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On a procedural point, we still have many constituencies without candidates. There are two tranches still to come in October and November (and more bayond that).

If we do have a snap election, I think candidates' nomination papers have to be in by the sixth working day of the timetable.

How do we get all these candidates in place so quickly?! Does anyone know the form?

And yes, let's keep positive and fight Brown, not each other!

Finally there is the issue of 'Duracell Dave'. Our leader has hardly stopped over the last month

Well I know the feeling, and they don't pay me overtime, either.

The problem is, of course, that 'Cameron Fatigue' has now set in. You can almost hear the strangled nationwide groan every time his lugubrious patrician features appear on screen.

Dave has moved from fresh face to rentaquote and, frankly, I dont see how the trend can be reversed.

That wasn't what I meant by "constructive", TT!

Yes, crime AND the NHS is a good balance.

'Duracell Dave'

You mean "1.5 volts Dave"?

I disagree.

Why not campaign on crime and health rather than crime and the NHS?

Surely the aim is to improve quality not get tied to one method?

We have world 'quality of healthcare' rankings, so surely pledging to improve on those would be a measurable pledge that would not bind the leader to one particular approach?

So more "I'll improve British healthcare" and less "I'll improve the NHS" please!

You are right that the rest of the Shadow Cabinet should own some policies and get out and promote them. I reckon the environmental policies are genuine, come across as genuine and should be promoted. It was a 547 page document for heaven's sake. There is plenty of meat there. Get out and fight for it. And no, I am not being sarcastic just because unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that constitutional issues come first. I really do think the Gummer Goldsmith doc is excellent and a very rare thing for a party in opposition to commit to. Superb - but it has to be built on by the Shadow Cabinet getting their message out.

I don't get the feeling in the office today (broad cross section of society!) that there is any appetite for an election. If he does go to the polls for a snap election in October, the question of turnout and certain vote comes into play.

You are so right about Caroline Spelman. WHERE IS SHE?

Ed - IMO we have a big challenge in the style and manner in which DC appears in the media compared to Brown.

An example.

I accidently tuned into to Ken Clarke being interviewed on Radio 4 yesterday about Northern Rock and Labour's involvement - it was a joy to listen to.

I wouldn't want KC in a front line position because I can't accept his slavish and uncritical support of the EU - but as a political bruiser the man has no equal.

If the interview is still available on the Radio 4 website I'd recomend it - it cheered me up for hours but it brings our real weakness into sharp focus - we have nobody else, to my knowledge, who can talk so well yet wield the knife so incisively and with such precision.

Maybe he could give DC (and everyone else)lessons?

Anyone else hearing through the grapevine that next Friday Brown will call a General Election?

I am genuinely scratching my head, trying to work out why anyone (except someone on benefits) would vote for the Labour party. Can someone help me understand this? Under Labour we have immigration out of control, quality of life in rapid decline, record debt, police unable to tackle anti-social crime, MRSA rampant in our hospitals, a disastrous multicultural experiment foisted upon us. Meanwhile the Conservatives have a photogenic, intelligent and young front bench with lots of new and interesting ideas. What is happening here?

We, as a party, need to be more active - like you say, where are the Caroline Spelmans? Each and every member of the Shadow Cabinet needs to be making policy points in their area, and arguing the benefits.

Personally, part of the reason Cameron is the least popular leader is because he's all you see. Whilst he could have in part brought it on himself with the whole "David Cameron's Conservatives", who else has been active and vocal during the recess? Come conference time and beyond, our Shadow Cabinet need to stand up and be counted, and show their worth.

I agree with Tim's editorial line on this, following the polls over the last couple of months I have been expecting an ICM poll and Guardian front page like this.
I rate ICM, BUT there were a few findings in this poll which lead me to believe that this is a prime example why we should not put too much stock in any of the polls until things settle down after the conference season.
The fact that Ming Campbell polled better than Cameron in this poll against the underlining flow of figures in other polls should have got the alarm bells ringing!!

I expect more bad news for us in the polls over the next week and half because the focus will be on the Libdems and Labour.
The party needs a good conference, but more importantly we need unity and a sense of real hunger for government from the parliamentary party. Something tells me I will be posting something similar in the run up to the Scottish Conservative Party conference as well!!

The public don't believe/trust them Jay and the party don't like being insulted by them.

It's pretty obvious really and was completely avoidable.

Tim, yes there are a number of underlying factors that offer hope of closing the gap.

But we also have to be realistic and focus on a 2 election strategy that has us making progress (40+ net gains at the next GE, knock out 25% of LD MPs etc).

With 42% of all councillors we have the biggest local base and it is this that shows how much the voters really support us. Our councillors have made far more gains than our MPs in the past 10 years. If only our MPs could do the same.

Don't be taken in by the spin. The credit crunch, and hence looming economic problems, has only just started.

Northern Rock is just a symptom of a huge, growing economic mess in the UK which Brown, Darling, and their friends in the media wil be unable to spin their way out of for much longer.

I suppose this makes an Autumn cut-and-run election more likely though I doubt Brown really has the bottle for this.

On the positive side, my sister last night said that when the election comes she will be first in the queue voting Conservative. This is from someone who has never voted because it doesn't change anything. Her reasoning is twofold, one that she needs to cancel out a Labour vote from the huge benefits payroll they have constructed and secondly that the Conservatives can not do worse with the economy. I know this is anecdotal but I suspect similar calculations are being made elsewhere.

I agree with the lead article. Cameron has been extremely busy over the last few weeks and should be rightly praised for this. It is equally true that the other members of the shadow cabinet need to raise their profile with the electorate.

Cameron cannot alone win us the next election. Whilst Thatcher was a strong leader, she did not do it alone. She was surrounded by other heavyweights such as Lawson & Howe with Major benefiting from the support of Clarke, Hurd and Heseltine.

If we are to be seen as a true alernative government then the Conservative Party needs to be seen as a viable TEAM, not just through our leader. Brown and Straw aside, the cabinet looks weak and we need to exploit this with a strong, visible shadow team.

"Anyone else hearing through the grapevine that next Friday Brown will call a General Election?"
I have seen a couple of rumours about him calling one on Monday....
But if he chooses to call one next Friday then I hope it backfires on him in the way the last minute "tax cut" did in his last budget!!
Pulling a stunt like that next Friday to blow the Conservative conference out of the water would be very interesting. What would happen, could this deny the Conservatives their week in the media if campaign rules kick in?

One of the problems Jay, is that most members of our shadow cabinet have been all but invisible.I do not know whether whether this has been deliberate but if so it has been a mistake and should be rectified now.We do not elect a president (despite Blair's best efforts) and we desperately need to show the electorate that we have a credible alternative TEAM and are not just a one man band.
The next few weeks will show us exactly how hungry the Conservative party as a whole including it's activists are for power. Please don't blow it everybody!

I despair. Over the past few weeks we have seen foot and mouth-twice, the Wanless Report on the NHS and the Financial crisis- all of them as a direct result of the policies of Gordon Brown. What happens? All we get is Gordon Brown coming on the television,giving the impression these are nothing to do with him and assuring us he will put them right!

It is incredible that so much heat can be created by the party representatives because Lady T visits Downing Street, yet when it comes to the really important issues of the day, their silence is deafening

As a loyal conservative member in a marginal Labour seat I am appalled at the lack of any real determination to get Gordon Brown- all we hear is that his honeymoon will soon be over. All I hope is that this comes before and not after another thrashing at the polls.

What is the Official Opposition doing? Where is the Front Bench- why do we not have anyone in the party who can articulate what really is happening. Instead all we get is the perception that they regard the next election as lost already and that with their safe seats and second incomes, why bother anyway? All the public sees are arguments and low key responses- it is amazing how many housewives have now got the impression that they will have to pay to use their supermarket's carpark!

Is there nonone in this party who can knock heads together?

Cameron has alienated a sizeable number of people who would normally vote Conservative. In trying to appeal to Guardian types, he has lost support from many.

"Cameron has alienated a sizeable number of people who would normally vote Conservative. In trying to appeal to Guardian types, he has lost support from many."

Christina, an other reason I am taking this poll with a pinch of salt is the fact that recent polls have been showing just the opposite. It is Libdem voters who left Labour under Blair which seem to be going back to the fold under Brown.
Stick with a core vote strategy and get a core vote GE result, if we can't broaden the tent enough then we stay in opposition, end of.

These polls have been so erratic and public opinion so fickle that I don't worry about an early election. Once the nation goes into election-mode with the massive publicity that brings, it will be a chance to put across Conservative policy and to expose Brown for shape-shifting politician that he is. David Cameron is much better suited to a high profile media campaign than stodgy Gordon Brown.

After all this efforts to broaden appeal of the party, Cameron has spread himself too thinly. He has to remain Conservative at the core and campaign on core party issues, although talking about the environment is not a problem.

I still blame Zac and Gummer for these poll ratings, mind.

The 2 elections strategy is not necessarily as depressing as it first sounds.
Personally I can not see Labour under Brown INCREASING the number of seats it holds (maybe they can claw a few seats back from the Lib-Dems in the North but they will almost certainly lose more to us in the South).
The really interesting thing is what happens to the Lib-Dem vote. They are in their weakest position for years and their activist base (certainly in my bit of Hampshire) is no where near what is was in the 1990's.
A weakened Labour government and a consolidation of our position in the South, Midlands and parts of the suburban North would put us in a good position to win an outright majority when the wheels do come off the economy. That they will come off I am unfortunately utterly convinced.

Jay, [Sept 19, 2007 at 09:25- why anyone (except someone on benefits) would vote for the Labour party],

it's not Labour, it's us! We need to 1. highlight Labour's deficiencies, & 2. set out cogent policies. Team needs to be more inspiring too.

'The first thing to remember about the collapse and de facto nationalisation of Northern Rock is that it was essentially about house prices.'

Simon Jenkins. The Guardian (today).

Labour: Safe as Houses?

The Englishman's castle, his home, underpins the entire illusion of Brown’s steady hand. The value of property has been willfully inflated by the restriction upon supply and fueled by £1 Trillion of personal debt.

Consequence: You will now be taxed an average of £18,000 to die in the UK based upon the average value of a detached house and the current IHT threshold. This is not an affluent South East issue; this is based upon national house values.

Gordon Brown is accountable.

Consequence: The average price of the average house is now 9X the average salary and the aspirations of an entire generation have been pitched beyond any hope of fulfillment.

Gordon Brown is accountable.

Gordon Brown is accountable for repossession orders at a five year high and as the US sub prime market ripples through our economy the lenders will call in the debts and compound the housing crisis by refusing to lend.

Labour: Safe as Houses?

And how has Gordon Brown anticipated the inevitable economic consequences for the average UK citizen? He has changed the penalties for insolvency:

Bankruptcy is down from three years to one year on discharge and if you have your car repossessed you will now receive £2000 to buy a replacement.

How has Gordon Brown reacted to Northern Rock? Has he allowed market forces to prevail? No, the supposed Stalinist has nationalised a private company.

Scotty 10:13,

Why do the Cameroons universally misunderstand the meaning of 'broaden' as in 'broadening support'?

Broadening means to *build on* what you have not a parallel shift.

It does not mean insulting and losing your core voters in a bid to win a new set of voters, it means taking your current support with you whilst you seek new support.

Calling current members 'delusional' or 'dinosaurs' is consistent with a shifting, not broadneing agenda.

"The attempt to charge Mr Brown with causing the difficulties in liquidity that are at the core of what has occurred and to draw a parallel between Northern Rock’s accounts and the wider use of personal credit in the past decade is ludicrous."

This, in fact, is ludicrous from the Times. To assert that Gordon Brown has had nothing to do with the easy-credit culture is a nonsense, and deliberately misleading. Labour have encouraged and relied on debt to fuel growth and create a falsely based feel-good-factor. The Times is clearly going to defend Brown's corner come what may.

I think that Dave although young and telegenic (though I think he has aged hugely in the last 12 months) comes over as smug and self satisfied. It can't be only me that wants to smack him in the face each time he appears on television.

What the tories need is some gravitas....but Rifkind and Clarke are out in the wilderness. You can't put Redwood on television. Period. Hague is popular now, but people don't forget the poor judgement he showed when he was leader. So that leaves you with David Davis. He'd have a chance against Brown. Cameron and Osborne have no chance whatsoever and are leading you up the garden path.

The Tory party needs to change, thats for certain, and the first change should be at the top.

Then the conservative party should come out as just that. Offer large tax cuts, be tough on crime including a referendum on the reintroduction of capital punishment for certain offences, emphasise personal responsibility. Cut spending on welfare, introuduce tiny quotas on immigration. Employ thousands of new border police to evict illegal immigrants. Have a referendum on membership of the EU.

Then we can have a political discussion in this country as we will have a definite choice between parties.

You won't win by trying to mimic New Labour.

"it will be a chance to put across Conservative policy and to expose Brown for shape-shifting politician that he is."

May be an election is the time of putting across policies, but the time of showing up Gordon Brown was months ago, it was when he was Chancellor, when Osborne failed in his task; it was during his coronation, when the Conservative leadership went absent; now is all a bit late, it is certainly too late during an election.

An opposition party has to first identify the problems before people are prepared to listen to your solutions. The Conservatives have failed to get to first base with the most critical issue for everybody, 'the economy stupid', and that failure should be laid at the door of the Shadow Chancellor, who has rarely been out of the shadow. This is an issue I have been banging away at in frustration for sometime on this message board, and though I was relived he did eventually make an appearance on the Northern Rock issue, it wasn't long before I was bashing my head on the desk in frustration as he dropped the ball.

For example when asked what would the Conservatives do about the Northern Rock credit crunch, rather than saying ‘this is an issue stemming from Gordon Brown’s attack on pensions and savings, making property speculation the only game in town, needed to be sustained by sucking in funds from the money markets’, a god given opportunity to politically knife Gordon Brown and his economic reputation, George Osborne said, ‘well we need to have an investigation to find out when Chancellor Darling knew about the issue’.

Aaaaahhhhhh. Does anybody think George Osborne is up to the task?

On the bright side, there is no mention that I can see on the BBC website and there was no mention in the 6.30am news either.

DCs on his own because no one takes him or his green policies seriously anymore.

Brown has effectively nationalised all the banks and guaranteed everyone's savings. When he wins the election he will get his money back by raising taxes on everything that moves. Many of the targets will have already been identified by DC and friends. Talk about digging holes for yourself!

Brown's greatest asset is that he is not Blair. Cameron bought into the Blairite agenda and does not offer any alternative vision to the country. After all he said he was at ease with the changes delivered by Nulab.

Brown's long opposition to Blair has allowed him to distance himself from Blair's policies despite his involvement in and support for them throughout the last ten years.

Making the NHS better only means making it bigger. Does anyone on this blog really believe in central planning.

DC cannot win and is already toast. I imagine most of the shadow cabinet are already clambering on to the lifeboats.If you wanted a political future would you put yourself in the firing line with DC and the A-listers?


"Stick with a core vote strategy and get a core vote GE result, if we can't broaden the tent enough then we stay in opposition, end of."

There's such a thing as broadening support with AND politics which keeps one's core voters loyal and attracts new voters, and then there's a strategy which rejects core vote politics in favour of a new politics (that of the Guardian) and this may attract a few new votes but loses many core votes.

Cameron has chosen the latter. Result? Another lost GE.

I suspect that the real effects of the Northern Rock debacle will take a while to filter through. I suspect that most punters either don't blame the govt. for the immediate crisis and/or think they handled a bad situation relatively well.

On the other hand, I think confidence has been badly shaken. People are beginning to fret about mortgage rates and falling house prices. We may not be the beneficiaries of that though. In times of economic difficulty people may well feel it's better the devil you know. I like George Osborne but I do fear that he is perceived as too light weight. I don't think the combination of young, relatively inexperienced leader and even younger less experienced chancellor is a reassuring one when the economic waters look so choppy. Hague as shadow chancellor would 'balance the ticket' much better, in my view.

An extract from an article in today's Telegraph titled "Darling accused of double standards by workers who lost pensions"

""Paul Braithwaite, general manager of the Equitable Members Action Group, said that members were furious over the treatment handed out to Northern Rock’s customers, compared to those of Equitable Life.

“We’ve been stonewalled for six years and Northern Rock, with its highly dubious business model, gets dealt with in a few days,” Mr Braithwaite said. “What’s the difference? An election’s looming this time, that’s what.” ""

A very valid line for DC and Osborne to follow - I look forward to hearing them aggressively taking a similar line in the media in defence of both the Equitable life folk and those who lost their final salary schemes when their companies when broke, only to discover that Brown's government would not support them as promised.

Or perhaps they could send Ken Clarke in to do the job?

There is a two fold problem with wanging on about high levels of personal debt from the conservative position

1. You believe in a free market, and especially freedom of capital. Or do you think the government should have the final say in approving people's mortgage applications, setting criteria they have to meet to borrow money from publicly listed banks.

2. The very people with "high" levels of debt are the very ones you need to switch to you from Labour. They are the aspirational 20% or so of the population that feel they have personal wealth for the first time, having got onto the property ladder in the last 25 years or so.

The poor cannot get credit. The rich don't need it. So the message from Cameron re debt levels is aimed squarely at middle england. It's a message they don't particularly want to hear, as people in general feel that they can manage their own finances thank you very much. They may be wrong, but they don't want politicians telling them not to remortgage to afford nice holidays, cars etc etc.

Get rid of boy george and replace him with a heavyweight.
Focus FROM NOW on a single issue 'WASTE'!

In the NHS,Education,Regional Assemblies,Quangos,tax credits.

In plain English where has all the money gone.

Our response to the Northern Rock episode was lamentable. I have been saying for weeks that Osborne is a liability in such a senior position. Like it or not you need gravitas in that position and Alistair Darling was able to look the part, whether you agree with the actions or not.

We are making a huge tactical error by giving the impression that we resent hard working people driving their cars to Tescos, or using Easyjet twice a year. This does not come out well from "Trust Fund Tories" and gives the impression that our leadership is unworldly, and out of touch with the aspirations of "ordinary" people.

My prediction as things stand:

1. Election this year.
2. Comfortable Labour win.
3. Cameron/Osborne/Hilton out.
4. Davis v Fox
5. 5 more years in the wilderness.

'Calling current members 'delusional' or 'dinosaurs' is consistent with a shifting, not broadneing agenda.'

Yes, and he has described the English as 'ignorant':

'Mr Cameron will also pledge to defend the United Kingdom, making a "positive case for Britain that speaks to the heart as well as the head". The Conservative leader will warn that "the ignorance of English people about Scots and Scotland" is the greatest threat to the Union.'

The Scotsman. 15th September 2006

But, hey ho, I will fight tooth and claw to see a Conservative government elected because I am a Conservative by nurture, nature and passion and would rather have my entrails boiled in acid than see Gordon Brown's smug insincerity find legitimacy at Westminster. OK, I think that Cameron's green thing is both overplayed and unwise and disagree with Tim Montgomery about abortion law but we are all Conservatives by conviction in a broad church of opinion.

And who am I? No one but I am a Conservative and Conservatives are not surrender monkeys.

Patriot said "A very valid line for DC and Osborne to follow - I look forward to hearing them aggressively taking a similar line in the media in defence of both the Equitable life folk and those who lost their final salary schemes when their companies when broke, only to discover that Brown's government would not support them as promised."

The Banker says: No deal, I'm afraid. Osborne won't make an open-ended spending commitment like that. Not even he is daft enough to try to beat Labour in a bidding war by promising to underwrite every pension in the country over and above the new pension support fund. Also, the UK isn't rich enough to cover such a guarantee if it were ever triggered.

DC isn't stupid - he must see that something has to change from current policy/presentation for us to win.

He has a big chance at the conference - please do not let us down Dave.

'Stick with a core vote strategy and get a core vote GE result, if we can't broaden the tent enough then we stay in opposition, end of.'

How many times do the flaws in this line of reasoning have to be pointed out?

What's required is not "core" or "broad" policies but the CORRECT policies. If these are popular, great. If not, though, they have to be argued for.

Cameron's strategy, stripped of jargon such as "centre ground" is openly based on "let's go for popularity regardless". Not only is this wrong in principle, and arouses not support but contempt, but his idea of popularity appears to derive from the Independent's leaders column, which - and this may surprise any Cameroonies reading this - is not in my experience typical of the population as a whole.

I would be really interested to hear from Tim Montgomerie, and fellow Tory bloggers, with regards to how they would see the Party adapting if we lose No.4.

I am not meaning to be defeatist, but reading the runes from following politics closely for 30 years, and being a member, I think we are shafted.

The Editor asks "Is it too much to ask to try and have a positive, constructive discussion?"
All I can say is that I am sorry Tim but the Tories must be desperate and they only have themselves to blame. Project Cameron should have been ditched at the earliest opportunity.
Not doing so has only made things worse.

DC received a lot of bad advice a cuple of months - in particular junior advisers persuading hm to go ahead and visit Rwanda at the time of the flood crisis.

The last month or so has shown a strong fightback with Coulson to the fore and the junior advisers moved from DC office to other jobs at CCHQ.

Now isn't the time to panic. DC is finally getting the hang of leadership and tough choices and has shown that when visibile with a credible communication and press strategy that the public respond.

i don't think DC phase one was great - the progress that was made was due to his personl appeal. But he has moved on and has a stonger team around him having cast off the deadwood. lets get behind him!

Maybe it's right, as mentioned above, that John Redwood cannot be put on TV. However, there's no denying that if he had been Shadow Chancellor he would, very publicly, have made mincemeat out of Darling the monkey and Brown the organ grinder over Northern Rock. Is it ever going to get through that George Osborne is way out of his depth and unsuited to his current role?

Back to the thread title: in the light of Northern Rock, the economy should be just as much of a hot topic for a hard hitting Opposition campaign, far more so than the NHS.

I think it is wrong to say that "Project Cameron" is entirely to blame for the shift in the polls. "Project Cameron" brought us the sustained poll leads for over a year, and 900 new seats in the council elections. What's shifted the polls are EVENTS. Brown has been so lucky to face difficulties, so far, that have enabled him to sit back, look concerned and watch the voters flock to him in droves.

I think no matter what you all think of Cameron, he must be applauded for working so hard over the past few months. And like Tim says, an event may come along at any time to unstick Brown.

We don't see many shadow cabinet membes for two reasons:
1. Cameron thinks he's the only popular one and should be in the spotlight while others should be firmly in the background.
2. They know we will lose so arn't prepared to give up outside interests. Actions speak louder than words.

I know some will find this pessimistic but I just see it as realistic. Cameron isn't going to win. If people want Labour policies they'll vote labour. They don't want New Labour with a green face. Cameron thought he could take core supporters for granted, he was wrong.

Let's not try and deflect blame by attacking shadow cabinet members. Cameron must take responsibility, the buck stops with him.

''Project Cameron" brought us the sustained poll leads for over a year, and 900 new seats in the council elections''. - MrB.

No. Blair's unpopularity and hard working activists did that. Cameroons should not try and take responsibility for others achievements.

"All I can say is that I am sorry Tim but the Tories must be desperate and they only have themselves to blame. Project Cameron should have been ditched at the earliest opportunity."
Rubbish, that would really have holed our credibility terminally!!

On a more positive note, I hope to see Cameron and Davis hammering home the sound bite I heard Cameron use in a recent speech.
"Labour are guilty of wasting police time"
This is becoming more obvious thanks to blogs like PC Copperfield. I think that slogans using that theme are effective, it reminds me of the famous "Labour isn't working" campaign. Simple and direct way of getting our message across.
Whether it is Crime or the NHS to name but two, this government has not become any more competent at running departments or spending taxpayers money wisely.

"No. Blair's unpopularity and hard working activists did that. Cameroons should not try and take responsibility for others achievements."

That will be why initially it was Cameron's personal ratings which soared rather than those of the Conservative party!
Your analysis no doubt follows the rule that if the party is doing well then it is despite the efforts of the leader, but if we are doing badly it is solely down to leader!

Radical Tory, what about Brown's "Unpopularity" as shown in the past newspaper cutting above? That shows how easily poll numbers can turn, given events and a strategy. The same can happen to our advantage. Brown was lucky.

I also take exception to you implying that no activists are "Cameroons". You pessimists act like you own the party sometimes...you certainly seem to own these threads.

A much better thread than last night - thanks everyone.

PA is reporting that Brown is holding a two hour political Cabinet meeting today ahead of next week's Labour conference...

Another reason Brown may call an early election:

The US commander in Baghdad, Gen David Petraeus has told the Royal United Services Institute in London that British troops could be out of Iraq “later this fall or in the winter”. The general said that British troops are possibly only weeks away from handing over responsibility for security in Basra province to Iraqi forces.

It is thought that our troops will withdraw into a "over watch" position in which they will be able to provide support to Iraqi forces if it is deemed necessary. The General hinted that a reduced number of British troops could be based in Kuwait to carrying out the over-watch role.

'Your analysis no doubt follows the rule that if the party is doing well then it is despite the efforts of the leader, but if we are doing badly it is solely down to leader!'

Actually, it's you who are guilty of the opposite - anything bad is the fault of the activists, anything good is Cameron.

I have explained in detail on previous threads - the figures show that it is the activists, not Cameron, who were responsible for this year's good election results. Snide remarks from you can't change that.

I should think a lot of houses are being re-mortgaged to fund school fees and student tuition fees and not simply consumption.

There is a logic in grandparents re-mortgaging houses to reduce IHT liability. This is a case where £60bn of public spending in low-grade education is increasing the private sector debt burden.

It does seem amazing that education is costing around £1200/head in England or as they say around £5500 per pupil annually. It is imperative that a Tax Allowance/Credit be introduced for Education/Training in this country so that people can re-skill, up-skill, or simply get educated without having to fund themselves from post-tax income....and that allowance should cover the school term fees that ALL schools should charge so people see that education is not "free"

MrB - sure things could turn around but do we have another 8 months? I prefer to think not, i never underestimate Brown. Brown has been ahead of Cameron since he became PM, i'd hardly suggest that shows poll numbers can change easily. They haven't changed yet (except for increasing Labour's lead). I also think there's more to Brown being lucky. Cameron has a negative personal rating, its not just Brown is lucky but Cameron is now a liabilty. Your point seems to be 'anything can happen, Brown was lucky', I don't think thats good enough. A party which is about to enter govt does not have that attitude, if we were going to win we'd feel like we have concrete reasons not 'anything can happen'. It's grasping at straws.

I'm not a pessimist I'm a realist.

Scotty - I don't think we can say Cameron was personally responsible for 900 gains. IDS made 500 gains, do you think he was personally responsible for those? Local elections are mostly down to local issues and a chance to send a warning to Labour.

The Conservative party was doing well because Blair was hated not because Cameron was liked. Good personal ratings do not translate into party support. The Conservative party is now doing badly because Brown is respected whilst Cameron is not.


I do not think my view is "Rubbish" as you put it. If you take the wrong turning on a journey, the sooner all those in the vehicle recognise the fact and act on it (despite any embarrassment to the driver) the better for all concerned.

Indeed by initially positioning themselves as the heirs to Blair the Cameroons made things worse. They foolishly boxed themselves into a corner by failing to properly oppose Blair. There was I believe going to be an end to "punch and judy politics" (which appears to include avoiding kicking a ball at an open goal, again and again). This course of action became a self-inflicted double whammy as Brown has been able to position himself as a breath of fresh air and a change from Blairite New Labour. Whilst the Cameroons thought they were putting their tanks (ok bicycles) on Labour's centre ground, Brown has sought to expand his sphere of influence by playing the mature statesman who would resonate with many of a Tory mindset sick of the meretricious Blair years. Brown has even managed to stretch his big tent further than even Dave could probably imagine, but the less said about that the better. It would be funny if it was not so tragic.

I personally admire the work of activists.

What I don't admire is the constant assumtion that activists are all against the leadership. Polls from ConHome have shown that more members are behind Cameron than against him.

Alex, I can't begin to imagine how you came to that conclusion about the local elections. Are you saying that the LibDems and Labour activists didn't work as hard as ours? Please elaborate- it seems highly unrealistic to me.

That's true, Mr B. 87% of members want David Cameron to continue as leader.

Radical Tory, things did turn around for Brown within weeks, not months. It's been difficult for us to set the agenda becuase of the floods, foot and mouth and terrorism. The public look to the government for reassurance during these times and when they get it, the government's poll ratings improve.

If you look though at the recent spate of murders such as the Rhy Jones shootings, this is an event which worked in our favour. Poll ratings were soon equal to the government's and this was a very short time after the infamous YouGov poll which gave them a 10 point lead.

Surely this shows how quickly things can turn around.

I'm not surprised most want Cameron to continue to be leader. That way the wets won't be able to blame us when he loses the GE. Let them have their defeat so we can get rid of them once and for all. I want Cameron to stay until after the GE.

However doesn't it say something when we are even discussing how many want Cameron to remain leader? Possibily a few weeks from a GE and that's on some people's minds. It seems to just show how bad Cameron has failed. I'm being realistic, sorry if it offends anyone.

Absolutely spot on - whoever it was suggested an early election, a Labour win and goodbye to Cameron and co. And no, this is not pessimism but realism. Look at the polls. The sad fact is the tories have lost whatever talent they had for politics. First they drive right, then left, then right again, approaching each election as a once in a lifetime chance, rather than as a stage on the long road to power.

Even when one faction is in charge, it panics. It gives unnecessary offense. Take the way Cameron's mob handled grammars. I'm devoted to academic selection, but had the leaders offered their new schools policy more tactfully and with less of a surrender to socialist assumptions, I and many like me would have accepted it.

As for tax - sharing the proceeds, fair enough. We don't need to harrumph a la Heffer about tactical withdrawals. But matching Labour in toto for three years?

And plasma tvs are desired more than British independence these days, so you shouldn't slap taxes on them. Simple. It's a questioin of authority; of conviction and of competence.

So, 87% of the members want Dave to continue? They must have a deathwish as Telegraph today has a headline saying "David Cameron 'least popular party leader'", putting Dave after Ming!

"So the message from Cameron re debt levels is aimed squarely at middle england. It's a message they don't particularly want to hear"

Martin Jones, it is better for David Cameron to tell the truth, rather than telling the aspiring middle-class what hey want to hear. This is particularly important if David becomes prime minister because the last thing we need is a PM who plays to the audience. I want a leader to tell it straight. David Cameron shouldn't put vote catching ahead of the truth.

I don't think we can say local election successes are due to the leader of the party any more than they are due to hard working activists. Or more especially, they aren't due to the leader of the party when that party is in opposition.

This is because usually (and local issues aside), they are a protest vote against the party in power. We've had fantastic local results pretty much every year for 10 years. Was this all down to Hague, IDS, Howard and Cameron? Hardly.

Talking of activists, I get the impression that quite a few of our opponents now restrict their activisim to making dire predictions of the Conservative party's impending doom, in the manner of the late unlamented Lord HawHaw. Perhaps thats why we keep taking their council seats.
Get back on the pavements chaps and chapesses, it is far from in the bag and I genuinely think you will be suprised how close "it" will be in the end.

Tony Makara said "it is better for David Cameron to tell the truth, rather than telling the aspiring middle-class what hey want to hear"

The Banker says: Deal! We all remember the many occasions over the last 2 years when Cameron has confronted popular middle ground myths head on and shattered them pitilessly, campaigning for the truth.

MrB - my point was that we have failed to overtake Labour since Brown became PM. This suggests a turn around may not be as forthcoming as you suggest. If we can't do it during a financial crisis can Cameron ever do it?

Relying on events smacks of desperation, we should be making the news not reacting to it. I also don't buy the idea that due to events we've just been unlucky. Frankly it's no excuse. Surely our support should rise in a financial crisis as with Labour's after Black Wendesday or under Hague with the fuel protests. However it isn't working, something deeper is at work i.e. people don't like Cameron and so it doesn't matter what he says people don't buy it. The fact he has a negative rating shows he's now a liability.

You're optimistic but I see nothing to be optimistic about. I see an 8 point Labour lead during a financial crisis, foot and mouth etc with a supposedly boring PM against a supposedly charasmatic Cameron. Are you seriously arguing that govts lose when things get bad but they win when things get really bad? That's the logic you are using.

You really think this is a better thread Editor? I don't. It's the usual mostly anonymous posters making the same points ad nauseum as they do on every single thread ie that David Cameron and everything he's done is awful.
If these people truly are the Tory 'core',we're stuffed.

Banker@11:47 - I'm not suggesting that Osborne should promise to help everyone who has seen the value of their future pension shrink, or their terms change, but there are specific, costed, injustices which should be addressed.

In 2006 the Parliamentary Ombudsman ordered the Government to cover the total losses of an estimated 125,000 employees who followed incorrect government advice that final-salary schemes were infallible.

Brown refused, instead setting up the Financial Assistance Scheme, which pays out about 65 per cent of the lost pensions — leaving some still pennyless - and I understand costs more to run than it delivers in compensation.

The total cost of complying with the parliamentary ombudsman would have been around £20M a year for 60 years, a net present value of £640M.

To put this in context, official mistakes in benefits payments each year cost over £700m; the cost of Labour Quangos is estimated at £170bn.

Dunn: If these people truly are the Tory 'core',we're stuffed.

Well, if the people commenting at Daily Telegraph are (former) Conservative voters, yes, the party is stuffed. Note also that the Telegraph apparently read the poll quite differently than the Cameroons as I said above.

Fellow Tories

Lets just look at some of the incidents under the Brown Premiership so far, and the response of our Top Team.

Foot and mouth. Peter Ainsworth. Failed.
District hospitals. Andrew Lansley. Failed.
Petraeus/Irag/Helmand. Liam Fox. Failed.
Northern Rock- see below.

Not impressive, is it ?

You cannot fault the recent energy of Duracell Dave, but something is undeniably jarring with the electorate at the moment.

I cannot see our Trust Fund Tories having any resonance with White Van Man in Essex, or Worcester Woman for that matter. The Sun is NOT going to support us, be sure of that, and will spend the entire election campaign pouring buckets of s*it over Dave's head.

I don't wish to be too harsh, but we have to be honest and self critical as a Party, and ask ourselves was the public response of George Osborne to Northern Rock this week in any way good enough? Were he Chancellor in 4 weeks time and the same happened to another building society, would he command the confidence of both the City and financial institutions, as well as the investing public? And I am not just critical of his suitability. As Ed said- just where is Caroline Spelman? Compare her profile to that of previous Party Chairman like Tebbit or Parkinson. Real heavyweights. The comparison is frankly risible.
When added to the impression that we are being led by an over spoon-fed elite with a touch of the "Ted Heath's" in their social concern you begin to understand why we are 8% behind in the polls.

Cameron has got a major problem with his frontbench that the public don't have a clue who they are. Apart from Osborne and Hague, the rest have been anonymous - and when you're trying to convince the public that you have the team ready to lead this country, this is extremely worrying.

the cost of Labour Quangos is estimated at £170bn.

Posted by: Patriot |

I don't believe you. Public spending is £550 bn.....all you are saying is that £170 bn flows through Quangoes like the Learning & Skills Councils which control all Post-16 Education; or the REgional Development Agencies



Malcolm Dunn

Perhaps if the same Tories who 'make the same points ad nauseum' keep doing so, someone will actually listen before it is too late.

I repeat.

Ten years of Blair, Campbell, Mandelson..Iraq...Helmand, foot and mouth, terrorism, NHS crisis, personal debt explosion, Northern Rock, useless Lib Dem leader, knife and gun crime rampant.....

8% behind in the polls.

I can't believe no one's mentioned this (although admittedly I only skim-read the last dozen or so comments).

From those who I've spoken to (rarely true-blues), and what I have seen and read elsewhere, the problem with the party over the past 6 years or so (yes, pre-Cameron) hasn't been so much that our policies have been particularly bad - although no doubt far from perfect at times - but far more that our PR people have been comatose at best.

As soon as we announce policies, Labour and the Lib Dems rip them up. Fair enough. That's politics. But we never counter their arguments and clarify what we mean; certainly not in the mainstream press where people are going to see it. Time after time after time I've seen perfectly logical, sensible policies announced only to be attacked by the other parties, and we stand around doing nothing. It's infuriating. Their lies are perpetuated by the media, and no-one stands up and says "well no, actually...". By failing to counter our dismissal by other parties, we're effectively admitting defeat from the ground up.

In short, the party needs to explain its policies better, and make far more of an effort to counter when they're attacked.

Unless we get our act together on this front, there's no point in arguing about what Cameron and his front bench have or haven't done, because no-one will even know about it.

And by God, I hope someone with real influence in the party reads this and starts the wheel of PR-personnel change.

Cameron's energy is quite commendable but the problem is it makes us look like a one-man party.

He was on 'This Morning' on Monday and no doubt got the young mums swooning in (dare I say it) Blair style circa-1996/97. In every interview and every speech, Cameron is on form and coming across excellently.

Sadly, the rest of the front bench are going missing in extremis.

Osborne looks 10 years old compared to Alastair Darling, and has no reassuring 'father figure' presence about him. Changing the Shadow Chancellor would look bad and show panic, but in the long term it may be worthwhile.

But who do you replace him with? Hague would be wasted there, and Davis. Who else is there?

No one, because there is a dearth of talent or 'heavy weights' in the party.

When Labour were gearing up for power in 1997 they had Blair, Brown, Cook, Mowlem, Beckett, Dewar, Straw, Darling, Short, Blunkett, Frank Field, Reid & Chris Smith to name a few.

Hardly any of them are/were intellectual heavyweights, but most were known to the public, most stuck to the party line and most looked (relatively) capable.

Can the same be said of Fox, Gove, Willetts, Lansley, Villiers, Herbet, Grayling Ainsworth & Hunt?

A big fat No.

TomTom - you are correct - the post should read "spend" not "cost".

That said, do you agree that it would be appropriate to press for Brown to comply with the Parliamentary Ombudsman's order's in this case?

"Sadly, the rest of the front bench are going missing in extremis."

Yes, and why do you think they try not to be too closely associated with Dave?

The Bruges Group gave the answer 11:18. Now, assuming he/they is/are right, what should the party do sooner rather than later?

"PA is reporting that Brown is holding a two hour political Cabinet meeting today ahead of next week's Labour conference..."
That is interesting Tim, but I can't help thinking that the master manipulator is playing the GE card to keep his own party in line at next weeks conference. He is going to try and push through some unpopular measures and he is not above using this kind of tactic to blackmail his party.
As for an Autumn election, he may go for it or even be bounced into it by the media.
I don't think Brown ever intended to go this Autumn, he just wanted to use the threat to keep his own party in line and destabilise the Conservatives.
The polls and all the Brownite briefings has certainly given this story legs in the media, the irony is that this might backfire on Brown if he does not go.....

Bruges Group and Edison Smith are spot on. The shadow cabinet need to be more visible and show the presence that Bruges Group suggested in Parkinson and Tebbit. We have wide ranging shadow team with quality in depth, the public need to see this.

We need spokespeople who can command respect and attention when appearing on TV, programmes such as Newsnight and Channel 4. The news should be dominated by us intellectually challenging 'New' Labour. Many of their policies are natural Tory ideas and should be a comfortable 'battleground' for us.

No PLC or main political party can prosper when viewed as a one person entity. We have to show we have a strong TEAM that will be seen as a credible alternative government. As I wrote earlier, Brown and Straw aside, the cabinet has a lack of experience and we should be exploiting this. The last two weeks should have allowed us to capitalise on the governments problems.

As Spencer Wisdom described earlier, we win countless council seats when we believe we can win and fight with passion and conviction. These qualities need to be shown in the national press by our shadow team.

That said, do you agree that it would be appropriate to press for Brown to comply with the Parliamentary Ombudsman's order's in this case?

I am at a loss to know which "Order" Ann Abraham is supposed to have made. The system of unelected bodies and agencies handling public funds was an innovation of the Thatcher Era - so-called Next Steps Agencies created after 1988 which employed 75% Civil Service staff

DVLA, Prison Service, HMSO, Passport Agency, Child Support Agency, etc. 1991 The Major Government opened up Next Step Agencies to private companies to manage; and in 1992 PFI was introduced to bring private companies to run and own/operate public assets

So I am not really sure what the Conservatives hope to achieve. Labour has in essence simply carried on with policies initiated by the 18-years Conservatives were in power.....it seems more and more that the Conservative Party is attacking Labour for retaining structure the Conservatives themselves introduced before 1997

Edison Smith, I would exculde Nick Herbert, the couple of times I have heard him, once on the local section of the politics show, he tenaciously refused to allow the Labour MP try and avoid their responsibility regarding local hospital closures, even though the BBC was trying their best to let Labour off the hook. I gave him 10/10 for that. He was also on 'you and yours' the other day, again giving the Labour Minister a hard time regarding the West Lothian Question, even though Cameron has contrived to give the Conservatives the most limp and feeble response to what should be a strong issue for them.

From what I have seen of Nick Herbert I feel he should be given a much higher profile job.


Ombudsman's press release 15 March 2006


""MPs referred more than 200 complaints to the Ombudsman, who also received 500 direct representations from members of the public.

The complaints were made against the Department for Work and Pensions, the Treasury, the former Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority and the National Insurance Contributions Office.

The 254-page report * says that the investigation uncovered evidence of real suffering, distress and uncertainty about the future among pension scheme members and their families, who had relied on government information when making choices about their future pension provision.

Ms Abraham said, ‘Government has a unique responsibility in these matters. Government set the pensions policy framework and took upon itself the responsibility of providing information for the public. The maladministration which my investigation has uncovered caused injustice to a large number of people who, as a result, lost the opportunity to make informed choices about their future.’


The Ombudsman makes five recommendations to the Government. These include that the Government should consider whether it should make arrangements for the restoration of the core pension and non-core benefits to those categories of scheme members covered by her report.""

'Alex, I can't begin to imagine how you came to that conclusion about the local elections. Are you saying that the LibDems and Labour activists didn't work as hard as ours? Please elaborate- it seems highly unrealistic to me.'

Actually, I can't imagine how anybody thinks anything else, other than gratuitous self deception.

The gains made this year were made from the base of four years previously, and displayed a level of support which was almost identical to the previous year, and above the ratings for the party nationally. This fits the idea that people were voting locally. It does not fit the idea promulgated by the Cameroonies that the activists are despised by the country at large as loony extremists, but that Cameron and his friends are respected and supported as moderates and have been increasing support through their work over the time that he has been leader.

Why this is so might make an interesting discussion, but it is a different one; the figures show the fact of the matter. If you think that Conservative activists don't work as hard as other parties' then that is your opinion (based on what?), but even if true that only means that there must be an alternative explanation. Possibly the policies are simply better; do you think that is also unlikely?

Someone made the comment earlier that housewives think that they will have to pay if they visit a supermarket. Now this may be factually incorrect, but this is the impression that people are getting. People who don't follow the minutiae of party policy get the impression that the Tories are out to punish them for living their everyday lives. They then look at the Cameroons' background and the privileged life they've had and it makes them angry. The leadership are just not connecting with "Essex man", or "Worcester woman", who want government to be on their side. We, as the electorate don't want to be lectured, and yet that is the impression Dave and his idealist flunkeys have given to the Sun/Mail/Express reading people of this country. Brown (falsely) has given them the impression that he is one of them. Dave has given them the impression that he knows better than them. We don't like that.

the greenery goes down like a lead balloon in the north,believe me!

Patriot thanks for clarification. The ombudsman is accountable to Parliament, so too is the Government. Having experienced first-hand Equitable Life I hold out no hope of any government of any party doing anything on pensions.

The system was super as the baby-boomers paid their contributions and the governments were excited like the insurance companies at the huge cash inflows....since babyboomers approached retirement both insurers and government have tried to walk away from responsibilities to pay out

It's the usual mostly anonymous posters making the same points ad nauseum as they do on every single thread ie that David Cameron and everything he's done is awful

Actually, Malcolm, nearly everybody is making exactly the same point you made, namely that the Shadow Cabinet (with the unfortunate exception of Osborne) is near-invisible, and 'Duracell Dave' is looking increasingly like a one-man band.

Brown is calling a Cabinet meeting soon before the Conference, Editor? I know the easy explanation is that its for Conference plotting but the more likely explanation is that this is a routine meeting after the recess to clarify the current strategy. I thought Cabinet meetings were fairly regular anyway?

All this talk of an early election really is bordering on the panicky side.

Trad Tory, a month ago I would have agreed with you about the shadow cabinet being invisible but not now.
Our press operation was abysmal for years, big topic on the news channel and you always got the impression that the Libdems had a couple of MP's sitting at the studio door just in case they were needed.
But over the last few weeks that seems to be changing under Coulson's stewardship of the press operation. It feels like someone is finally coordinating things and that is beginning to show.
Time will tell if this new drive to push other members of the shadow cabinet into the public's mind will change their perceptions.

After so many postings on this site and comments in other areas of the media, can we safely assume that the majority of Shadow Cabinet members, particularly Davis, Hague and Fox, are more shadow than cabinet because in the shadows is where they want to be?

I imagine these men see themselves as still having a political future. Perhaps they see Dave losing the next General Election and are looking to the one after that when a centre right government will take power. In the meantime maybe they do not want to be contaminated by the antics of the Cameron/Osborne axis. We must not despair, a centre right government will be elected eventually - history proves it - from Drake's Drums to Thatcher's three victories and the evils of socialism will once again be reversed. "What goes around comes around" as we Cornish say!

"All this talk of an early election really is bordering on the panicky side."

I agree with you James, the will he or won't media hype changes weekly on the ebb and flow of the polls. I am getting a bit bored with it to be honest, I don't think Brown ever planned for a GE this Autumn and it will go against his very character.

Two points to remember, he did everything to avoid a leadership contest because he likes to be absolutely sure of his victory before he makes a move. Secondly, the stakes are very high for Brown who will risk losing a comfortable majority and could end up being the shortest serving PM in history.That kind of puts everything into perspective.

Either he goes next week or he doesn't, and what ever you say about the present leadership they have made sure we are in many ways more prepared than the Labour machine to fight a campaign on the ground.

Does anyone know the answer to my question at the very start of this thread? How do we manage this so quickly?!

The question of an early election revolves around how much of a gambler you believe Brown is.

It seems to me that everything he does is so meticulously prepared that his preference is always to minimise risk.

If this is correct, and he has waited 10 years to be PM, why would he gamble on losing the position so soon after finally achieving his objective?

So the secondary question will be, how confident is he? Does he really believe that he would (convincingly) win an autumn election this year? Enough to gamble?

My guess is that he will always default to the safe option - which in this case will
mean no autumn election and a guarantee of a longer period in power.

For him that's the choice: - risk everything now for a chance of 5 years, or play safe for a guarantee of his remaining term, while still retaining the chance of a further 5 years at the end of it.

I think the talk of an Autumn election is a calculated feint to tease out the Conservative manifesto over the next few days giving Brown the luxury of the next 12 months or so to pick and choose parts he can use himself.

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