Conservative Diary

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The scrutiny of the Conservatives is well and truly underway

IndyObserverThe Sunday newspapers don't make easy reading for the Conservatives:

The News of the World attacks Alan Duncan as the "Blabbermouth Tory".  The Sunday Mirror reports that the Shadow Leader of the House is in Bali on a holiday that may have cost up to £10,000.

The Mail on Sunday has a story about a group of independent candidates challenging Alan Duncan and David Ruffley.  Jonathan Isaby has blogged about the campaign here.

The Observer builds a mountain out of a molehill with a story about some senior Conservatives being loosely associated with a report that called for NHS reform.  "Being associated" becomes "backed".

On the face of it the most damaging story is in the Independent on Sunday.  The IoS reports:

"The Conservative leader has accepted more than 60 flights by luxury plane and helicopter from 10 industrialists and plutocrats with a combined fortune of £3bn, figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal."

It turns out that the 60 flights are since December 2005.  That's about 15 flights a year or one a month.  Is that unreasonable for someone who is constantly travelling across the country and has a young family that he wants to spend time with?  And what exactly is the relevance of that "industrialists and plutocrats with a combined fortune of £3bn" remark?

As I said on Friday, David Cameron is the Conservative Party's greatest asset.  Attacking him as the Independent on Sunday has done is much more serious than the other attacks.  The Conservative leader does have to watch his use of aeroplanes and helicopters given his emphasis on combating climate change but one flight every month or so is entirely defensible (and I would guess he has used air travel a lot less in recent times).

Today's newspapers are a warning to us all, however, that Fleet Street is turning its attention to the Tories in a way that it has not done before.  Mistakes are going to be punished by a press that would like to make the General Election more competitive than the latest encouraging couplet of opinion polls suggest.

Tim Montgomerie

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