Conservative Diary

Blogs, websites, e-etc

18 Aug 2013 08:09:28

Will the Lobbying Bill give Cameron the power to close down ConservativeHome?

Screen shot 2013-08-18 at 08.11.37
By Paul Goodman

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I'm presuming that the headline on this article is what John Rentoul would call a QTWTAIN.  But over at Labour List Mark Ferguson is convinced that Ed Miliband will soon have the power to close it down - and that David Cameron will have the same power over this website.  Ferguson's anxieties stem from the bill on lobbying and transparency which will come before the Commons when it returns in September.  Today, the Sunday Times puts that claim in context from behind its paywall.  Charities are up in arms about the bill, which it claims will curb their campaigning.

The nub of the matter is the difference between campaigning with a political dimension and campaigning for a political party - one which can sometimes be elusive.  The paper claims that the bill will slap a limit on what charities can spend to promote causes they support during a general election, and place new registration conditions on them.  The Cabinet Office is quoted as saying: “The intention is to bring greater transparency where third parties campaign in a way which supports a particular political party or its candidates.”

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23 Mar 2013 09:01:51

The traditional centre right press has probably been lost to the Tories. Forever.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Some think that newspapers don't matter much anymore. One of those people was once David Cameron. He was elected Tory leader without the support of a single traditional centre right newspaper. He stormed to victory over David Davis because TV's Tom Bradby and Nick Robinson - the long-serving political editors of ITN and the BBC - gave his 2005 speech to the Blackpool Conference such heady write ups. Number 10 do not disregard the press quite so much today. They still think broadcast is dominant but they know that newspapers have played an important part in creating discontent on the Right of politics. They've also understood that the newspapers are an important part of the media food chain. Broadcast journalists often take their lead from newspaper investigative reporting, exclusives and columnists. Readership of newspapers is declining but it's also changing. Some newspapers are investing heavily in digital and hope to prosper in a coming age when it will be hard to distinguish between the TV in your sitting room and the portable communications device in your ruck sack. In this age it will be hard to distinguish between a newspaper and broadcaster.

That, however, is for the future (albeit not-so-distant). The immediate future as far as Cameron is concerned is 2015. An endorsement from the five traditional centre-right-ish daily newspapers on the eve of election day would be useful but what he really needs them to do is to change gear soon, if not now. He needs them to stop attacking his administration over the next 18 to 24 months and start attacking Ed Miliband.

TelegraphLooking back over the last few days Fleet Street has provided him with mixed signals. The newspapers have certainly increased their attacks on Labour. The Mail - after likening George Osborne to Margaret Thatcher- has unleashed both Max Hastings and Simon Heffer against Ed Miliband since Wednesday. Today's Times (£) has questioned whether Ed Miliband has any kind of economic plan. The Sun has noted the unpopularity of Ed Balls. The Express has, perhaps, been most positive of them all, choosing "Cheers! Budget Boost For Millions" as its Thursday frontpage. Overall, however, the newspapers remain suspicious of Cameron - and in the week that he largely surrendered on Leveson you can easily understand why. The Mail has ran repeated hard-hitting stories on what it sees as the Coalition's unfair policies towards stay-at-home parents. The Telegraph has run four successive front page stories worrying about the childcare policy, a "housing boom", the Coalition's "war on the countryside" and, today, further cuts to the police and armed forces (see side image).

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19 Mar 2013 08:12:36

Will the press feel that it can ever rely on Cameron again?

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                                                    Graphic above from today's Daily Mail

By Paul Goodman
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Towards the end of last week, David Cameron broke off talks with Nick Clegg and David Miliband over press regulation.  Over the weekend, he resumed them.  Yesterday, he joined the two other party leaders to propose a scheme to the Commons.  There are only two ways of intepreting his actions.  The first is that the Prime Minister always intended to cut a deal with Clegg and Miliband, that his main aim throughout the talks has been to avoid defeat in the Commons, and that his ending of them was a gambit which sought to squeeze as many concessions out of them as possible.  The second is that he braced himself to go down to defeat last week, exasperated by Clegg and Miliband's behaviour, but changed his mind over the weekend.

He had reasons to take either course.  Sticking to his guns and going down to defeat in the Commons could have won him the praise of the centre-right papers, and of the part of his party that has always been uneasy about statutory regulation.  However, there was a risk that any goodwill won from those papers would be short-lived, and that being beaten in the lobbies would have weakened his position further.  Restarting the talks and agreeing a deal instead has avoided that Commons defeat - a mere fourteen Conservative MPs rebelled - and enabled Mr Cameron to claim, truthfully enough, that the regulation he agreed with Clegg and Miliband was less restrictive than that they'd have proposed (and seen passed) if left to their own devices.

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5 Dec 2012 17:20:27

The sad neglect of

By Tim Montgomerie
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Matthew Barrett has already noted the Lib Dem cock up of the day - attacking the *Coalition" Autumn Statement before quickly (and dishonestly) retreating. It reminds me of Nick Clegg's bigot-gate gaffe. But at least the Lib Dem website has a positive, compaigning message about the Government's announcements on its homepage. Compare and contrast the splash on the LD website (top) with the Tory website...

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Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 16.44.05

The Lib Dem website has a clear message. The Tory website is cold and uninviting.

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12 Sep 2012 07:37:59

"John Prescott drove a car into a wall, while drunk"

By Tim Montgomerie
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The headline at the top of this blog is untrue. Completely false. If it appeared on a Wikipedia entry I should imagine the former Deputy PM would be very keen to have it removed. The allegation did not, as far as I know, ever appear on Mr Prescott's wikipedia page but it did appear on that of Grant Shapps.

There's been a lot of attacks on Mr Shapps in the newspapers over the last week, all targeting his past use of the internet. The Guardian has ANOTHER go this morning.

I'm not in a position to respond to every allegation that's been made against the new Conservative Chairman but at the root of the controversy has been a long-standing attempt by (1) his political opponents to use Wikipedia to smear him and then (2) those same opponents then attack his attempts to counter those smears.

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17 Feb 2012 12:29:07

Ken Clarke attacks ConHome as that "blasted website"

By Tim Montgomerie
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This was the moment on last night's BBC Question Time when Ken Clarke attacked ConservativeHome, after falsely attacking the "Murdoch press":

I am, of course, grateful to Ken for the publicity and also grateful to Arthur Stevens for posting the video on YouTube.

As I Tweeted last night, ConHome doesn't pretend we represent all activists (although media outlets often do) but I would argue we are much closer to most activists on issues like the EU, ECHR, tax, climate change and crime than the Justice Secretary ever has been or ever will be. I should add that we're also closer to most members of the public on those issues.

What we do do is give more Tory members more of a voice than they had in the pre-internet age. As I told Sunday's Observer when Toby Helm profiled ConHome, this site is like the Tory Conference that never stops. Every day we are discussing the issues that would characterise a good conference fringe programme. I understand why politicians like Ken Clarke would rather the Eurosceptic masses left the running of the country to 'grown-ups' like him... but those days are over.

7 Nov 2011 16:23:34

8/10 Rebooting Project Cameron: Embracing internet-based politics

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Conservative Party should be relaunched as the Conservative Alliance. Conservative HQ should see itself more like the Republican National Committee in the US, as the central facilitator of other groups rather than the thing itself. The Conservative Alliance would include networks of small business groups, campaigning local websites, and higher investment in relationship groups like Conservative Friends of International Development, and the Conservative Christian Fellowship. Peer-to-peer

Inside CCHQ there should be a Department for External Relations that would manage the Tory Party’s most important relations with third party groups. The, say, 1,000 most important faith leaders, charity groups, thought leaders, business tycoons and commentators would be gold ticketed by this Department and fully involved in the development and transmission of policy. Baroness Berridge wrote about this obsession of mine yesterday.

Within these reforms party members would be given a higher status in the party/ Alliance with significant rewards and benefits. This would include a less corporate party conference and less interference in constituency selection meetings.

I intend to develop this idea on in coming days.

> The ninth part of this series will appear at 6.30pm: Media strategy.

23 Sep 2011 14:08:31

Who's winning in the battle between Right Minds and Telegraph Blogs?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Always angry but with a great instinct for middle Britain, Paul Dacre edits what is probably the most powerful newspaper in Britain. After a slow start the Daily Mail has developed a hugely successful web presence. Powered by an infamous right hand column of celebrity images (with the attention span of a goldfish I often find myself logging on to check the latest in politics but end up clicking links about David Beckham or Cheryl Cole) it's become the second most read newspaper website in the English speaking world (given that the New York Times has now partly gone behind a paywall it may now be #1).

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16 Aug 2011 07:53:00

The Heffersaurus becomes hi-tech; Simon Heffer prepares to launch Daily Mail Blogs

By Tim Montgomerie
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Simon Heffer left The Telegraph in June. He's now back at his old stomping ground of the Daily Mail and from his new desk, just a few footsteps away from Paul Dacre, he is plotting his comeback.

The Mail is already the world's second most popular online newspaper and I understand that the Heffersaurus has become all hi-tech. He's weeks away from launching a new multi-authored blog that will aim for big audiences in Britain and, notably, America.

The new site will include powerful US commentary so that the Mail can tap into the lucrative advertising market on the other side of the Atlantic.

Mr Heffer won't be neglecting Britain, however, and that should worry at least two groups of people. Mr Heffer will be aiming to challenge the dominance of the hugely successful Telegraph group of blogs and he's in the process of poaching some of that group's biggest names. He'll also be gunning for the Cameroons. His regular broadsides against everything that emanates from Number 10 are set to resume - probably early next month but certainly in time for the party conference season.

12 Aug 2011 08:59:42

Cameron can win the riots debate but only if he stops Labour from outflanking him on policing

By Tim Montgomerie
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One absolute must read this morning and it's the Bagehot column in The Economist. The author notes that riots tend to benefit centre right parties:

"Margaret Thatcher won elections after Brixton and Tottenham burned in the 1980s. American cities and university campuses were laid waste in the late 1960s; Richard Nixon was duly elected and re-elected. Chaos in French banlieues in 2005 seemed to work in favour of Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential election 18 months later."

The column goes on to mention specific ways in which the circumstances today might benefit David Cameron:

  • "Tories will have an easier time making their already-popular arguments about crime: that well-meaning efforts to liberalise the police have gone too far; that weakness is more provocative to miscreants than heavy-handedness; that for all the talk of a “slippery slope” from minor breaches of liberty by the state to outright authoritarianism, the opposite journey—from laxity to lawlessness—is steeper and scarier."
  • "The left is imploring the public to consider the underlying causes of the riots. They should be careful what they wish for. Voters might conclude that the deep-seated causes are not poverty, discrimination and austerity—the riots took place in a country whose government currently spends half of its national income—but welfare dependency, broken homes and moral nihilism."
  • "Outside 10 Downing Street on August 10th, [Cameron] described areas of Britain as “not just broken but frankly sick” and called for a “clearer code of values and standards that we expect people to live by”. Liberals, understandably, will worry about all this. But deep down, this is who Mr Cameron really is. After the riots, it might also be what his country wants."

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