Conservative Diary

Cameron 'The Man'

17 May 2013 07:50:24

When it comes to Europe 17% of voters think Cameron is driven by beliefs but 64% think he's driven by tactical calculations

Tim Montgomerie
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There's an interesting YouGov poll in today's Times (£). We know what most voters think of Europe. They want it changed back to something more like a free trade area. We know what voters think of a referendum. They want to have one. But do voters think the politicians are genuine about the European and referenda policies that they hold? YouGov asked voters whether they thought politicians were holding their European policy positions because "they feel strongly about the issue" or "mainly because they are making a tactical calculation about what to say". The results are telling...

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  • 55% of voters thought Nigel Farage was genuine and only 22% thought he was tactical.
  • 43% thought people like Ken Clarke took the position they did because of strongly held views and only 32% thought they did so for tactical reasons.
  • But when it came to David Cameron only 17% thought he felt strongly about the issue and 64% thought his European position was simply a tactical calculation.
  • Ed Miliband's numbers were slightly better than Cameron's but not much. 20% thought the Labour leader felt strongly about the issue but 52% thought he was largely motivated by tactical considerations.

Continue reading "When it comes to Europe 17% of voters think Cameron is driven by beliefs but 64% think he's driven by tactical calculations" »

2 Feb 2013 07:40:55

Cameron says he feels "very strongly" about married tax allowance but delays its introduction for FOURTH time

By Tim Montgomerie
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© i-Images

A promise to introduce a tax allowance for married couples was one of the first commitments that David Cameron made when he stood for Tory leader in 2005*.

When he told the Tory Conference in 2006 that marriage should be between a man and a man and a woman and a woman, as well as a man and a woman it was in the context of policies to support the family, including "recognising marriage more directly in the tax system"**.

In July 2007, during an interview with Channel 4's Jon Snow, David Cameron himself made an explicit link between gay partnerships and the marriage tax allowance***.

In January 2010, months before the general election, the Tory leader insisted he felt "very strongly" about "recognising marriage in the tax system"****.

A married couples' allowance is popular with voters. It is more pro-poor than increasing the tax allowance because it disproportionately benefits single earner couples. It brings us into line with nearly every other developed country in the world (© David Willetts). There is explicit wording in the Coalition Agreement which commits Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain so that the tax allowance can pass with Tory votes.

Yet today we learn that the Chancellor will not introduce the allowance in this Budget but later in the parliament. This will be the fourth opportunity to introduce the tax allowance that will have been missed. Forgive me but I'm getting suspicious. Very suspicious. Why is something that the PM feels "very strongly" about taking so very long to deliver? If it is delayed much longer and to a pre-electioneering stage of the parliament I can see Lib Dem MPs voting against a measure which they've always hated. If it's not delivered next month I doubt it will ever be delivered. 

Continue reading "Cameron says he feels "very strongly" about married tax allowance but delays its introduction for FOURTH time" »

24 Dec 2012 08:46:04

Cameron's Christmas message described "as the most Christian of its kind from an incumbent prime minister"

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Telegraph describes David Cameron's Christmas message "as the most Christian of its kind from an incumbent prime minister". The Daily Mail concludes that Mr Cameron "went further than ever last night when he quoted from the Bible, referring to Jesus as ‘the light of all mankind’ and the ‘Prince of Peace’".

Here is the key section of the message that has aroused reporters' interest and is being interpreted as an attempt to woo Christians offended by the Coalition's plans to introduce gay marriage:

"Christmas also gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story – the story about the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings to the countless millions who follow him. The Gospel of John tells us that in this man was life, and that his life was the light of all mankind, and that he came with grace, truth and love. Indeed, God’s word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace."

It is certainly more emphatic than the way he described his faith in 2008:

"I believe, you know. I am a sort of typical member of the Church of England. As Boris Johnson once said, his religious faith is a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes. That sums up a lot of people in the Church of England. We are racked with doubts, but sort of fundamentally believe, but don't sort of wear it on our sleeves or make too much of it. I think that is sort of where I am."

Read Mr Cameron's full Christmas message here.

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10 Oct 2012 16:44:24

Conservative commentators all give warm welcome to Cameron's speech (but can he stick to this new message?)

By Tim Montgomerie
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Matthew d'Ancona interprets the speech as Cameron's challenge to the nation, to choose revival or decline: "The purpose of this speech was to remind party and public alike that the Tories represent the whole nation — just as that nation faces a moment of historic decision in the great “global race”. Does it modernise its education, welfare and health systems to make itself fit for the task of planetary competition, or settle for heritage status as a once-great country, a busking midget singing songs for pennies about its glory days as a giant?" (Evening Standard).

Nick Robinson focused on Cameron's attempt to tackle "the party of the rich" label: "The man who's heard himself branded as posh and out of touch and his party as that of the rich and the privileged fought back. The Tories were, he said, not the party of the better off but the party of the "want to be better off". He was a man who didn't defend privilege but wanted to spread it." (BBC). Andrew Lilico (ConHome) applauds the repositioning; "He said that Conservatism is the means to serve the needs of the poor. He said we would use Conservative methods to meet progressive ends.  He said not cutting the deficit would harm the poor."

Ben Brogan calls the speech "defining" and proof that there's still fight in him. (Telegraph).

James Forsyth is struck by the clarity of Cameron's new message... but asks if he will stick with it... "Cameron has tried to portray himself simply as a competent steward of national affairs, shying away from ideological definition. But this speech was different. It had a central argument, about the need for Britain to become more competitive. His answer was right-wing: boost enterprise, improve schools and deal with an unaffordable welfare system. Downing Street’s challenge now is to have the discipline to stick with this message. It must resist the temptation to start flirting with other arguments or to fall back into the complacency that has too often characterised Cameron’s leadership." (Spectator). Ian Birrell thought the speech has the potential to unite the Tory Left and Right (Guardian).

Continue reading "Conservative commentators all give warm welcome to Cameron's speech (but can he stick to this new message?)" »

28 Sep 2012 20:39:27

David Cameron's words on Europe should not be subject to exacting scrutiny. They are designed to leave all options open.

By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron has been talking about the Conservative Party's position on Europe today. Interviewed in Brazil, the Tory leader reiterated his support for staying inside the EU but also appeared to tip-toe towards offering a referendum by using the words "fresh consent".

You can watch a video of his remarks over at the BBC but here are his words:

"I don't think it is in Britain's interests to leave the EU but I do think what it is increasingly becoming the time for is a new settlement between Britain and Europe, and I think that new settlement will require fresh consent. In the next parliament, I think there will be opportunities for a fresh settlement and for new consent to that settlement. There is a reason why. The euro is a currency with 17 different countries. I think, increasingly, one currency will mean one economic policy. They are going to change and that will give us opportunities for changing our relationship with Europe. I argue for Britain's membership because I think it is in our interests. If I didn't think it was in our interests, I wouldn't argue for British membership."

Continue reading "David Cameron's words on Europe should not be subject to exacting scrutiny. They are designed to leave all options open." »

9 Sep 2012 12:51:30

Economic growth and Ed Miliband will save David Cameron's leadership... but they won't be enough for victory

By Tim Montgomerie
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There are stories in this morning's newspapers about Boris Johnson possibly returning to parliament before 2015 and challenging Cameron. I've blogged previously about how this might happen. I've also said that there's only a 20% chance of David Cameron being ousted as Tory leader before the next election. A year ago I would have only given it a 1% chance but that was before the Coalition descended into its paralysis of the last six months. This last week, however, we've seen some early signs that this paralysis might - just might - be being overcome.

As well as the difficulties of Boris becoming an MP before 2015 - or of another alternative Tory leader emerging - there are also the huge practical obstacles inherent in a disputed contest. And the contest will certainly be disputed. SteveHiltonGuru has set out the contours of that dispute. Compared to 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was ousted - the last time the Conservatives took the enormous step of removing a sitting PM - there are two big differences:

  1. Difference one is that we are in Coalition. Will the LibDems simply sit quietly by and allow the Conservatives to change leader and PM, with all the possible consequences for the content of the Coalition Agreement? You can be sure that any wannabe Tory leader would be standing on a distinct manifesto.
  2. The second difference between now and 1990 is that the nature of the Tory leadership election process has changed. Once the parliamentary party had toppled Margaret Thatcher they chose John Major within about a week. Any successor to David Cameron would have to be chosen by the whole (diminishing) Tory grassroots membership. That would take two to three months and the Government might struggle to take big decisions while it was underway.

Continue reading "Economic growth and Ed Miliband will save David Cameron's leadership... but they won't be enough for victory" »

7 Sep 2012 08:03:39

Three tasks for Grant Shapps: Tell Cameron the truth; Rethink electoral strategy; Target Lib Dem MPs

By Tim Montgomerie
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Shapps beltParty members want Grant Shapps to talk candidly to Cameron; rethink the party's electoral strategy; and implement a Yellow to Blue strategy to oust Lib Dem MPs.

There were two appointments that really mattered in this reshuffle and they were the Chief Whip and the Party Chairman. They were about first steps towards restoring order and hope in a parliamentary party that has been taken over by rebelliousness and pessimism. You can have brilliant Justice, Health or Transport Secretaries but without a certain level of internal party peace it doesn't matter. Paul has already written about the challenges facing Andrew Mitchell. Today let's look at your hopes for the new Party Chairman, Grant Shapps. The findings below are based on a poll of Tory members that we conducted yesterday. Nearly 1,500 votes were received between 8.30 yesterday morning and 8pm yesterday.

First of all, members have high expectations of the new top man at CCHQ. 67% agree that he will be a good Chairman. Just 10% disagree. The remainder of our respondents are still in the jury room, waiting for more evidence.

Continue reading "Three tasks for Grant Shapps: Tell Cameron the truth; Rethink electoral strategy; Target Lib Dem MPs" »

27 Aug 2012 08:18:45

Will the real David Cameron please stand up?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Cameron At LecturnDavid Cameron has been Tory leader for seven years now and those of us who wish he'd be different should probably give up. My ideal Tory leader would be more of a swashbuckler. He'd have focused on two overriding goals: (1) major reforms to the UK economy so that we use this decade of debt repayment to renew our supply-side potential and (2) a huge focus on social mobility so that - to use the words of Dom Raab MP - we become the party of the underdog.

Cameron isn't going to be that leader. After seven years under the spotlight what we see is what we've got. He isn't going to change now. But what exactly do we have?

In my column for today's Times (£) I urge the real David Cameron to stand up. At the moment we have a Tory leader and Prime Minister who appears to be acting according to the Micawber principle, always hoping and waiting for something to turn up. I argue that his inaction risks leaving him looking smaller than the factions and events swirling around him:

"He can’t cure our economic ills because everything Britain does is overshadowed by the eurozone. He can’t deliver the crime and deregulatory policies that he promised because the Liberal Democrats won’t let him. He can’t deliver Lords reform because of mutinous Tory backbenches. He hoped for a golden moment in the Olympic sun but was completely eclipsed by Boris Johnson. On issues such as gay marriage we picture a Prime Minister surrounded by pollsters and spinners, carefully choosing which way is safest to jump."

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15 Jul 2012 08:46:09

Cameron says something interesting but is anyone paying attention?

By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron writes for this morning's Sunday Times (£) and sets out why the Coalition still has a uniting purpose. Two paragraphs stand out to me. One in which he set out some core beliefs and another in which he set out the Coalition's main achievements (so far).


  1. "We can’t keep paying the government’s bills on the back of more and more debt.
  2. We can’t keep creating jobs in the public sector to make up for a lack of private sector growth.
  3. We can’t afford a broken welfare system that pays people to sit at home doing nothing.
  4. We can’t put up with schools that don’t teach properly and exams that are too easy.
  5. And we need to find new ways of competing in a world where countries such as China are getting richer by the day and new technologies are transforming jobs everywhere."


  1. "We’ve got the deficit down by a quarter already.
  2. We’re reforming schools and welfare. We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on in life.
  3. We have tackled some long-term challenges — such as funding our universities, capping benefit bills and reforming public sector pensions — that have eluded one-party governments. Just last week the independent Office for Budget Responsibility concluded that we had cut the long-term costs of our public sector pensions by almost a half."

This is a good story to tell but it's not getting through to the public. Cameron's ratings, in particular, are poor. According to The Sunday Times/ YouGov poll (PDF) only 34% think Cameron is doing well and 61% think he is doing badly. 66% think he is out of touch (a -43% net rating). 44% think he is dislikeable (-2%). 47% think he is weak (-9%). 47% think he is indecisive (-7%). 52% think he has run out of ideas (-20%).

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6 Jul 2012 10:25:43

36% of Tory members agree that Cameron is a vote winner. 43% do not.

By Tim Montgomerie
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In the latest ConservativeHome survey we asked Tory members whether they agreed or disagreed with certain statements about David Cameron. The results are published below. It is perhaps unsurprising that David Cameron is seen by 87% of party members as a good family man. By 86% to 7% he's also seen as a better party leader than Messrs Clegg or Miliband. He also scores highly for optimism and for the way he represents Britain on the world stage.

I can't say I'm surprised at some of the most negative ratings either. 86% think he's surrounded himself with too many chums. 65% think he prefers the political company of Nick Clegg to the Tory Right. Only 19% think he has a plan to win the next election.

Some of the more interesting numbers come in the middle of the table. The idea that he's too posh is largely rejected by party members. Only 23% agree with Nadine Dorries' central critique. More people, however, agree with the subtext of her concern. 75% fear Mr Cameron has spent too little time outside of politics. This has always been Paul Goodman's worry. He has argued that Cameron's problem is not that he's upper class but political class. In a contest with Clegg and Miliband, however, voters can only vote for the political class. Connected to this finding is the 50% of grassroots members who think Cameron has no vision for the country and is only interested in being Prime Minister (just 38% disagree).

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