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The delicious irony in commenting on an 'unhelpful piece' by another blog.

Re your point about 'greenery',has DC or anyone on the Conservative front bench had anything to say about the recent spat between the National Trust and the government on green belt development? I hope we back the National Trust 100%
I hope your comment about our silence on Saudi Arabia in no way suggests support for Vince Cable's stupid meaningless gesture politics. His stand is alright for a student union leader of a third rate University but as a supposedly serious political party leader it was an absolute joke.

The fact that IDS went out into those communities and got to the absolute core of social breakdown has paid rich dividends. The Conservative party should not be afraid of going right into the heart of those communities and campaigning for real change. Labour has failed those communities, not only over the last ten years but going back decades through badly run local government. The very fact that Labour has had a monopoly in those communities at local government level is the reason why those areas are troubled. Its time for change, its time to break the Labour stranglehold on the poorest areas of our nation.

I'm not in favour of positive discrimination on grounds of gender or race but from what I've seen all the women selected to fight are first-rate and are there on merit. Louise Bagshaw for example is a woman who puts the case across superbly on TV and she does so in a way that isn't in any way patronizing our displeasing to watch. Nothing turns the public off more than an annoying politician. Some people may mock the emphasis on presentation, but presentation pays with votes.

On foreign policy I'm very pleased with David Cameron's interest in Africa. Ten years ago I had basically given up on Africa, especially after events in Rwanda. However after listening to David Cameron talking about Britain helping Africa to help itself I am encouraged. We also need to help the Africans before the Chinese themselves to Africa.

Has the party changed? This question is distorted massively by the fact that three years ago the public perception of the party was very different from the way that things actually were on the ground. The Labour and LibDem spin - not helped by a few spectacular own-goals - was sunk deep in the public perception. Now, I think that public perception and reality are much closer. So, the party hasn't really had to change that much (it has a bit, but at the level of individual Associations I doubt if there has been that much turnover). What Cameron has managed to do is to show up a lot of the extremely negative and nasty tricks Labour and the LibDems have been up to (and I saw that Peter Hain was up to it again this morning) and help people to see our policies for what they are: a program to move the country forward from the current inept and profligate NuLabour years.

So, of course, as far as the general public are concerned we have changed a lot. I guess we just have to consider it a compliment.

It's a fair assessment.

Cameron and the whole party seem to have few views on foreign policy of much note.

But this isn't neccessarily a negative. Taking issues as they come is the best way, not to have too many pre-conceived ideas. Blair was ideologically driven. Well, as Cameron has sensibly pointed out, one man's ideal is another man's nightmare...

I think we're going to go through a period of far less interventionism. Both parties candidates in the US at least subliminally promote themselves in this way - Ron Paul for instance is an unabashed isolationist (though he'll never use the word).

Frankly, Cameron needs to concentrate on securing our borders, ensuring we all know how many people - and who - is here, and mending our broken society. He is much more at home in these areas and - I would suggest - much more interested in domestic issues anyway. Blair, on the other hand, left all the domestic stuff to Brown.

As for other parties views of how much the party has changed, look to future Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who styles himself on Cameron and who - on Question Time a few months back - said Mr Cameron had done an 'admirable job' in changing the party. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Sorry Malcolm but if I had to choose between attending a banquet in honour of Saudi Arabia and staying away I'd choose to stay away. I'd be happy to meet King Abdullah as part of a formal dialogue but I hate the fact that our country gave him the red carpet treatment last week and previously halted a corruption probe into our relations with this ugly nation.

I agree with the Editor completely on this one. Saudi Arabia's attitude to women is completely unacceptable.

"David Cameron can reach Waitrose voters in a way that Michael Howard (does it sound like I'm picking on him?!) never could."

I'd prefer to reach Anne Summers voters.

but I hate the fact that our country gave him the red carpet treatment last week
I see no reason to antagonise him, not giving him red carpet treatment might have an adverse effect with regard to access for military purposes, Saudi affiliation and the internal process of reform.

Saudi Arabia has a very conservative society and the rulers are merely paying some attention to this, the alternative might well be that Al Qaeda grew in strength and were able to replace House of Saud with something else that would abolish Local Elections and seek to introduce a much more rigid form of society.

Sob what did Cable achieve? A big fat nothing unless you count insulting guests as something.
IF he had promised to cancel Al-Yammanah and all other trade deals with Saudi Arabia and refuse to buy its oil then he could be taken seriously. But of course he wouldn't do that because he might lose some votes from those people who might lose their jobs as a result. Meaningless gestures are so much more him.
Activist, are you suggesting we should only trade with those countries whom we like? Don't be so naive.

"I agree with the Editor completely on this one. Saudi Arabia's attitude to women is completely unacceptable".

What is completely unacceptable is any Saudi involvement in supplying mosques or anywhere else in England with literature inciting the advancement of Islam by the sword and terrorist violence. Hopefully, that has been made perfectly clear to them.

It was only in the early part of the 20th century that women in Britain got the vote and were also, beforehand, somewhat of a chattel. Hanging, whilst not a public spectacle, was (unfortunately) abolished in 1967 approx.
I have read that 72% of women attend university in Saudi and there is a rising middle class. It is to be hoped that a gentle, more democratic form of their religion will eventually ensue - I have grave doubts. But, there is no point in damaging our interests at this moment in time and not until it is clear that the Saudis have refused to abandon support for terrorism. Maybe the threat of Shiite Iran will promote a more considered response, if not, then the time will have arrived to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia

I'm always very quick to say when I disagree with the Editor but here I think he's spot on: in the editorial, and specifically in his comments about entertaining Saudi Arabian visiting dignatories.

PS I don't shop in Waitrose. Cameron reaches organic farmer market voters also.

PPS I might disagree a little with Editor about the timing of, or rather the reasons for the timing of, that which he perceives as a rebalancing. On the evidence Andy Coulson is highly effective; but without brand decontamination it would all have been worthless. More 'and' than 'either/or'.

Why does everyone have to be like us?

Go and live abroad. Experience a different culture. Realise that it has merits. Criticising really is the very worst sort of illiberal proselytising.

There is no reason that one culture, such as the Saudis', should not exist in perfect harmony with another, such as ours.

To assume otherwise is to assume superiority. We aren't superior. We're just different. It certainly doesn't make us right and them wrong.

I completely agree with the point about female suffrage here. One might make the same point about apartheid in America.

If we were so damn clever then we wouldn't have a "democratic" system that allowed Labour 35% of the vote and 55% of the seats, or whatever the figures are.

We are right to shut up on Saudi Arabia, especially during a showpiece state visit.

Malcolm Dunn: "Sob what did Cable achieve? A big fat nothing unless you count insulting guests as something."

But what did Cameron achieve by dressing up in white tie and joining the other genuflecters, Malcolm?

I know a little of the situation in Saudi, having a number of friends there, both British and Saudi.

Abdullah is seen as a moderate who wants to move forward the liberalisation of the country, but who recognises the enormous roadblock that the very deep adherence to strict Islam presents. He has made progress in important areas - female study at universities is mentioned above - whilst not necessarily tackling less important, but potentially higher profile issues like veils, driving, etc.

That suggests to me that he seeks to undermine the foundations of fundamentalism first, rather than smashing down a few straw dolls in public and enraging the extremists. Given the Kingdom is one of few friends to the principles of liberal economics in the region, I think that is something we need to observe and keep gently pushing to make sure it keeps progressing. Offending the Kingdom now wouldn't help achieve that, if we are in power in 2-3 years time.

I also think the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition would have been incredibly rude to refuse the Queen's invitation, for that is where it would have come from. Vince Cable - the former Shell economist who no doubt had little problem accepting his paycheque from the proceeds of oil deals with the Kingdom - was both rude and stupid, displaying his and his party's propensity for petty political posturing, again.

Umbrella Man, Cameron demonstrated that he's a serious politician. Cable most certainly did the opposite.

'BC Cameron''s imbalanced failure to talk about bread'n'butter issues (BC - that's Before Coulson).

Glad to see the growing acknowledgement that it was only the intervention of Coulson that pulled the bungling duo out of the fine mess they had previously got themselves into.

Let's hope that Brown doesn't offer to double his salary...

The one major area where the Conservative party needs to radically improve its performance is Scotland. But looking at the selection of candidates there are few signs, if any, of improvement.

This site needs to start to shine a bright light into what is going on there.

As Ive said before, family breakdown lacks the Conservative perspective on children in care and fostering/adoption this coming to the fore last week with little Miliband's adoption of an American baby. I know Brown has pledged a Children in Care Bill to protect them further, but surely our silence says an awful lot to organisations about the importance we attach to it? Only twice have we under Cameron spoken about the issue at a Conference on it and Willetts slapping down the Green Paper without an alternative proposal.

Michael Gove needs to say something about it...he has been far too quiet about it (saying barely a word on it) and I dont particularly like it.

You haven't answered my question Malcolm but never mind. It's unclear at this stage whether going to the dinner or staying away has done more to move Saudi Arabia to become a decent nation for its people to live in. You say that going to the dinner makes Cameron look serious. I think he simply affirmed the disgraceful sucking up to King Abdullah. He should have skipped the Buck House dinner but agreed to meet the King formally. We should have cordial relations with the Saudis but let's put away the bunting, brass bands and red carpet until they allow religious freedom, stop subsidising hateful propaganda in UK mosques and treat women with respect.

I had not put two and two together and realised that areas that IDS talks about in his social justice report were/are 'Labour' strongholds, so as it is fairly likely that many/most? ordinary or 'grass-roots' people will have made that connection either, that could quite likely be the major reason why they have all kept shtumm on the subject!

'It's unclear at this stage whether going to the dinner or staying away has done more to move Saudi Arabia to become a decent nation for its people to live in'-Umbrella Man. Do I take it that this is meant to be a joke?

You've completely ignored my point Malcolm. You seemed yesterday to imply that going to the dinner might achieve something. I don't support complete disengagement nor the sucking up we saw last week.

I implied nothing of the sort. I suggested Cable's rudeness toward the Saudi delegation was the action of a student union leader not a serious politician. If he wanted to achieve somerthing he should have called for the ending of all trade deals and a boycott of Saudi oil.That this would throw thousands of Britons out of work and damage our economy should I think be incidental to someone who is as interested in meaningless gesture politics as Cable.

I support Vince Cable. Saudi Arabia is the despotic home and funder of Islamic extremism. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni country. Iran is a Shia country.

Al Quaeda is a Sunni organisation founded and led by Saudis. Yet Britain and America sells arms to the Saudis, condone the corruption of its leaders and then give them a state visit.

At least the army band was able to make a subtle protest by playing "The March of Dartb Vader" when the troops were inspected by King Abdullah.

It Saudi extremism that is the threat to Western democracy. Iran is only a threat to Israel. Yet the neo-cons want to arm the Saudis and bomb Iran. There are no prizes for guessing what the real neo-con agenda is.

Malcolm/Umbrella: The more interesting question would be who got Vince's plate? That must be quite a slap in the face: to be told that you're a last minute stand-in for a last minute stand-in third party leader.

"David Cameron can reach Waitrose voters."

Hmmm. Did you realise that Waitrose only exists in the south? How to alienate northern voters in one easy lesson! If we want to win the next election we need to woo the Morrisons voters in the north.

At the moment we are still lacking the killer policy that will appeal to low-to-average earners in the north. Increase in the personal allowance (with abolition of tax credits) would be a step in the right direction.

Of course the Conservative Party has changed; as well as the emphasis on social justice and public services it has de facto signed up to mindless political correctness, the federalisation of europe by stealth, quota based positive discrimination, the supremacy of the Guardian/BBC agenda and the religion of climate change hysteria. Those are all big changes for the Tories, whether they are good or bad changes depends entirely upon your point of view.

It has been surface-change only though.

Admittedly, this has been good for you tribalists who want your team in government, not good for the rest of us.

The Tories are still entrenched in their frustrating 'talk one direction but the walk the other [same as Labour] path' approach to most fundamental subjects.

#1 Cameron talks of localisation, bringing politics closer to the people whilst proposing the establishment of state political parties.

#2 Cameron attacks the loss of powers to Brussels, then proposes to accept such losses once in power.

#3 Cameron talks of lower taxes, but refuses any future aspiration, however long-term, to reduce tax freedom day and even agrees to accept and maintain Labour's massive tax rises.

#4 Cameron accuses top-down target setting for actually damaging progress, then demands binding top-down targets for co2 reduction.

So, with Coulson on board, Team Cameron has changed the face of the Tory Party for the better (poll wise), but it is just a new veneer on an old table and would mean little positive change for Britain itself.

It will be great to kick out Brown, and perhaps a positive in itself, but it is just a real shame that it won't really make any real difference if we do.

A chance missed to really change Britain for the better, rather than just install a different party in power.

"At least the army band was able to make a subtle protest by playing "The March of Dartb Vader" when the troops were inspected by King Abdullah."

No, that was editing by Channel 4. The Army played the Saudi Anthem.

Can we get real here? Cameron is just another "professional" politician, only job open to him, still it pays well. Yet this man will willingly give up everything that this Country once stood for, liberty, freedom and democracy. And we pay him for this?? With one or two honourable exceptions the House of Commons, (and how common can you get) is packed with socialist style statists, they want your money, your home and finally your life.

As always Derek, a very understated post with not even a hint of hyperbole.
They're are all commies aren't they?

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