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This just shows how negative Labour are; if Cameron had stuck with the same policies, they would have complained that we are a bunch of dinosaurs stuck in the past. As he is making changes, he is portrayed as opportunist.

While Cameron is adopting a mature approach to politics, supporting education reform for example, Labour are still behaving in the same nasty, negative manner. He should point out who has become the nasty party.

TC, sadly this is what modern politics is like, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Cameron needs to come back fighting saying that he is reshaping the parties policies into what the electorate want, seeing as he is a representative of the electorate. He should then tell Blair that he was elected into office to serve the electorate, and their wishes, not blindly disregard them.

Personally I'm dissapointed about losing grammar schools, and no top up fees, but I dread to think of what would have happened had Davis become leader, I have no doubt that we'd still be flatlining, if not falling in the polls, due to his promises to promote older stories such as Eric Forth to the front bench, who can never truely connect with the electorate.

We should be building on the green belt. That is a step in the right direction.

Editor - The deep-seated predicament of the Conservative Party was revealed by the extensive opinion research that formed the basis for both Smell The Coffee by Ashcroft and The Case For Change by CChange. Advocating the 'And' theory in this situation is like prescibing an aspirin for a broken leg.

One half of the 'And' is new but the other half reinforces existing negative perceptions. The result? They cancel each other out. Same Old Tories!

The Cameron way is the only way of reconnecting. We're paying the price for years of political stupidity. In terms of professional understanding of the complexities of both public opinion and broader social forces we've been years behind the Americans.

A combination of arrogance, stupidity and ideological obscurantism almost killed the Tory Party. DC is on the right path - don't offer him strategies that might work in another context but which can't shift us in this one.

I watched PMQs. It struck me that actually, Blair did not answer the question. He merely made a cheap political joke. I do admit DC may have walked into it, but he wont do that again.

I agree that Cameron has had a poor week, naturally exaggerated by his opponents. I think he needs to calm down a little, make fewer speeches and introduce fewer initiatives. At the same time he should get Hague, Fox and Davis to put themselves about a littlemore.
Like Blair (or how Blair used to be) Cameron has enormous charm and is far more popular than his party. He could use that charm to sell a more conservative brand than the one he is currently offering.

I agree with the above. The point about Eric Forth is a timely reminder of how things might have been! As for PMQs, I do n't think Blair has answered many questions to DC since DC became leader. His answers have mainly been about Tory policy changes which as the Speaker points out (not often enough) are not answers when the PM's being questioned about government policy.

"Editor - The deep-seated predicament of the Conservative Party was revealed by the extensive opinion research that formed the basis for both Smell The Coffee by Ashcroft and The Case For Change by CChange"

If we are truly as hated as was claimed in both these publications, the sensible course of action would be to disband, like the Italian Christian Democrats.

I don't actually think we are as unpopular as they made out.

My guess is if David Davis had become leader, we'd probably be about 4% or so behind Labour, now, rather than level-pegging. The outcome of the by-election would have been much the same also.

Well, we now know Labour's attack strategy (who'd have thought it, eh? Labour are attacking US for not being consistant with our 'beliefs). That this is coming from the mouth of Prezza makes it even more amusing. After all, how dare a party change its policy! If that was the case, maybe Labour should still be campaigning for nationalisation and unilateral nuclear disarmament? We have to show up the Labour party for what it is - a bunch of hypocrites and viscious spin doctors.

Cameron must simply acknowledge that he is modernising the party because the electorate has shown that the policies in May were not what they wanted.

"Our aim should have been to have appeared (and been) faithful to our core beliefs on immigration, Europe and crime (which are all very popular, after all) - but also ambitious to conquer new political territory."

Can you have a 'core belief' on immigration? I suppose you can believe it is either 'wrong' or 'right', but anyone describing immigration as 'wrong' should probably keep very quiet about it. The immigration issue is one of practicality, balanced with sensitivity, and doesn't require the application of ideals or, even more dangerous, ideologies. There is no reason why Labour should be worse at dealing with immigration and asylum - they have simply proved to be utterly incompetent. Elections where immigration is not used as a divisive issue are far more healthy.

As far as Europe is concerned, DC is going further than Hague, Howard and IDS ever went by attempting this tricky withdrawal from the EPP. He is only able to do so without being painted as an extremist because of the other aspects of compassionate Conservatism he has espoused. The 'politics of and' methinks.

On crime, has David Davis announced a more lenient approach to criminals? Has not DC's policy of reclassification been wisely swept under the carpet? In David Davis, we can all be confident of a home secretary who will be tough on crime, and I defy anyone to produce evidence otherwise.

As far as Blair's attack is concerned, I'm just amazed it didn't come earlier. Its the most blindingly obvious line of attack possible on a party which is trying to reinvent itself. It won't wash with the public, because everyone knows, Blair is the king of chameleons.

Remember, there are over three years till the next election. There will be time for slightly different emphases and approaches, seeing what works well, and what not so well. Look at who we've got working on policy - Redwood, IDS, 'I've got a little list' Lilley. We will be running on a Conservative manifesto, but for the first time since 1992, one which is attractive.

If the leadership of the party starts stating that it is fine to build on green belt land I will never vote Conservative again nor pledge another penny towards them. Our green land is part of our heritage and it is deeply disturbing hearing of conservatives of all people advocating the desecration of that heritage.

"We will be running on a Conservative manifesto, but for the first time since 1992, one which is attractive"

But, unlike 1992 without tax cuts (in common with the Labour and Lib Dem manifestos).

This past week I have fought as hard as I can for some residents in a neighbouring town who are worried that the green spaces around them are swiftly being concreted over. The District Council objected and rightfully so and the local residents are worried about the traffic problems that will be a consequence of the planning application. The application is probably going to pass on Tuesday and a former orchard is to become a 10m by 40m by 34m sports hall.

Planning policies at the moment if anything are too loose and allow development on green spaces or heritage sites. The law needs to be tightened to protect the environment.

Yes, we need more homes but it can be done without tearing huge swathes of greenland up. More effort must be taken to use brownfield sites. I cannot support this new Conservative policy at all.

So, one off-key performance at PMQs (which wasn't anything like as bad as made out) and this is the response? Remember most of the naysayers on here were expecting Cameron to get monstered every week (just like they said he was going to get monstered by Paxman, etc, etc).

We have a unique opportunity to get the Conservative Party back into government - we should be supporting the Party not sniping, and this blog and a significant moaning minority have done nothing but complain since day one.

None of us are going to agree with everything. Let's move forward and win - sniping like this will only create a fourth term for Labour.

Chris Palmer,I'm interested to hear why you think building on greenbelt land is such a good idea?
Also editor I'm intested to know when the Tory party changed policy on Asylum or ditched the idea of tax cuts.

Peter: "Editor - The deep-seated predicament of the Conservative Party was revealed by the extensive opinion research that formed the basis for both Smell The Coffee by Ashcroft and The Case For Change by CChange. Advocating the 'And' theory in this situation is like prescibing an aspirin for a broken leg."

The "and theory" is not an aspirin, Peter, or the political equivalent of a spoonful of sugar. It will take the party into important new political territory without dropping/ neglecting policies on Europe, crime and immigration that command popular support and have stopped Conservative support falling below 30% over the last difficult decade. If the "and theory" is pursued properly and we add new commitments to international justice, domestic poverty-fighting and a cleaner environment to our existing commitments (and in much more than a tick-box kind of way) I believe that the Conservative Party will look and be very different from the party that fought the 2001 and 2005 elections. We will have changed without abandoning core vote policies that (tax excepted) have always been pretty popular.


Looking back through the Immigration & Asylum category on this site I can only find a commitment to examine changing the asylum policy. I'm sorry - I thought the policy had already gone (although my guess is that it almost certainly will). Last December this appeared in the Observer: "Cameron confirmed that he would consider ditching the controversial Conservative policy of capping the number of refugees that Britain accepts." An artificial cap has always seemed wrong to me. If there is a serious humanitarian crisis of the kind we saw in Rwanda, for example, a cap would be wholly irresponsible.

And for all political purposes we both know that George Osborne has put lower taxation off the Tory agenda for the forseeable future. We may get some welcome tax simplification from his Tax Commission but we'd need a David Davis-style commitment to start making the case for tax relief now if we were to persuade the British public of the merits of significant tax relief that was capable of boosting the UK economy.

On a slight tangent, I thought Matthew Parris in today's Times took the right view of the Dunfermline by-election and it's wider implications, and it is a viewpoint that Conservative activists should subscribe to.

On that note, in fact, why are Ming Campbell and Simon Heffer's tiresome repetitive drone on the newslinks, but not the far more sensible (and positive) piece from Parris?

One would think the Editor wanted Labour to win!

I missed the Parris piece. Sorry, Iain. It is good. It's now been added to the frontpage.

Cllr Iain Lindley:why are Ming Campbell and Simon Heffer's tiresome repetitive drone on the newslinks, but not the far more sensible (and positive) piece from Parris? One would think the Editor wanted Labour to win!

Alternatively, perhaps one might think that the Editor is exercising his editorial judgment?

You'll have noticed, no doubt, Iain, that the Editor has also (unaccountably) missed this hot story from the Redditch Advertiser about the future of the local market. Big talking point where my grandmother lives.

Thankyou Tim. :) I suppose there is a hint of irony in whining about other people whining... :D

It looks as if my staunch defence of the Editor crossed with his abject surrender and appeasement. Thanks, pal. However, having now read the Parris piece in the Times: yes, I think Iain was right; it should have been on the newslinks.

Typically well-written article; I would have liked to hear more on the "strange ghastliness" of Chris Huhne, which puts a finger exactly on the spot. There is something a little odd about Huhne, isn't there? Almost as if the shop dummy has suddenly decided it can run the shop better than the staff. And the dummy could well be right...

I'm not wholly convinced by Parris' "death rattle for Labour". You could have written exactly the same piece (and doubtless somebody did) about Crosby, Glasgow Hillhead, Brecon & Radnor, Southwark, Vale of Glamorgan, Greenwich, Fulham, Bournemouth, Eastleigh etc. etc.

The shock by-election defeats in the early 1980s were not a harbinger of doom.

The shock by-election defeats of the middle 1980s were not a harbinger of doom.

The shock by-election defeats of the late 1980s were a harbinger of doom for Thatcher, but only because we know she left office before the end of the 1987 parliament, and they did not foretell the outcome of the 1992 election.

The shock by-election defeats of the middle 1990s were a harbinger of doom because anyone could see Major was going out. They weren't shocks.

Dunfermline & Thingummy only marks the end for Labour if in a few years time they do actually lose. There is an air of death hanging over this wretched govmt but it could be dispelled by a competent change of leader. It doesn't actually alter the need for the Conservatives to defeat Labour, or change any of the problems/issues involved in that. It just puts them into sharper focus.

"Chris Palmer,I'm interested to hear why you think building on greenbelt land is such a good idea?"

Was that not a reference to the famous quote from John Prescott (who else?): "The green belt is one of Labour's finest achievements and we intend to build on it..."?

LOL...what a double entendre! I never came across that, though who really listens to his class-based rantings? I guess it shows that Blair is taking Cameron seriously if he has to bring his big guns out...

"Elections where immigration is not used as a divisive issue are far more healthy"

Divisive? About 70-80% of the population want limits in polls on the subject. That is a significant body of opinion that can't be ignored.

DVA: "Was that not a reference to the famous quote from John Prescott (who else?): "The green belt is one of Labour's finest achievements and we intend to build on it..."?"

Daniel, the quote has never been sourced. It is almost certainly apocryphal. In any case, the green belt is a Conservative achievement -- specifically that of Duncan Sandys. It is the reason why the south east is not just one giant exurb. Abolishing it now would destroy what remains of the south's rural tranquility, while accelerating the relative economic decline of the north and condemning much of London to urban degeneration. I simply cannot believe that David Cameron's Clause 4 moment will be: "Look guys, John Prescott was right and we were wrong, but will you vote for us anyway?"

I hope Osbourne's thoughts on the development of green belt land disappears as quickly as his thoughts on flat taxes.
I can remember arguing 40 years ago that there were infinite brownfield sites in urban and subhurban areas. As far as I can see, no concerted effort has ever been made to log these sites , whether they are empty flats above shoppong arcades or industrial sites, including those vast acres in Euston. Every local council should be made to comb its area for possible building land. I abhor "targets", but would make an exception for those. Surely we could learn from World War 2 efforts such as "dig for victory" that we can solve most problems if we are sufficiently determined.
I'm not an expert on property law, but I think a lot of our housing problems date back to the stupid Rent Act of 1997, which was to protect tenants from rogue landlords such as the notorious Peter Rachman. Up till that time one could get a furnished room in the West end of London for five pounds a week. And if you wanted a job in another town, there was no problem in finding accommodation. After the Act, it didn't pay to be a landlord; the tenant had too many rights. imagine a widow in a large Victorian house. Would she risk letting rooms to tenants on fixed rents who would take you to a rent tribunal at the first suggestion of a modest rent rise? Well done Jim Callaghan; you anticipated the "rights" culture by 30 years! Then of course Thatcher and Tebbitt decided we should all own our own homes. A short-term popular move for council house tenants, but who can afford to get on the property ladder now?
Sorry to ramble on, but we must make a real effort to find brownfield sites and encourage the continental habit of renting at reasonable rates.
Of course it would help if we didn't have to house so many immigrants!

IMHO, the key issue is 'when it's OK to say: "I'm a Tory"'. That's the political tipping point. It happened to us in 1977, before the Winter of Discontent. It happened to Labour in 1994/5. It looks like it is happening to us again.

I know it's a subjective interpretation but membership numbers tell a very different story to the polls and is much more in line with the D&F result. Labour membership grew in the 1990's while ours fell, now the cycle has reversed: they are 200,000 and falling while we are 300,000 and rising. We aren't guaranteed victory yet and the project may yet be derailed, but the tipping point has happened and growth in membership is the leading indicator.

Economically, the leading indicators are youth unemployment and the economically inactive (7.5 million and rising). Parents and Grandparents get really worried that their kids have no future. But they know that radical change can make things worse for themselves in the short term and they don't want that. Without a "winter of discontent" people will always vote for orderly transition - that's why incumbents have such an advantage, as sitting MP's and as governments.

The choice in 2009 will be between orderly transition to either a Brown-ite adminstration with ever-higher taxes and economic stagnation, or a Cameron administration which will restore Conservative competence and prune waste. The Cameron-led Conservative Party is a real alternative to a Labour government, whereas the Lib-Dems are a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the state of politics. The significance of D&F is that Labour voters are abandoning Labour, not that they have become Lib-Dems.

The media coverage of Cameron is another key indicator. They are giving DC coverage because people are willing to read/watch, not because they like him. If the public weren't interested, the media would find something or someone else to talk about to sell advertising, just as they did with Hague and IDS. Now we have to seize that opportunity by talking to the public about things they can relate to.

Our key voters are different to the 1970's - they are used to choice and expect to be consulted rather than told. We need to open up, to ask rather than to tell. It's the style of leadership that GE has used to remarkable success and we could learn from it.

The Internet gives us a forum for debate - like this site - which we have yet to exploit. Policy wonks in CCO and thinktanks are part of the 20th Century - we need to show that we are different instead of just talking about it.

Let's put every policy up for discussion. 18 months of open discussion would not only give us better policies but also a groundswell of support for them when they are launched.

“Chris Palmer, I'm interested to hear why you think building on greenbelt land is such a good idea?” – Malcolm

People in this country need somewhere to live. The Conservative party need to give people living space, and cheaper housing. Historically such a ploy has proven to be very popular. Ian Sider goes completely overboard when he says that the South East would become one giant suburb. That is complete nonsense and he knows it. The percentage of land being built on would be very small indeed. Much of that land is currently unproductive and such land could house many people. Of course there should be restrictions on how many houses are built in certain areas, but the land needs to be used.

A Message from the Campaign To Verify Urban Myths
Re: Ian Sider's comments on Prescott quotations.

It's true that the now infamous line about building on the green belt is difficult to source, and most citations are either unsourced or just refer to other list of Prescott quotations (it's a bit like the so-called greatest ever blonde joke: which, if you haven't read it click here). The problem with most Prescott quotes is that he has a reputation for dentopedology, but Hansard now regularly tidies up his utterances, making it difficult to prove what he really said one way or another, but easy to invent believable gibberish.

It actually comes in two forms: "The Green Belt is a Labour achievement and we will build on it"; and a variation with "Labour policy". When there are different versions of a difficult to source quote it always arouses suspicions. Nevertheless, Prescott has probably come at least close to saying something very like this a number of times when launching revisions of his various PPG (Planning Policy Guidance) documents, if only because of their implications for the green belt.

The best source I could ever track down comes from as recent as last summer from the notorious John Humphries video; from memory, he claimed that Prescott had said it to him in an interview.

The following Prescott quotes are genuine:

"The Government intend to reduce – and probably eliminate – the homeless by 2008."
(Hansard, House of Commons 13th July 2004, col 1268.)

"The objectives remain the same and indeed that has been made clear by the Prime Minister in a speech yesterday that the objectives are clear and the one about the removal of the Taliban is not something we have as a clear objective to implement but it is possible a consequence that will flow from the Taliban clearly giving protection to Bin Laden and the UN resolution made it absolutely clear that anyone that finds them in that position declares themselves an enemy and that clearly is a matter for these objectives."
(Consensus version compiled by the Plain English Campaign from newspaper reports; the official version, Hansard, House of Commons 31st October 2001, col 871 has been translated into English. If you're having trouble understanding the Deputy Prime Minister, he's basically declaring war on Afghanistan.)

Profoundly agree with Griffin's point. This site has to become more constructive in its stand point.

"Profoundly agree with Griffin's point. This site has to become more constructive in its stand point."

It is constructive. If I wanted to be in a party where everybody uncritically supports the leadership, I'd go and join New Labour.

The absence of a report about today's YouGov findings that we've fallen two points since the last poll and are now even further behind the other lot is a nod towards the approach you favour but adopting the ostrich method will do us no favours in the long run.

Chris Palmer:

Building on green belt land is arguably the MOST idiotic policy that I have ever read on this site. Are you serious, or just trying to play Devil's Advocate. It's sure to be a real vote winner, that's for sure. Right up there alongside Gerald Ford claiming no Soviet influence in Eastern Europe.

Chris Palmer makes an excellent argument in favour of building on the Green Belt. I agree.

< picks up Electoral Suicide Gun and aims at forehead >

< BANG >

'It is constructive. If I wanted to be in a party where everybody uncritically supports the leadership, I'd go and join New Labour.'

No its not. There is a difference between constructive criticism and the constant personal attacks and inward looking animosity which characterises many of the contributions to strings on this site.

Rob, there are plenty of people on this site who feel, me included, that David Cameron has yet to prove that he is more than a political charlatan who will say anything, like Blair, to get his hands on the spoils of office. I want a real liberal meritocratic alternative to the dead hand of left-wing ideology which has suffocated this country since the War. To date, I do not see Cameron and his ingrown clique of upper middle class cronies providing it.
Personally, they have all done far far too well out of the left-leaning consensus to have any real appetite to improve it.

And for all their much-hyped media savviness, they bombed last week, big time.

There is still quite a lot of time for them to turn it around....but turn it around they must. Otherwise, I, and many others, won't vote for them. And if that is being "destructive", then I am proud to be "destructive". Put another way, I am an intelligent thinking human being who is not forelock-tugging voting fodder for the Tory Party.

"No its not. There is a difference between constructive criticism and the constant personal attacks and inward looking animosity which characterises many of the contributions to strings on this site."

Your point was that the site isn't constructive. The site itself is constructive, although you are right to point out that quite often the contributors (and I include myself here) aren't.

Chris Palmer,I would agree with building on the greenbelt if some conditions are met first.
1 All 'brownfield' sites in the local area have been exhausted first.
2 No financial incentives are offered to developers to develope greenfield sites that are not available elsewhere.
3 That developers can only build the type of houses that are needed in the local area.I f these are one bedroom apartments there should be no 5 bedroom 'executive' houses included because they are more profitable.No exceptions for any reason whatsoever.
4.No building on floodplains.No exceptions whatsoever
5 If undertaking a major development on greenbelt land all infrastructure ie transport links(including public),scools ,doctors etc are in place first paid for by either the developer or the gov't.Again no exceptions whatsoever.
If these are adhered to perhaps we could consider development although I doubt the developers will be so keen.


No don't misunderstand me. I think this site has been constructive and can be constructive. It is the 'debate'generated which has, at times, degenerated. Everyone who thinks blogs like this have a role to play must be mindful of the 'tone' of debate. I am not in any way saying that people should not be gree to criticise the leadership of the party by offering constructive suggestions. It is just, at times, as illustrated in Micheal's post, the 'tone' of his comments gives the impression that, despite his obvious dislike of this government, he seems to hate the leadership of the Tory party more. Where that leads him I am not sure.

Rob, I suggest you reread the last paragraph of what I wrote. It makes it reasonably clear that I have very little faith in the leadership of the Tory Party, but I have slightly more faith in them than in the leadership of New Labour. Where that may well lead me is where it led me in May 2005: not to vote at all.

'Where that may well lead me is where it led me in May 2005: not to vote at all.'

You see that's what I mean. After all your passiontely expressed rhetoric you couldn't bring yourself to vote for the party which surely is the only alternative open to you if you really want a government which begins to address your concerns. It is also interesting that, given your animosity to the new leadership, you couldn't vote for a party led by Michael Howard. S

I'm not sure its greenbelt policy that has been abandoned as much as it is greenfield policy.

We should build on greenfield sites, most of Britain (about 80-90%) is greenfield, while millions of people are crammed into small spaces.

Lower density greenfield housing has a lower environmental impact, while lower population density and better surroundings can help ameliorate socail problems.

Building on greenfields can, in a way, be good for the environment.

The problem with the CPRE is that they are like me - I live in a prosperous village, with a good mix of 16th-19th century and 20th century homes. Low density, reasonable sized gardens, no development outside existing curtilage. Some pressure on building in gardens but present policy means I have a great quality of life, wonderful landscape to enjoy, see loads of wildlife. And of course house values rise significantly above national averages.

Cost of this policy in preserving my life style is that families with young children have to buy in high density urban develoments in those few towns and cities targeted for growth. Children in high density urban areas don't have the space to play, traffic & fear of strangers limit them to housebound activities, noise/anti social behaviour becomes issue.

And as cities become less attractive of course my property becomes more desirable, prices rise more.....

So of course I'll vote to keep England a green and pleasant land...for the privileged few.

Children in high density urban areas don't have the space to play.

Very true. This is an aspect of the green agenda which Cameron could profitably highlight: the need for the preservation and renewal of urban parks and green areas. Many are under threat or in dire need of renovation. It is an issue which directly impacts quality of life and on which he could generate strong public support.

Rob, I have very little confidence that the Conservative Party will begin to address my concerns anytime in the next few decades. That is why I am unlikely to vote for it. I have increasingly come to the conclusion that politicians of whatever party are a disease, not a cure. The safest thing is to expect little or no progress from any of them (other than hot air) and to plan one's life accordingly.

I didn't vote for Michael Howard because I found his leadership both incompetent and authoritarian, while his manifesto totally lacked any positive alternative vision.

Politicians of all parties may be a disease, but to paraphrase Churchill - it's the best we've got. You are fortunate to live in a society where you can exercise your vote. Should you choose not to (even going to the polling station and spoiling your ballot paper is at least a statement of 'none of the above') then don't moan at the government that you get.
If you don't like the Tories, don't vote for them, but at least vote for someone. Apathy of this nature is a cancer on our society.

I would also question the fact that politicians 'are a disease'.The majority that I have met are in politics for the best of reasons ie that they want to make our country a better place to live. Some are I agree motivated bypersonal vanity but in my experience at least they are a minority. The majority of those I know are backbenchers however!

Well I haven't met as many as you Malcolm, so I cannot comment. But if Mr McGowan is right and they are, I for one would rather have the disease than the cure.

Unless we get more people politically involved, things won't change.

How about changing the law that voting is compulsory for all adults above the age of 18? However, the proviso that I would put on this is that there would then have to be an option on the ballot paper to tick "None of the Above".

No party would ever agree to this of course - they would all fear that that box would get more ticks than all the other candidates combined!

Has it ever crossed your mind, Jon White, that the reason so many people are not politically involved is that they see the political parties as full of spivs, retreads and second-division careerists who will say anything and do nothing.....other than spend taxpayers' money on an epic scale and line their own pockets? Harsh but far from unfair. They regard voting as an often futile exercise in choosing between a flea and a louse.

I took the entirely principled decision in May 2005 that the politicians on offer weren't worth voting for. I am entirely comfortable with that decision. I also have better things to do with my time than trek down to the polling station simply to create waste paper. I appreciate that I could be living in Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany. But somehow I don't see voting for a Party led by David Cameron and chaired by the charismatically-challenged Francis Maude as striking a blow for freedom.

What's more, I am fully entitled to complain about the lack of real choice offered by political parties. The political classes have become a self-serving caste with little to offer the ordinary voter.

No Michael, you did not take a principled decision. You simply couldn't be bothered. You have every right not to like anything on offer, a situation that I have much sympathy with. Spoiling your paper is not creating waste paper - that WOULD have been a principled decision. It would have said "I have considered the issues, and don't like what anyone is offerring me". If more people did that, then the message might at least have some chance of getting across.

I too am not a great fan of the current leadership of this once great party. But I will do what I can to free this country of the government that we now have. Would DC and FM be any better? Frankly I don't know at this stage, but I'm willing to chance it. I don't see how they could be worse.

But to not use your freedom to vote is, in my mind at least, nothing short of criminal, and immoral. The right to universal suffrage was hard won. Too many people think like you - "why should I bother, it will make no difference. They're all a bunch of self-serving hypocrites". Well maybe they are, but sitting at home and doing nothing won't change things, will it?

Maybe it's true that we get the government that we deserve, and it's apathy from voters who have (at least partly) ensured that we have had this government for 9 years. You may be comfortable in your decision, but I for one love my country more than just to say "I can't be bothered".

Jon, tone it down please. Unless you can read my mind, you are in no position to contradict what I said. I made a positive decision not to vote because of the thoroughly unpalatable choice on offer. I chose not to make the infantile time-wasting gesture of going to the polling station to scribble on the menu.

I am well aware that the right to universal suffrage was hard won and defended....by my father, uncle and grandfather in fact. They would have agreed with me that that does not place me any under any moral obligation to turn out once every four years to tick a box for the benefit of a bunch of careerists most of whom don't give a t*** about their constituents.

Michael, IMO, there are a lot of decent people in the lower reaches of politics, and even among the backbenchers.

The problem is that at the top, politics is dominated by a self-serving closed caste, consisting of senior ministers, senior opposition front benchers, party bureaucracies, advisers and senior journalists; probably numbering no more than 2,000 people all told, but all more or less agreeing on the following:-

1. The job of government is to spend 45-50% of national income. The citizen keeps whatever the government can afford to *give* them.

2. Sexual freedom is a self-evident good, but in every other area of personal freedom, the State has the right to micro-manage peoples' lives.

3. Massive immigration is another self-evident good.

4. Political correctness must be implemented at every level of society; they value "diversity" in everything except opinion.

5. Health and Education are best run as State monopolies.

There are areas of disagreement within this caste, such as Europe, Iraq and some civil liberties issues (often within parties than between them) but there is a striking degree of common ground.

Sean, as so often, I agree. The upper echelons of the politico-media spectrum are an oligarchy of power and wealth masquerading as a folksy democracy.

Michael, as a citizen (and clearly an intelligent and thinking one) you do have a moral obligation to state your displeasure at the ballot box when called upon to do so. You have no obligation whatsoever to vote for anyone, you live in a democracy.

The acceptance of apathy at the ballot box is another indicaton of the decline in the UK. Spoiling a ballot paper is not infantile. In my eyes, the ballot paper should contain the 'none-of-the-above' option, so that those who feel like you do could then express that view properly. However, it doesn't.

The consequences of your apathy are therefore that no-one knows how you feel about the political elite. (Many of your sentiments I share, by the way). As opposition is not recorded, then acceptance is assumed.

If you want to change things, then get up and do something about it Sir!

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