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margot james

Yes, older people and crime need to come up our agenda. There is SO much we need to focus on where the needs of older people are concerned. I am tackling this in Stourbridge and when you get in to it you realise how much of a scandal there is below the surface. This government have been hellbent on transferring as much from the health service (which is non means tested) to social services (which is). So when an older person needs what we'd all know as a bit of nursing at home all the officials fight over definitions of care and assessment criteria in order to avoid their function picking up the bill.
Home care is another area we should tackle. It is scandalous that pay rates are so low that most of the private care companies are forced to employ new immigrants who do not have enough English to do more than fill out a form to see they have been to see someone. And have you heard about 15 minute home visits? What can possibly be achieved in 15 minutes?
Then there is the rush to close Local Authority care homes. Partly because they don't meet the new standards and to upgrade them would be too expensive (not that these new regulations and standards are all what older people need or want but that is beside the point. The other reason they are closing is because private homes are cheaper. Now this is a scandal. Private homes aren't cheaper. But they cost less because Local Authorities arbritrarily pay them about two thirds of what it costs the LA to provide the service. The average age of people entering residential care has gone up, it is now people in their eighties many of whom have a number of illnesses and complex needs. It is completely unrealistic to expect them to be cared for, 24/7 in a way we'd feel comfortable with our parents being cared for on £350.00 per week which is what alot of LAs are paying private providers.
And I haven't even started on pensions...
Crime, Stephan, completely agree. If they can do it in NY and Chicago we can do it here. Lots more to say on this but enough now on this blog.

Louise Bagshawe

Thank you for the article, Stephan. A couple of points:

1. The phrase "lurch to the right" was not mine, if you read my article, but that of David Davis. While you may not be calling for it, many commenters on ConHome most certainly have.

2. My article made the point that Cameron's strategy has been attacked from both the right, on grammar schools, and the left, on an EU referendum and on support for marriage.

3. "Louise and I must live in different worlds, or else we just have very different expectations when we talk about ‘success’ for the Conservative Party."

Indeed. If you do not think that sustaining a national polling lead since 2005 right until the new PM's honeymoon bounce, after many years of the default position being us trailing Labour, and massive local election gains two years running - crucially, gains made not merely at the expense of an unpopular government but also against the LibDems - and penetration in the North (Lancashire etc) and North-West, and Wales - are not marks of enormous success then I am slightly at a loss as to what exactly would impress you?

4. "Talking about social responsibility is great, and I strongly support it, but the problem is it’s hard to show how you will actually achieve something in this area. Mood music just isn’t enough. So show how you will tackle crime."

Tim has extensively covered the Cameron team's voluminous statements on law and order. Again, I am bemused as to how you see they have not been covered. Locally accountable police forces? More prison building? End to early release schemes? Tougher drug sentences plus more drug rehab? Law and order has been a major theme of the leadership and will continue to be so. I certainly intend campaigning heavily on it.


Why not focus on either hospitals or education. Labour's record on these is poor but mediocre Tory opposition since 1997, which alas continues, has enabled them to get away with a series of bad policies. Damaging Labour's record, especially on health, would be akin to the damage done to the Party in 1992 when we lost the reputation for competence in managing the economy.

Simon Newman

"And start talking about how life for everyone will change if you win power."

Hear hear. There needs to be an outward focus, not an inward focus on how we are different from how we used to be, but how a Conservative government would be different and better than the current Labour government.


Spot on Stephan. Here in Colchester David Willett's needless comments on Grammar Schools cheered up our opponents no end. On the doorsteps some of the (previously loyal)voters' comments regarding David Cameron are unprintable! The continual refrain is 'where's the beef?' Voters have had enough of the mood music they now want to know why they should take a risk for the first time in ten years and move their votes away from the Lib Dems and from the newly envigorated Labour Party.

Alex Swanson

'The phrase "lurch to the right" was not mine, if you read my article, but that of David Davis. While you may not be calling for it, many commenters on ConHome most certainly have.'

Go on then, quote us an example. As far as I'm concerned, the phrase "lurch to the right" is simply another example of the way left-wing people - both inside and outside the Conservative Party - think it acceptable to substitute abuse for argument.

'Law and order has been a major theme of the leadership and will continue to be so.'

But the examples you quote are individual responses to individual problems, and do not represent any underlying principle. To see this, turn them round and see how many people would disagree. Fewer prison places? Less rehab? Shorter sentences? There is neither any overarching strategy nor any tough decision-making.

What I suspect people really want is an assurance that if they are up against a criminal, then the law will support them and not eg charge them with assault if they apprehend a shoplifter. Until the leadership makes this crystal clear - and is prepared to stick to it through the howls of dismay that would undoubtedly ensue from the police amongst others - then regardless of platitudes, people will continue to believe that the authorities are not really on the side of the law-abiding. But they won't, partly because - and this is the root of the unhappiness many people feel, not only on this issue but on others - the current leadership is not really interested in ordinary people or their problems, only what's likely to get votes, and partly because the current situation is based on the concentration of power at the top, and Cameron has demonstrated through his action that he likes power to be at the top rather than distributed downwards. The attitude very clearly is to be just enough different in order to get people to vote Tory rather than Labour, but not enough so that former non-Tories will be scared away; and hence get the power that Labour currently enjoys, so that Cameron and his team can enjoy it instead. I could go into detail (and so I'm sure could many others) on why this is not an appropriate way to behave, but we don't seem able even to get to first base without being subjected to abuse and vilification.


'The phrase "lurch to the right" was not mine, if you read my article, but that of David Davis. While you may not be calling for it, many commenters on ConHome most certainly have.'


Matt Wright

Interesting article. Reading through the papers yesterday and looking at other comments I think there is a bizzare either/or notion around. The argument goes that either we "modernise/reform" or we "lurch to the right". This misses the point and if we allow ourselves to be guided by a false choice we could get into deeper problems. It risks being more of the "talking to ourselves" problem. Most people (that is voters and members) want Cameron to succeed and are moderate. They like the fact that he comes across as positive and caring and that he shows an interest in a broader range of issues. They liked the more forward looking narrative in the period after he became leader. Its not so much that the strategy is wrong but that it needs to change gear because people wanted more. The question is what is the "more" the public want (as opposed to the internal debates in the party). Anyone who goes canvassing properly and regularly will highlight the following main issues -

1) Law & Order issues (including security & terrorism)
2) Health issues
3) Education issues
4) Economic issues (including pensions and tax)

I think it is a practical focus that is neeeded. While it is good and necessary to have detailed policies, what is more important is that we focus on the main issues with a few bold and practical ideas that we constantly repeat and use in our attacks on Brown. More importantly still is that those ideas should hang together into a very coherent notion of what Conservatism is for in the 21st Century.


stephan shakespeare

Hi Louise:

Point 3. It’s not a matter of my being impressed, but of having a strategy that will deliver victory. Brown substantially ahead and Conservatives within their decade-long range is a problem that needs to be addressed. Don’t you see that the achievements to which you refer here and in your article are against Blair, in the context of Blair’s unpopularity. If the strategy doesn’t work against Brown, then it needs to be developed into one that does.

Point 4. It’s true that there have been Conservative law and order statements. But if you asked the public, which one do you think they would most remember? I guarantee it would be ‘hug a hoodie’. That may be unfair, but that’s how it is. Until that memory is trumped by a believable anti-crime action-plan with a believable commitment, hug-a-hoodie will continue to be the public perception of Cameron on crime.

Louise, I believe that David Cameron is the only possible leader who can take the Conservatives on to victory. And I think he has a very talented team around him. So nothing that I am saying is intended to take away from that. I just believe he would do better with a better strategy. I hope that’s clear.

Thanks to everyone for your comments - it's been a good debate.

Now I really do want to stop sounding like a grump!

All best, S

David Belchamber

Stephan, thank you for your article; it was a blast of fresh air. I agree with you that labels like "left", "right" and "centre" have little meaning these days; they are a lazy form of shorthand. Is Kate Hoey right wing because of her stand on hunting or Frank Field because of his great good sense about pensions reform?
I have long argued along the lines of your post and several times quoted the good John Cole who wrote: "...politics is only important through the effect that it has on the lives of ordinary people".
As you say to the leadership, stop internalising and get on with it. We do not like him or what he stands for but it cannot be argued that Gordon Brown is not doing exactly that.
You instance pensioners and say that most don't feel very safe; where is our policy commitment to freeing up the police to get tham back on the streets and free them from chasing bureaucratic targets? Where is the policy commitment to link pensions to earnings and to raise the personal threshold above the poverty line (thus removing hundreds or thousands of people from benefit)?
I would also like the tories to engage in debate on setting up a chain of schools across the country to divert the yob element away from mainstream comprehensives and to provide a worthwhile combination of basic education, apprenticeships and sport. That way, teachers could restore discipline in mainstream education with a beneficial impact on standards.

John Ionides

Nice article, Stephen. It reminded me about the modus operandus of the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. Although a phenomenal theorist, when presented with a problem, he didn't like an abstract description. He wanted to see an actual case where the issue manifested itself.

We should treat the electorate in the same way. We need to show how our outlook will improve their quality of life in real terms.

I don't doubt that some "brand decontamination" was necessary, and that the general direction that Cameron has taken the party is correct. But I don't think people are in the mood to vote on general directions; like Richard Feynman they need to see one or two specific instances to halp them think around the more general cases.

Sadly, IMHO the most exciting piece of thinking that I have seen recently was David Willetts suggestions for supply side reform to schools. I was chatting to an initially sceptical group of floating voters a few days ago and once they realised what it could mean for them they were suddenly much more positive. Almost enthusiastic, in fact. But now I imagine that this is a no-go area. Shame.

Louise Bagshawe

Hi Stephan,

I don't think you are sounding like a grump at all! It's a fair debate and one of the good things about our party.

You see, I don't think we can just say the achievements are against Blair - at the risk of repeating myself, that doesn't explain our 250 seat haul against the LibDems. Brown is in the middle of a honeymoon bounce. Let's see where he is in the Spring.

I think you have a good point on media presentation of our crime strategy. Ultimately, we have to present strong policies on crime, hold Labour to account, and just keep going. David Cameron has really understood what Blair promised but didn't deliver in "tough on the causes of crime" by bolstering the family. We've got the right policies on crime and have to keep driving them home.

Margot James makes some very strong points on pensioners and I agree with you that this is one area we should be flagging up relentlessly. I thought Chris Grayling's recent release on Brown's "small print" was very good and we must keep attacking on this.

Chris King

Excellent synopsis of the issues faced by the Party – fascinating that most commentators over the weekend also take this view (the view you maintained last week). Let’s hope someone takes note.

Tony Makara

On the subject of the economy it is very difficult for David Cameron to make a case, to the public, against the Labour economy based on supposition. David will know as well as anyone that Labour has achieved growth through a debt fulled economy, this debt carries interest, which in turn creates underlying inflationary pressures. Up until now the strong pound has kept these inflationary pressures in check, however the moment the pound takes a sustained fall these inflationary pressures will be released. The Bank of England will then be forced to raise interest-rates in an attempt to quell inflation. However increasing interest will only increase the debt creating further inflationary pressures. So the Bank of England will end up chasing their own tail. Labour's 'Big Idea' of using credit to fuel economic growth rather than productivity has created serious problems. Nontheless, unless and until the Labour economy begins to physically unwind it will be very difficult for David Cameron to critize the economy openly because the underlying causes and faliures are too abstract to be explained in a sentence or two.


The Lib Dems are in deep trouble due to the hapless leadership of Campbell.

Many Lib Dem MPs will lose their seats, to Labour as well as the Tories, if their appalling poll ratings were to be repeated at the national ballot box. Brown will be tempted to call a spring, or even an autumn, election.

Lib Dems MPs are not turkeys who look forward to Christmas. Ming's days are numbered unless his poll ratings improve by September. He will be succeeded by Huhne, Clegg or possibly Davey. All three would be more attractive to swing voters.

Cameron's Conservatives are at risk of being squeezed by both Brown's Labour and "Not Ming's" Lib Dems.

The one issue that we could fight back on is a referendum on the EU constitional treaty. Brown will not give us one. The Lib Dems appear to be back-tracking on their election pledge.

So the big question is whether Cameron is willing to "bang on" about EU. If he ducks the challenge, the core vote will be UKIP's and BNP's for the taking.

The next 9 months will not only determine Cameron;s future but that of the Conservative Party. Another massive defeat could lead to the end of the Party. It's up to Dave!

Simon Newman

Tony Makara:
"unless and until the Labour economy begins to physically unwind it will be very difficult for David Cameron to critize the economy openly"

Presumably this is one reason Brown is looking at an early election. Most elections seem to be won or lost on the economy, even in '97 memories of the ERM and the early '90s recession were a major factor.

Tony Makara

Simon, you are exactly right. Not only is this why Brown needs to go to the polls early but is also why Blair vacated office when he did. These men are not stupid and they know what is coming. Labour have irresponsibly encouraged debt in order to boost spending, in order to faciliate growth. Labour have even introduced legislation to write off certain forms of debt. The strength of sterling and the relative underperforming dollar have bailed Labour out but that state of affairs cannot last indefinately. The debt fuelled economy that has developed under Labour carries serious inflationary pressures. Particularly in relation to interest. When the pound falls and business has to cope with rising interest rates it will have no choice but to increase the price of products and services to make up for the shortfall. That will further add to inflationary pressures.


Agree with Stephan Shakespeare, would like to add immigration policy to the list.


"You can’t be so frightened about the tax issue that you have nothing to say on the one area over which a government has real and direct power."

With rising interest rates making it more difficult for people to make mortgage repayments, perhaps we should highlight how tax cuts would make them easier? Or perhaps suggest some sort of mortgage repayment tax relief?

Andrew Lilico

Whilst having considerable sympathy for the line Stephan is pushing here, I have a problem with it. Saying we are going for pensioners, crime and the economy is just to list a few issues, without really saying why these are the issues we are talking about or why what we are saying is a particularly Conservative position. Surely what we need is some picture for ourselves and for the chattering classes of what we are about, which we can then explain to the masses in terms of particular special case polices.

So, for example, in 1979 Mrs Thatcher wasn't just about controlling public expenditure, disciplining the unions and selling council houses. She had a broader narrative, about how British economic policy had been weak over the past thirty years, with regular backing-down and U-turns in the face of union pressure, and about how this weakness had led to the state expanding in an undisciplined manner and interfering in our lives - and, worse, doing so incompetently.

This narrative could be explained to the public in terms of a small number of particular policies - relating to the closed shop, to public expenditure control, and to council house sales. But there was an underlying story - a tale of how we were different from Labour and why we believed we were better than Labour.

But what is Stephan's tale? I don't honestly know. What are we to understand of it by his being pro-pensioner, anti-crime and in favour of low taxes? I don't get the underlying narrative.

An underlying narrative can be something far too complicated to sell directly - we just need the toy version exemplified by our specific policies. But it does need to be there, otherwise it's hard to understand the *why* - we're just a set of specific policies, not a political party reflecting a political philosophy or a set of political beliefs. Perhaps there is one that Stephan's three-part programme reflects (I'm not meaning to be unnecessarily negative), but what is it?

Chris Palmer

Robin Harris, one of Thatcher's advisers from the 1980's wrote a little while back:

'In the Eighties, the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher was obsessive about changing Britain. Today, the Conservative Party is merely obsessive about changing itself.' - Robin Harris

This is much what Stephan points out - that the Conservative party is too much interested in giving the appearance that the party has changed, not what the party will do to change the lives of other people.

The non-political or London metropolitan classes really couldn't care about a Conservative re-branding exercise. True substance is needed or we will lose again, and again and again.

Chris Palmer

That should have read 'The non-politcal as opposed to the London metropolitan classes...'

Donal Blaney

Stephan is right to focus on the elderly. They vote in huge numbers and their views are often conservative. But more than that, it is morally reprehensible that the elderly do not live with the dignity they deserve. It is one thing saying to the young that they should not expect to have a decent state pension and that they should make private provision for their old age but it is not feasible to make the elderly suffer in the way they do now.

He is also right to focus on taxes too. The only party that is unwilling to promise tax cuts is the Conservative Party! The LibDems have promised to cut tax and Brown cut tax in his last budget. OK, he actually didn't cut it really but he was happy to spin it as such and no one accused HIM of wanting to decimate public services. You cannot fatten a pig on market day, as Lynton Crosby said. If we want to cut taxes, we need to make the moral case for it now. And Cameron has the credibility with the electorate to make the case more persuasively than any other Tory leader of the recent past. Time to capitalise on that credibility, please, Dave...


Does Donal Blaney honestly expect Team Cameron to admit to mistakes and change strategy now? Wishful thinking!

The only way to change strategy is to change the Leader. That is not necessarily a recommendation, just a statement of fact.

Cameron's opponents have a couple of months to plan for Blackpool. Activists will looking out for coded, perhaps even uncoded, messages from Davis and Fox. Blackpool 2003 redux!

Tony Makara

All this shows what a difficult job being leader of the Conservative party is. I think its fair to sat that the range of opinion in the Conservative party has always been wider than that in the Labour and Liberal parties. David Cameron not only has to gain support among Conservatives but to win the vital swing seats, he also has to appeal to disaffected Labour voters too. That's why its important that David Cameron gets the balance right, and is helped to get the balance right with support from those on the right. I think David has, by far, the toughest job in politics today.

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