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I think it is as premature of Jackie Ashley to proclaim complete victory as it was for some right wing commentators to do so in the late eighties.

The moment you proclaim victory you stop fighting. Which is what happened in the late eighties and early nineties. Its one of the reasons for the massive drift in the Major government.

JA has written her article through rose tinted glasses. Only interesting really to see the mindset of the centre-left commentariate.

Jackie Ashley's unmasked rejoicing betrays a shocking degree of complacency amongst the liberal left - until Cameron's Conservatives™ make any concrete policy commitments, it is far too early to be making any such victory pronouncements on behalf of any part of the political spectrum.

The words 'false sense of security' spring to mind - David Cameron wants to convince people the Conservatives have changed, and with this article, Jackie Ashley is doing his work for him.

Maybe a little premature to declare complete victory, but I do think her comments are broadly justified - The Spectator (in an article by Fraser Nelson) also declared that 'we're all big-state politicians now'.

I hope the Editor is right on what those commissions might produce, because otherwise a Cameron victory at the next election will also mean another defeat for Conservatism.

This is typical Guardian bias. Thatcher did a lot to "help the most disadvantaged in society" by allowing people to buy their council houses, amongst other things. As for the "moral obligation to make poverty history", Blair surrended on CAP.

The truth is that Cameron is correctly taking the moral high ground which Labour dishonestly claimed for itself.

Some people (I name no names; I pass no comment; I do not want to discuss opinion poll results from 1997-2005) have been making the same point on this blog since, oh, midnight on 6th December. Good old Grauniad, only 3 months behind. Still, I suppose they've got to do something with all those dead trees.

As a bizarre aside, Jackie Ashley's father was a councillor with my grandfather in Lancashire. Wondering what would have happened if he hadn't gone deaf is an interesting what-might-have-been.

Jackie Ashley's article is interesting not for what is says but for why it was written.

JA is one of a number of Labour-supporting commentators who has found Blair's rule increasingly dispiriting. They loved it when he swept the hated Tories out of office and most of them dared to dream of some kind of a renewed socialism.

Now, nine years later, they are glum and more than a little bitter. The dawning realisation that Gordon Brown might take a similarly hyper-cautious approach for fear of alienating Middle England is more than Ms Ashley and her friends can bear. What, they ask, is the point of all these years in power if we're too afraid to do anything left wing?

So her strategy is to downplay the likelihood of a backlash by claiming that the right has collapsed, thus to embolden Gordy to follow his ideological instincts. Sadly for her, and for Tory strategists, I suspect that GB will be even more careful than TB. He knows that everyone outside the rarified world of socialist fantasists is just waiting for him to jump left so they can attack him and I doubt whether his crippling psychological caution will allow him to step boldly onto the battlefield in precisely the place that would give David Cameron maximum advantage.

Of course a counter argument could be that post Thatcher the left has so accepted the old centre right position (comments like Blair is to the right of Ken Clarke etc.) as being the new centre left.....

The serious argument isn't about the focus of the political agenda as the policies and about how we make the arguments. We for example may not talk about tax cuts but can talk about need to be competitive, talk about simplifying the tax & benefit system in a distinctively conservative fashion.

I expect (hope?) that when our policies are fleshed out they will not be big state solutions but more about empowerment of the people. The messages are mixed curently and it is important that we do influence Camerons Conservatives towards policies that are recognisably conservative - though not just reworkings of our policies of three decades ago.

The next election isn't going to be fought on left v right. It's going to be fought on Britain's place in the world and the fact that Gordon Brown is the serious non-lightweight man to deal with the serious non-lightweight challenges - at least, that's how Gordon looks to be shaping it. He clearly thinks he can drive DC off the field by labelling him as a flim-flam merchant.

So, we have the interesting prospect that Gordon will argue only a strong state can guide us through the perils of terrorism (goodbye civil liberties) and globalisation (lots of fatuous quangos and incentive schemes for investment, job re-training, social cohesion/inclusion etc etc). You might find it odd that socialism will be put forward as the best way to handle globalisation, but stranger things have happened - and people could find it reassuring. After all, George Orwell thought the clinching argument for socialism was that capitalism couldn't run a world war properly...

Uncle William's tip for the Budget: Gordon to announce a tranche of reviews about the economic threat from China and India, to report back about the same time as - or perhaps a week or so ahead of - DC's Policy Groups. Longer-term prediction: Gordon to make the startling discovery that Blair was a "true" socialist all along.

Situation calls for major speech from DC on world affairs.

Think it might be a case of transferrance from Gordon - all that bile he has stored up for Flim Flam Blair waiting to gush out in his attacks on Cameron.

Following Williams good advice on a major world affairs speech we can really get Gordon steamed up if DC, ( & Osborne, Hague etc) all make the running on things he might highlight in his Budget speech - he's had years of Tony taking the credit, if he thinks the opposition are stealing a march on him.....

if the centre left are winning how come the LDs are suddenly talking about privatising Royal Mail & cutting benefits to single parents?
And on flip flopping - Ming stood behind 50% tax rate through all those elections and now....

"He (Ming) earlier told the BBC he would consider a 50% top tax rate - a policy scrapped after last year's election".


The Lib Dems did get rid of that policy but its clear hes thinking again.

Re-writing history is the greatest achievement of the centre left. The whole article is an attempt to justify the Labour party’s positioning and to persuade Guardian readers that the Conservative party’s actions are a Labour victory rather than its death knell.

There are some political arguments that have been so convincingly won that their use as a definition of political orientation is now obsolete. Large-scale nationalisation of industry, punitive taxation, union closed shops, secondary picketing, all these things have become dinosaurs.

Norman Tebbit says that we must not let our enemies define the ground on which we fight. I wholeheartedly agree, over the last ten year Labour have claimed much traditional Conservative ground as their own and we have been defined in ways which caricatures what we actually believe.

Were we ever a racist party? Were we ever homophobic? Were we ever authoritarian? No. Yet this is how we have allowed ourselves to be painted. We have been on the political back foot for far too long. We have let the left claim our ideas as their own and we have been too timid to cry foul.

As a party we have huge amount to be proud of and the complete re-definition of the Labour party and shift in the mid-point on the left-right axis are two of our greatest achievements.

Labour policy since 1997 has been defined by their fear of the Conservatives and by their attempts to stay “on our turf”. Lets all stand up and shout “bollocks” whenever the Left try to claim victory and let everyone know who has actually been calling the shots, even in opposition.

Beggining? The Centre left has dominated British politics since the First World War. Thatcher was merely an anomaly in that bought about by a far-left opposition.

"Were we ever a racist party? Were we ever homophobic? Were we ever authoritarian? No."

Because I feel like being a pedant I'll point out that we were once these things, albeit a century or two ago.

As for Jackie Ashley's article, it does raise an interesting point. Would we rather have a centre-right Labour Government and a right-wing Conservative opposition or a centrist Conservative Government with a centre-left Labour opposition? In short, would moving the Tories to the Right and keeping Labour in power be a price to pay to ensure that the political consensus didn't swing to the left?

"Beggining? The Centre left has dominated British politics since the First World War. Thatcher was merely an anomaly in that bought about by a far-left opposition."

Indeed, a libertarian might argue that since the Edwardian period (where the Government took under 10% of GDP in taxes) the country has gone rabidly socialist. Education and health were nationalised and a massive state welfare system replaced the private voluntary organisations. Even Thatcher was only right-wing by late 20th century standards.

Hostorically, the increase in state spending is largely a function of GDP growth. Given that GDP is likely to continue growing, the Conservative Party desperately needs to develop a Conservative approach to public expenditure (that is how to spend, not how much). If we don't then Labour will do its way -- and we will have the choice of either (a) staying on the sidelines, (b) playing catch up, or (c) hoping for economic upset in which our function is to get the gravy train back on track.

I agree with the comment that we need to influence the Party from outside as well as inside. This is where think-tanks, and other influential groups such as the TPA can play a major role. They can only do so if the mainstream media will report their views. Have we got friends in the right places?

Speaking of the loony left, Captain Campbell has begun rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic - Clegg has replaced Oaten, Moore has replaced Campbell, Huhne has replaced Baker (implications for the cross-party consensus on the environment?) and Goldsworthy has replaced Huhne.

This is entirely right.

"Moore has replaced Campbell"

I hope you mean Moore has now become foreign spokesman rather than Leader!

Has Mark Oaten recieved a post?

It looks like Oaten's off the key positions according to the Lib Dem website. No job has been assigned to him yet.

Doesn't look like it Sean,details are on BBC.Does anyone know very much about these people,is there anyone we should fear or are they just run of the mill useless?

"I hope you mean Moore has now become foreign spokesman rather than Leader!"

Yes - Campbell hasn't suddenly keeled over... yet.

"Has Mark Oaten recieved a post?"

I doubt it. The only post Mark Oaten will be receiving will be that he will be driving around in a red van in his new job after the next election.

"Does anyone know very much about these people,is there anyone we should fear or are they just run of the mill useless?"

Clegg is tipped as the LD Cameron and Moore ran Campbell's leadership campaign (and judging by how they nearly achieved the impossible and ballsed that up, I'd say run of the mill useless!).

I'm a bit surprised that neither Davey nor Laws were promoted. Defence (previously held by Moore) and Trade (previously held by new Chief of Staff Lamb) are available.

A blog charting the slow, lingering, self-inflicted death of the LDs has been established.

Michael Moore...never heard of him. He looks to have a long record with the party and is Deputy Leader in Scottish Dim Libs.


Iain Dale reports regarding Norman Baker that he received a mail with various allegations.
Without Baker and with Ming on an anti-DC trail wonder what future is for LD/Tory cross party groups.

There is now a separate post on the LibDem reshuffle. From a housekeeping point of view it would be better if breaking stories were discussed on the frontpage so threads can keep on subject. Thanks!

Ashley's article is very weak. The trend that is widely recognised is that Labour have had to shift to the right to be taken seriously. However this was really all spin as they are still stuck in the past playing around with socialist inspired ideas that don't work. Cameron is simply tempering and modernising our approach but it is very much centre-right not centre-left. Ashley can keep on saying what she is as this will help us,

Tim makes a solid point. I would go on to add that there is too much focus on personalities and on detailed policies, rather than focussing on building a truly vibrant, well-resourced conservative movement. Crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on policy is important but will not win us power. Likewise charismatic leaders alone will not win us power. We need to build a conservative movement akin to the movement that elected conservatives in Canada, the US and Australia. The Party leadership cannot (and cannot be expected to) deliver victory.

I hope Labour does move back to the left and good old socialism, - because that would ensure a Conservative victory in 4 years. Unfortunatly Brown knows this which is why he is publicly embracing Blairite reforms.

If Brown puts up NI to, as he'll say, "pay for increased funding for the NHS/education" (take your pick), does Cameron support him. If yes, the Tories are going nowhere, if no, Blair and the media will trot out stories of uncaring Tories.

Politically, it's a tricky one.

Donal, I'm not sure there was a 'conservative movement' here in Australia in 1996 when John Howard was elected. There was certainly a mood (particularly in marginal seats) to turf Labor out, but I wouldn't say there was a swelled and organised popular movement mobilised to campaign for a change of government.

Our modern political parties in Australia are sustained by, and shifts in Australia's electoral behaviour are significantly shaped by, the following:
1. compulsory voting (i.e. elections are decided in Australia by largely apathetic people that in Britain probably wouldn't vote),
2. campaigns made possible by public funding and big donations, and
3. lots of political advertising on commercial TV and radio.

These are more critical (particularly comulsory voting) than the building of a 'conservative movement'. The US might be a better example in that sense than Australia.

>>>>if the centre left are winning how come the LDs are suddenly talking about privatising Royal Mail<<<<
Only part privatisation of the courier parts which would leave the state and employees with a major share in the company and the actual Crown Post Offices wholly state owned still, hardly a very radical change - a far more far reaching and ultimately successful policy on the Post Office would be to transfer the Post Office to be integrated in Network Rail, deregulate Postal Services totally and go for a wholesale floatation of the Post Office's Courier Services on the Stock Exchange with the aim being to raise the maximum revenue from the sale, then to license a number of companies to have their own stamp systems and maybe have 5 private mail companies in open competition using teh same mail boxes, the sorting perhaps would have to be done seperatelt, then all non-security sensitive Public Sector Admin could be put out to Competitive Tendering and then Network Rail\Post Office could bid for it alongside private companies.

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