Conservative Diary

Party conferences

22 Sep 2013 13:32:56

Labour has £28 billion worth of unfunded spending commitments - Shapps

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By Paul Goodman
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Attack-mails from Grant Shapps and his sorcerer's apprentices in CCHQ's kitchen seem to be arriving in my in-box at a rate of approximately one a minute.  I'm not going to report each time the Party Chairman announces a new attack website, but here's today's, timed for the start of Labour's Conference, which gives a sense of how much the Tory assault operation has improved.

16 Sep 2013 13:43:33

Clegg faces down the Lib Dem left over economic policy, but they remain a disunited party

CoalitionBy Mark Wallace
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Nick Clegg has emerged victorious from his calculated confrontation with the left of the Liberal Democrats over government economic policy. It's a personal victory for him and a political victory for the coalition, ensuring the principle of deficit reduction goes untouched (although the practice will continue to be difficult around the Cabinet table).

By the same token, today's result is a blow to the Lib Dem left and Vince Cable in particular.

Any political party is a coalition of sorts - we Conservatives certainly have plenty of tribes of our own, who disagree about plenty of issues. But Lib Demmery is a more divided creed than most.

Having been formed from a merger of two parties, it has never succeeded in bringing the left and centre any closer together. The rift extends to the social level as well as just the ideological - you don't see many deficit hawks hanging out over beers with the Keynesian wing of the party.

Today's debate and vote in Glasgow was a symptom of that affliction.

Continue reading "Clegg faces down the Lib Dem left over economic policy, but they remain a disunited party" »

8 Apr 2013 20:19:43

This year's Party Conference should honour Margaret Thatcher

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By Paul Goodman

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Parliament will honour Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday.  But what will the party do?  I gather that Grant Shapps is mulling the options.  The Party Chairman is much taken by Barak Obama's use of volunteers during last year's election, but recognises to that be effective, they must be trained.  That may mean a training school or college of some.  Which in turn may mean naming it after Baroness Thatcher.  (By the way, Shapps will have his eye on Ed Milband's own plans for recruiting an army of community organisers, which have involved the American campaigner Arnie Graf.)

Whatever happens, something special should be done to honour Baroness Thatcher's memory at this year's party conference, and I believe Shapps is already thinking of ways to do so.  It isn't easy finding very senior former Ministers from the Thatcher years who left her government on relaxed terms with her. (Nigel Lawson, anyone?  Geoffrey Howe?  And by the way, anyone seen Michael Heseltine today?) Lord Tebbit was one of her original "Gang of Four", but has always been very much his own man. Shapps is a great admirer of Cecil Parkinson, who remains as sharp as ever.  Whatever the party does at its conference, Lord Parkinson should certainly be involved.

27 Jan 2013 13:55:36

Yesterday's Conservative Policy Forum conference and the next manifesto. Verdict: Keep it snappy.

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-01-27 at 11.50.34What should a manifesto be?  Should it be an impressionistic sketch - all ideals, values, and themes, but with little hard policy? Or should be a detailed blueprint - a mass of whirring policy wheels and cogs?  This was one of the questions that a panel of Mark Littlewood of the IEA; Paul Maynard, the MP for Blackpool North, and Sean Worth - the former senior Downing Street staffer who's now at Policy Exchange - and I grappled with yesterday.  We did so at the invitation and in the company of the Conservative Policy Forum, the Party body charged with helping to draw up the next manifesto, under the charge of Oliver Letwin.

About 80 party activists were there, including Dr Spencer Pitfield, its Director, and Fiona Hodgson, one its two Vice-Chairs and a force behind the CPF's revival.  The conference was, I would say, younger, less male and less white than is usually the case at party gatherings.  It looked rather southern-flavoured to me - but then again, we were meeting in Bristol.  Since the gathering contained a fair sprinkling of councillors, a lot of those present will have knocked on a lot of doors, and thus were well aware of the difference between having a policy that looks good on paper, and having one that will sell on the doorstep.  The panel's brief was to lead a discussion on the next Conservative manifesto.

Continue reading "Yesterday's Conservative Policy Forum conference and the next manifesto. Verdict: Keep it snappy." »

7 Dec 2012 08:26:09

The future of the Conservative Party Conference

By Tim Montgomerie
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It's been harder and harder to get people to go to party conferences - partly because of the cost of the major city locations and partly because of the lack of rough-and-tumble politics in the main arena events. A survey conducted by the President of the National Convention, Paul Swaddle, reveals, however, that the overwhelming majority of those who go to Conference seem to enjoy it and want to return.

Continue reading "The future of the Conservative Party Conference" »

11 Oct 2012 08:16:40

Is Cameron 7.0 the real thing or a false dawn?

By Tim Montgomerie
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I can't remember a Cameron speech that has had such a good response from the whole centre right...

  • The Sun calls it "impressive and statesmanlike". The Telegraph praised it as "uncomplicated and distinctively Conservative".
  • Tory modernisers and mainstreamers both applauded. Ian Birrell described it as "a definition of modern conservatism that unites the left and right of the party while challenging the shallow one-nation rhetoric of his rivals". Iain Martin blogged that the speech had got the PM back in business.
  • Bruce Anderson writes this morning that the speech mixed Churchillian hopefulness and Thatcherite resolve.
  • IDS told The Express that it was probably Cameron's best. Even Nadine Dorries Twittered that it was "excellent".

But what now?

A speech rarely changes anything. We must now wait to see if Cameronism 7.0 (copyright Matthew Engel in today's FT (£)) is the real settled thing or if it's just another iteration, designed for the Tory leader's seventh party conference speech but not for beyond. Ever since it was first forged in very different times Cameronism has struggled to find definition. His inner circle has sometimes given the impression that Cameronism is whatever Cameron says it is - seeming to believe that the Tory leader's own reasonable, moderate personality is the personification and sum of what modern Conservatism needs to be. Up until now Tory modernisation has been pursued with carelessness, even recklessness. The NHS was put centre stage but then a massive reorganisation was introduced, contrary to promises. The big idea of the Big Society was never tested in focus groups or in opinion polls and flopped on the doorsteps. Greenery - as a political message - has been all but abandoned since Cameron became PM.

Continue reading "Is Cameron 7.0 the real thing or a false dawn?" »

11 Oct 2012 08:16:20

Read all of the four editions of the ConHome Conference Daily

By Tim Montgomerie
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You can read all the ConHome Conference newspapers via the links below;

10 Oct 2012 13:23:49

We're the party of aspiration, education and work, says Cameron. Labour is the party of debt, taxes and welfare.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Speeches don't matter very much. They don't move public opinion in the way that those of us in the political bubble sometimes give the impression of believing. The speech was significant nonetheless. Not because it will win many votes in the short-term but because the Prime Minister attempted to explain why the tough-minded policies of this period of austerity are not inconsistent with his vision of modern compassionate conservatism.

Cameron painted a vision of a country where the good life isn't defined by an ever bigger state or where generosity is defined by how much a person pays in taxes or by the extent to which people are allowed to live free of responsibility. Mr Cameron argued that the good society was built on education and work. By talking about his own father in such a moving way the Prime Minister made it clear that he believes that the family is the best values-generating institution that mankind knows.

Screen Shot 2012-10-10 at 13.31.06This is very important territory for Conservatives. We can say we're cutting the deficit because we want to appease international financial markets or we can explain that our public services will be in grave peril if we don't start to balance the books. We can say we are reforming welfare because we are angry at "scroungers" or we can present work as better for people - better financially and better morally. We can define our conservatism in the language of accountants or of crusaders for a better society.

Continue reading "We're the party of aspiration, education and work, says Cameron. Labour is the party of debt, taxes and welfare." »

10 Oct 2012 08:20:27

Daily Mail leads press backlash against Boris

Daily-mail-front-page-1-329x437By Harry Phibbs
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Some of Boris Johnson's old journalist colleagues may be feeling a bit jealous of the rock star adulation he enjoys. The Daily Mail columnist Sir Max Hastings is unlikely to provoke whoops of delight in the unlikely event that he should arrive at Birmingham's New Street Station.

Sir Max says:

If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.

I have known the mayor for more than 20 years. He worked for me as EU correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and then as a columnist when I was the paper’s editor, and I have seen plenty of him since.

He is a magnificent journalist and showman. He proved himself the perfect maitre d’ for the London Olympics. But few maitre d’s are fit to cook the dinner.

Continue reading "Daily Mail leads press backlash against Boris " »

10 Oct 2012 07:53:27

Vote for the Conservative Clean Up Team!

By Tim Montgomerie
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One of the themes of Conservative Conference has Boris Johnson being 'on message' - pouring praise on David Cameron's head and the wider government. He was loyal at ConHome's Monday night rally and in yesterday's main stage speech. Again and again he turned his fire on Labour and the party activists loved him all the more for doing so. It will be a huge advantage for the party if this biggest of Tory beasts lines up alongside Team Cameron at the next election and helps take the fight to Labour.

Here's a little poster to mark his speech to Conference yesterday; he was responding to the PM's likening of him to a blond mop...

"If I am a mop, David, you are a broom - a broom that is cleaning up the mess left by the Labour government. I congratulate you and your colleagues George Osborne the dustpan, Michael Gove the J-cloth, William Hague the sponge. It is the historic function of Conservative governments over the last 100 years to be the household implements on the floor of the house, so effective at clearing up after the Labour binge has got out of control."I congratulate you and your colleagues George Osborne the dustpan, Michael Gove the J-cloth, William Hague the sponge. It is the historic function of Conservative governments over the last 100 years to be the household implements on the floor of the house, so effective at clearing up after the Labour binge has got out of control."

Cleaning labour mess4