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Henry Mayhew - ukipper / delusional conservative

That is quite outstanding Peter, but it is not us you need to convince. Most of us agree that the Welfare State, taxation, public spending and education need radical changes. Some of us have spent a long time working on these issues, in my own case, as a member of the Conservative Party's pensions policy committee. The problem is that DC has either put topics and their discussion off limits, most ruinously the need to transfer management of welfare to competing mutual societies, or come up with socialistic solutions. Saying NHS NHS NHS isn't going to get us anywhere.

By the way, the other important facts about British politics are the collapse in Conservative support, membership and organisation, in key parts of the country such as Cornwall, where they are laughed out of town, and the percentage swing required to get back into power. DC can kiss it all goodbye. You are looking at another seven years of pondering matters, I am afraid.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter

I find this well argued but utterly dismaying. Mr Franklin undoubtedly has a fine mind, but he seems determined to put it at the service of Mr Brown. Peter is regurgitating Labour's basic premise which is that whatever is 'right wing' (insert own definition) inevitably damages the public services, and so the Conservative Party needs to accept the statist consensus.


At least Polly-Peter implicitly accepts he is now a Fabian. This is the classic "we will manage it all better than Labour but we won't change it too much" version of Conservatism, which is about as appealing as a bowl of cold leftovers. You would think he was writing all this in the 1950s, cowering under the Beveridge shadow.

Where has the imagination in this Party gone? Everything - whether the Centre for Social Justice report or any of the other policy groups - we come up with involves using the power of the state to leverage social change. Are we so scared that we dare not even think outside the statist box Tony Blair has constructed for us, and Gordon Brown is now nailing down the lid on our coffin (once again)? Why don't we trust the people anymore? And don't say localism - that's not trusting the people, it's just creating a myriad of smaller state institutions.

Looking forward to next Wednesday when Peter will no doubt explain how we must now accept the need to renationalise all heavy industry.

Louise Stanley

For god's sake, all of you. Brown is popular because he treats people like people, that's why he is getting a significant bounce in the polls. The Tory ruminations over the last two years have been found out. When Michael Howard was leader (and seen as a popular alternative to Blair on the ground where I was campaigning night and day for him as a switcher from Labour) we had some ideas. Right-wing ideas, yes, but some ideas which did actually get us a lot more marginal seats where people vote for a government (like what Brown is) not a set of opposition ramblings or indeed because Boris has a new haircut or project or quick quip out today.

Any amount of thinking won't convince a public who want the government to do something. The Tories can't win under people who want to sit around and come up with solutions without enlisting the practical experience of people who have been in government at least up until 1992, when we won not because we had the best ideas but because we delivered on our promises and put our manifesto into practice. Politics - practical politics, which is what Brown is doing if you'd care to take your heads out of the sand and look - demands solutions which are implementable. Leave philosophy to the university common rooms and get cracking on some practical solutions and then I might actually vote for you instead of joining the 7% who have swung back from the Tories to Brown.

You are all pompous, lazy imbeciles and if you don't win the election then at least you will have deserved another term - or three - in opposition.

Tom Greeves

Just a few observations Abandon hope.

Fabians don't tend to sing the praises of the 'Thatcher reforms', nor identify with the sort of 'sane monetary policy' Peter was writing about.

Accusing Peter of saying that whatever is 'right wing' damages public services is a bit much when his splendid article opens by stressing how market reforms have laid the foundations for the comparative prosperity we are enjoying today.

Peter says of 'tax cuts, deregulation and the like' that's 'fine as far as it goes'. In other words these are good things, but they are not sufficient. Polly Toynbee and the Fabians would not accept this proposition, being opposed to 'tax cuts, deregulation and the like'.

Cold leftovers are often delicious.

Tom Greeves

'Leave philosophy to the university common rooms and get cracking on some practical solutions ... '

Cognition and reflection tend to be a necessary pre-cursor to effective practical action.


Yes, but you've been thinking for 18 months while Brown and New Labour have been doing.

The Tories thought on their feet in the 1980s, adapting and changing in government, that is why they won four terms. Ditto New Labour. If Cameron can't be flexible, he will lose the next election and then there will be someone else come in, no doubt with a new set of ideas which will take two years to filter through to policy ideas, then the next leader will take over because we are 18% behind in the polls to Brown's rock-solid government.

Why don't you build on what we had last time which actually won us seats rather than hand Brown an increased majority when people who want government rather than spin and idealism vote - LIKE I, AN ENTHUSIASTIC TORY SUPPORTER - for the best GOVERNMENT, not the best ideas. You've had two years almost to come up with something and now Brown is stealing the headlines.

And Boris is just stupid and making the Guardian and Times laugh at us rather than back us up.

I hope we lose Ealing Southall on Thursday, it might prompt people to start actually putting some ideas forward. Brown is already writing a manifesto. Where's ours?

Matt Wright

This is an interesting article by Peter Franklin. I don't agree with all of it but there are some painful truths in there that we do need to face upto..... however to win we need to define ourselves clearly.

People will know from my posts on this site that I support the DC agenda in terms of moving closer to the "centre" (and being percived as more "caring") though perhaps what "centre" really means needs more debate. I think "centre" should mean broadening our appeal and concentrating on the things voters are interested in eg NHS, law & order, education and the economy. However broadening our appeal should not necessarily mean we become vague compromisers lacking distinctive bold ideas. There are some suprising policies that would attract a broad base of support from voters who regard themselves as centrist!

We have not quite got the balance right but we have made steps in the right direction under DC and our more positive, forward looking approach was a major factor in getting ahead in the polls for a good length of time. However (predictably) this then had people wanting to know more. I don't think they necessarily wanted detailed policies but a strong gritty idea of what we stand for and where we want to lead our great country. This could be achieved by focusing on some strong, practical and distinctive ideas that illustrate a coherence about where we are going. I always feel that successful campaigning is about focusing on a few relevant issues with practical ideas that illustrate and enthuse voters that you would be the best way forward. Doing this is actually a relentless exercise of single minded focus and coherence around the right few messages, despite all the siren voices and distractions.

There have been several studies over the last 10 years that show how voters are unsure of what the Conservative party stands for. Our principles are absolutely valid to people today and offer real solutions but somehow we are not getting this across clearly enough.

We are now engaged in a long drawn out list of 100s of prospective detailed menus of policies (warts and all) that are somehow not our policies but are nevertheless seen as such by the ordinary public and even the media. The degree to which we can make this coherent in a timely and focused way will be key.

Quickly on the point by Louise I also canvassed intensely for Michael Howard but did not find the response that Louise describes and afterwards even Michael Howard himself said it was the wrong approach and we needed to move on.


Michael Howard


Ash Faulkner

"Cognition and reflection tend to be a necessary pre-cursor to effective practical action."

Indeed, but it must not become a substitute for it.


good perspective from Peter Franklin.

maybe a mention of the US sub-prime credit crunch which is now threatening the world's financial stability, the false accounting of inflation (CPI not RPI and nothing about asset price inflation), rising interest rates and rising taxes.

The wheels are already falling off.

Peter Franklin's theme that money talks louder than words will soon be biting into New Labour's esteemed political advantages.

Conservatives cannot anticipate the coming instability. They can ready themselves by having the right policies in line, waiting for public awareness of the desperation of the circumstances Labour have put them into.

The only large political target available in advance of this is the failure of Labour to consult the electorate about the U.S.E.R Constitution. Cameron's already featuring this in his appeal to voters, as Brown digs himself a bigger and bigger hole.

U.S.E.R. - Union of Servile European Regions.

Oberon Houston

Peter, Interesting article, however I'm confused as to your final point. I have every confidence that a conservative party is much better equipped to reform the state apparatus and public services than labour under Brown and am certain Cameron will deliver on this without being so radical as to scare the electorate.

Michael, Interesting that you decide to go public with this here on a CH thread. Not sure that wagging fingers at Cameon and calling him very lazy is helpful. You know him well from long long before the '05 election and gave him the job. Possibly you are getting mixed up with laziness and a lack of enthusiasm. As for your advice on strategy, well I think you are missing the real thrust of the plan which is about preceptions and intent rather than concrete policy. Finally, its a shame that you now feel do disgruntled with his lack of ehthusiasm for the figures of the past but the blunt fact is that we need to make a clean break, selling the message of change would be ludicrous with Redwoods tax proposals and your policies on prisons no?

Michael McGowan

Oberon, Michael Howard makes the very perceptive point that to be an effective opposition, you have to challenge the perceived wisdom. Thatcher did it and Blair did it.....and it is not easy at all. The Tories have not been doing it for most of the period since 1997. Endless repetitions of the mantra of "change", while inching towards the outlook of the centre left, are a poor substitute.

Oberon Houston

Michael McGowan,

There are two perceptions of change here. One is that we need to change policy-wise, i.e. get more radical.

The 'change' Cameron is talking about and Letwin put quite eloquently for me (despite the laughter and ridicule here on CH and on the Labour benches) was the change from econocentric policies, i.e. look after the economy and the rest will follow, to sociocentric policies, the market economy is self sustaining, now concentrate on quality of life issues such as the NHS, schools, welfare reform etc.

The conservatives beat the socialists in the 80s. What New Labour did was accept that there was a line drawn under the past debates and shrewdly used the strength of the market economy to direct increased revenues towards public spending. What the Conservatives are doing under Cameron’s leadership are saying:

1. We won the socialist debate
2. You won the public services debate (Toynbee boast, but true)
3. We accept that and can now do better than you because we don’t have to work within the confines you do with your ‘holy mantras’ and egalitarian dogma.

I believe this is a winning position to take, and once the public can be convinced to trust us on this we can beat Brown. I also believe Cameron has used good tactics to win with this strategy, but agree there are many rivers to cross (before we can find our way home….). No singing please.

Now, the continuing debate within the party rumbles on. As you mention above there are two perceptions of change, the one above and the Cornerstone-esque one. Interesting time’s though!

David Belchamber

Peter Franklin is correct in saying:

"This is something that the Left of the party has understood, promising to match Labour spending levels. What it has failed to do, however, is to convince the electorate that a Conservative Government could make a better omelette".

There is not much time left for the tories to demonstrate that they possess the all-round competence to translate into practice their vision for society, which I take to be superior to the centrist Nulab one.

That there is a broken society to repair is evident, but practicalities are required. John Cole (the former BBC Political Editor) provided a salutary reminder to those who prefer to remain in the realms of theory:

"Politics is only important through the effect it has on the lives of ordinary people".


You miss three important issues which Brown did have an impact on.

Inflation has stayed low, partly due to the influx of immigrant labour, a fact which enabled the Bank of England to keep interest rates lower, fueling growth.

The aforementioned volume of immigration drove house prices up, fueling consumption.

He changed the way inflation was measured at the behest of Brussels, and gave the BofE a completely unsuitable measure of inflation as a target. Hence lower interest rates than were prudent, and a mockery made of BofE independence.

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