Conservative Diary

Light relief

1 Feb 2012 08:26:43

Let's remove honours by X-Factor

By Paul Goodman
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ConservativeHome readers will have spotted the fatal flaw in the decision to strip Mr Fred Goodwin, as he now is, of his knighthood.  It is that it was made by the Honours Forfeiture Committee.

Why should this drab huddle of grey suits decide who is to be disgraced at the whim of the mob?  David Cameron has admittedly made a good start by not standing up for Stephen Hester's bonus and by encouraging the removal of Goodwin's knighthood.

But he could be far more radical and innovative.  (After all, we're all in this together.)  Let's punish each week's victim by putting him through ordeal by X-Factor.

Obviously, it wouldn't do for politicians to be included.  That problem can be dealt with in the same way that the Government is dealing with the recall of MPs.  In other words, a special Parliamentary committee should be in charge of nominations.

Once the banker or financier in question has been duly named, he should be put up before a panel chaired by Simon Cowell or Len Goodman.

He would then have to justify why he should keep his knighthood or peerage or OBE or what have you.  The public could then vote.  In special cases, they could even decide to re-award honours that they had previously removed.

All this would be a bit confusing for the nominees - but, as the Prime Minister will see, this is terrific politics.  Maybe the favoured Minister-of-the-week could publicly strip the offender of their gong.

Finally, there must be revenue-raising opportunities here for the Treasury - advertising or sponsorship or whatever.  Steve Hilton is certain to think of something.  Do it, Dave, before Miliband gets there first!  (Or, even worse, Nick Clegg.)

3 Jan 2012 15:56:29

Wetherspoon introduces 'Veto Ale' to celebrate Cameron's patriotic act

By Tim Montgomerie
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15103_1325591823_aBatemans is a "proud, independent British brewery" and in that spirit it has decided to produce a new 'Veto Ale' in celebration of David Cameron's "no" to Nicolas Sarkozy and other EU leaders.

The Veto ale is exclusive to Wetherspoons and Wetherspoons' chairman Tim Martin is delighted:

"Veto Ale is a traditional English bitter and a perfect example of a great beer style that you can drink and feel proud to be British. I believe that David Cameron has taken the right decision on the euro and that customers in our pubs will salute this with a pint of this excellent beer."

Veto Ale is, we learn, "brewed using solely British ingredients". But, of course.

10 Dec 2011 10:00:45

The BBC reports the story of the boy who told the Emperor he had no clothes

By Paul Goodman
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A small boy was isolated in a crowd of 26 people yesterday evening when he claimed that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

The child is reported to have cried out: "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" before rapidly being silenced by 23 members of the crowd.

His isolation is a reversal of the traditional small boy policy of "being at the heart of the crowd" and raises serious questions about his future.

The twin designers of the clothes, Merkel & Sarkozy Inc, have promised the Emperor the finest suit from a fabric invisible to anyone unfit for his position.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott said: "This appalling blunder is a terrible reflection on the boy's youth and inexperience."

Continue reading "The BBC reports the story of the boy who told the Emperor he had no clothes" »

14 Nov 2011 07:51:43

Cameron's close shave

By ConHome's only unbearded staff member
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I enjoyed Matthew Barrett's account yesterday of Mariano Rajoy, the leader of Spain's Partido Popular, but one detail in it surprised me.  The accompanying photograph of Rajoy shows him with a beard.  Right-wing politicians usually don't sport them.  Perhaps the explanation, as so often, lies with voters.  There is a legend that women don't like beards.  (Andrew Cooper, Downing Street's strategy head, will have polling on the matter.)  One well-known woman is certainly a pognophobe: Mrs Thatcher is reported to have said that she "wouldn't tolerate any Minister of mine wearing a beard".

John Randall would thus not have prospered under the Iron Lady.  Nor would Crispin Blunt, who now has a beard, or did when I last saw him.  Nor would Stephen Crabb.  I'm sorry to say that Martin Tett, Buckinghamshire County Council's leader, would have been cooly received in Downing Street during the Thatcher years.  Jerry Hayes is the ultimate authority on the subject.  

I am sorry if some readers think that facial hair is a bit too, well, fluffy a subject for a ToryDiary, especially given the current crisis in the Eurozone.  But elsewhere this morning we have Bruce Anderson on David Cameron's critics, David Merlin-Jones on how to boost growth and Andrew Marshall on the opening of the CDU conference.  In any event, readers are clamouring for a growth strategy from the party leadership.  We wanted to show what one might look like.

26 Sep 2011 07:40:57

CCHQ's conference note: Feel free to take an interest in fashion, but don't, it begins with "E"

By Paul Goodman
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A Conservative MP I know was recently alerted by CCHQ to a website which suggested topics delegates might like to take an interest in at the fortcoming party conference.

It included "fashion".

It didn't include "Europe" (or the EU if you prefer).

As one does, he fired off an angry letter, and received a reply from Lord Feldman pointing out that he "did not sign off this website personally." The party co-Chairman added:

"Nevertheless, I will forward your thoughts onto our online team, who will certainly bear them in mind for next year. As this clearly is of concern to you and your constituents, I am sure that the Party's team will give consideration to removing "fashion" from next this list of delegates' possible interests."

I will leave it to our ever-alert readers to point out what he didn't give consideration to adding.

12 Sep 2011 17:10:35

David Cameron "would have been a very good KGB agent"

By Matthew Barrett
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Cameron in Russia David Cameron visited Russia today for talks with Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. The talks touched on trade, commerce, technology, and intelligence sharing, amongst other issues. 

Continue reading "David Cameron "would have been a very good KGB agent"" »

2 Aug 2011 07:38:08

The buoyant popularity of William Hague

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2011-08-02 at 06.38.59

This being the holiday season - or the silly season if you prefer - the Sun has a frivolous item today.  For further details see above, or follow the link to the story, which declares:

"Brits give party leaders an end-of-year savaging today - branding David Cameron and Ed Miliband SNAKES and Nick Clegg a SHEEP. And a YouGov poll for The Sun shows the nation is so fed up with the trio that it thinks NONE of them ought to have a holiday."

And so on.  But if you are read a bit further, you will come across the following:

"Of the three main parties' top 18 figures at Westminster, Foreign Secretary William Hague is the ONLY ONE to win a net positive rating."

And, yes, there is a doleful-looking Hague at the bottom of the page, coming in none the less at plus 11 in response to the question: "Do you think the following are doing well or badly in their current jobs?"

Continue reading "The buoyant popularity of William Hague" »

24 Jun 2011 14:11:03

George Osborne's four laws of political success... as chosen by William Hague

By Tim Montgomerie
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George Osborne was Political Secretary to William Hague from 1997 to 2001. They have been close ever since with Osborne helping Mr Hague write jokes for his old News of the World column.

Last week the Chancellor celebrated his 40th birthday. Unfortunately ConservativeHome's invitation was lost in the post but we have learnt that William Hague gave the 'happy birthday speech' and set out what he described as George Osborne's four laws of political success.

  1. Law one: Work out, ahead of anyone else, who will be the next leader, stick to them like glue and become indispensable. William Hague remembered how, shortly after he became Tory leader in 1997 this young man appeared in his office, started drafting speeches and before he knew it, a certain George Osborne appeared to be writing all of his speeches.
  2. Law two: Don't just study your opponent's policies but get inside their minds by studing their deepest moral processes. Anyone who spends time discussing politics with George Osborne knows that he spends enormous energy examining the tactics of colleagues and opponents. One friend of Osborne recently noted that George Osborne had a high regard for John Bercow. Not for the Buckingham MP's beliefs or conduct in the Speaker's chair but quite simply because of his "genius plot" to succeed Michael Martin and the way he executed his plot with meticulous attention to the concerns of the MPs he needed to win over. A focus on character was certainly evident in George Osborne's tactics against Gordon Brown when they faced each other as Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor after 2005. Osborne decided that getting under Brown's skin and exposing his style of politics was as important as undermining his policies. By understanding how Brown operated the Tories were able to anticipate his premiership.
  3. Law three: If you have to take a risk make it worthwhile. Osborne is more tactical than strategic but when he makes a big move it tends to really matter... running to become MP for Tatton when there was always a risk that Martin Bell might stand again... announcing the abolition of inheritance tax... appointing Lynton Crosby to run Boris Johnson's 2008 mayoral campaign...
  4. Law four: Don't forget the first law, just because there are two others!

In his speech George Osborne joked that the most important reason for becoming Chancellor was to avoid going down in history as the man who was political strategist to William Hague.

22 Jun 2011 10:56:11

Oops! FCO website announces "Massive U-Turn" on World Service funding

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Foreign Secretary has found another £2.2m to keep the BBC's Arabic Service going. It won't be enough to satisfy the World Service's leading defenders on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee but the extra money (amounting to c1% of the BBC World Service's budget) is an appropriate acknowledgement of the Arab Spring.

A prankster at the FCO decided to have some fun with the announcement on the FCO website. The page has now been changed but the announcement was originally headlined "Massive U-turn on BBC World Service funding". It now reads "Foreign Office will provide additional funding for the BBC World Service". I screen captured the original page... 


2pm: John Baron MP: A £2.2million reprieve for the BBC World Service does not reverse short-sighted cuts to our soft power capability

16 Jun 2011 11:28:22

Posters of Lenin, Obama and THIS adorn Michael Gove's office...

By Tim Montgomerie
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This week's Spectator includes an interview with Michael Gove. I was concerned to read that the Education Secretary has a poster of Obama on his wall (although I readily concede that the 44th American president's best policies cover schools). I communicated my alarm to his office in a jokey email and was sent the picture of another poster that adorns Mr Gove's office...


That almost redeemed him (and there's also a D-Day poster) although Black Dog has previously reported that a poster of Lenin also adorns the Secretary of State's office. Did Ed Balls leave it behind? No. The leader of the 1917 Russian revolution was Gove's choice:

"The Education Secretary has erected a large portrait of Lenin on his office wall, a relic of a youthful trip to the USSR. Gove believes Lenin was the first to coin the jarring mantra ‘education, education, education’ and is determined to wrestle credit for the slogan away from Tony Blair."