Conservative Diary

Next Tory leader

7 Mar 2013 08:18:11

Cameron and a united Conservative Party can still do well at the next election

By Tim Montgomerie
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This morning's Times (£) reports that the No Turning Back Group of Tory MPs recently met and discussed the prospect of finding a way of bringing the Coalition to an end and some members even raised the possibility of unseating David Cameron. The Times' story comes at a time when there is frenzied speculation about Theresa May's ambitions. The Mail pours a little cold water on the idea that she might be a near time challenger for the Tory leadership but it also presents "Britain's Mrs Merkel" (© ConHome) as the "Stop Boris" candidate at some point after the next election. In The Telegraph yesterday Benedict Brogan even suggested that Mrs May and Philip Hammond were mounting some sort of joint operation. He talked of Mrs May as a future leader with Mr Hammond as her Chancellor. That suggestion followed Paul Goodman's blog in which he talked about Hammond, May and Grayling all positioning for the leadership race to come.

Continue reading "Cameron and a united Conservative Party can still do well at the next election" »

5 Mar 2013 07:16:31

The next Conservative leadership election is under way

Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 17.58.32
By Paul Goodman

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There's a triple significance to the post-Eastleigh interventions of the three main Conservative members of the National Union of Ministers - Philip Hammond, Theresa May, and Chris Grayling.

It may look at first glance as though Hammond's plea for savings from welfare to be found to protect his budget, and May and Grayling's interventions over the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act last weekend, have little connection, if any - but they've more in common than meets the eye.

  • All three show up Downing Street's lack of authority and grip.  It wasn't clear at the weekend whether David Cameron had licensed Hammond to defend his budget.  It now seems that it didn't: today, an anonymous "close ally of the Prime Minister" is quoted as saying: “You cannot be a fiscal conservative and then say that does not apply in your own department.”  And it still isn't clear whether or not Number 10 was aware of, or was perhaps even the source of, this weekend's report that Theresa May favours leaving the ECHR.  (It was presumably aware of Chris Grayling's on-the-record support for tearing up the Human Rights Act).  Indeed, news of her backing for the measure doesn't seem to have come from her, though it hasn't been denied by the Home Office and hasn't drawn a view from Downing Street.  This is the nub of the matter.  Prime Ministers will sometimes encourage Ministers to float ideas, and then let it be known that they approve of them.  But there has been no real follow-up to Grayling's words or May's view from Number 10 - no rowing-in behind abolishing the Act or leaving the ECHR, no sense of political purpose, commitment or direction. Instead, Ken Clarke has taken his colleagues to task. This sense of Ministers stating their own views and going their own way, with Downing Street apparently powerless to prevent them, opened up Number 10 to Mark Field's blood-drawing counter-attack.
  • The May and Grayling follow-up, together with Number 10's own reaction to Eastleigh, shows that it hasn't a settled strategy for dealing with UKIP.  Tearing up the Human Rights Act...leaving the ECHR...restricting the access of immigrants to legal aid and benefits...proposals for less Europe and more border control are leaking from Ministers and Downing Street into the media.  It is unfair to accuse Downing Street of "lurching to the right" after Eastleigh.  (Why do we hear so little from the BBC and others of Ed Miliband "lurching to the left"?)  David Cameron's Sunday Telegraph article was careful to balance "bringing down immigration" with "proper investment in the NHS".  But Downing Street is undoubtedly preoccupied with how to deal with UKIP in the aftermath of Eastleigh and the run-up to this spring's local elections.  Promises of tougher border control and tighter benefit conditions won't be enough - and nor will hints about quitting the ECHR.  UKIP is a boot which angry voters, who believe that Britain is changing for the worse, are using to kick the system.  Those disillusioned voters now include a significant slice of the Conservatives' natural electoral base, who believe that Cameron is a creature of the political class who cares nothing for their values.  May's record of reducing net immigration  won't win them all back.  Nor will Number 10's "Santa Claus" line of attack - at least until voters stop using UKIP as a protest vehicle, and start questioning how it would reconcile tax cuts for "everyone" with more police, prison places, NHS services, student grants, bigger pensions and higher defence spending.  Hammond's intervention on the last shrewdly recognises another UKIP pressure point.

Continue reading "The next Conservative leadership election is under way" »

27 Jan 2013 23:54:52

"Stalking Womble" J Alfred Prufrock MP to challenge Cameron for leadership

From All Sunday Editions
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Screen shot 2013-01-27 at 17.24.05Panic bells were clamouring in Downing Street tonight and Conservative Campaign Headquarters was thrown into turmoil at claims that glamour-denuded, "post-political" and IPSA-impoverished backbencher J.Alfred Prufrock is poised to issue a historic challenge today to David Cameron for the Tory leadership.

Turqoise manifesto

One source close to the now Twitter-enabled MP said that he will issue his "Turquoise Manifesto" this morning, and that a list of supporters - who will be branded as "Candidate Champions" - will follow by lunchtime.  An intervention at Prime Minister's Questions is planned for later this week, with letters of no-confidence in Cameron to be sent by Thursday to Graham Brady, the '22 Committe Chairman.

Prufrock himself, however, denied the claim when contacted by ConservativeHome earlier this evening and asked for his comments on the story. "This is a very naughty conversation. You are being very mischievous," he said. "I supported David Cameron to become leader. I love him and want him to be leader for the next thousand years. I am going to end this conversation." He then hung up.


However, friends of Prufrock insist that "Albert is sitting on up to 60 no-confidence letters", that over 150 Tory MPs are "signed up in blood", and that a team of secret backers, known in the lobbies as "FrockHeads", have been stalking the tearoom gathering support.  "We have enough signatures to send Cameron to sleep with the fishes," one supporter said earlier today.  "Alfred is poised to throw his toupee into the ring."

Prufrock's "No Change, No Chance" manifesto offers a "Five Point Plan to Save Your Seat":

  • A flat tax of 15% & unyielding fiscal rectitude.
  • The "total defeat" of the Taliban and all British troops out of Afghanistan by the end of March.
  • Radical localism and an end to postcode lotteries.
  • "Compassionate help for the poorest people in the world - at no cost to the taxpayer whatsoever".
  • A free cycle lane for every school pupil.

Other populist manifesto features include "a real ale supermarket maximum pricing scheme".

Prufrock, who describes himself as a "a pragmatic Euro-realist sceptic", will also push for Britain to supplement its special relationship with the U.S with "a new strategic alliance with the Faroe Islands".  A plan to encourage annual school visits to the Molineux Stadium has been dropped. Asked by ConservativeHome for his views on same-sex marriage, a supporter said: "His position is a stroke of political genius.  He is both for it and against it."

Prufrock leads Telegraph leadership poll

A chaos-stricken Number 10 conceded earlier that it is facing defeat. "We can't think of anything unpleasant to say, because we've simply never heard of him," a senior Downing Street source admitted.  But Prufrock's allies hit back: "Albern is completely unforgettable, once you can remember who he is," one said. "Dull is the new cool."  Earlier yesterday, the Grummidge MP was narrowly outstripping Boris Johnson in the Daily Telegraph's Tory leadership reader poll.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman, claimed that "I have spoken to Aldrich, and can confirm that like all of us he is 100% behind David Cameron.  There's nothing to see here: just move along, now."  However, Prufrock sources claimed that in a re-enactment of the famous scene from "Spartacus", a crack team of 50 hardline "Frockheads" will stand in their places crying "I'm Prufrock!" during Wednesday's PMQs, before stripping to T-shirts bearing the slogan.

I'm Spartacus! I'm Prufrock!

Quizzied over whether their man is a "Stalking Horse" or a "Stalking Donkey", in the tradition of Sir Anthony Meyer, a Prufrock supporter described him solemnly as a "Stalking Womble".  Asked if he was aware that the leadership rules no longer require a stalking horse, the supporter paused for a very long time.  There is no sign that this fact has dampened the plot.  Nor that it will prevent us, since we're desparate for a splash on a rainy January Sunday, from writing about it.

27 Jan 2013 09:00:20

Despite what you read in the Sunday newspapers, Cameron's leadership is not in danger

By Tim Montgomerie
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Some spectacularly ill-timed press speculation this morning about David Cameron's future as Tory leader. Both the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times (for the second week in a row) are puffing up the idea that David Cameron's leadership is in danger. They do so on the morning when Labour's lead has fallen below 10% in four Sunday newspaper opinion polls. You could say five if you count the ICM poll for last week's Guardian. If any leadership should be in trouble it should be Ed Miliband's. For reasons I won't repeat this morning, Labour has significant structural advantages but (i) Ed Miliband's personal unpopularity and (ii) his failure to detoxify his party's spendthrift image mean his party is failing to capitalise on the Coalition's not insignificant weaknesses.


The Mail on Sunday and Sunday Times (£) are suggesting that backbench Tory MP Adam Afriyie is lining up a campaign to challenge for the Tory leadership - most likely after the next election but possibly beforehand. Mr Afriyie - inevitably dubbed the "Tory Obama" - is said to have an eight strong parliamentary campaign team, which includes Cities of London and Westminster MP Mark Field. One hundred Tory MPs are reported to have been contacted to elicit whether they would back an Afriyie candidacy.

Continue reading "Despite what you read in the Sunday newspapers, Cameron's leadership is not in danger" »

10 Jan 2013 07:57:44

An All-Women Cabinet of Conservative MPs

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 21.18.02
By Paul Goodman
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It is possible to imagine a Conservative Cabinet consisting only of men.  Come to think of it, the present one has more male Liberal Democrat MPs than female Conservative ones.

But is it possible to imagine the present Parliamentary Party furnishing an all-women Cabinet?

I have had a go, have come up with the following, and expect no-one to agree with it (least of all women Tory MPs for whom there wasn't room).

Continue reading "An All-Women Cabinet of Conservative MPs" »

27 Nov 2012 11:26:50

"Goldfinger" Cameron V "007" Gove

Screen shot 2012-11-27 at 10.39.36
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?

8 Oct 2012 07:55:27

50% of Tory members are satisfied with David Cameron. 49% are not.

By Tim Montgomerie
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The charts below summarise the main findings of the latest ConHome poll of Tory grassroots members, conducted in association with The Independent and Radio 4's Westminster Hour. Some of the key findings:

  • David Cameron's net satisfaction rating has collapsed to just +1%. 50% are satisfied with his performance and 49% are dissatisfied.
  • Only 11% of party members expect a majority Tory government.
  • Boris Johnson is the choice of 37% of Tory members to succeed David Cameron if the Tories lose the next election.

Cabinet satisfaction ratings

Continue reading "50% of Tory members are satisfied with David Cameron. 49% are not." »

16 Sep 2012 09:58:25

Sir John Major whispers what Downing Street is saying privately -- a slow recovery is underway

By Tim Montgomerie
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Major John Sept 2012 470

John Major was the main guest on this morning's Andrew Marr show and his interview was notable for five main things...

First, he suggested that economic recovery was probably underway. Twenty years ago Norman Lamont said that the green shoots of recovery were emerging and he was shot down for saying so. But, said Sir John, he was right. Today, he suggested, it was also probably true: "Recovery begins from the darkest moment. I am not sure but I think we have passed the darkest moment." The former PM pointed to employment and manufacturing data that suggested Britain had turned the corner, as did stock market sentiment. The recovery would be slow, he continued, but it was underway. This was Lord Bates' argument this time, last week, on ConHome.Downing street thinks the same but won't say so until there's a lot more data in. What they can't work out is whether economic recovery will lead to political recovery. Will the return of a modest feel good factor overwhelm the pain of difficult cuts?

Second, Major urged the Conservative Party to unite behind David Cameron. There is, he said, an "inevitability" about division and leadership speculation in politics. For the last thirty years the Conservative Party has been divided in different ways - first between economic wets and dries and then, in the 1990s, over Europe. “If the Conservative Party has learnt anything," Sir John told Andrew Marr, "it’s that regicide is not a good idea.” The man who benefitted from Lady Thatcher's "regicide" and went on to win the 1992 election as a result, praised the Mayor of London as an "attractive, able" politician who is "doing a supremely good job". Boris Johnson is not in parliament, however, and keeps saying he has no intention of challenging David Cameron. People talking of a leadership challenge were filling newspapers but weren't living "in the real world". The party, Sir John said, needed to remember that "disunity costs votes".

Continue reading "Sir John Major whispers what Downing Street is saying privately -- a slow recovery is underway" »

9 Sep 2012 12:51:30

Economic growth and Ed Miliband will save David Cameron's leadership... but they won't be enough for victory

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2012-09-09 at 12.40.34

There are stories in this morning's newspapers about Boris Johnson possibly returning to parliament before 2015 and challenging Cameron. I've blogged previously about how this might happen. I've also said that there's only a 20% chance of David Cameron being ousted as Tory leader before the next election. A year ago I would have only given it a 1% chance but that was before the Coalition descended into its paralysis of the last six months. This last week, however, we've seen some early signs that this paralysis might - just might - be being overcome.

As well as the difficulties of Boris becoming an MP before 2015 - or of another alternative Tory leader emerging - there are also the huge practical obstacles inherent in a disputed contest. And the contest will certainly be disputed. SteveHiltonGuru has set out the contours of that dispute. Compared to 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was ousted - the last time the Conservatives took the enormous step of removing a sitting PM - there are two big differences:

  1. Difference one is that we are in Coalition. Will the LibDems simply sit quietly by and allow the Conservatives to change leader and PM, with all the possible consequences for the content of the Coalition Agreement? You can be sure that any wannabe Tory leader would be standing on a distinct manifesto.
  2. The second difference between now and 1990 is that the nature of the Tory leadership election process has changed. Once the parliamentary party had toppled Margaret Thatcher they chose John Major within about a week. Any successor to David Cameron would have to be chosen by the whole (diminishing) Tory grassroots membership. That would take two to three months and the Government might struggle to take big decisions while it was underway.

Continue reading "Economic growth and Ed Miliband will save David Cameron's leadership... but they won't be enough for victory" »

22 Aug 2012 06:20:41

Urrrggghhh! Arrrggghhh! An angel and the devil wrestle for Boris's soul

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-08-20 at 10.02.23Devil: Come on, Boris, old bean.  This is your moment!  Cameron is unpopular.  You are popular - loved, idolised, adored: look at the Olympics.  The Party knows that he won't and can't win.  Just look at this morning's borrowing figures - benefit spending up, corporation tax receipts down: Osborne in crisis.  Get back in the Commons now!  Mount a coup!  Take over, call a general election and win!  Go for glory!


Angel  :  Look, Boris, my old chumaroo, this is all a pyramid of inverted piffle.  First of all, being an MP and Mayor is one thing - though are you certain you'd find a by-election that suits? - but being Leader and Mayor is quite another.  There'd have to be a Mayoral by-election - in which case the media and some London Tories would round on you: adventurism, selfishness, abandoning the capital to Labour - you know the score.  Or else you'd have to try both jobs at once - and get the same reaction, but on a national scale.  This is madness, my friend, sheer madness.

Boris: ...Er...ah...

Devil: Bunkum and balderdash!  You can find a way of fudging it!  Look at the polls - the voters want you, and outside London too.  If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly!  Screw your courage to the sticking place!


Angel  : Hang on for a minute.  Take this polls business.  One solitary poll - just one - put you marginally ahead in London and the regions.  But its headline finding put you level with Cameron. Another poll on the same day found you made no real difference.  ConservativeHome found that 18% of respondents want you to lead the Party into the next election.  49% want...Cameron!


Devil: That'll change when voters get a real choice: you or Miliband.  You can transform the mood and change the psychology.  Infirm of purpose!  Give me the daggers!

Boris: ...Er...Yikes!

 Angel : It won't change.  Cameron's problem isn't the current polls.  It's that he's stuffed without the boundary review.  He can't get seven points ahead of Labour, let alone ten points - and that's the kind of lead he needs to form a majority Government. And nor could you! You'd be taking over the wheel of the Flying Dutchman!

Boris: Cripes!...Er -

Devil:  - Let's tackle that head-on.  The boundary review problem will get no easier after an election.  So your bird in the band is worth two in the bush.  You can't afford to hang on.  There may be some other strong runner by 2015, or whenever the election takes place.  Hammond.  Greening.  An unknown!  By 2015 you could be yesterday's man!  They flee from me that sometimes did me seek, with naked foot stalking in my chamber...

Boris: ...Arrgghh...Urrgghh...

Angel : Go on then!  Just try it - and see what happens.  Do you really believe that even if you somehow find a seat, win a by-election, contrive a no-confidence vote in Cameron, and then win a leadership election that there would be no consequences?  Cameron, Osborne and many others would never, ever forgive you. The party's loyalties would split asunder.  Months of intense briefing of the most vile, no-holds-barred, personal kind!  And he who wields the knife, etcetera: remember Heseltine!

Boris: Urrrggghhh!...Arrrggghhh!

Well, dear reader, there you have it.  Those are the arguments either way.  I can't help thinking the angel has the better of them.

But we're talking Boris.  And with Boris, you never quite know what will happen next.  He is the great exception to every rule.  Indeed, I dreamed of him last night. His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear'd arm crested the world: his voice was propertied as all the tuned spheres, and that to friends; but when he meant to quail and shake the orb, he was as rattling thunder...