Conservative Diary

David Davis

7 May 2013 16:41:46

Boris remains the activists' favourite to succeed Cameron as Party leader

By Paul Goodman
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Boris_Cameron8According to the latest ConservativeHome survey, the figures are:

  • Boris Johnson: 30%
  • Michael Gove: 17%
  • David Davis: 16%
  • William Hague: 16%
  • Theresa May: 12%
  • Philip Hammond: 6%
  • Adam Afriyie: 2%
  • George Osborne: 2%

The Davis support is hardcore.  When asked who should lead the Party into the next election, 14% of respondents name him. 15% plump for Boris.

But the overwhelming favourite to lead the Conservatives into the next election is...David Cameron, with over half the vote: 55% to be precise.

Apart from Davis and Boris, no other leading Tory gets out of single figures.  William Hague comes the closest, at just over 5%.

Just under 1850 people responded to the survey, of whom over 800 were Conservative Party members. The figures above are taken from the latter's views.

4 May 2013 07:46:54

How the Conservatives and UKIP can kiss and make up

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-05-04 at 06.41.39The next general election will not be concentrated in the counties, but it will decide the government.  For this reason, voters will return to the two major parties, the Conservatives and Labour, one of which must lead in forming an administration, if not win outright.  Turnout will rise, UKIP's share of the vote will fall, and the best course that David Cameron can take, in the meanwhile, is to hold his nerve, build on his recent conference speeches, and promote a strong, mainstream, sensible programme, for government and for the future.  In short, no single, silver bullet will slay the Farage werewolf.

Such a programme would be a conservatism for Bolton West, as I've put it: reducing net immigration, tackling welfare dependency, holding fuel and electricity bills down, showing leadership at home by bringing the deficit down further, boosting job security and helping to keep mortgage rates low.  All this is the conventional wisdom, and it's true as far as it goes.  I started to look at UKIP and what drives its vote relatively early, and noted that EU policy is not the main factor: immigration and crime are bigger factors.  Above all, UKIP's support is driven not so much by ideas as by anger - by the urge to put two fingers up to the entire political class.

Continue reading "How the Conservatives and UKIP can kiss and make up" »

11 Dec 2012 16:53:44

Theresa May’s fieriest prose can’t overcome the opposition to her draft Data Communications Bill

By Peter Hoskin
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What’s going on with the draft Data Communications Bill, then? Judging by Theresa May’s mini column for the Sun this morning, you’d think that the Tory leadership is basically standing its ground against the concerns of Nick Clegg and others. The Home Secretary does nod towards “suggestions about how our plans could be improved”. But she also adds that “I will not allow these vitally important laws to be delayed any longer in this Parliament,” before finishing, “This law is needed and it is needed now. And I am determined to see it through.”

But, as the day has worn on, that position has looked less and less equivocal. First, the Home Office minister James Brokenshire appeared on the Today Programme to say that a redrafted Bill could be delivered in “short order”; then No.10 also talked up a rewrite. And is it any wonder? The opposition to the draft Bill, and its provisions for expanding the range of telecoms data held by providers and accessible by the state, is now extremely formidable. The Guardian articles here and here give a good sense of it all; and from them we might identify four of the disgruntled forces:

Continue reading "Theresa May’s fieriest prose can’t overcome the opposition to her draft Data Communications Bill" »

4 Aug 2012 09:00:30

Boris takes advantage of Olympics popularity to go on credibility-boosting international trips

By Matthew Barrett
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Johnson Boris CopenhagenThe newspapers this morning are awash with Borismania. Andrew Grice in the Independent says the Mayor of London's inner circle are scouting seats in London and the South East for him to stand in, should an election be called. Charles Moore argues that conventional politics is not working - and Johnson is anything but a conventional politician. Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian urges the left to take Johnson seriously. Freedland says he is "the one person in British politics who passes both the Madonna test – no surname necessary – and The Simpsons test, a character recognisable by his silhouette alone".

An important story in the Times (£) this morning says that the Mayor will capitalise on his popularity, and the success - so far - of the Olympics, to travel abroad - and try to get billions of pounds of trade deals for London. The trip will include stops in India, the Middle East, Brazil and China, and will begin at the end of the year.

The trip will, therefore, come after Johnson's speech to the Conservative conference, which, the Times reports, will be a "tub-thumping" speech to appeal to the grassroots.

It will also come after Johnson launches two offensives against the Government. The Mayor is said to be "intending to confront ministers over the budget handed to London by arguing that the capital should keep more of the vast tax revenue it generates", and will "use a government consultation to call for a new airport in the South East."

Continue reading "Boris takes advantage of Olympics popularity to go on credibility-boosting international trips" »

9 Sep 2011 07:16:52

Will Cameron really square up to Clegg over the ECHR?

By Paul Goodman
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The Times claims this morning that David Cameron is gearing up for a fight with Nick Clegg over the European Court of Human Rights -

"Britain would be able to ignore human rights rulings from Europe if MPs voted to override them, under proposals submitted to Downing Street. The idea is the most far-reaching being considered by a Government panel exploring reforms to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)...The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that the UK would focus on recasting the court’s reach under the European Convention on Human Rights so that it played a subsidiary role to the Supreme Court of a nation state".

But the Daily Mail suggests the opposite -

"Instead of working to put Britain back in charge of its own laws, the panel had already accepted the principle that European judges have primacy over the UK's Supreme Court, they claimed. After seven months of deliberation, the Commission on a Bill of Rights appears to have accepted that Parliament must take orders from Strasbourg judges over matters such as whether prisoners should have the vote."

These contrasting reports might have been written to symbolise the Government's divisions over the Human Rights Act, the ECHR, and human rights ideas in general.  Will Cameron really square up to Clegg on the matter?  And how far would Ken Clarke be prepared to go in any event? (He is overseeing the review by the panel that the Mail refers to with Clegg, remember.)

The votes-for-prisoners rumpus, in which the Government faced Commons defeat after David Davis and Jack Straw combined to insist on Parliament's rights, has been Cameron's most prominent challenge from his backbenches to date.  Downing Street is well aware that change must be offered to his party, even if it is less sweeping than is claimed to be the case.

I am not convinced that the Prime Minister's willing to take on the Liberal Democrats over the matter, but very much hope very much that I'm wrong.  It's interesting that the Times quotes Cameron's official spokesman as insisting that the Court will play a "subsidiary role".  Tory MPs may want to cut out that quote and keep it in their back pockets.

14 Aug 2011 08:23:09

Winners and losers after the riots

By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron: Some of his new initiatives were questionable, others mistaken.  But an indispendable requirement of being Prime Minister is to look the part, be seen to possess authority, speak for the country, and not shirk the language of remoralisation when demoralistion is taking place.  Cameron did all these, which is why he is - on balance - a winner from last week's events, although he is in a hard place on police cuts, an impossible place on prison ones, and open to the charge of putting presentation before substance.  In today's Sunday Telegraph, he champions zero tolerance.  This week, he's to set out his plans to do so in a speech.  But he must provide prove that he means it.  I'll explain how later today.

Iain Duncan Smith: Combatting gangs is primarily a matter for the Home Office, not the Department of Work and Pensions.  So the announcement that Duncan Smith is to share the lead in a cross-government programme to deal with gang culture left him a very literal winner - that is, a Minister who's been given licence from the top to muscle in on someone else's territory, namely the Home Office's.  This reflects less the expertise of his Department than his previous work at the Centre for Social Justice, drawn on in print as long as four years ago.  Then, Duncan Smith was writing in the wake of the murder of Rhys Jones.  Now, he is tasked with curing the problem he then diagnosed - as today's Sunday Times confirms.

Continue reading "Winners and losers after the riots" »

13 Aug 2011 08:25:10

Cutting prison numbers is like cutting front line policing. It's time for Ken Clarke to go back to the drawing board.

By Paul Goodman
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I have been away on holiday for a week, and can report no looting near Chale, Isle of Wight.  Perhaps the sea air has gone to my head, but there are reasons for hope on returning home.

  • The riots told us much that we need to know.  They were like a symptom of sickness.  Yes, only a few thousand people robbed and pillaged.  Yes, most of the country was unaffected.  And, yes, the illness was, as it were, confined and local - not widespread, not national.  But those who downplay the significance of what happened are simply wrong.  The fact is that the authorities lost control of the streets in some of our biggest cities: worse still, they were seen to lose it.  We caught a glimpse of how economic and social decline spiral downwards together.  Of how the illness could spread in Britain.  Of how Europe is set to fall as Asia rises.  Of a future in which public officials seek, as they did in the 1970s, merely to "manage decline".  Being reminded of all this is for the good.  If you're sick, it's best to know it.  After all, the sooner illness is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.
  • The state has asserted its authority.  There are different views on the right, as well as on the left, about how big the state should be and when it should act.  But on one point tories and libertarians agree: when the state does act, it must do so with authority.  And the good news is that it did so this week - very late, certainly, but better late than never.  Ministers returned from holiday, Parliament was recalled, meetings were held, decisions reached, announcements made - and the rioting stopped.  That this had far more to do with a surge in police numbers than any broadcast from Downing Street is beside the point - which is that the authorities were eventually perceived to have more muscle than the looters.  Those who claim that order was always going to be restored swiftly should ask themselves: did it really look that way last Monday afternoon?

Continue reading "Cutting prison numbers is like cutting front line policing. It's time for Ken Clarke to go back to the drawing board." »

12 Apr 2011 19:21:25

David Davis attacks new ECHR ultimatum on votes for prisoners

by Paul Goodman

David Davis, who helped lead the Commons campaigns against votes for prisoners, has slammed today's bid by the European Court to force a timetable on Britain for votes for prisoners.  The court this afternoon reiterated that a convicted rapist had suffered a breach of his human rights when denied the vote, and rejected an appeal by the Government against this view.

The Court gave the Ministers six months to bring forward proposals to give prisoners the vote - and ordered Ministers to do so within any timeframe handed down by the Council of Europe.  Davis told ConservativeHome:

"The Court seems to have forgotten that our Parliament is the ultimate authority.  It can tell Ministers to produce proposals if it likes. What it can't do is give them a timetable to do anything that Parliament won't approve.  And Parliament's made it clear that it won't accept any of the proposals for votes for prisoners that have been put up to date."

The judgement by the Court's Grand Chamber relates to a case brought by Robert Greens, a convicted rapist, and upholds a decision by the Court's chamber last November.  The Court today "gives the United Kingdom Government six months from 11 April 2011 – the date when Greens and M.T. has become final – to introduce legislative proposals to bring the disputed law/s in line with the Convention."

It adds that "the Government is further required to enact the relevant legislation within any time frame decided by the Committee of Ministers, the executive arm of the Council of Europe, which supervises the execution of the Court’s judgments."  Greens is fighting the case with another prisoner known as "MT".

5 Apr 2011 16:29:36

David Davis: "The Coalition's education policies will actually make social mobility even worse."

by Paul Goodman

Davis is an ill wind that blows little good, at least as far as the Government's concerned.  He played a big part in getting the Commons to give a view on votes for prisoners, which showed that he's still a player.  With the troublesome AV referendum, difficult local elections and the tricky business of sustaining the Coalition all still ahead, Downing Street should be watching his pronoucements carefully.

In a piece for Politics Home published earlier this afternoon (which like its other comment pieces isn't behind a paywall), he repeats some of his previous criticisms of the Government's social mobility policy, but comes out against the workings of Michael Gove's Free School policy for the first time.  Essentially, his argument is as follows -

  • Free Schools will help to raise school standards.
  • However, "the mechanism for creating new schools is designed to reinforce the advantage of the “sharp-elbowed” middle classes, not to reduce it".
  • "Even the pupil premium will not help much".
  • "So many of our children from poorer areas will continue to get second class schooling."
  • "The new, astonishingly expensive tuition fees are going to make that situation even worse."

Ominously for the Government, Davis also refers in passing to "the deeply un-conservative (and, incidentally, illiberal) ideas of state-school quotas for universities", which Conservative backbenchers criticised in the Commons last week.

Davis's solutions?  Twofold - to "allow private companies to set up schools without the need for some parental or charitable cloak" and "ideally, and even more controversially, [to] allow academic selection. Watch this space, I'd say.

10 Feb 2011 06:12:35

David Davis: an apology

by Paul Goodman

DAVIS DAVID pointing I apologise to readers for writing off David Davis as a greying, useless, clapped-out old has-been who no-one can be bothered to listen to any more.  The error was due to typing problems which were beyond my control.  What I meant to say, of course, is that Davis is a brilliant visionary and ruthless operator, who was always likely to talk other MPs round to his view and bend the Government to his will.

As it happens, I wasn't quite that dismissive of Davis, who's an old friend of mine (or was until I wrote the sentence that begins this article).  I wrote a few weeks ago: "He also likes running backbench campaigns.  His first major one, a push during the late '80s to scrap the Dock Labour Scheme, was successful, so it would be wise not to write all his present ones off."

And so it's turned out.  When the Government slipped out its response to the ruling of the European Court of Human Right on prisoners and voting just before Christmas, Davis was one of the first Conservative MPs to float the possibility of the Commons voting on the matter.  (Dominic Raab, another one, made the same case lucidly and publicly.)

At the time, such a vote was a distant prospect.  Last November, David Cameron was insisting that although giving prisoners the vote made him "physically ill", he had no alternative but to let the ECHR have its way.  By last week, he was claiming to be "waterboarding" lawyers in order to minimise the number of prisoners who'll be allowed to vote.

Today, some Ministers are set to abstain rather than follow the logic of their own Government's policy in the lobbies, and vote against Davis's motion, which declares that the Commons is satisfied with the present ban.  Ken Clarke claimed yesterday that the Government's plans won't give rapists the vote.  The Prime Minister's being more circumspect.  Clarke's pointing one way; Cameron's looking the other.

Davis's campaign, planned with that other old lag, Jack Straw, is responsible for all this.  As Davis points out in his piece, 8,000 serious offenders would get the vote, even were it restricted to those serving sentences of one year or less.  It's not clear whether any amendments will be called.  But the Commons is poised to give the court a kicking.

This won't be the last of Davis's back bench campaigns.  The Prime Minister will be eyeing him carefully.

Because we're carrying an article by David Davis on today's vote, all views on the issue can be expressed below his article, and this one is closed to comments.