Conservative Diary


7 Jan 2013 12:02:34

Lord Hill replaces Lord Strathclyde as Leader of the Lords

His resignation letter:

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6 Jan 2013 16:58:32

Boris is (again) GQ's most influential man in Britain (and nine other things you need to know about its list of top 100 men)

By Tim Montgomerie
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Cover boy - Boris sporting a very nice silk and patriotic handkerchief in his suit pocket.

It's that time of year again when GQ names the one hundred most influential men in Britain. I've read it so you don't have to. In no particular order of importance (or silliness) here are ten observations on the list...

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1 Jan 2013 09:55:30

Michael Gove is Conservative Minister of 2012

By Tim Montgomerie
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For the second year the Education Secretary Michael Gove wins the highest honour in ConHome's end-of-year awards as voted for by Tory members;

  • 36.1% voted for the Education Secretary - "for his continuing education reforms";
  • 29.1% voted for IDS - "for his continuing welfare reforms";
  • 8.9% for Theresa May - "for cutting immigration, reforming the police and steadiness in a tough job";
  • 8.8% for Owen Paterson (already crowned the One To Watch by members) - "for being a fearless, full-spectrum Conservative";
  • 8.3% for Eric Pickles - "for delivering budget control and reform across local government";
  • 6.5% for John Hayes - "for standing up to the Liberal Democrats on wind farms";
  • 2.2% for Francis Maude - "for cutting the costs and size of Whitehall".

The nominees were chosen just before Christmas. The Chancellor was not nominated.

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30 Dec 2012 17:35:17

Owen Paterson is ConHome readers' One To Watch in 2013

By Tim Montgomerie
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In the fourth set of results from our end-of-year readers' survey Owen Paterson has been voted as the One To Watch in 2013. The man who succeeded Caroline Spelman as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was an overwhelming winner - garnering 53.3% of the more than 2,500 votes. The other three individuals nominated before Christmas received the following percentage of votes...

  • Treasury minister and rising star Sajid Javid: 18.3%
  • Education minister and free market thinker Liz Truss: 16.5%
  • Backbencher Andrea Leadsom and her campaigning on Europe and children's welfare: 11.9%

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23 Dec 2012 08:59:21

The police's bleak mid-winter

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 09.03.29The media pendulum that swung all the way, one way, is now swinging all the way, the other - and knocking the police off their perch:

"Last week on Any Questions, broadcast from a Buckinghamshire village, Jonathan Dimbleby gasped as the majority of his audience indicated they were losing trust in the police. Where once minority communities seemed alone in raising doubts, middle England has found common cause. This is not a crisis, but it is serious, and it must be addressed by police leaders. Elected police and crime commissioners must fulfil their new mandate to hold the police to account."

"It is hard to exaggerate the gravity of this case...Elements of the police are apparently out of control. The government couldn’t withstand them. The opposition effectively acted as the parliamentary wing of the Police Federation. The media — with the honourable exception of Channel 4 — failed in its job of scrutinising the powerful. And if this can happen in the heart of Whitehall, to a senior government minister, then most assuredly it can happen to any one of us, anywhere."

"The humiliation of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, at the last Police Federation Conference springs to mind, as does the behaviour of certain factions in the Federation that have exploited the Plebgate story. Not only were these individuals wrong to adopt the tactics that they did, they were also foolish, for now it is they who are in the dock, in effect, not the man who did the swearing. Their treatment of Mitchell was injudicious and juvenile".

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19 Dec 2012 06:52:58

The PCC inquiry into #Smeargate and Mitchell must report as soon as possible

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By Paul Goodman
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Yesterday evening's investigation by Michael Crick into the Andrew Mitchell affair revealed that an e-mail apparently corroborating the police logbook account of what took place didn't come from an ordinary eyewitness - as David Cameron believed when he read it.  It appears to have been sent from the home computer of a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group.  That person told Mr Crick that he didn't witness the incident and didn't send the e-mail either.  The Times (£) reported yesterday that "a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group, the unit which guards Downing Street, had been arrested on suspicion of gross misconduct".

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18 Dec 2012 20:38:11

If Andrew Mitchell lost his career over fabrications, David Cameron should give it him back

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By Paul Goodman

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The essence of the case against Andrew Mitchell is that he called police officers "plebs", and told them to "know your place" - and, furthermore, swore at them rather than in passing.  They say he did.  He says he didn't.  Voters showed more of an inclination to believe the police, whose account was recorded in a logbook, and Mr Mitchell thus eventually resigned.  Until or unless his name is cleared, therefore, he is in no position to make a Cabinet comeback - assuming that David Cameron would want this to happen - let alone resume his former post as Chief Whip under this Government.  Mr Mitchell, of course, will want his name to be cleared anyway.  He will also presumably want to return to office.  And he will rightly grasp that the cloud that hangs over his name makes it near-impossible for him to be appointed by Downing Street to almost any post at all.

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9 Dec 2012 09:01:09

Duncan Smith, Gove, Hague, Pickles and Hammond top Cabinet league table

By Tim Montgomerie
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At the end of November ConservativeHome conducted the latest Cabinet rankings survey and I apologise for not publishing it before now. Anyhow, here it is (percentage satisfied minus those dissatisfied):

  1. Iain Duncan Smith: +86%
  2. Michael Gove: +77%
  3. William Hague: +73%
  4. Eric Pickles: +60% (back up the table again - and deservedly so according to Paul Goodman)
  5. Philip Hammond: +44% (can this survive the painful defence cuts that are looming?)
  6. Patrick McLoughlin: +42%
  7. Owen Paterson: +41% (his interview in yesterday's Telegraph led The Express' Patrick O'Fylnn to declare the DEFRA Secretary as the new leader of the traditional Tory Right)
  8. Chris Grayling: +40% (down a little - perhaps because of his legally-careful positioning on the ECHR?)
  9. Lord Strathclyde: +36%
  10. Theresa May: +33% (no signs of adverse impact of poor turnout in Commissioner elections or extradition frustrations... and still the only woman in the Cabinet top ten)
  11. Grant Shapps: +30%
  12. Sir George Young: +29% (the new Chief Whip is a return entry but with noticeably lower ratings than when he was Leader of the House for some reason)
  13. David Willetts: +25%
  14. Francis Maude: +24% (continues to consolidate his position - perhaps because of his dry-as-dust fiscally conservative record in Whitehall)
  15. Danny Alexander: +23% (still the Tories' favourite Lib Dem... which probably won't help him keep his Scottish seat)
  16. Maria Miller: +25% (a small improvement perhaps reflecting her rising Newsnight and Leveson-related profile)
  17. Andrew Lansley: +18%
  18. Theresa Villiers: +15%
  19. David Jones: +14%
  20. Jeremy Hunt: +10% (this poll was conducted before Leveson exonerated the former Culture Secretary - see my remarks at the end of this post)
  21. Oliver Letwin: +9%
  22. Michael Moore: +6%
  23. David Cameron: +5%
  24. George Osborne: -1% (this poll was conducted BEFORE the Autumn Statement)
  25. Justine Greening: -2% (this is an improvement from last time's in my opinion unfair rating of -14% - the improvement might reflect the Development Secretary's tough line on aid to India)
  26. Ken Clarke: -10%
  27. Ed Davey: -40% (another slide in the Climate Change Secretary's ratings - perhaps suggesting Tory members prefer the John Hayes approach... although a new 'Turquoise Group' of Tory MPs is warning the PM against an anti-windfarm posture)
  28. Vince Cable: -56% (the Business Secretary is up to his old tricks today, accusing George Osborne of demonising the unemployed).
  29. Nick Clegg: -58% (perhaps Tory members don't like the way he demonises his critics or perhaps they just have an "irrational phobia" towards him?)

Boris Johnson's rating is +90%.

See the previous ratings.

27 Nov 2012 11:26:50

"Goldfinger" Cameron V "007" Gove

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By Paul Goodman
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"Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it's enemy action" - Ian Fleming, Goldfinger.

David Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU.  Michael Gove would vote for it to come out.


Mr Cameron believes that UKIP members are "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly".  Mr Gove says that UKIP is a mainstream political party.


When do we get the enemy action?

5 Nov 2012 10:56:24

Reckless talk costs confidence

By Paul Goodman
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A doctor or a solider or a teacher or anyone else in public service must be able to speak to his colleagues in confidence.  Obviously, special circumstances will sometimes apply - if a doctor confessed murdering a patient to another it would be the latter's duty to go to the police at once - but such occasions will be very rare indeed.  It follows that the same condition applies to MPs.  One MP must be able to talk to a colleague of the same party in confidence about a thousand things: a problem with negotiating a policy through the party apparatus, a difficulty in dealing with a Minister of the same party, how an issue affecing a constituent should be dealt with...and how to respond to a controversial vote in the Commons.

The Guardian today picks up yesterday's interview in the Mail on Sunday with Mark Reckless, the mover of last week's successful amendment on the EU budget.  As I pointed out at the time - and contrary to Andrew Rawnsley's suggestion yesterday - the consequences of the vote for the budget were obscure: if you were an MP wanting to see it reduced, there was no clear reason not to vote for Mr Reckless's amendment.  The Rochester MP told the Mail on Sunday that "he spoke to a Eurosceptic Cabinet Minister privately in the Commons corridor during Wednesday's debate and tried to persuade him to join the revolt". The Minister "seriously considered it...They talked to me about the mechanics and weighed up the pros and cons and agreed to have someone else follow up in a telephone call".

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