Conservative Home

« Greg Clark MP: Labour turns to charity for funds | Main | Helen Rainbow: A new model of healthcare »

Ridley Grove: I wish we weren't 20% ahead

Ridley_grove Ridley Grove, a pseudonym, works for a London think tank.  He argues that the party's most creative time was when it faced a difficult political climate.  He contends that the party is sleeping on its large lead. He urges David Davis to challenge the party to produce more serious responses to the problems that have grown under Labour.

"Poorly profitable businesses improve their products. Broadcasters that are shedding viewers overhaul their scheduling. Underdog presidential bids gamble with their choice of running mates. Political parties that are underperforming in the polls improve their policies and adapt their message. There are plenty of exceptions to these rules but they are exceptions.

Hands up who can remember Gordon Brown's honeymoon? Briefly, foolishly, unthinkingly the British voter gave Mister Brown the benefit of the doubt. Labour were 10pc ahead in some newspaper opinion surveys. David Miliband predicted another ten years of Labour rule. It is scrumptious to remember that hubris now. During that same period we saw the very best of David Cameron and his team. In hot water the party became stronger. The economically suicidal policies of Mister Zac Goldsmith were consigned to landfill, rather than for recycling. Andy Coulson persuaded "Dave" to stop hugging hoodies and hug The Sun and The Daily Mail. On Mister Cameron's Damascan road to Wapping he rediscovered neckties, a dollop of Euroscepticism and vowed to fight "Anarchy in the UK". George Osborne disowned "uber-modernization" and promised to scrap inheritance tax. No sensible observer believed that this could be funded with his tax on rich foreigners but the pips were squeaking so noisily from Labour's tax burden that we did not care.

The Conservatives moved ahead in the polls and they deserved to. They were addressing the nation's problems. The summer "rebalancing", as this website described it, also precipitated the collapse of Labour's standing.

So far, so good but the party has gone to sleep since the polls were transformed and David Cameron got nine of his fingers on the keys to Downing Street. It is true that Michael Gove has been awake. His education policies are half interesting. David Cameron has woken up to savage the hapless Brown every Wednesday lunchtime. He has also said Thatcheresque things about the Russian bear. Also now awake. But the overall posture has been horizontal. I do not argue that there has been no activity. I don't need to see the Conservative Research Department's list of small announcements. I do not wish to marvel at the Press Office's bulging folders of press clippings. But am I alone in worrying that we are a party unprepared for the Everest, K2 and Kilimanjaro of mountainous problems that the post-1997 years have spawned?

Do we really expect America's Chapter 11 insolvency regime to rejuvenate Britain's economy? Do we really expect a few hundred more maternity nurses to mend Britain's broken society? Do we really expect extra R&R to transform the morale of Britain's armed forces?

Actually, I like most of the small ideas but we should not pretend that they will make much of a difference to anything. This is a time for swords but we are armed with penknives.

Perhaps once Mister Cameron is at Number Ten and Mister Osborne is at Number Eleven we shall see serious action? Perhaps we will see Labour's bloated, drifting state cut back to size? Perhaps we will see a complacent NHS face real competition? Perhaps we'll cut funding to the arts industry and its hostility to nearly everything conservatives hold dear? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps but I don't hold out great hopes. The Conservative leadership circle lives for politics. Like Mister Blair its number one ambition is to get into government. Its number two ambition is to win re-election. The only thing that will force it to abandon its complacency is political competition. An exhausted Labour party and a lightweight Liberal Democrat party will not provide it.

In the absence of political competition can we expect pressure from the old media? Unlikely. David Cameron had already won the Tory leadership before any big newspaper endorsed them. The Telegraph is in decline and editorially rudderless. The Mail is too shrill.

Or from the new media?
Three right-wing blogs are read throughout Westminster., Iain Dale's Diary and Guido Fawkes' Order-Order. All have given the Conservatives an easy ride since Brown's collapse. But Brown is finished. Over. politically dead. What's the point of persisting with the kicking?

From campaigning groups? The likeliest candidates are MigrationWatch and The Taxpayers' Alliance. The former is already very influential. The latter is ignored by George Osborne's Treasury team.

Can the competition come from within the shadow cabinet team? The shadow cabinet simply rubber stamps the decisions of H.O.C.C. (Hilton, Osborne, Coulson, Cameron). Liam Fox, once a warrior, has disarmed. He has not said or done anything interesting since the possibility of a ministerial car became a probability. William Hague is in the same category. When was the last time he came up with anything equal to his reputation? Very good speeches should not excuse such poor productivity.

The parliamentary party? You must be joking. Our MPs only care about opinion polls. They are as happy as Larry. Questions to the leader have been banned for the last three times that David Cameron has addressed the 1922 Committee. No MPs have complained.

The last, best hope is David Davis. Excluded from the Sunday night chats over pizza between Mr Cameron and his kitchen cabinet he walked away. If he had become leader we would not have a 20pc lead but we might have had something more valuable. On tax policy, health policy and sheer gutsiness we would have a manifesto that would seriously improve our country. And we don't need a 20pc lead built on pizzazz. A 10pc lead built on solid foundations would do. Mr Davis has huge talents but no role. He should loudly advance the ideas that the frontbench will not."


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.