Conservative Diary


16 Jul 2013 08:25:36

First drop Crosby's other clients. Then put him completely in charge.

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By Paul Goodman

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It doesn't seem to have occured to Lynton Crosby's critics that he could both have a commercial interest in a policy and believe that it's right for the Conservatives.  The decision not to impose plain packaging on cigarette packets is a good example.  The Australian strategist is an experienced communicator of conventional conservatism - of the immigration-restricting, welfare-capping, tax-cutting, patriotism-proclaiming variety - and believes that anything which gets in its way must be cleared out.

David Cameron's Big Society instincts, with their fondess for miniumum alcohol pricing and cigarette plain packaging, might have been deliberately drawn up to drive our antipodean visitor nuts.  (Remember Cameron's opposition attack on W.H.Smith for its offering of chocolate oranges at checkouts rather than real oranges.)  There is a connection between Crosby's talent for no-nonsense advice, the sharper Tory profile of the past few months and the Conservative poll recovery.  The Independent's last poll of polls found the gap between the two main parties closing.  Today's Guardian ICM poll finds that it has closed altogether.

Continue reading "First drop Crosby's other clients. Then put him completely in charge." »

9 Jul 2013 08:26:43

At root, Miliband's Party problem is our problem too

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By Paul Goodman
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Ed Miliband displays what child psychiatrists call a "pattern of behavior".  Confronted with a problem he can no longer avoid, he moves late and does little, a response that voters have seen again and again.  First on immigration, then on welfare, then on borrowing, he has half-closed the door on Labour's respective problems - wanting to let in lots of immigrants, soak taxpayers for lots of welfare, and borrow lots of money on the never-never - thereby inviting his left and the unions to push it open again.  "Weak weak weak" comes the cry and the briefings from Downing Street and CCHQ, and they are as right as they are repetitious.

His speech today on Labour and the unions offers more of the same.  No-one anywhere - not Polly Toynbee, not Owen Jones, not Laurie Penny - believes he would be making it were he not in a hole and trying to dig himself out.  It follows that the proposals in his speech won't have been thought through, and that as an answer to Labour's problems it will only pose further questions.  These will duly be asked by Grant Shapps, Dan Hodges, this site and many others, keeping the Unite story on TV and in the headlines as the summer days stretch gloriously on.

Continue reading "At root, Miliband's Party problem is our problem too" »

8 Jul 2013 10:54:43

Just when Cameron thought it was safe to get back into the water...

By Paul Goodman
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One of my old friend Daniel Hannan's favourite lines from Shakespeare is taken from Hamlet. There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave/To tell us this.  He quotes it when a statement has been made of the bleeding obvious.

I couldn't help but think of those lines when I read today about the results of a YouGov survey carried out by this site's old friend Professor Tim Bale of Sussex University, which found that -

  • 53 per cent (gasp) feel they are not respected by the Tory leadership.
  • 44 per cent (shock) say they spend no time on party activity in an average month.
  • And only 19 per cent (horror) believe that the party will win an overall majority at the election.

Someone somewhere could have saved themselves time and money by looking back at a recent ConservativeHome members' survey, which found that -

  • 15 per cent believe that there will be a Conservative majority in 2015.

Actually, add those who believe that there will be a Tory minority Government next time round or a Coalition, and the proportion believing Cameron will be in Downing Street then rises to over half.

I'm not greatly moved by the YouGov finding that one in five activists are "seriously considering" voting UKIP.  What they might do is one thing.  That so many want a pact is another.

Furthermore, it isn't clear whether those votes for UKIP may come at 2014's euro-elections or at the general election next year, or both.

None the less, the moral of the story is that Cameron's charm offensive will have to go deeper, faster and longer if it is to stand a chance of succeeding.

And there's no evidence that the good news about Abu Qatada, the Wharton referendum bill, the benefits cap and so on has made much difference to the disillusioned mood of many activsts.

7 Jul 2013 19:17:48

Congratulations to Andy Murray, CCHQ-style

By Paul Goodman
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This is a congratulatory ToryDiary to mark Andy Murray's victory, written in the style of the texts and e-mails that we, the ConHome team, receive several times a day from Grant Shapps's top team at CCHQ:

  • Qatada: OUT.
  • Benefits Cap: IN.
  • Theresa May: ON A ROLL.
  • Deficit: DOWN.
  • Immigration: FALLING.
  • School Standards: RISING.
  • Wharton EU Referendum Bill: UP, UP AND AWAY.
  • Global Race: WINNING.
  • Hard-Working People: IN IT FOR THEM.
  • Government Record: PATTEN OF DELIVERY.
  • Clegg: WHO?
  • Olympics: LEGACY.
  • Weather: GLORIOUS.
  • Wimbledon: FABULOUS.
  • Andy Murray: VICTORIOUS.
  • Salmond: LOSER.
  • Cameron: WEARING TIE.
  • Miliband: WEAK WEAK WEAK.

It isn't necessary to believe all (or indeed any) of this to offer warm congratulations to Andy Murray on his victory, though we hope that the polls soon provide justification for today's outbreak of Conservative high spirits.

5 Jul 2013 08:00:03

CCHQ unveils poster to mark today's debate on James Wharton's referendum bill

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By Paul Goodman

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David Cameron's charm offensive (target: Conservative MPs) and Grant Shapps's publicity offensive (target: voters) continues this morning with the launch of a poster to mark today's second reading of James Wharton's referendum bill.

The poster will be displayed at what CCHQ describe as "high-traffic locations".  Watch out for one if you're passing that digital billboard on the Vauxhall roundabout. (I apologise to our non-London based readers for this piece of capitalcitycentricbias.)

The poster won't change anything, of course, but is all part and parcel of the more purposeful Party activity of the last few weeks. The Prime Minister hosted a barbecue for Tory MPs in Downing Street's garden earlier this week, and e-mailed party activists about today's bill.

Continue reading "CCHQ unveils poster to mark today's debate on James Wharton's referendum bill" »

3 Jul 2013 09:29:06

The significance of Team 2015

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By Paul Goodman
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Membership has been the base on which popular backing for the Conservative Party has been built for time out of mind.  Some believe that it is indispensable to that task, together with the local Association structure.  Others think that both are out of date in the age of Facebook and Twitter, and that the Party should be looking for supporters rather than members.  Grant Shapps's column on this site today sees him enter the debate publicly, and suggest that membership isn't the be-all and end-all for the future.

Those who've joined Team 2015 don't have to be members.  Some came via the Party website, others via advertising on Facebook.  (Shapps is fond of pointing out that some 800,000 on that network identify themselves as Conservatives.)  They will get the same chance to meet the Party Chairman or leader as those who've signed up to Team 2015 and are members.

Shapps has drawn from his own experience in Hatfield, which he refers to in his piece: "I was...stunned to discover I needed to sign a thousand thank you letters to folk who’d directly helped in my re-election campaign - far more than the number of members in my Welwyn Hatfield Conservative Association." (Labour has a similar scheme.)

Continue reading "The significance of Team 2015" »

1 Jul 2013 07:29:02

Understanding - and winning - seaside seats

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By Mark Wallace
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I grew up by the seaside, and have always counted myself lucky to do so. Despite being an island nation, with so much of our history tied up in maritime commerce and adventure, it is remarkable how many of us rarely visit the coast.

There is something about the sea which has a deep impact on those who live near it - perhaps it's the constant changes between rough and calming weather, or the opportunity to see for such a distance without interruption. You never meet anyone who used to be a coastal resident who says they are glad to see the back of it.

Whether it's for that reason or some other cause, coastal constituencies have always had a distinct, if under-appreciated, character of their own, too. Current discussions about how to succeed in different seats nearly always rest on the supposed North-South divide, but ignore the more subtle ways in which we are divided by our geography.

Continue reading "Understanding - and winning - seaside seats" »

29 Jun 2013 20:47:34

UKIP's share of the vote soared in May. The Conservatives' fell. Labour's fell more. What does that tell us?

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By Paul Goodman
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Lord Ashcroft's polling tells us that a larger percentage of people supporting UKIP voted Conservative at the last election than voted Labour.  (Indeed, we also know that a larger percentage of people supporting UKIP voted Tory than voted UKIP.)

And Survation's work tells us that until or unless UKIP's vote rises above 16 per cent, the party draws more from Conservative supporters than Labour ones.  All in all, UKIP is more of a problem for David Cameron than Ed Miliband.

So how should we read the graph above, compiled by CCHQ after digging into May's local election results?  A cursory glimpse might suggest that it is challenging the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from Lord Ashcroft's and Survation's work (and that of others).

After all, it shows the share of the vote won by "Others" - i.e: UKIP, mostly - rising by almost 20 per cent in a year, but that of the Conservatives' falling less than Labour.  So UKIP is actually drawing more support nationally from Labour than the Conservatives, right?

Wrong.  To draw such a conclusion would be to compare apples and pears.  Local election results simply tell one what happened in local elections - which, remember, are never held across the nation as a whole.  Local results aren't comparable to national results (or, indeed, national polls).

None the less, even though the graph isn't telling us anything much about what will happen at the next election, I think it is telling us something.  Local elections are usually about protesting against the Government of the day.

And what the graph is telling us is not only that Labour, the official opposition, isn't scooping up that protest, but that its very nature is changing. The vote share of the two parties of government fell by roughly six per cent - but Labour's didn't rise by six per cent.

Instead, it actually fell by ten per cent or so.  In short, CCHQ's research buttresses the view that local election protest is now aimed not so much against the Government of the day as the political class as a whole.

I asked CCHQ if by producing the graph above it was seeking to mislead those who read it into confusing apples and pears - in other words, into believing that UKIP is primarily a threat to Miliband rather than Cameron.

CCHQ deny this - saying that the point of disseminating the graph is to show that UKIP hits Labour as well as the Conservatives; that party members don't know this - and that they need to know.

I think that they know this perfectly well, and that this site's readers certainly do.  But I may be wrong.  Here, at any rate, are the figures and the graph.  I've said what I make of them.  You must make of them what you will.

19 Jun 2013 11:04:25

An invitation from Grant Shapps to sponsor James Wharton's EU referendum bill

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By Paul Goodman
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Grant Shapps and/or some clever boffin at CCHQ has come up with the wheeze of letting voters co-sponor James Wharton's EU referendum bill.

I've just done so - and you can do so here.

I wrote yesterday that CCHQ's online presence is less snazzy than it should be, but Shapps and his team are raising their game.


18 Jun 2013 13:11:06

If Cameron's popularity is achieved at the expense of his Party, the latter can't be Built To Last

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 11.29.30A survey by Lord Ashcroft recently found David Cameron to be less popular than his Party.  A survey by YouGov has found the opposite, and Peter Kellner writes about it in the Telegraph today.  But whatever the public opinion may be, we can all agree that exercises such as these, which are scarcely new, set the leader against his Party through the simple means of contrasting them.

However, there is a more literal and recent sense in which the one is set against the other.  A core part of the New Labour doctrine was to set Tony Blair against his Party to improve the political prospects of both.  The Tory uber-modernisers, for want of a better term, have consistently sought to graft the belief on to the Conservative Party since its defeat in 1997.

Continue reading "If Cameron's popularity is achieved at the expense of his Party, the latter can't be Built To Last" »