Conservative Diary

Quality of life

10 Aug 2013 08:34:52

Twits - and worse - on Twitter

Screen shot 2013-08-10 at 08.06.24
By Paul Goodman
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Mike Weatherley, the MP for Hove, will be on Team Rock Radio today at noon presenting heavy metal for two hours.  But that's enough free advertising.  On a more sombre note, he has received a death threat on Twitter, according to today's Daily Mail.  "He received the message "Kill Weatherley" from a twitter user, it reports.  Weatherley said: "There is absolutely no way that I will allow this intimidating kind of behaviour to change my stance on this matter, as I will continue to stand up for gay rights both in Russia and around the world." (He had written to David Cameron to complain about anti-gay leglisation passed by the Duma.)

Is the Hove MP over-reacting? I don't think so. Most readers of this site would be more than mildly discombobulated were someone to say "Kill Smith" (for example) on a radio station with some 500 million listeners, especially if they did so anonymously.  The comparison is in order.  Twitter is essentially a broadcast system. You join it, and broadcast messages - tweets.  It is true that no-one is obliged to read them, and that you aren't obliged to read anyone else's.  But you might not take such an airy view were someone to tweet the word "kill"...and then to tweet your name next.

Continue reading "Twits - and worse - on Twitter" »

31 Jul 2013 06:32:18

Over half of Conservative members support Cameron's anti-porn net plans

By Paul Goodman
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Respondents were asked in our latest survey whether or not they supported David Cameron's proposals on the internet and pornography.

  • 57 per cent said that they do.
  • 27 per cent said that they don't.
  • 15 per cent said that they have no view.

This represents decisive support for the Prime Minister's proposals, which have been strongly driven by the Culture Department. It's worth adding that at this stage this is very much support in principle: we have yet to see the detail.

None the less, the result suggests when I wrote recently that "Conservatives aren't libertarians," I was right.  The libertarian view shows up very forcefully 'below the line' when comment pieces are published.  But it isn't that of party members, as the poll shows. If you want further evidence for the claim, glance back at our June poll on the Communications Data Bill, a.k.a the Snoopers' Charter.

The margin was less emphatic.  None the less, 43 per cent of respondents agreed that "the Tory leadership should do all it can to enact the Communications Data Bill, even against the wishes of the Liberal Democrats". 34 per cent took the view that "the Communications Data Bill is an invasion of privacy and should not be made law."  22 per cent believed that the Conservative leadership should "produce a version of the Bill that both sides can broadly agree with".

22 Jul 2013 08:40:23

Cameron's anti-porn plans: problematic in practice, but right in principle. Conservatives aren't libertarians.

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 08.39.48Fleet Street was briefed over the weekend that the Prime Minister's anti-internet porn plan marks a return to the early David Cameron - the one who campaigned against British Home Stores selling padded bras for children, and against W.H Smith for placing chocolate oranges near checkouts.  This is true as far as it goes.  The parent in the Prime Minister doesn't like the sexualisation of children.  And the politician in him doesn't want a policy agenda only for Conservative loyalists: an EU referendum, a tougher welfare cap, tighter immigration controls, Abu Qatada deported, local vetoes on wind farms.  He will want a broader prospectus as the next election nears - with more than a touch of what the first George Bush called a "gentler, kinder" conservatism.

This truth offers a clue about the Prime Minister's wider motives.  He will be worried about the effects of the Lynton Crosby controversy - in particular, about the claim that Government's cigarette plain packaging decision means that it doesn't care about smoking-related deaths.  So he is proving his caring credentials by homing in on an unpopular cause: poorer voters may not approve of government targetting the cigarettes they buy, but they don't disapprove of it tackling the extreme porn that they don't (on the whole) consume.  This unpopularity runs especially deep among mothers and women.  Cameron's standing is lower with them than with male ones.

Continue reading "Cameron's anti-porn plans: problematic in practice, but right in principle. Conservatives aren't libertarians." »

15 Dec 2012 13:29:13

Cameron risks the revenge of "the elderly of the earth"

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-12-15 at 13.02.46Not so long ago, people were both more free and more orderly.  For example, there were no race relations laws: you could say what you liked about ethnic minorities (as they usually weren't called then).  The English always drank: "He gives your Hollander a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled".  But - again by way of example - fewer illegal drugs were available, so the policing and health and social costs of substance abuse were far lower.  And since there was no internet, it followed that there was no online porn.  Although the churches were emptying, Christianity was woven deep into the nation's culture, like the threads on the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Today, people are less free but more disorderly, or at least more diverse.  You must watch what you say about ethnic minorities or gay people.  But illegal drugs, once consumed only by the elites, are available to the masses. And you can say pretty much what you like about Christians, or at least people with socially conservative views.  (Though Nick Clegg thought it prudent to claim that he doesn't believe that those who oppose same-sex marriage are "bigots).  Where once the presence of the Church of England floated like some universal fog, today there lumbers health and safety...or the European Union.

Continue reading "Cameron risks the revenge of "the elderly of the earth"" »

1 Sep 2012 07:16:55

Housing - if not radical reform now, then when?

By Paul Goodman
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Policy Exchange's housing plan might have been written to offend vested interests...

Screen shot 2012-09-01 at 08.42.33In our Comment Section today, Alex Morton of Policy Exchange urges the creation of a Secretary of State of Housing in the coming reshuffle, so that this new Cabinet appointment can drive through radical planning reform.  He also argues that the current centralised system has failed and that localism will succeed: under his scheme, set out in the think-tank's paper Cities for Growth and in previous Policy Exchange papers, planning would be taken away from local councils and given to local communities.

In short, these would vote on development proposals for their own backyards, and yes votes would bring compensation for those affected.  NIMBYs would thus have an incentive to become YIMBYs - Yes-In-My-Back-Yardies.  Local plans would be stripped down.  Section 106 agreements would go.  Quality control would be more about local material, less about high density and zero car spaces.  When supported locally, building would be easier on brown field and green field sites - but there would be a green belt improvement levy to improve the parts of it that aren't built on.

Continue reading "Housing - if not radical reform now, then when?" »

24 Aug 2012 15:28:34

As the growth row over Heathrow goes on, don't forget the one over housing - and building on the Green Belt

By Paul Goodman
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There was more in ConservativeHome's newslinks this morning about Ministerial disagreements over Heathrow, which are being projected by suggestions that Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, may be moved.  The report was from the Financial Times (£).

The lobby is writing less about the other big divergence of view over building and growth - namely, over housing and the green belt  This is probably because are no suggestions that Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, will be moved in the reshuffle.

Continue reading "As the growth row over Heathrow goes on, don't forget the one over housing - and building on the Green Belt" »

25 Jun 2012 12:27:36

Is the real clash of interests in British politics between older and younger voters?

By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron's proposed reforms to housing benefit are partly about increasing opportunity and party about saving money.

Oh, and differentiating his party from the Liberal Democrats.  Which is a reminder that it's possible that none of his plans may be effected, since we don't know what parts of them Nick Clegg's party would agree to in this Parliament, if any, and there's no guarantee of a Conservative Government in the next one.

On increasing opportunity, I think that the Prime Minister is right.  Drawing housing benefit and being workless at 18 isn't a likely route to improvement and prosperity.  However, I would like to see the detail (of which there may not much, given Mr Cameron's working timescale).  He says that his proposals "would not apply to victims of domestic violence".  What about others who can't live with their parents - for example, the 60,000 or so children in care?  And if living with one's parents is our working presumption - because renting let alone buying for many younger people is unaffordable - how does this square with labour market mobility?

Continue reading "Is the real clash of interests in British politics between older and younger voters?" »

4 Jan 2012 10:50:29

Spelman: This Government will stand up for rural communities which have suffered in the past

By Joseph Willits 
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SpelmanIn an article for the Daily Telegraph today, Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has written of the need to be "realistic about the challenges" and problems faced by rural communities and businesses. Such challenges, she said "have been exacerbated by over a decade of neglect". She wrote about the Government's pledge to fix both the north-south divide, and equally as important, the imbalance between rural and urban areas. The Government, she said, would "stand up for those communities that have found it difficult to have their voices heard until now".

Spelman attacked Labour's legacy in rural areas, citing the examples of "five rural post offices a week closed under the previous Government" and a 12times hike in fuel duty "hitting rural communities twice as hard as urban ones".

Writing ahead of the second day of the Oxford Farming Conference, Spelman said the Government would announce 14 Rural and Farming Networks each "creating a rural hotline straight to the heart of Government":

"These networks will give rural business and community leaders a direct link to me and my team to tell us their problems so we can find ways to help. This will give rural communities a clear say on how policy is developed so our most remote towns and villages can grow stronger and thrive. Real people, with real, practical, local knowledge, will have direct access to ministers, something sorely lacking over the last decade, and for which communities have suffered as a consequence."

Continue reading "Spelman: This Government will stand up for rural communities which have suffered in the past" »

4 Jul 2011 12:41:25

"Dead on arrival": The Dilnot Commission presents problems for the Coalition

By Matthew Barrett
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Lansley-Big-BenThe Dilnot Commission - chaired by economist and former IFS Director Andrew Dilnot - which looks at the funding of care for elderly people, is released today. Recommendations include raising the means-testing threshold from £23,500 to £100,000 (in assets), and capping care costs at £35,000. The government's main sentiment seems to be that the cost of the recommendations - £1.7billion a year - is politically troubling, although they think the ideas are good. 

The Treasury doesn't like the sound of the cost. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley referred to (£) the Dilnot Commission as merely "the basis for engagement" on elderly care. The Telegraph's Ben Brogan raises three points: the Dilnot report is "dead on arrival", according to one Cabinet member, taxes may have to be raised to pay for the implementation of the report, and: 

"the beneficiaries will be people with assets to protect, and the political minds in No10 worry that some will conclude that Dilnot is an expensive way of helping mainly Tory voters. Forget that it also means those with no assets will get their care for free. In an age of austerity, there is great nervousness about lavishing money on those who have it already, as it were. Which is why Team Dave are talking up the need for consensus and want to see what Ed Miliband will say."

So it seems the government is unlikely to proceed with the proposals, as they are, for the moment. The government therefore has two options: delay the plan until (the Treasury hopes) they are in a better position to afford nearly £2billion for elderly care. Luckily for the Dilnot Commission, the recommendations are not due to be implemented before about 2014 or 2015... which the election co-ordinating Chancellor will undoubtedly have noticed coincides with the probable date of the next election.

Continue reading ""Dead on arrival": The Dilnot Commission presents problems for the Coalition" »

2 Jul 2011 08:58:40

Tory members vote for the most impressive and most disappointing Coalition policies

By Tim Montgomerie
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More than 1,500 Tory members were asked to rate Coalition policies as impressive or disappointing. the numbers below capture the result of those voting impressive minus those voting disappointed:

  1. Making work pay for the unemployed: 81.8% - 5.8% = 76.0%
  2. Abolition of ID cards: 81.9% - 9.0% = 72.9%
  3. Elimination of the deficit by the end of the parliament: 77.4% - 9.1% = 68.3%
  4. Freeze in council tax: 74.8% - 7.4% = 67.4%
  5. More school academies and free schools: 73.0% - 9.1% = 63.9%
  6. Lower corporation tax: 71.0% - 9.2% = 61.8%
  7. Higher income tax thresholds: 68.2% - 12.8% = 55.4%
  8. Higher basic state pension for all: 64.7% - 11% = 53.7%
  9. All overseas aid to be transparent: 61.3% - 16% = 45.3%
  10. More freedoms for local councils: 58.5% - 13.8% = 44.7%
  11. Reducing immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands: 62.2% - 23.4% = 38.8%
  12. Cancer drugs fund: 50.1% - 13.9% = 36.2%
  13. Encouragement of charitable giving: 44.0% - 22.2% = 21.8%
  14. Reform of tuition fees: 41.3% - 26.6% = 14.7%
  15. Four million extra third world children to be vaccinated: 40.8% - 30.7% = 10.1%
  16. NHS reforms: 38.5% - 31.2% = 7.3%
  17. Elected police chiefs: 38.9% - 34.5% = 4.4%
  18. Protecting NHS funding: 36.3% - 34.3% = 2.3%
  19. High speed rail: 29.8% - 45.6% = -15.8%
  20. Operations in Libya: 27.5% - 46.6% = -19.1%
  21. The Green Deal to encourage energy conservation: 15.4% - 57.3% = -41.9%
  22. Green investment Bank: 12.5% - 61.2% = -48.7%
  23. Increasing the overseas aid budget: 15.0% - 70.7% = -55.7%

Continue reading "Tory members vote for the most impressive and most disappointing Coalition policies" »