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Comments

Iain

"One word to those of you on the right, either former Tory voters, UKIP supporters, English democrats and others. I appeal to you to join the Conservatives in our fight to rid Britain of Labour."

Why? As a Conservative party member, now ex, because I can't be bothered to renew my membership, and looking for another party to throw my weight behind, what reason is there for any of these other party supporters to throw their weight behind the Conservatives, when Cameron, the heir to Blair, has done everything to make himself objectionable to these people, and made the Conservative party a pale imitation of new Labour?

I was hoping that the Conservatives would at least begin to raise the issue of the discriminatory constitutional arrangement, which has made English people second class citizens, and given them the raw end of the deal in pretty much every aspect of Government spending. Instead the only time Cameron sought to raise the issue was when he went to Scotland and called us 'sour faced little Englanders', so why should an English democrat feel moved to support the Conservatives when Cameron has nothing but contempt for them, and English people?

Ben Archibald

First things first. Nobody has done more to modernise and soften the edges of the Conservatives than DC. whether Doris and Bertie from the club realise it or not, Cameron’s job is to widen the appeal of the party and make it less unpalatable for the slack jaws out there who believed the New Labour hype. That was his job, he’s done it, we should be getting behind him as he plots the path to an election which is coming faster than many think.

Second, he is a bloody great campaigner, with or without the honeymoon period. he obviously has balls of steel to beat David Davis, and his poll ratings during the pre-Brown period show a capacity to connect. He can connect, he is capable of leading this party back to power, and it’s time we gave him his head and let him get on with it.

This party is about more than hugging trees and taxing short haul flights, but on the other hand, it had better understand that the days of string ‘em up and send ‘em back are gone. The party has to change to win; and in the name of all you hold dear, you must understand that we must win, if we’re to win for Britain.

And so, I offer every ounce of my being to David Cameron, to struggle with every sinew in my body to help put this shower of Labour arses out of power. Everything I am is Tory, every waking thought, every hope and dream I have for my family and future children is wrapped up in a conception of this party being the only hope for a better nation. I voted for Cameron, and I’d do it again, right now, in the blink of an eye.

Unite to change, change to win, win for Britain.

The Huntsman

A thoughtful article that is worthy of serious consideration, even if one does not fully agree with Ms. Bagshawe’s take on our current position. I wonder, however, if others agree with me that Our Dear Editors exercises perhaps too light a touch of the blue pencil with some of the more rantier offerings here.

I fully understand that the importance of occupying the centre ground for the purpose of luring back Conservative voters who have defected to, in the first instance, the LibDems who in 1992 got 20 seats with 5.99 million votes but in 2005 got 62 seats with 5.98 million votes, strongly suggesting that the extra 40 or so seats was largely achieved on the back of Conservative defectors. Getting back those erstwhile Conservatives who have got a taste for voting Labour may be rather harder, but still the policies and attitudes which are designed to attract LibDems will doubtless get some of them back as well.

But is it enough, given the vagaries of the electoral system, only to be chasing the centre ground? I do not believe that it is and do not believe that we can rely just on that group to give us a majority in the next parliament and accordingly one must address the issue of how to persuade the abstainers and the UKIPpers either to resume their former habit of voting conservative or to start doing so for the first time. After all in 1992 some 31 million people voted for the three main parties but only 24 million did so in 2005. So there are some seven million voters who have gone AWOL since the heady days of Major v Kinnock. Given that the Conservatives received 14 million votes in 1992 and 8.78 million in 2005, the similarity between the numerical decline in votes for the Conservatives and the numerical decline in votes for the three main parties overall is, to say the least, disconcerting.

I am not going to make the mistake of saying that that is certain evidence that all 7 million missing voters were conservatives and that the answer is therefore lots more right wing policies to entice them back. I have no doubt that a significant proportion of the abstainers are actually Old Labourites who cannot stomach New Labour and that their numbers have actually been made up by defecting Tories. But, if one accepts that we have to garner the votes that have gone off both to left and to the right and into abstention, what troubles me about her appraisal is the lack of any strategy for getting back the latter group’s votes.

So I pose Ms. Bagshawe this question: do you accept that in addition to attracting the votes of the centre-left we also have to attract those I have identified as former voters/abstainers and UKIPers and if so, what is the strategy, what are the policies that will be advanced to attract them?

Louise Bagshawe

Adam, dissatisfaction with Blair cannot explain why we comprehensively beat the LibDems as well two local elections running. If the vote was just anti-Labour or anti-Blair, as opposed to pro-Conservative under Cameron, you would have expected to see the LibDems do well. Instead they had a net gain of two in '05 and we took more than 250 of their seats in '06.

Ken Stevens

The problem with the strategy is that it is, as yet, not readily distinguishable by us ordinary voters from that of the other main parties.

There's a lovely list of adages on Wikipedia:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_adages_named_after_people

Amongst which is--

"Hotelling's law — Under some conditions, it is rational for competitors to make their products as nearly identical as possible."

Have the Tories decided that this is a relevant adage?

Louise Bagshawe

Huntsman, I think that we cannot allow the main strategy to be deflected. But there are good reasons for UKIP supporters to transfer to the Conservatives under Cameron. Principally, his sterling support for a referendum before we are signed into the EU Constitution. Surely any principled Eurosceptc would have stopping this happening at the top of his priority list. I talked about the referendum in my first ConHome column.

A vote for ukip in my own constituency would be one less Tory vote, and would help my Labour opponent, who is Eu-phile, against a sceptic like myself. It's the same across the country. David Cameron has consistently opposed the Treatystution and mentioned it again at the last PMQs. I trust ukippers will get behind him to stop the disaster Brown wants to drag us into!

Ken Stevens

Louise Bagshawe | August 02, 11:40 AM

True, that is top of my list and I want to see it hammered home continuously as a distinguishing feature.

Such as in today's Telegraph:

William Hague, Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman, said: "Mr Bolton's comments show how other countries could reassess their relationship with Britain if this new EU Treaty goes ahead. With a new EU foreign minister who could speak for us at the UN Security Council and an EU diplomatic service, other countries would become less interested in Britain's view and more interested in the EU's view....etc"

There is however a risk that GB will concede a referendum, so this cannot be the only plus feature of a Tory manifesto. Resolving West Lothian Question would be good as well. .. and a snippet about taking main residence out of assessment for Inheritance Tax would be a nice little headline grabber to stick in the popular mind.

Oberon Houston

Cameron was always going to be exposed during his drive to re-centre the party so that it was more mainsteram. What he needs to do now is progress to detailed policy, and speed up the process. Policy groups are all due to report in the next few weeks, so hopefully that will allow people from all sides of the party to debate policy rather than this part of Cameron's sensible but fustrating (for activists) plan to make the Conservatives more appealing. To release policy without the appeal would be pretty pointless.

The strategy is right - tactics have been poor at times though, as the last few weeks have shown. The immediate future is key and that all hinges on two things - 1. getting onto detailed policy soon 2. Having a constructive debate.

Chris King

Louise would appear to group Cameron’s critics as those on the right. However, there are many people who are critical of Cameron who are not on the right. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this isn’t really a left / right argument. Indeed at the time many felt that Cameron won the leadership election because he was seen as a ‘Winner’, not that he was from the left or the right. Most of the people I’ve know in the Party, particularly as the grass roots aren’t concerned about left and right, but about wining and to this end Stephan was right.

I personally think the Party needs to change and adapt, indeed history shows that this is what the Party has been good at. However, history also shows that you need to give people something to believe in. I understand the initial branding, but now we need more. We need to know what makes Cameron tick, what he believes in, what makes him a Conservative?? Policy commissions are all very well, but this is putting the ‘cart before the horse’. We need to know the values of Cameron’s Conservative Party, and then we can look at the policies.

I think Louise’s attack on Stephan and others is unworthy of a Conservative candidate and indeed a Leader. Stephan wasn’t calling for a return to rightwing politics, but instead a review of the strategy. Whatever Louise feels about Graham Brady, et al, they have been Conservatives through thick and thin, none of them turned their backs on the Party, yet they warrant criticism from Louise, used to be Labour, then on Cameron’s A list, selected for marginal seat Bagshawe. This sort of attack from Louise can only prolong arguments – she should have known better.

I think if Cameron needed an advocate he could choose a more suitable candidate than Louise Bagshawe.

Iain

"I trust ukippers will get behind him"

You mean they should get behind the person who called them swivelled eyes and closet racists?

Andy

"Regrettably a candidate toeing the party line who daren't tell it as it is." - Adam | August 02, 2007 at 11:06 AM

Regrettable?! Oh yes, it is such a dreadful thing to have a candidate that pays some attention to what the party line actually is! I can't think of anything worse! I just wish all of our candidates were as disloyal as Ali Miraj - then we could spend a few more years in opposition, patting ourselves on the back for being such consistent and pure right wing thinkers.

Sounds great, but I joined the party to help it win elections and I find it remarkable that it is considered by a credible attack to criticise a candidate for toeing that candidate's party line! It seems that some posters here would genuinely prefer it if we toed Gordon Brown's party line, as Ali Miraj did so effectively earlier in the week...

jorgen

If you don’t believe me, how about some of the other voices that commented on David Cameron – and his strategy – this week?

Good idea! Read for example the comments from the readers of Telegraph. Cameron's strategy is wrong for this party.

Davis and Hague are biding their time, and will appear loyal at the moment.

The Huntsman

I thank you for your reply to my post, but, with great respect, you do not address the issue of how to attract the abstainers.

UKIP, of course, have to decide whether they really want a referendum or not: as a one-issue centric party they now have to put up or shut up on this issue and as the only guarantee of a referendum is a Conservative government, they must decide if they really want such.

But it is how to get the abstainers back that exercises me for the reasons given. I remain unpersuaded we have an effective strategy or, indeed any strategy for them.

Adam

'Adam, dissatisfaction with Blair cannot explain why we comprehensively beat the LibDems as well two local elections running.'

Perhaps Louise- but we are the main opposition and the only alternative as a govt and therefore should be benefitting from Labour woes. The Lib Dems are and have been especially since the 2005 election in a complete mess with the Kennedy saga and Ming becoming leader. To give you a very recent example of the local/national relationship look at Ealing where locally we did well but at the bye election we made no progress. You state that you want an election now but the reality is that if it happened you along with many others would lose - when a more favourable position in the polls would ensure you and others would become MP's. We don't need to be cocky and create a 'bring it on' atmosphere. the party needs to get stuck into Labour and Lib Dems and then ask for an election. At the moment the leadership/cchq/ are like rabbits in Brown's headlights.

Jonathan M. Scott (Ex Cameroon)

Yes, the Conservative Party needs to keep its current Leader but it needs to change course if Cameron doesn't want to see lots of "Lab Hold" (or even worse "Lab Gain") flashing up on the screen come General Election Night. I applaud the party's improved record on selecting more women and BME candidates, although it 'could do better' -- and local election results.

However, people in Irtlingborough and elsewhere didn't vote FOR Cameron/Conservative Party; they voted AGAINST Blair/Labour. Now it's Brown/Labour and they've swung back in the polls.

Other people just didn't turn out. They tend not to in Local Elections as it doesn't involve voting for a Government. Come next general election they look like voting for a Labour Government ... FOR Brown, AGAINST Cameron.

Brady, Shakespeare and others are absolutely right, when it comes to a General Election, they aren't going to vote for a neo-Blairite Government - they can have a Brownite one instead. Miraj has in my view been treated abominably -- although I don't agree with what he said about Baroness Warsi who I respect -- and Cameron's (and that Ex News of the World Editor's) PR and media skills are not looking very good. Blair (i.e. Mandy and A. Campbell) would never have made such errors, so not very Neo-Blairite/Heir to Blair, Mandy and Campbell after all.

Of course Dave needs to change the strategy. As an environmentalist, I am surprised how many air miles he's clocking up as he's been to Rwanda and Kabul in the last 2 weeks -- so much for Vote Blue Go Green -- how many Tories do you know who drive 4X4s and Chelsea Tractors and display Vote Go Blue Green in the back! The strategy was good for the local elections, and all credit to him, but that was during the tail-end of the Blair Era and now we are in the Brown Era and swathes of the public seem to prefer Brown as prime minister (and the "Anti Scots" sentiment has not materialised amongst the electorate after all, thank goodness).

My final point is that Brown's flagship policy of Bank of England independence will eventually lead to his downfall, like the ERM entry (at the wrong exchange rate) led to Major's. Those clowns at the Bank are, in my view, practitioners of bad economics. They are trying to cool the housing market (and inflation) by raising interest rates -- but they are going to bring the whole economy, the legacy of Major/Clarke and latterly Blair/Brown -- and when that happens Labour will be out. However, if Brown does go for an early election (which I think will be next May as they don't have the money yet according to Newsnight) before the forthcoming economic collapse, he will have another 5 years. The strategy needs to see Brown off if he manages an election before the economy goes down the tubes. It needs leadership and David Cameron is in a position to do that, while still looking credible, for the sake of his Party.

Kevin Davis

Good article Louise.

I would not worry about your premise that the Lib Dems would poll higher than 15% come the General Election. The interesting problem for the Lib Dems is not what they poll but where their vote comes from. If it comes from us then DC has no chance. If it comes from labour then the Lib Dem's will lsoe a lot fo current MP's and replace them with new ones.

Dismayed

A considerable number of prominent Ukippers are ex-Conservative activists and candidates who

a) Oppose Cameron's social democratic policies and/or

b) Were kicked off the Candidates List because they were too ehatcherite or effective for the Wimmin2Win clique that dominates the Candidates Committee.

Cameron denounced them as loonies and fruitcakes yet Ms Bagshawe expects them to back him now. Her gall and naivety and breathtaking.

Backing Cameron now is like a woman voting for her rapist.


Simon Denis

Louise Bagshawe is an expert at making bricks out of straw. She adduces the council elections - but the conservatives did well in various elections under Hague - notably the European - and they still lost the big one. As for the calls from Davies and Hague for loyalty and not losing our nerve - they are simply trying to hang on to two things - job and reputation. They know that it is too late to rid ourselves of the Cameron incubus now. Better to sail towards defeat with graceful loyalty than to kick up a fuss which can only make things worse. A man with no passion, whose convictions are wishy-washy and moralistic, who shies from the real ideological battles of our time, Cameron can never win. He has neither the guts, nor the nerve, nor the cheek to get into number ten. No conservative will, who acquiesces in the left wing consensus of today. The trick is to challenge it, to make people feel happy to let their right wing instincts and sentiments come once more to the forefront of their minds.

The left has done an excellent job of making the British people feel ashamed of themselves and in this abject self-critical state they feel inhibited from opposing the high taxes and mass immigration which have historically characterised Labour governments. This is the key strategic victory of the left which any party of the right should strive to undo.

The one solid point Miss Bagshawe makes is that since Cameron is at least better than Brown we might as well vote for him. I certainly intend to. The snag is that by bowing to socialist orthodoxy - A-list, grammar schools, NHS - he has subliminally reinforced the electorates queasy half conscious feeling that socialism is good. Therefore they will vote for the socialist party.

Iain

"(and the "Anti Scots" sentiment has not materialised amongst the electorate after all, thank goodness)."

Its not about anti Scottish sentiment, but anti Scottish elected MP's ruling England sentiment, and English people have every right to feel pretty angry about it, for Gordon Brown is in all but name English First Minister, but as no English person voted for him I suppose that makes him the Governor General of England.

But perhaps the reason why the Brown hasn't suffered on this issue is because the Conservatives have completely failed to make an issue of it, as such the English electorate are confronted by Cameron and Brown who both hold barely disguised contempt for English people.

The last act of Gordon Brown as Chancellor was to slash capital spending of the English NHS by one third yet leave his Scottish budgets untouched, even the Financial Times who reported it, felt Gordon Brown could be charged with favouring his own country, yet not a whimper out of Cameron’s Conservatives, not even when Gordon Brown went round saying the NHS was his priority (presumably he was referring to the Scottish NHS). If Cameron’s Conservatives don't have the fire in their bellies to make Brown’s life difficult over this, then they really don't deserve to win an election.

Louise Bagshawe

A few points:

Ken Stevens, on the WLQ, you might note that David Cameron has backed English votes for English laws and pressed Brown on it at PMQs; Brown has dismissed equal rights for English voters with a sneer. Another reason for those on the right to support Cameron.

Kevin Davies, given the last two sets of local election results it appears highly unlikely that LibDem recovery will come at our expense. We gained against them, Labour lost.

To various: Cameron's strategy's soundness and national appeal, although most obviously present in the outstanding locals two years running was also (as I wrote above) reflected in national polls where we sustained a lead, and often a big lead, from his election right through to the natural honeymoon bounce. It's the same strategy now as it was then, one with proven and sustained appeal both in national polls and real local elections.

To Chris King; in disagreeing with Stephan I hope I do not attack him personally - I merely disagree entirely with his analysis that we should change the strategy that has delivered our results. I also make the point that he is regularly attacked from the left on issues such as Conservative support for marriage and the family, on a border police, and on an EU referendum. If you want to see the left of the party attacking him, the new blog Platform 10 is your first stop.

As for myself, whilst it's true I supported Labour for a couple of months in '96, I was back working for the Conservatives as an activist in the 1997 and 2001 elections, and as a nursing mother in 2005 donated money to the party instead - I hope you would agree that ten solid years of Conservative activism since my short spell in Labour goes some way to proving my bona fides.

In my priority list interview, commenters may be interested to know that I was asked where I perceived myself on the Conservative political spectrum and I said "to the right of David Cameron". They did not hold it against me. As a Thatcherite and a solid Eurosceptic, it frustrates me at times that some of our natural supporters do not seem to have taken on board Cameron's stance on English votes for English laws and an EU referendum, and look only at the policies they don't agree with.

After a long time where the default position was the Conservatives trailing Labour and having no real chance at government, David Cameron has turned things around. He has converted me and I think our results prove that he appeals to wide sections of the country, who were previously unwilling even to listen. Unlike "jorgen" I take David Davis words at face value. And I hope Cameron will not budge, either to the right or to the left, from the optimistic, Conservative, centrist-right agenda he has pursued since his election.

Chris King

Louise Bagshawe

"In my priority list interview, commenters may be interested to know that I was asked where I perceived myself on the Conservative political spectrum and I said "to the right of David Cameron". They did not hold it against me. As a Thatcherite and a solid Eurosceptic".

Yet you joined the Labour Party for a couple of months?

Rahter than suggesting I visit Platform 10, perhaps I can suggest you visit Confused.com

Iain

"it frustrates me at times that some of our natural supporters do not seem to have taken on board Cameron's stance on English votes for English laws "

Because its a feeble compromise, won't work, doesn’t have clarity of purpose, won't capture the electorates imagination, and doesn't highlight to conflict of interests in Gordon Brown's position.

The reason the English electorate find themselves in this constitutionally second class status is because our so called representatives, otherwise known as lobby fodder, have failed to fight our corner. No solution is achieve by giving English lobby fodder the right to set English laws when a Scottish Minister is setting policy and yanking their chain. We need the institution to force them to fight for English peoples interests, and that institution is an English Parliament.


Dave Bartlett

" As a candidate, I say bring on the General Election."

Hear, hear.

CCTV

I hope you would agree that ten solid years of Conservative activism since my short spell in Labour goes some way to proving my bona fides.

Sorry...was that Quentin Davies or Louise Bagshawe who wrote that ?

Stephen Warrick

Brilliant article Louise!

These poll numbers for Broon are more of a Dead-Cat Bounce than a Brown-bounce.

Bring on the next Election - victory is still there to be claimed.

The Tide will turn, and I think has already started.....

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