Conservative Diary


10 Jul 2013 15:47:32

At long last, Cameron is considering an appeal to aggrieved English voters

By Mark Wallace
Follow Mark on Twitter.

Saint GeorgeThe West Lothian question continues to bedevil British politics. While various powers have been devolved to Scotland and Wales, England has no devolution.

In any given Parliament, Labour gain disproportionate numbers of seats from North of the Border. At least once during the Blair years, laws which only affect England were passed despite the opposition of a majority of English MPs. 

Large amounts of English taxpayers' money is dished out through the Barnett formula, while voters are becoming increasingly concerned about the scale of the constitutional inequality. 

A report in today's Independent gives the first hints of the Coalition's attempt to redress the imbalance. Following the report of the McKay Commission, published back in March, ministers are drawing up plans to implement its recommendations.

In essence, the idea is that the Commons should only be able to legislate on England-only matters if a majority of English MPs give their consent to each new law. Quite how this would work in practice - whether it would require a new Fourth Reading stage in the passage of a Bill in which English MPs would automatically get a vote, or if English MPs would simply gain the right to force such a vote if they wished - is yet to be determined.

Continue reading "At long last, Cameron is considering an appeal to aggrieved English voters" »

7 Jun 2013 11:59:21

The PM sets out his stall for the Scottish referendum - and the run-up to the General Election

Cameron Scotland

By Mark Wallace 
Follow Mark on Twitter. 

The Prime Minister is in Stirling today, at the Scottish Conservatives' Annual Conference to meet MSPs (pictured above) and activists - and deliver a rallying cry ahead of next year's independence referendum.

There are several notable elements to his speech:

Better Together

The most high profile issue is of course the referendum on Scottish independence. It is a remarkable measure of the extent to which the main parties are co-operating on the Better Together campaign that its Labour figurehead, Alastair Darling, is attending a Tory conference. As Cameron puts it

"When one of our conference darlings is a Labour MP – you know that this isn’t about party politics. Because we all know that we’re stronger together. Richer together. Better together."

Continue reading "The PM sets out his stall for the Scottish referendum - and the run-up to the General Election" »

4 Apr 2013 10:07:03

Cameron gets a steer on Trident from Rahm Emanuel

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 10.04.36There are two core arguments in the Prime Minister's Daily Telegraph article today about Trident, which coincides with his trip north of the border and his visit to Trident-carrying HMS Victorious.

  • Trident provides Scottish jobs, which independence would risk: "I want to thank all those who provide our deterrent. The submariners, away from their families for months on end, who show the highest degree of dedication in training for a duty they hope never to carry out. The families who support them, and who endure such long periods without contact. And the 20,000 people who work onshore – including the engineers and mechanics at Faslane and Devonport; the teams at Rolls-Royce and the Atomic Weapons Establishment; and the architects and construction workers in places like Barrow who design and build our submarines." Beware, all of you: Salmond's risking your livelihoods!
  • The world is as risky as ever - just look at North Korea: "There is a real risk of new nuclear-armed states emerging. Iran continues to defy the will of the international community in its attempts to develop its nuclear capabilities, while the highly unpredictable and aggressive regime in North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons. Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK." Take heed, everyone: nuclear proliferation is a risk!

Cameron is right.  North Korea has a record on proliferation as long as your arm - or the forced queue for one of its death camps.

His point would of course be less topical were the present stand-off between its regime and the Obama administration not taking place.

Perhaps Cameron was thinking of the words of Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, when he had the Telegraph article drafted: "Never let a serious crisis go to waste!"

22 Mar 2013 08:31:46

Lots at stake in next September's Scottish referendum

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Alex Salmond announced the date on which the Scottish people will decide whether or not to remain members of the UK - September 18th 2014. It doesn't look like he'll be successful if you believe the opinion polls. Most surveys suggest a stable and significant lead for the Better Together campaign being co-ordinated by Labour's Alistair Darling. Here's the polling carried out by Ipsos-MORI:

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 08.11.19
Mr Salmond will be hoping for some kind of re-run of the last Holyrood elections when the SNP came from behind and won an overall majority. We also know that referenda aren't often or largely about the specific question on the ballot paper. On this occasion Scotland's First Minister will try and put the Tories on the ballot paper. Part of the reason the SNP have chosen a date so close to the next UK-wide general election is that they want to make it a vote about Tory rule from London versus SNP/Labour rule from Edinburgh. Salmond's message will be that Cameron and Osborne might win again in what will then be six months' time and the only way of being protected from the dastardly things that they plan will be to have an independent Scotland.

Continue reading "Lots at stake in next September's Scottish referendum" »

25 Jan 2013 07:34:19

Ruth Davidson moves to distance Scotland's Conservatives from England's

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

Ruth DavidsonAfter David Cameron's speech on the EU comes one from Ruth Davidson today on her party and Scotland, according to the Daily Telegraph.  She will say:

“Uncomfortable though it may be to admit, too many of our fellow Scots whose values we share simply don’t trust our motives.

“When it comes to Westminster elections, they see us as London’s party in Scotland not Scotland’s party in London. When it comes to elections to the Scottish Parliament, they want to vote for a party that will put Scotland first, and too few truly believe that of us.”

She will conclude: “We need to prove to them beyond all reasonable doubt we do indeed put Scotland first, and that we are single-mindedly determined to do so in the future.”

Continue reading "Ruth Davidson moves to distance Scotland's Conservatives from England's" »

24 Nov 2012 15:29:02

Scottish Conservatives launch new logo and website at National Convention

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

New Scottish Conservative Logo

The Scottish Conservatives have launched a new party logo. The new logo has a distinctly Scottish Unionist tone - it has the dark blue of the Saltire, with the red of the Union Flag. It replaces the previous green tree logo, which was a variation of the national Conservative logo.

The Scottish Conservatives also launched a new website, at the Scottish National Convention being held in Dundee today.

Leader of the Scottish party, Ruth Davidson, said:

"Our new Union Saltire logo is bold, fresh and easy to recognise. Obviously inspired by the St Andrew’s Cross, it is distinctly Scottish but with colours which clearly reflect our pride in the United Kingdom."

Deputy Leader Jackson Carlaw, who led the redesign, said:

"Our new Union Saltire logo stands out on a ballot paper where it has a positive and suggestive impact – it says ‘Vote Scottish Conservative’. From today the Union Saltire is the easily identifiable symbol of our Party for the decade ahead. A new logo alone will not deliver results, but new branding, improved organisation and a new generation of candidates will underpin the policy, vision and shape of a renewed Scottish Conservative Party led energetically and with determination by Ruth."

21 Oct 2012 20:19:20

'Vote for independence or Scotland will be ruled by the Lord Snooty Tories forever'

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Why does Alex Salmond want to hold the independence referendum in the latter part of 2014?

One simple answer. He wants to turn the vote into a referendum on the Conservatives. He wants the referendum to be as close as possible to the 2015 general election and he secretly hopes that opinion polls will then suggest that there's a good chance that the Conservative Party might be returned to power. The canny SNP leader wants the Scottish people to go into the polling booths and vote against the prospect of ever being ruled by 'Tory England' ever again. He doesn't want voters to see the choice as being between an independent Scotland and the United Kingdom but as being between guaranteeing a Left-wing, progressive Scotland (to summarise the parlance he'll use) and Thatcherite, leave-the-poor behind Tory rule (to continue the caricature).

Many referenda aren't really decided on the question asked on the ballot paper but by other issues. This Scottish vote may not be so different.

Continue reading "'Vote for independence or Scotland will be ruled by the Lord Snooty Tories forever'" »

16 Oct 2012 11:55:47

Cameron gives the vote to Rolfe

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter

Screen shot 2012-10-16 at 09.23.36Michael Forysth thinks that David Cameron has lost in his battle with Alex Salmond over the Scottish referendum terms, and has compared the Prime Minister to Pontius Pilate.  (Who is Jesus in this comparison?)  Malcolm Rifkind believes that Mr Cameron has won, and has said that Mr Salmond has experienced "a comprehensive defeat".

I don't know which one of them is right.  Nor do I know whether Ministers are correct to be "confident that lowering the voting age will not benefit the SNP’s cause", as Alan Cochrane reported yesterday - agreeing while doing so with Sir Malcolm.  Mr Cochrane believes that Mr Cameron has "run rings round" Mr Salmond.

Nor still do I have a set view on whether 16 year-olds should be allowed to vote.  I am not persuaded, as politicians say, that it should fall further to 16, but am open to argument on the matter. What I am not open to is Messrs Cameron and Salmond's agreement that 16 year olds should have the vote in the forthcoming referendum, for three reasons.

Continue reading "Cameron gives the vote to Rolfe" »

14 Oct 2012 16:35:11

The Union has a 25% lead over Scottish independence on eve of historic Cameron/ Salmond summit

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

Screen Shot 2012-10-14 at 16.34.36David Cameron will meet Alex Salmond tomorrow and confirm the details of the referendum that will determine Scotland's place in the United Kingdom. Three of the five points of controversy appear to have been decided in Alex Salmond's favour:

  1. The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader wins on the timing of the vote. Mr Salmond wants the vote in 2014 so that he can use the next two years to maximise unhappiness with London's Tory-led government and also, he hopes, win a Scottish patriotic bounce from that year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Unlike the Olympics athletes compete for Scotland rather than Great Britain in Commonwealth events. Countering this effect will be the possible effect of WWI commemorations. The centenary of the beginning of the First World War may remind Scots of the common battles fought under the Union flag.
  2. Mr Salmond also wins the right to suggest the wording of the referendum question. Polling by Lord Ashcroft suggests the nature of the question could be worth at least a couple of percentage points.
  3. Thirdly the SNP also look likely to ensure that 16 and 17 year-olds get a vote on Scotland's future. This extension of the franchise has implications for young people's participation in other elections.
  4. Fourthly the referendum spending cap looks set to be £1.5 million rather than the £750,000 preferred by the SNP. Mr Salmond fears being outspent by the combined muscle of the Scottish Labour, Lib Dem and Tory parties - all backed by the Unionist-leaning business community.
  5. Finally Mr Cameron has won on what is arguably the most important disputed issue. There'll only be one option on the referendum. Mr Salmond had wanted the Scottish people to be able to choose full independence or what he calls "devo max" - full fiscal autonomy.

Continue reading "The Union has a 25% lead over Scottish independence on eve of historic Cameron/ Salmond summit" »

30 Sep 2012 11:46:39

Ruth Davidson attacks SNP for trying to "buy" independence with handouts - and announces Tory plans for a tax cut

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Davidson Ruth 2

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has written for the Mail on Sunday today - apparently not online - attacking the Scottish National Party for trying to "buy support for independence" through benefits like free bus passes, tution fees, prescriptions, and a council tax freeze - and has announced Conservative plans for an income tax.

Davidson says the Scots Tories would cut government spending on those ring-fenced benefits, reforming some services, introducing some fees for others, in order to finance a cut in Scottish income tax to below levels in the rest of Britain, when the Scottish Government is given the ability to change income tax rates in 2016. The tax cut would mean:

  • An extra £119 for someone earning £20,000
  • An extra £169 for someone earning £25,000
  • An extra £269 for someone earning £35,000
  • An extra £344 for someone earning £45,000

Conservative plans would include the reintroduction of NHS prescription charges for the better off, a new graduate contribution scheme, and raising the age limit for free bus passes from 60 to 65.

In her article, Davidson first sets out her ideological conviction for cutting taxes:

"A principle that I have always believed in, and one which has been reinforced since I became leader, is the best people to decide how to spend your money is you. At all times we should strive to ensure hard-working people are free to make as many choices as they can with their cash and that means the government spending as little of their money as possible while still protecting the most vulnerable. That is why the Scottish Conservatives are working on a plan to cut your taxes."

Continue reading "Ruth Davidson attacks SNP for trying to "buy" independence with handouts - and announces Tory plans for a tax cut " »