Conservative Diary

General Election Brief

6 Jan 2010 20:11:06

Hewitt and Hoon's act of self harm is massive boost to Conservatives

6a00d83451b31c69e2012876a5a168970c-250wi The SnowStorm Plot looks likely to melt away. Only the usual suspects have backed the call by Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon (two people who wanted the EU job that Brown gave to Baroness Ashton) for a secret ballot of Labour MPs. The Labour Party now looks more divided than ever after today. A massive gift to the Conservatives.

Gordon Brown won another PMQs. Jonathan Isaby disagrees but I thought Brown edged PMQs again today. He was able to exploit the Tory leader's unfortunate miscommunication of the party's policy on a married tax allowance on Monday (that was quickly corrected).

A good day for Eric Pickles. CCHQ was quick with a statement from the Tory Chairman and his media performances were perfectly pitched throughout the afternoon. Watch him here.

A bad day for the BBC's Nick Robinson. He told BBCtv viewers that there was no plot before we learnt there was one. He also dissed bloggers for suggesting that there was a plot. Guido Fawkes enjoyed some YouTube revenge.

Screen shot 2010-01-06 at 19.15.31 The Spectator remains on the attack against David Cameron.  Spectator Editor Fraser Nelson has adopted an aggressive tone towards David Cameron since the start of the year (eg here and here).  CCHQ won't like the front cover of this week's Spectator.  The edition includes an article by David 'Jeremiah' Selbourne that attacks every aspect of the Cameron agenda.

Tim Montgomerie

> Yesterday's ConHome General Election Brief.

5 Jan 2010 18:20:21

Tory fighting fund may be three times bigger than Labour's

ConHome's quick, daily guide to the General Election campaign.

Tories could spend twice or even three times as much as Labour. The Times had the story of the day with speculation that the Conservatives might be able to spend two to three times as much as Labour on the election campaign. Expect Labour to accuse the Tories of 'buying' the electorate.

Screen shot 2010-01-05 at 18.13.03 There is renewed speculation about Gordon Brown's position as Labour leader. Channel 4's Gary Gibbon has the story. There is probably a majority of Labour MPs who accept that Brown is a loser but no majority behind an alternative candidate. We are too close to an election now unless one Labour figure can have a Michael Howard-style coronation as leader. Otherwise the electorate will look at a leadership contest with disdain, even disgust.

Nick Clegg refuses to be drawn on coalition thinking. In his most important intervention of the campaign so far the Liberal Democrat leader wrote that there would be "no backroom deals or under-the-counter “understandings” with either of the other two parties." A key message for the Tories in LD/Con marginals is that a vote for Clegg might keep Labour in by the back door.

Greg Clark and Nick Herbert were the Tory stars of the day. Nick Herbert got good coverage this morning for his pledge to create a supermarket ombudsman to prevent large retailers from abusing their market position. [Unfortunately that looks like another quango to me though]. And Greg Clark has got big coverage all afternoon for riding the cold weather stories with a dire warning about dangerously low gas reserves.

Screen shot 2010-01-05 at 17.53.26 The Tory poster campaign continues to get lots of attention. The Mail tells us it is costing £500,000. The Times reports that Mrs Cameron approved the photo. The Times' Sam Coates explores whether the image of the Tory leader was airbrushed. Who says politics is trivial?

Alistair Darling refused to rule out increasing VAT to 20%. I missed this story yesterday. Sorry! I will check Danny Finkelstein's blog even more frequently from now on. It had been reported that Labour planned to frighten voters with allegations of secret Tory plans for a VAT hike. That will be impossible if they can't rule it out themselves.

Tim Montgomerie

> Yesterday's General Election Brief

4 Jan 2010 17:59:24

Tory poster puts Cameron front and centre of campaign

This is the second of ConHome's new quick daily election briefs. The first was here.

ElectionBriefing The Tories emphasised David Cameron, the economy, health and compassion in poster launch. Today's Tory poster 'I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS' will be on 1,000 poster sites. It is striking how personal it is. It's not the Tories promising to cut the deficit and protect the NHS but David Cameron personally. The big new health policy contained in the first chapter of the draft manifesto - a commitment to tilt NHS resources towards the poorest communities - confirmed the continuity of compassionate conservatism.

Labour's accusation of a £34bn hole in Tory plans was quickly rebutted by the Tory Treasury team. You can read the full rebuttal within this post but the CCHQ response was fast and comprehensive. Judging from my lunch with one political editor of a national newspaper Labour won't get a good press from the dossier tomorrow.

Reports of the death of the Tory commitment to a marriage tax allowance are exaggerated.  The BBC's Nick Robinson is trying to hype this up but there has been no big switch in the Tory position.  The aspiration to introduce the commitment is still there but the deficit makes a timetable impractical. The Daily Mail wouldn't forgive a U-turn on this commitment.

Chris Grayling is back as leading Tory 'attack dog'. The Shadow Home Secretary has been in the news commenting on topics well beyond his portfolio, including a rebuttal of Gordon Brown's new year message.

Two interesting signs of Tory life online. First is the party's own online manifesto consultation and there's also ToryBear's online effort to oust Labour's Twitter Tsar, Kerry McCarthy MP.

Tory MPs have been out in force in marginal seats. Paul Goodman MP records his own experience in Harrow. More photographic evidence from Brighton Kemptown. And has anyone checked that Nadine Dorries MP's nosehas been found?

Screen shot 2010-01-04 at 17.56.48 Tim Montgomerie

3 Jan 2010 17:51:13

Tories off to flying start to 2010

Most days from now until polling day ConHome will be publishing an end-of-day bullet point guide to the key General Election themes. We start the briefing with the key stories from the first three days of 'Campaign 2010':

ElectionBriefing Heading for a Conservative majority of 48+. The first ConservativeHome Poll of Polls of the year suggests that the Tories could win a Commons majority of at least 48.

Year for Change: CCHQ blitzed newspapers and online media with the Year for Change message from the very first minutes of 2010. Some complained that the adverts did not even say that they were from the Conservatives but Tory strategists said they were a teaser for the campaign to come and framed the election as a vote for change or more of the same.

Where's the Tory beef? James Forsyth claimed that George Osborne was advising the Tory campaign to offer more earthy, "retail" policies while Steve Hilton, Cameron's chief strategist, recommends big picture, blue sky vision. In the first 72 hours blue sky vision has been dominant and Fraser Nelson coined the best soundbite of the campaign so far; attacking David Cameron's new year speech as containing as much beef as a vegan sandwich. Stephan Shakespeare came to the Conservative leader's aid, arguing that the decentralisation agenda was truly radical.

YearForChangeWooing the Liberal Democrats: Both Lord Adonis in The Sunday Times for Labour and David Cameron for the Conservatives made appeals to Liberal Democrat voters. David Cameron promised a place for the Labour and LD leaders in a war cabinet should he become Prime Minister. Warning that a hung parliament could make it hard to agree on difficult budgetary decisions, Ken Clarke signalled the possibility that Conservatives will attempt to scare wavering voters away from voting for the Liberal Democrats.

 Will the Tories increase VAT? Ken Clarke refused to rule out an increase in VAT to 20%. Cameron told the Mail on Sunday that Whitehall needed a "haircut".

Gordon Brown appeared on Andrew Marr and said his attacks on Eton had been a joke. Watch him here.

Tories will launch NHS chapter of manifesto tomorrow. For those wanting more "beef", there will be a promise to tilt resources to poorer communities. Nearly every Tory MP will be on the campaign trail taking CCHQ's talking points to the top target seats.

Tim Montgomerie