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Ali Miraj: Dave, where has the sunshine gone?

Ali Miraj, who has written controversially in the past, has been quoted on BBC Online accusing David Cameron of being obsessed with PR.  His intervention - in which he attacks those who want Cameron ousted - brought a swift response from a source close to the Conservative leader.  The source told ConservativeHome that Ali had asked for a peerage at a meeting with Cameron earlier today.  Miraj responded by saying that he would not discuss his private discussions with Cameron, accused CCHQ of "lowering the tone" of debate and of not taking his criticisms seriously - criticisms which he outlines here.

MirajaliI write this piece with a heavy heart as someone who has become deeply disillusioned by the way the Conservative Party is being run having made these points in private for months but to no avail:

“Let sunshine win the day”, hailed David Cameron to the Party faithful at its Conference last October.  But far from rays of light beaming down, dark clouds are gathering over Mr Cameron’s leadership.

It was less than two years ago when I introduced him at the launch of his campaign to lead the party.  I saw him as a fresh face, a politician that, despite his privileged background, could connect with the British people and restore the fortunes of the Conservative party.  I have been disappointed.

A week is a long time in politics, and the past couple of weeks have been particularly painful with the Tories securing a humiliating third place in two Parliamentary by-elections.  That has been compounded this week by a poll putting the Conservative Party on 32%, its lowest level since Michael Howard was leader and six points behind Labour. To add to his woes 21% of voters say their opinion of him has dropped since Mr Brown took over.  But the rot began before that.

For me the key factor that has led to the current malaise is not a lack of “traditional” policies, as those on the right of the Party busily sharpening their knives would argue. It is a complete lack of judgement on the part of Mr Cameron himself.  The adage, “One is known by the company one keeps”, can be coupled with “a leader can be judged by those he appoints”.

The decision to impose a hand-picked poster boy on local members in the Ealing Southall by-election who had only been a member of the Conservative Party for a matter of days, was always bound to be viewed with disdain at best and lead to trouble at worst.  One cannot blame the opportunistic Mr Lit for wanting to jump on the “Dave bandwagon”. 

But Mr Cameron should have had more sense.  First, the Tories have still not realised that it takes more than picking an Asian candidate to reverse a scandalous neglect of engaging with people from ethnic minorities since the days of Enoch Powell.  Second, was the complete failure to conduct adequate checks on an unknown quantity. 

I do not know if Mr Lit was asked the question that all candidates are typically put, “Is there anything in your background that could potentially embarrass the Party”. This may have spared the embarrassment four days before polling day that he had donated money to the Labour party pictured next to a smiling Tony Blair. 

This is not the first case of Cameron’s obsession with PR.  The decision to approach Greg Dyke, a lifelong left-winger, to be the Conservative candidate for London Mayor was equally ridiculous.

The recent decision to appoint Sayeeda Warsi to the Shadow Cabinet as Minister for Community Cohesion was also short-sighted.  Ms Warsi, a young woman with a good heart, who has displayed potential and may well have made it to Cabinet in due course, has been catapulted into front line politics having only been active in the party for three years. 

This has been met by a barrage of harsh criticism targeted towards her ranging from her condemnation of the Government’s decision to abolish section 28 regarding the promotion of homosexuality in schools, to her call for the government to engage with extremist Muslim groups. 

Much of this stems from inexperience.  There is no substitute for hard work, commitment and tenure.  No doubt Mr Cameron was driven by his desire to appoint the first “Muslim woman” to trump Gordon Brown’s appointment of the first Muslim minister, Shahid Malik, only days before.  The problem is that this smacks of blatant gimmickry which the electorate sees through.

Whilst no one would question the importance of tackling poverty in the developing world, the decision to go to Rwanda to visit a social action project, when parts of Mr Cameron’s own constituency were suffering their worst floods for 150 years, was yet another piece of ammunition to his opponents and a cause for dismay to his supporters such as myself.   

Those in the party who have begun their campaign to oust Cameron and appoint their sixth leader in ten years are simply not serious about regaining power.  One does not wield the knife at the first sign of difficulty.  I hope that Mr Cameron heeds the warning signs.  If sense prevails a rainbow may yet emerge in the aftermath of the storm.

Ali Miraj has been a Councillor and stood as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate at the last two general elections.  He is a Board Member of two of the Party’s Policy Groups.


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