Conservative Home International
10 Jan 2013 08:20:16

Andrew Marshall: Listen to Mutti. What Cameron can learn from Merkel and what the Conservatives can learn from the CDU.

Andrew_Marshall_head_and_shouldersAndrew Marshall is Managing Director of Cognito PR and Marketing, and a Conservative councillor in Camden. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Andrew on Twitter.

The latest polls in Germany put Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union) on 40-41%, up from 34% at the last election and more than 10% ahead of the opposition SPD.  Merkel appears in a commanding position ahead of September’s elections – and even if her new post-election junior partner is the SPD or the Greens, the policy shift will be limited.  Not bad for a party that’s been in government since 2005.  Not bad for a government that’s had to take unpopular decisions to help tackle the Eurozone crisis.  Indeed arguably the CDU, which has governed Germany for 44 of the last 63 years, is Europe’s most successful political party of the last half century.

So you might think that influential people in the Conservative Party (Lynton Crosby?) would be trying to work out whether there are any lessons to learn from the CDU.  If so, it’s being well hidden.  Many writing on this site regularly decry the CDU as part of the “declining European model”.  And for many of those who comment regularly on ConHome (the kind who use lots of capital letters and write about the “EUSSR”), Merkel is simply the enemy.  Kohl, Merkel, Delors, Chirac, Rajoy  – who cares what party they’re in,they’re all continental politicans trying to subjegate us.

Of course political culture and party dynamics are different in every country, and we should be wary of simplistic comparisons.  After all, no British politician would dare to propose the degree of decentralised market involvement we see in German healthcare.

1 Jan 2013 13:50:14

America's (or France's or Britain's) public finances won't be solved by increasing taxes on the rich. Everyone will have to make sacrifices at some point.

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter


Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 13.45.06

"According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s long-term obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35 percent increase in all taxes and a 35 percent cut in all benefits."

- David Brooks in the New York Times


Last night the US Senate voted overwhelmingly for a package (tax details here) that involved $620 billion of higher taxes on wealthier Americans (OVER TEN YEARS) and just $15 billion in net spending cuts. David Brooks is unimpressed:

"The proposal is not a balance of taxes and spending cuts. It doesn’t involve a single hard decision. It does little to control spending. It abandons all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around. It locks in low tax rates on families making less than around $450,000; it is simply impossible to avert catastrophe unless tax increases go below that line."

Jeffrey Lord at the American Spectator summarised it neatly - The GOP caved. But their lack of strategy (noted fairly by the BBC's Mark Mardell) probably means they had to...

27 Dec 2012 20:33:45

The Republicans likely to be hurt most if America falls off its "fiscal cliff"

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

There are only four days to go until America falls off the so-called fiscal cliff. Here's your guide to what's it all about...

Fiscal cliff

What is the fiscal cliff? Automatic tax increases and spending cuts (especially to defence) will be triggered if President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress cannot agree a deal by the end of the year. No deal looks likely. Just before Christmas House leader John Boehner couldn't get a majority of his fellow Republicans to support his own compromise deal and his Speakership may now be in danger. Many voters are going to conclude that 'if Republicans can't even agree among themselves...'

...Neither the Democrat-controlled Senate nor the Republican-controlled House can currently agree a plan that can pass their own chamber - let alone both chambers. Technically both sides have outline* deals but the Republicans want as many spending cuts as tax rises in their proposed package. Obama and the Democrats want $300billion more in tax increases than spending cuts. See this graphic.

Where is public opinion? While the Washington Post concludes that all of the nation's politicians will lose the little esteem they have left if they can't reach any agreement most think - correctly - that the GOP has more at stake. The vast majority of Americans tell pollsters that they want politicians to compromise in the stalled negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff. Starbucks USA is even encouraging its customers to scrawl 'come together' on its red cups as a small encouragement to bipartisanship. Key findings from the latest Gallup poll are...

17 Dec 2012 07:35:07

LDP's Japanese landslide may mean expansionary economic policy, less antagonism towards nuclear power and hawkishness towards China

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

The Liberal Democrats who dominated Japanese politics for nearly all of the country's post-war period were booted from power three years ago as punishment for the country's decade of stagnation and for cronyism between an indebted political establishment and special interests. The LDP was re-elected, however, with a super-majority in weekend elections - winning in such a large landslide that they may be able to govern without worrying about the upper house's power of veto.

The LDP leader Shinzo Abe - who will become PM for the second time - was keen to downplay the implications of the victory, however. “This result doesn’t mean that public support for the LDP has 100 per cent recovered,” he was quoted in the FT (£), “It’s a rejection of the last three years of political confusion. Now it’s up to the LDP to live up to people’s expectations.” Mr Abe's first challenge will be to bring stability to his country. In recent years Japan has resembled old-time Italy with almost annual changes in the person holding the office of prime minister.

Markets are expecting a much more expansionary economic policy from the new government. Mr Abe will order a looser monetary policy from the Bank of Japan (having called for ‘unlimited’ easing) and the Wall Street Journal reports that "Mr. Abe will instruct his government, expected to take office around Dec. 26, to compile a ¥10 trillion ($120 billion) extra budget... a figure near the upper end of market expectations." He has previously suggested that the outgoing government's doubling of consumption taxes would be implemented but might need to be delayed.

The LDP may slowly edge Japan back towards a pro-nuclear power position but post-Fukushima it is treading carefully.

Much attention has also focused on the implications of the LDP's return for Japan's relations with its hostile near neighbours. Mr Abe has called for an upwards recalibration of defence spending so that Japan can send a message to China following its military build-up. He will also re-assert Japan's post-war alliance with the United States. He has fiercely re-asserted Japan's sovereignty over islands that are disputed by Beijing. He also wants Japan to be less apologetic about its role in World War II. The Guardian fears a new nationalist flavour from Tokyo:

"Abe has often said he went into politics to help Japan "escape the postwar regime" and throw off the shackles of wartime guilt. In its place he has talked of creating a "beautiful Japan" defended by a strong military and guided by a new sense of national pride. "I have not changed my view from five years ago when I was prime minister that the biggest issue for Japan is truly escaping the postwar regime," he said in a recent magazine article."

10 Dec 2012 08:10:16

Leading Republicans turn their focus to fighting poverty and issue a message to American's poor: We won't leave you on your own

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

The conservative columnist for the New York Times David Brooks has called it "the Republican Glasnost". He says that the Republican Party has changed far more than he expected in less that a month. It has a long way to go until "it revives itself as a majority party", he readily concedes, but some of its leading figures are moving in a sensible and winsome direction.

Pasted below are some key quotations from Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. The former was Romney's running mate and Senator Rubio of Florida is a hot tip for the GOP's nominee next time round. Both men have articulated a more one nation Republicanism and notable themes are a belief in helping those who can't help themselves as well as the central compassionate conservative themes of family, school and work.

This was Congressman Paul Ryan last week emphasising an understanding of the deep social challenges facing many Americans: "Poverty rates are the highest in a generation. Of the millions of children born into hardship, fewer and fewer are able to escape it. And some never learn to dream at all, which is a worse tragedy. When 40 percent of all children born into the lowest income quintile never rise above it, what does it say about our country? To me, it says our economy is failing to provide basic security, much less rising wages. It says our schools are failing to provide a path out of poverty. And it says that our families and communities are breaking down where they are needed most – in those homes and neighborhoods where even a mighty government cannot match the power of one caring soul helping another."

WorkFamilyEducationRyan then emphasised the importance of social solidarity as well as social mobility: "As it stands, our party excels at representing the aspirations of our nation’s risk-takers. We celebrate that part of the American Dream that involves finding your passion and making a living from it. But there is another part of the American creed: When our neighbors are struggling, we look out for one another. We do that best through our families and communities – and our party must stand for making them stronger. We have a compassionate vision based on ideas that work – but sometimes we don’t do a good job of laying out that vision. We need to do better."

Marco Rubio returned to this theme in his own speech, calling for both protection and reform of the welfare safety-net: "Let’s protect our nation’s safety net programs. Not as a way of life, but as a way to help those who have failed to stand up and try again, and of course to help those who cannot help themselves. But these programs must be reformed to enhance family stability, financial opportunity, education and a culture of work."

The Senator also emphasised the importance of social capital in underpinning a person's economic chances: "The research on this topic has consistently found that children raised in tough circumstances, struggle in comparison with children raised in a more stable family setting. They face higher risks of falling into poverty, failing in school, or suffering emotional and behavioral problems. They have lower scores on standardized tests, lower grades, and a much higher chance of dropping out of high school or failing to attend college. Widespread societal breakdown is not something government can solve, and yet it is one that the government cannot ignore. We cannot separate the economic well-being of our people from their social well-being." Neil O'Brien - George Osborne's new advisor - addressed this topic recently in an important article on "cultural inequality".

Mike Gerson in the Washington Post summarised why GOP leaders are thinking in these ways:

"For Republicans, the problem runs deeper than Romney’s persona. The GOP’s economic message is well past its 1980 expiration date. It is not enough to promote growth in an economy where a personal benefit from overall growth is far from assured. Economic mobility is increasingly connected to education, skills and strong families. The traditional, Republican, pro-business agenda is necessary, but it does not adequately grapple with these human needs — the prerequisites for personal prosperity.

Republicans like to defend economic success. They need to show more creativity in making economic advancement a realistic prospect — by promoting, say, high school and college completion, or increasing the rewards for work, or providing practical help to families with children. Moving forward, the GOP’s task is not only to make capitalism more efficient; it is to make capitalism work for everyone."

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 08.01.39

Making capitalism work for everyone is the key. I've called it the "double lock". Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are seen by most voters to be more likely to create prosperity but will we also ensure that it is shared? I don't mean shared equally but in a way that keeps us as one nation - where no person is left behind. Please see more at

4 Dec 2012 17:44:45

A leading supporter and important critic of Israel agree: Time for a two-state solution is running out

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter

As ever in these affairs, there is more to William Hague's summoning of Israel's Ambassador over the Netanyahu Government's settlement building decision and withholding of Palestine Authority tax revenue than meets the eye.  There is also more to the decisions of Israel's Government than might meet the eye.

The Foreign Secretary was sympathetic to Israel during its recent hostilities with Hamas.  Britain also abstained in the UN General Assembly vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member state.  The Government regards the West Bank as illegally occupied territory, and will take the chance to remind Israel critics that it sometimes joins them.

Mr Netanyahu and his Cabinet will have wanted to send a message to the world after the overwhelming UN vote for recognition, since it takes the view that the Palestinian decision to apply for membership was a provocation.  But it will neither want to collapse the P.A nor alienate other countries completely: Israel's Prime Minister will also be guarding his right flank.

I'm grateful to the Conservative Middle East's Council's daily list of must-read articles for one which puts these recent events in perspective.  Alan Dershowitz is one of Israel's leading supporters in the United States.  Peter Beinart is one of its best-known critics - the author of "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" and "The Crisis of Zionism.

3 Dec 2012 06:35:21

The party for the rich

By Tim Montgomerie 
Follow Tim on Twitter

I spotted this yesterday on the Washington Post's 'WonkBlog':

"Consider this poll question: “When you think of people who are Democrats, what type of person comes to mind?”  About 38 percent of respondents selected words like “working class,” “middle class,” and “common people” while only 1 percent selected words like “rich” or “wealthy.”  The opposite was true when asked about Republicans: 31 percent picked words like “wealthy” and “business executive” while only 6 percent chose “working class” and its kindred.

Or consider a second series of poll questions.  When asked which party would be “better for” different groups, 51 percent said that Democrats were better for the poor versus 22 percent who said that of Republicans (the rest said that the parties were about the same or that they were not sure).  And 39 percent said that Democrats were better for the middle class versus 31 percent who said that of Republicans.  By contrast, most (54 percent) said that the Republicans were better for Wall Street; only 13 percent said this of Democrats."

10 Nov 2012 16:41:49

'Romney Lost' because voters didn't think he cared about people like them. It's also why UK Tories are struggling.

By Tim Montgomerie 
Follow Tim on Twitter

2012-11-09-frumbookOnly 48 hours after Mitt Romney lost his bid to be president David Frum had published an eBook explaining 'Why Romney Lost'.

It's not a long book and I take away the following key observations from it:

(1) Romney should have won this election. When economic conditions are bad - and they were bad - and the incumbent wins then the election wasn't a "close" run thing. Incumbents should lose in these conditions, argues Frum (as they've been doing in most other parts of the world).

(2) On page one David Frum states the most important thing: "In poll after poll, big majorities described the Republican nominee as favouring the wealthy over the middle class". AEI's Henry Olsen has also zeroed in on this issue - in my view rightly. In 'What voters want - a prez who cares', he writes:

"The conservative and Republican challenge can be summed up in one question from the exit polls. The pollsters asked voters which of four characteristics they most wanted to see in their president. Mitt Romney won among voters who chose three of those characteristics: shares my values, is a strong leader and has a vision for the future. What’s more, he carried them heavily, by between nine and 23 points. In all, 79 percent of voters selected one of these characteristics. Romney lost because he lost among those who chose the remaining characteristic — by 63 points, 81-18. That characteristic? Cares about people like me."

Boom. Voters want conservatives who care "about people like me". Let's say that again because it's the number one challenge: voters want conservatives who care "about people like me".

8 Nov 2012 11:33:09

The ten must-read reactions from American conservatives to Romney's defeat

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Elephant shieldIt wasn't all bad for the GOP, of course. They retained control of the House of Representatives. Because of big gains two years ago they had 29 of 50 governorships before Tuesday. They didn't lose any of those. In fact they won North Carolina meaning they now have 30 of 50 of the US Governorships. Additionally, across the MidWest, they defeated union attempts to gain new anti-employer rights. But the overall outcome was disappointing. President Obama was re-elected and the results in the Senate fell well below the expectations of earlier this year.

Here are ten must-read reflections from conservative commentators:

Where was the CONSISTENT blue collar message? Katrina Trinko focuses on Mitt Romney's 'rich guy' problem in her reflection for National Review: "Throughout the primary and the general, Romney consistently talked about how he wanted to create jobs and how his economic plan would bring that about. But it wasn’t enough, particularly in the general, because President Obama and his campaign successfully made people worried that a more robust, roaring economy in a Romney presidency wouldn’t necessarily be a bonus for them. The way Obama talked, you’d think that no one but the wealthiest and upper middle class would be thriving in a Romney economy. And that was a notion Romney didn’t push back on forcefully enough. He needed to say ad nauseam that in a Romney economy, poor and middle class Americans would be better off, too.  It’s not enough to say “all” Americans would have been better off; you have to spell out it with more specificity than that when your opponent is constantly accusing you of favoring the rich." Kevin Williamson (again at NRO) credits "class warfare" against Romney for Obama's re-election.

Republicans need to become the party of the little guy against the vested interests. Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner makes an argument familar to ConHome readers: "Republicans need a new coalition and a new message. The heart of that coalition should be the working class. The message should be populism. Populist movements in the past have often been ugly because they scapegoated vulnerable minorities. The new Republican populism shouldn't blame the "47 percent" of Mitt Romney's imagination, or immigrants seeking to make a better life. The new Republican populism should declare war on the cronies and special interests who use big government to rig the game in their favor and deny opportunity to those trying to climb the ladder and live the American dream."

America is shifting Left as the number of government dependents grows - a trend that will only accelerate because of ObamaCare. John Hinderaker at PowerLine: "Decades ago my father, the least cynical of men, quoted a political scientist who wrote that democracy will survive until people figure out that they can vote themselves money. That appears to be the point at which we have arrived. Put bluntly, the takers outnumber the makers... Over 100 million receive means tested benefits from the federal government, many more from the states. And, of course, a great many more are public employees."

Realignment, not Romney is the GOP problem. So argues Ed Morrissey at HotAir: "Republicans can’t blame the candidate, or at least they shouldn’t.  Mitt Romney ran one of the most well-organized national campaigns in recent memory within the GOP.  He raised prodigious amounts of cash, keeping pace with Obama.  The RNC followed suit, building a massive and impressive GOTV effort that really did produce a big increase in turnout — but not enough to match what Democrats did in this cycle.  Republicans blamed John McCain in 2008 and even George Bush for the bailouts, but those fig leaves are gone, and the realignment is too apparent to ignore."

Five Senate races have been lost in the last two election cycles because of poor Tea Party candidates. That's not the view of some Democrat or even of a liberal Republican but of Fred Barnes, a Christian conservative. In the Wall Street Journal he writes: "In 2010, Republicans lost at least three Senate races because tea party nominees were poor candidates. That kept Republicans from a 50-50 tie. This year, they lost two very winnable Senate elections because tea party-backed candidates were gaffe-prone." Some more traditional conservatives remain in denial, however. See this in the Daily Caller.

But the establishment Republicans can hardly get sniffy. At the Daily Caller Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel remind us of the ideological corruption of much of the GOP establishment: "Washington insiders who were part of the recent big-spending, pork-barrel earmarking, lobbyist-hugging, massive-growth-in-government period in our history still lead the establishment wing of the Republican Party. This is the group that added a massive Medicare Part D entitlement without paying for it, bailed out Wall Street bankers without making them pay for it, and micromanaged state and local education efforts. For a party based on limited government and budgetary discipline, behavior like this is death. Their fiscal incontinence infuriated the base of the party and led directly to the tea party movement."

Republicans must reconsider their position on immigration or risk losing the growing Hispanic vote. In his Washington Post column George Will writes: "Perhaps Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election on Sept. 22, 2011, when, alarmed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the Republican nomination race, he rushed to Perry’s right regarding immigration, attacking the Dream Act. He would go on to talk about forcing illegal immigrants into “self-deportation.” It is surprising that only about 70 percent of Hispanics opposed Romney." At The Hill, Dick Morris has more on the daunting demographics facing the Republicans.

Republicans are losing young voters by opposing gay marriage. At Commentary D G Myers calls for social conservatism to be modernised: "What conservatives do not seem to grasp is that same-sex marriage is not an issue for gays only, but also for the young, who support it overwhelmingly, without question. And if the GOP really is the party of marriage, shouldn’t it be in favor of extending the goods of marriage to as many as possible? If marriage is everything we conservatives say it is, why should we want to deny its moral benefits to gays? The point is to stand for marriage, for an institution that promotes human freedom, and not to barricade ourselves behind the status quo ante. That’s how the party of freedom becomes the party of reaction." In her Washington Post blog Jennifer Rubin argues that Republicans don't have to like equal marriage but they must, at least, stop opposing it.

And, finally, let's not forget that Obama campaigned as a fiscal conservative (albeit a dishonest one). Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine: "Note, however, that Obama didn’t campaign as someone who is unconcerned with debt; nor did he campaign on a transformative platform. Instead, he campaigned on a program of dealing with the debt by taxing the rich. Once it becomes clear to Americans that we can’t solve the debt problem this way, he will be left high and dry. That’s fine with him, but it won’t be fine for his Party."

And, finally, ignore Rush Limbaugh. So blogs crunchy conservative Rod Dreher.

7 Nov 2012 08:28:05

Was last night disastrous for the Republicans or simply disappointing?

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Over on ToryDiary Pete Hoskin has listed five lessons for the British Tories from last night's election result.

But what does it mean for America's Republicans?

It was certainly not a good night for the Republicans but was it a disastrous night?


  • The case for it being a disastrous night was the fact that President Obama got re-elected despite presiding over very difficult economic times. He supported gay marriage, higher taxes on wealth creators and had enacted a controversial, unpopular and expensive new healthcare entitlement. The last three policy areas are deeply liberal policies and yet America voted for the man who embraced them. In addition to Obama's big lead amongst women, many demographic trends are not going the GOP's way and with the Republicans continuing to win many votes among black, Hispanic and gay Americans it isn't going to get easier for the Republicans to build a majority. It's going to get harder. A lot harder. Moreover, just as Gordon Brown extended dependency and therefore increased Labour's core vote, Obama's policies are doing the same.
  • But there is a case for saying that the night was not so terrible for Republicans. Although Barack Obama easily won the electoral college he only won a very narrow margin in the popular vote. He didn't win with a big agenda. This was not a 'mandate election'. At the time of writing Mr Obama is on 49.6% against Mitt Romney's 48.9%. Incumbent presidents are nearly always re-elected and without Hurricane Sandy Obama might have lost. A series of terrible candidate selections mean that Republicans missed the opportunity to make gains in the Senate but they've retained the House and consolidated their dominance at Governor level. To a large extent America remains the 50/50 blue state/red state nation that it became in 2000. Romney proved to be a competent and likeable candidate but he wasn't the most charismatic or compelling of candidates. Next time the GOP could nominate Rubio, Christie or Martinez. Many wish they had done so this time.