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« New campaign launched to defend party democracy | Main | Michael Gove MP: The Case for David Cameron »

Comments

Mark O'Brien

I'm going to repeat what every hard-faced libertarian like me said on the day when Howard Flight got sacked: "This would never have happened if what he said was actually true!"

The biggest question of the leadership, to me, is whether any of the candidates have the desire or the will to challenge today's consensus and actually promise to do what Howard Flight spoke of idealistically in his speech.

Mark O'Brien

I'm going to repeat what every hard-faced libertarian like me said on the day when Howard Flight got sacked: "This would never have happened if what he said was actually true!"

The biggest question of the leadership, to me, is whether any of the candidates have the desire or the will to challenge today's consensus and actually promise to do what Howard Flight spoke of idealistically in his speech.

Simon C

"He hinted that further tax and spending cuts would be possible once the Conservatives were in power because "everyone on our side of the fence believes passionately that it will be a continuing agenda".

Mr Flight said after an election had been won, "you can actually get on with what needs to be done".'"

This is the crux of it. Labour had long been arguing that we had hidden tax plans that we were keeping under wraps until after the election. These words are capable of bearing the suggestion that after the election we would go further than our manifesto stated.

It is worth remembering that Flight had been specifically instructed to adhere completely to the manifesto. My guess is that he may have indulged in a little grand-standing in front of an enthusiastic CWF audience.

My understanding of the facts is that Howard took the decision to de-select Flight possibly in consultation with Lyndon Crosby. Fox, as party Chairman, was left to implement that. It would have been unthinkable on the eve of the general election for the party Chairman to clash publicly with the party Leader.

For myself, I think Howard made the wrong call. Summarily sacking Flight from the front-bench was fine (that's a leader's privilege), but he shouldn't have been dismissed as an MP without due process. It was politically inept too, because it breathed life back into a story that would have died over Easter.

malcolm

Flight didn't 'hint'at anything.It's on the tape.He said that we could make much bigger savings than those made in the manifesto and we would do so after the election.
Whilst I don't object to these sentiments we were trying to fight an election on a manifesto that had just been agreed.
I t was a gift to Labour but far more importantly it just wasn't true, or if it was it would have made our manifesto commitments as empty as Labours in 2001.
Those commentators who 've suggested it came from a Labour source are correct,it was taped by a Labour activist and given to Tom Baldwin at the Times who is Alistair Campbells mouthpiece.
Very sadly the Times didn't have to embellish anything they had it all on tape.
Personally I think Michael Howard,Liam Fox and others involved in making this decision made absolutely the right call.

Councillor Tony Dixon

"The potential for getting better taxpayer value is a good bit greater than the James findings (which have been) 'sieved' for what is politically acceptable and what is not going to lose the main argument."

Perfectly reasonable. We must consider all options in arriving at any policy but we will only ultimately go forward with those that are considered politically acceptable. The James findings were sieved by the appropriate Shadow Minsters.

Identifying and realising any potential for better taxpayer value is a core Conservative value.

He hinted that further tax and spending cuts would be possible once the Conservatives were in power because "everyone on our side of the fence believes passionately that it will be a continuing agenda".

Perfectly reasonable - most Conservatives believe in low taxation and the freedom of the individual to decide how to spend their income. It is generally understood that we will not know the full scope of efficiency savings until we are in government and have had chance to inspect the books.

A manifesto is a list of pledges that we feel confident we can deliver. It does not mean we stop debating or discussing other things. When we get into power it is perfectly possible that we might find more opportunities for making efficiency savings and reducing taxation. The work starts the day we get into government!

Mr Flight said after an election had been won, "you can actually get on with what needs to be done"

He's right - you can't do anything until you get into power.

The media wove these three innocuous comments together (they were answers to different questions and not part of any speech) and presented them as a "hidden agenda" and the Party hierarchy fell for it!

It should also be noted that press reports indicated that Howard Flight put up a robust defence of Conservative Party policy at the Conservative Way Forward meeting against charges from members of the audience that the policies were not radical enough. This would have become clear in the fair hearing that didn't happen!

James Hellyer

"The James findings were sieved by the appropriate Shadow Minsters."

James denied that was the case.

malcolm

I suggest you listen to the tape if you want Cllr Dixon.It is in the public domain.
Whatever you may think of MH he surely would not have taken such a drastic step for someone making 'perfectly reasonable' comments.
If you are so sure that Flight was misrepresented by the media why don't you encourage him to sue them? We both know he won't because he would lose.
This arguement is becoming very dull,the only positive is that in future MPs will I hope be more honestin what they say at meetings like this.

Simon C

"This arguement is becoming very dull"

And has distracted us too much from the virtues of the Fox campaign.

James Hellyer

"And has distracted us too much from the virtues of the Fox campaign."

And we can't have that!

Liam has made some of the more interesting contributions to the debate so far. It will be interesting to see if he now jumps on the "national security" bandwagon and raises that issue.

Councillor Tony Dixon

It is inconceivable that Shadow Minsters did not consider the parts of the James report that related to their portfolios. They all saw the James report and decided which parts they could support politically.

It seems to me the word "sieved" seems to have got everyone excited - yet it is a perfectly normal word with a perfectly clear meaning.

I have a copy of the tape and have listened to it. It should be noted that there is no tape of the full meeting. It's just a few selected sound bytes as supplied by the media. Did Michael Howard obtain a tape or full transcript of the meeting before acting? I doubt it! Trial by sound byte!

Justice can be boring but it's also worth standing up for. It should be one of the foundations of Conservatism.

James Hellyer

"It is inconceivable that Shadow Minsters did not consider the parts of the James report that related to their portfolios. They all saw the James report and decided which parts they could support politically."

Not according to David James:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4563163.stm

One of the points of the report, after all, was its supposed impartiality was meant to lend credibility.

Councillor Tony Dixon

So back to my original point - what are Liam Fox's views on the laws of natural justice and why wasn't Howard Flight given a hearing whilst he was Party Chairman?

We are entitled to know where he stands.

James Hellyer

"why wasn't Howard Flight given a hearing whilst he was Party Chairman?"

Something to do with the general election campaign being in full flow, and the damage that would have been caused if the Chairman and Leader clashed at that time..

Councillor Tony Dixon

Each of the David James teams came up, initially and separately, with a wide range of potential proposals for efficiency savings within their particular areas: these were discussed with Shadow Ministers and "sieved" down to what was agreed as politically acceptable to Shadow Ministers.

I think we can all understand the difficulties during the election period but there is no reason why the matter cannot be addressed now.

Late justice is better than no justice!

Councillor Tony Dixon

Here's an interesting point:

Do MPs have employment rights? and if so, does the Party have a duty of care to them?

In any other walk of life it is impossible to sack someone without giving them a fair hearing.

Simon C

"It will be interesting to see if he now jumps on the "national security" bandwagon and raises that issue."

If he does raise it again, it would be a little unfair to call it band-wagoning.

1) Everyone is talking about it - it is a reasonably important issue at the moment after all...
2) He spoke of the dangers of radicalised & ghetto-ised Muslim youth in his speech to the Heritage Foundation.

James Hellyer

"If he does raise it again, it would be a little unfair to call it band-wagoning."

I suppose I was thinking of another leadership hopeful who spoke out on this subject - despite it being outside his brief.

Antony Calvert

I've met Liam Fox a few times and he always strikes me as bing plausable, talented and passionate about what he believes in. His appeal to CF and other younger groups within and outside the Party.

The Tory party has lost the 'X' factor we had in politics in the 80's. Labour are in vogue at the moment and I anticipate that until we have someone who can really connect with decent hardworking voters by articulating their concerns using appropriate rhetoric we will never get theis mass appeal back.

Fox for me!

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