as she was thirty years ago next week?
The former Chancellor, Lord Lawson, puts a rather positive spin on it for Mr Cameron in an essay he has written for the new edition of Standpoint - you can now read the full article here.
Yes, we are suffering from the worst recession since the Second World War, but
recessions pass, he writes; and he adds that despite the parlous state
of the public finances, the underlying structural deficit is not much
worse than that of three decades ago.
So whilst accepting that the Conservatives are likely to face "a singularly unattractive inheritance", he insists that "the problems of 2010, although considerable, pale into insignificance compared with those of 1979".
Whilst I don't expect to be seeing the former Pulp frontman given a speaking slot at a Tory conference any time soon, Jarvis Cocker has declared a Conservative victory at the next general election to be "necessary".
In the new edition of GQ magazine, the singer is quoted as saying:
"A Conservative government is necessary... Labour has
been in power for a certain amount of time and (apart from the
Conservatives) there is no credible alternative, so if you're not going
to have Labour you're going to have the Conservatives. You can sense an
He goes on to conclude that the efforts of Gordon Brown are "all a bit lame".
Since the publication of the magazine, Cocker has released a statement emphasising that he is not giving his personal support to the Conservatives, but rather saying that a Tory victory "seems inevitable".
Even so, it's another nail in the coffin of the Labour Government when its former celebrity cheerleaders offer these kinds of assessments.
After the World Health Organisation raised its pandemic flu alert to "phase 4" last night, shadow heath minister Stephen O'Brien has raised serious concerns over the Government's readiness to deal with an outbreak of the virus.
He says that eighteen months after the publication of a framework for responding to an outbreak of pandemic flu, the Government has still failed to put in place its promised National Flu Telephone Line.
It is due to be able to come online when the WHO announces a "phase 5" alert, yet despite previous government claims that it would be set up at the end of last year, later revised to "early 2009", health minister Lord Darzi admitted yesterday that the timetable has slipped to "the autumn".
Mr O’Brien said:
“Experts have been warning for some time now that we were long overdue another global flu pandemic, which is why we have consistently warned the Government it must do all it can to prepare the country for such an eventuality. It is therefore a legitimate concern that a key part of that plan is some way off being implemented.
"The National Flu Line will be crucial if a pandemic were to happen in Britain, by allowing people to get the information and the anti-virals they will need to fight the flu without having to go to GP surgeries or hospitals. It is absolutely imperative that the Government takes action quickly to ensure that it is able to deal with the high numbers of calls from people who will need help should the virus spread in the UK."
> Yesterday on CentreRight Julia Manning listed the actions that government needed to take.
In the first of a series of 'War Room briefings' the Party Chairman Eric Pickles takes us inside CCHQ and talks about the party's strategy. He also urges members to click on to the revived CampaignTogether webpage where you can find out which by-elections are taking place and where help is most needed across the country. This video is why ConHome wanted Eric as Party Chairman. He loves campaigning and he is determined that CCHQ connects better with the grassroots. It's also why Jeremy Middleton - another enthusiast for technology and membership democracy - will be such a good new Chairman of the Convention.
The Times launches a strong attack on David Cameron's alleged failure to change the "male-dominated" Conservative Party this morning. "Women take a back seat in Cameron's Tory Party" is the main front page splash. A leader on page 2 says "David Cameron needs to do more to promote Conservative women." A two page spread on pages 16 and 17 explains "How Cameron's conference stage has become a women-free zone." The story is illustrated with a cleverly cropped photograph from Cheltenham with David Cameron surrounded by men on the conference stage. While it's true that the shadow cabinet is male-dominated The Times is misleading readers in using expressions like "women free". As Jonathan Isaby's photo below shows there were four women on stage with David Cameron in Cheltenham: Cheryl Gillan, Theresa May, Theresa Villiers (obscured but just sat behind William Hague) and Caroline Spelman.
I do not want to pretend that David Cameron has completely transformed female representation in the Conservative Party but The Times is being unfair to him. If the Tories win a majority at the next election there'll be 50 to 60 Tory women MPs (many more if we win a large majority). That's a big improvement on now. He has promoted women to his top team - arguably too quickly in some cases. Pauline Neville-Jones and Sayeeda Warsi were put in the Lords and into his shadow cabinet. Neither were at Cheltenham. Maria Miller and Justine Greening are doing well as more junior frontbenchers and could be promoted at any time. Nadine Dorries MP is a hot tip to join CCHQ soon. David Cameron aspires for one-third of his ministers to be women (an aspiration ConHome dislikes).
The most important thing during these challenging times for the nation is that David Cameron appoints the most able people to the top jobs in his team. If you are wanting competence and ability to be the top criteria (and they should be) it is difficult to quarrel with the rapid promotions he has given the likes of Michael Gove, Greg Clark, Chris Grayling and Nick Herbert. These are big brained stars of the future. The two women in the Tory team that most impress me are Pauline Neville-Jones on security and Theresa Villiers for carving out a distinctive transport policy. Now back at local government, after a rocky time as Chairman, Caroline Spelman is beginning to perform well again. Sayeeda Warsi is good in the media but otherwise yet to prove herself worthy of such a massive appointment two years ago. Theresa May at Work & Pensions has one of the most important jobs in David Cameron's team. Cheryl Gillan at Wales is difficult to assess.
In the long-term I hope David Cameron will continue to appoint on merit. Otherwise he'll have his Jacqui Smith-type problems. And, in the medium term, there is a lot of cause for encouragement about Tory women. PPCs such as Louise Bagshawe, Harriett Baldwin, Karen Bradley, Angie Bray, Lorraine Fullbrook, Rebecca Harris, Margot James, Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel, Laura Sandys, Phillippa Stroud... [I could go on] are going to make fine Tory MPs... and, I hope, ministers. Tim Montgomerie