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I just hope that next time, policy ideas are discussed in private rather than in the full glare of the media. The good policy groups helped a lot, but the bad ones did some serious damage.


"A second recommendation within this area should include at least a once-a-year meeting between David Cameron and every frontbencher."

Leaving aside the political or partisan bits, purely on organisational grounds I find it incredible if a boss doesn't have much substantive contact with leading members of the management team. Imagine a ship where the captain doesn't have much to do with the purser, navigating officer or chief engineer. Probably runs out of gin, hits the rocks or breaks down every so often, I would guess.

"A constant complaint of Conservative activists is that the shadow cabinet and frontbench are pretty anonymous"

This is very true. When a news story breaks or a government minister makes a statement I await the Conservative response and more often than not there isn't one. The party should set-up a rapid-response team that co-ordinates with shadow cabinet members and as soon as a news story breaks the rapid-response team should be getting in contact with the shadow cabinet member and getting a quote to release to the media. All too often Labour get away with dominating the news and there seems to be no retort. Shadow cabinet members need to be ready and primed with a response to put forward the Conservative case.

Completely agree with Tony Makara.

I'm utterly stunned to read that a number of frontbenchers have not had a conversation with Cameron in nearly two years. Is this normal? I would have thought that every one of them should be briefing and discussing policy with him at least every quarter.

"The party should set-up a rapid-response team"

Agreed, and one which is informed and has the information to hand, for too often, the Conservative spokesman, whether on the Question time etc doesn’t seem to have the information or attack points the Conservatives should be making, so let Labour off the hook.

Eg The Scottish election debacle, the Conservatives should have made reference to the Postal vote debacle, which was described as shaming a banana republic , and Labour excluding our troops from the last election. So the Conservatives don't just damage Douglas Alexander, but make the case of failure and incompetence across the Labour Government.

Having seen a former front-bencher in action the other night (albeit privately), something which had bothered me for a time suddenly became clear.

Many Conservative MPs lack the hunger for power which we need to win (and which Labour had in spades between 1994 and 1997).

Certain frontbenchers do a terrific job of attacking the government - Grayling and Hague are two obvious examples, and Cameron's weekly taunting of Brown is a joy to watch.

But it often seems to stop there. This government is failing...but the voters don't seem to realise that, the reason being that we don't seem to be doing a good enough job of telling them.

I've said it before and make no apology for repetition - each of our frontbenchers needs to be a household name, each of them needs to be instantly recognisable as a government in waiting. We have the competence, we have the skills, we seem to lack the desire.

Every government failing should be publicised. Endless press releases are all very well, but we need to get onto tv/radio to talk about them. Offer comments, offer soundbites.

It's almost as if certain members of the party think that we don't need to push it too hard, we can sit back and relax, because they believe the idea that if we give Brown enough rope, he'll hang himself.

Possibly true, but let's tie the knot for him and make sure.

No doubt many of you will have seen Harriet Harman and Caroline Spelman on Question Time. Harman made a completely false statement about there being more people in work under Labour and that the New Deal had ended unemploymment. The chance was there for Caroline Spelman to rip Harman's head off over such lies but she said nothing and Harman got away with it. This sort of thing happens too often. A more aggressive approach must be employed in chasing up Labour claims that are clearly untrue. Its noticeable during PMQs that Gordon Brown struggles when David Cameron adopts an aggressive approach. Hard and aggressive court-style questioning is the way to get at people who are hiding the truth.

1. The front bench is TOO BIG.

Adding in multiple people such as Pauline on security just cloggs up the structure.

2. Too many in the front bench have outside interests.

Many just do not put in the effort required to be the opposition.

It would certainly help if more of the Shadow spoke up on the issues that they are charged with, the silence at times is positively deafening.

I was amazed, too, Malcolm (11:08).

"A number of frontbenchers have had no serious conversation with the party leader since they were appointed to the frontbench in November 2005."

I am both amazed and horrified by this!

Surely it is good leadership and corporate management in any organisation to actually meet with and talk to those directly below and above you? This applies even more in politics when a co-ordinated response is necessary, and it applies even more than that if you are running a system where the leader will actively discuss all topics with the media - DC should be communicating every fortnight minimum with those policy brief holders.

It's amazing this hasn't caused a trainwreck so far - I am not a naysayer and I do not hope for a disaster, I rather hope we will step out of this risky situation immediately!

"Too many in the front bench have outside interests"

They should have only one interest - getting us elected.

The reason for the large number of frontbenchers and Whips is to ensure that they toe the Cameron line. It stops a large number from voicing their opposition to Zac's green taxes and supporting Better Off Out etc.

Too many allow delusions of grandeur and personal ambition to cloud their judgement. They may be frontbenchers but their chances of joining the Shadow Cabinet are nil. If Dave will not even speak to them after two years as Leader, it must be clear that they will not be promoted. If they had any honesty or integrity, they would resign rather than allow themselves to be treated as pariahs and ignored.

Both these suggestions are very good, i think the leadership would be wise to take them up.

Tony Makara, you consistently make sound points: e.g.

"The chance was there for Caroline Spelman to rip Harman's head off over such lies but she said nothing and Harman got away with it. This sort of thing happens too often".

I used to ask what DC's immediate response would be when some emergency occurred; now they are voiced promptly but formerly they were not.
At first Gordon Brown as Chancellor got away with his iniquitous doubling of income tax on the lowest paid because there wasn't a tory businessman around who knew about rates of personal taxation to show Brown up.
I hope that DC finds jobs for a few of the senior tories, like Iain Duncan Smith and John Redwood. There are many very promising young tories about at the moment but IDS has done marvellously well and should now build on his Report and get it ready for implementation. John Redwood would be excellent in a business related job; unlike government ministers, he knows what drives business.

Cameron should be as ruthless as Arsene Wenger in choosing his ( broadcasting ) team.
Clarke, Redwood, Gove and Rifkind are formidable debaters. They should appear regularly on Question Time and Any Questions.
Recently, we've had Theresa May,and Carolyn Spelman. Tonight, on Question Time , we have Francis Maude. Dohhhh!
Get a grip Tory HQ.

David Belchamber, yes I agree that John Redwood is the right man for such an important position. John follows both macro and micro economic events with microscopic analysis and is very much on the ball. John also has a good confrontational stance which is needed in politics. The BBC hate to interview John because he difficult to deal with, a real conviction politician.

"Tonight, on Question Time , we have Francis Maude. Dohhhh!"

Oh dear, one week we get Caroline Spellman who failed miserably to score against Harman, so for the next week they put up Maude who couldn't make a point if his life depended on it, let alone savage the Labour party. Who in the party allows these people to go on TV to represent the Conservatives? Tonight will be yet another opportunity squandered to make a positive impression on the public, let alone do any damage against Labour.

I also find it odd that frontbenchers don't regularly meet 1x1 with the leader; if I wasn't stroked thus by my manager I would give up. Not just for the (to me) important reassurance: I need to know that my vision is still his vision and I'm steering my team in the right direction. Without the honesty of a 1x1 it's impossible to know this (committees rarely have the honest conversations required for such subtle changes of direction).

More importantly is the point made by Tony Makara about the lack of detailed policy and data knowledge. It's perhaps unfair to pick on Caroline Spelman. I've lost count of the number of times I've shouted at the TV or Radio the point which the Tory MP *should* be making in response to some lying statement from a lying government minister. If you can't learn the facts of your brief or you can't recall them in the media, you are not much use as a shadow minister. More shadow than minister.

It is all the more frustrating because when they do get air time, some members of the shadow cabinet are very effective. Are they not being asked to appear, or just not available? One noticable absentee recently has been David Davis. He knocked the socks off Charles Clark et al - where has he been?

I think senior shadow cab members have to make time to meet regularly to dicuss policy but the emphasis should be on a coherent theme for those policies that strongly illustrates what Modern Conservatism stands for. The public do not appreciate detail and that detail is not likely to ever cut through to them lucidly. The depth only needs to be there when the party is pressed by senior media for detailed answers where we must look in charge of the brief and rightly be able to justify the background to policies. The external policy groups produced a lot of meat. The issue is really creating coherence combined with distinctiveness. The conference made a fantastic start to that which needs consolidating.

And the result from Question Time was that Maude failed to score against Falconer, even when he is gifted an independent report blaming the Government for the Scottish election debacle, he still couldn't lay a glove on Labour. No fire, no passion, no outrage, no eloquent savaging of Labour, we just got the gibbering Maude.

Who in the Conservative HQ has made the decision to front the party with such buffoons?

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