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« Michael Howard unhappy at criticisms of his campaign | Main | Michael Ancram’s recipe: fewer blame-games, more party democracy, less cosy consensus »



Has anyone spotted such ideas or phrases? No

James Hellyer

Another vote for "no" here, I'm afraid.

Oberon Houston

Malcolm Rifkind’s public services consultation process may not deliver huge dividend, but I’m not sure that was the intention of including this item in the interview. Was it simply a friendly reassurance to people working in public services that their sector will not be unilaterally trampled on by a Tory Government if Rifkind is Prime Minister? I don’t know, it does seem very early for such a statement. But Malcolm is a skilful politician, so I assume that the idea was muted at this stage for a reason.

Bruce Anderson’s conclusion (or was it advice?) that Rifkind’s speech at conference will be too late to re-launch his leadership campaign is premature speculation, there is still some time to go to conference.

What was important about Malcolm’s interview was that he didn’t say that we need a radical agenda and lots of big ideas for change to win power. Instead he said that we need to appeal to people that currently would not vote Conservative, i.e. the people that voted Labour in May. In the current climate, would the prospect of radical change encourage these voters to switch?

Simon C

"Broken Society" has resonated with me as a phrase.

Human Rights- based Foreign Policy has scope as an idea.

Marks to Fox, then, although both those still need fleshing out.

I cannot remember any vivid phrase from anybody else.

David Willetts has had some interesting ideas; in fact I can remember one of them - the theme of shrinking the demand for the state. But we need to find a language to express that - which is Anderson's point from the sound of it.

Damian Green's idea of applying market solutions to one nation concerns has also stuck. Again, though, that language might make sense to Conservative theorists, but means nothing to the public.

Please excuse this stream-of-consciousness musing. I am thinking aloud and have deliberately written this post without trawling back through this website to remind myself of what people have said.

It's perhaps significant that I can remember nothing that DD has said on the ideas front, but only his personal narrative. The only things that Cameron has said that I can remember are his support for marriage, and his earlier warning (repeated at the weekend) against trashing the Party brand.

Rifkind - nothing (and I really did read his interview on Saturday).

May - full marks for supporting primaries, but otherwise, nothing.

Lansley - has he said anything at all since the election?

Clarke - how's the BAT share price doing?


There are ways we could increase our vote without being too radical.If we can convince the public that we would be more honest than the present mob and not govern just to win attractive newspaper headlines for a day it would be a start.We could also depoliticise the civil service and give more freedom to doctors and teachers and the police.But is this really what we are interested in politics for?
Personally I think we should be braver than this and aim as high as we practically can to create a society of which we can be proud.
I do have some sympathy with your argument though Oberon,the most important thing is that we win!

Kenneth Irvine

The campaign has not really started yet. Most MPs have yet to decide. We will have to wait for party conference for the Big Ideas. Until then, the candidates will feed the media some morsels to keep their profiles up.

Peter C Glover

Yet more evidence for clueless or truncated political visions in the form of Rifkind's and Camerons feeble contributions. Do they reall think this will bring the conservative voters, of all hues, out?

Is there anyone in the Conservative race who actually grasps what conservatism is? That is, MORE than economic conservatism. Too 'Right-wing' is perhaps the most laughable assertion and reveals those jockeying for the top job have learned nothing from the Right's success in the USA.

As I have said quite a few times recently it is not that the Brit Con Party is too right-wing, it is rather that it is not right-wing across all areas - and that means on social and moral issues too, as I say on my blog today.

Rifkind, Cameron and even the best of the bunch Davis just are not getting it - and that the Con Party won't until AFTER the next election.

Simon C

The problem with Oberon's counsel of caution (don't scare the horses) is that we end up sounding hesitant timid and defensive, and don't convey simple truths and beliefs with passion and conviction. If we are to get back to power, we need to demonstrate that we have the vision passion and commitment to our nation that will inspire people to vote for us.


I hope that you're not seriously suggesting Peter that we take on board the religous fervour and the so called 'morality' of the rightwingers in the republican party.Britain is not the U.S. and if we were to do so we wouldn't have a cat in hells chance of winning the election.

Oberon Houston

I’m getting a bit weary with Radical Tories berating me continually for not embracing their passion for US style Republicanism, revolution in the marketplace, isolationism in Europe, slash the taxes before we burn, change now and bigger the better, its what people really want you know. Then comes the insinuation that any ‘real’ conservative would embrace these ideas, and if you don’t you’re a closet leftie. Frankly, its insulting. I would assert that a real Conservative believes in scepticism of change, and the real problem the party faces mirrors the one the Labour Party wrestled with during 18 years of opposition.

Graeme Archer

Hear, hear Oberon and Malcolm. It's so temping when you're blogging away to write something like "only a fool could disagree with the following proposition", or "you can't be a conservative unless you believe in X" etc (I know, I know - mea culpa! but I'm trying!) (Actually I don't agree with everything you said Oberon but I like your style Mister!)

James Hellyer

Oberon, Labour's problem was that everything they belived in from socialist economics to how best to deal with the USSR was comprehensively proved wrong. WE are not in the same situation, because we've been proved right.

Graeme Archer

It is annoying being right all the time ... now all we need to sort out is what we did wrong! I wish there were a silver bullet but I fear its ellusivity is a sign of its non-existence.

But please Sir Malcolm, not another 18 months of asking public sector people how to do things better. I could do the responses for you now in two minutes: More Money From People Like Graeme Archer To Spend On Our "Superb" Public Services.

James Hellyer

"It is annoying being right all the time ... now all we need to sort out is what we did wrong!"

We failed in the non-economic aspects of policy. State education probably got worse. Reforms of the NHS were not fundamental enough. Only too late did we seriously turn our attention to the problems caused by welfare benefits. And our impact on the family was not good.

Simon C


I don't think my posting challenged your status as a Conservative, but I am sorry if you felt berated.

One lesson that it is essential that we learn from the Republicans is the ability to be optimistic about our country, its place in the world, and the future.

We need to give people good reason to vote FOR us. If we cannot enthuse them with a positive desire to see us back in government, they won't vote for us. They might stay with Labour, vote Lib Dem, or sit on their hands.

This what Bruce Anderson was getting at, from the sound of it. I would agree with him. My criticism of Rifkind is that he has identified the Party's problem, which is easy enough, but that he hasn't even started on the work of coming up with a serious solution. For a heavyweight, who has had plenty of time to do some political thinking, that's a disappointment.

Wat Tyler

Oberon Houston- oh, how I hope that could be your real name, unlike us fakers.

The trouble is we all tend to get a bit overexcited posting our comments, and I'm afraid I'm a prime offender.

Our party seems so battered after 3 defeats, still with fewer than 200 MPs. And as you will know, professional depressives like Peter Hitchins and Bruce A are constantly telling us we're pretty well stuffed. Hitchins reckons the coalition between our different strands- including conservatives and radicals- cannot hold.

Personally, I've always been a fan of evolution rather than revolution, so that makes me a conservative.

But I've been radicalised by new Tory thinking in that vital area where- let's face it- we did not excel last time round: public services and our decaying 'social infrastructure'. It's about consumer choice and competition to raise standards, and a massive decentralisation of government.

We've even got a manifesto- Direct Democracy- that sets it all out. If you haven't done so, I urge you to read it.

Yes, there are still details to flesh out. And no, we shouldn't attempt to do it all in 2 years (so we need to do some transition planning). But fundamentally, for the first time in twenty years, we have a clear idea of the road ahead.

I think it's a programme we could all get excited about, and it's not one that Labour would ever offer. It's practical, dealing with the everyday issues that concern us all. The time is right, and with committed leadership, I believe we can convince the British people there is a better way.

End of party political.


Tories need to get behind public services, now or forget about being the government.
Lets be realistic, the NHS as a public service is here to stay, private involvement is controversial even at a small level.

We are all against illigeal immigration and drugs coming into this country, yet the party want to slash civil servents - it's easy to perceive them as office workers, but what about the Customs officers stopping drugs at the ports or the immigration officers?

The best first step the new leader can make, in my opinion, would be to change from 'cutting civil servents' to 'reorganising public service to better suit the country without compulsory job losses'.

Right-wing tax ideas hardly worked. The voters saw this silly £35 billion figure of cuts and simply didn't believe us.

We ran an election on immigration & a huge tax cut - and got rejected. Conservatism isn't simply trying to be right-wing on everything. It is the priorities of family, enterprise, meritocracy.

Some in this party hark back in desperation to still be right wing, ignoring the fact right wingers already vote Tory (now the UKIP bubble is burst) and it isn't enough to win an election.

Graeme Archer

All these sensible people are really supporting my idea that there is no silver bullet. There's Wat, saying that we need to be more radical on public services (I agree) and AnotherNIck being equally persuasive saying that we ought to accept the NHS is here to stay ( I find it hard to accept that we just have to accept that -- anyone here been involved with someone who had no option but to put up with the "service" from an NHS hospital?).

Just how DO we forge this elusive narrative, marrying freedom (low tax, consumer choice) with the inbuilt British fondness for suboptimal public services? I wish I knew.

Sean Fear

What "huge tax cut" was this, Another Nick? We ran on a programme of increasing taxes by £4 bn less than Labour intend to increase them. The total tax take is now over £400 bn a year.

Personally, I don't think our campaign was bad overall, but we really got the worst of all worlds on the tax issue. Labour attacked us for planning massive "cuts" in public spending (in fact small reductions in the rate of increase) while our "tax cuts" were far too small to enthuse people.

Mark O'Brien

Whilst I concede that many people still have a fondness for public services, particularly the NHS, we have to ask ourselves one question: are we bold enough to challenge that allegedly popular defence of the service, or should we just give up our belief in a better way just to please a few socialists who would never vote for us anyway? AnotherNick may be saying the NHS is here to stay, but he's not exactly offering a ringing endorsement of the service, just a resigned acceptance that putting forward an alternative is extremely difficult.

We've also got to ask ourselves to what extent is this love affair with the NHS a bit of a fabrication. The present-day Establishment believes in a big paternalist State. Perhaps I've become a peddler of anti-Establishment conspiracy theories, but I think there is a good case for arguing that the only people who like the NHS are the people who never have to use the service but who either think that they're being nice and philanthropical by keeping it going or they think that it's their way of exerting power over the population.

There is an alternative to the NHS: a system of compulsory health insurance. It has many idealistic aspects, such as the idea that as it is based on insurance, it is preventative. Or the fact that it gives people freedom and power over their healthcare, and places them in supreme command of their own lives, not some jumped-up bureaucrats or bully-boy Health Secretary. And as hospitals could then become independent charitable foundations, in a society where the rich are almost compelled to offer charity to the vulnerable, the wealthiest in our society can provide even more finance for medical institutions.

I don't like the NHS. It is not just inefficient and bureaucratic. It is immoral too, because it treats people like part of the system, with no power over their own affairs; it takes the compulsion to support the vulnerable away from the rich; and in order to pay for it, a man earning a fiver an hour has to give one pound of it to the Chancellor, no questions asked, and then at least another pound if he buys a packet of cigarettes or a four-pack of lager. No wonder socialists treasure it as their greatest achievement.

That's how we sell the alternative. Maybe now's not the right time. Maybe it will fall to the next generation of Conservatives to truly reform all the public services. Maybe today's students will be tomorrow's reforming leaders, because society just isn't ready for reform yet. But if we bow down to pressure from the socialist powers that be, then healthcare in Britain will be bested by the Third World in decades, if not years.

James Hellyer

"Right-wing tax ideas hardly worked. The voters saw this silly £35 billion figure of cuts and simply didn't believe us."

That was because £4 billion is not a huge figure, the tax "cuts" were really deferred tax increased, and we promised to increase spending. This wasn't a very credible package, not least because our savings would take years to bite, meaning we actually intended to borrow to fund tax "cuts".

As Ronald Reagan showed us, when offering tax cuts talk about rates not amounts.

James Hellyer

"There is an alternative to the NHS: a system of compulsory health insurance."

I don't like the sound of that, Mark. If a social insurance model is chosen, there would be a cost problem. In France, for example, the freedom of choice of patients has resulted in huge and growing costs which which the French government has been battling.

I happen to think the key to selling to NHS reform is keeping treatment free at the point of delivery. I'd make every NHS hospital an independent, self-governing charitable foundation, financed by payments for the individual treatment.

Graeme Archer

I think Mark is right. I couldn't believe how appalling the NHS is when I had to look after Keith there recently. The idea that you can divorce having to pay for something from the care that you receive, or that the financial/career outcomes of the people who work there have nothing to do with the care that you receive, is now anathema to me. BUT how do you turn that into a message that people want to hear? We see the anger at every election in those (to me) amazingly resonant scenes where members of the public accuse the prime minister: but where is our alternative message? I know what I think it ought to be: but how do you make that electorally acceptable? Do we have to wait till either the economy melts down, or a sufficient number of people have experienced the truth about the NHS?

Mark O'Brien

"I'd make every NHS hospital an independent, self-governing charitable foundation, financed by payments for the individual treatment."

I'm suffering the socialist disease right now: the fear that nothing will work unless there is a system in place to make sure it happens. I like your position much more than I like my own, but I'd have to hear more about how it would work first. Out of all the alternatives, the case for social insurance has been made better than any other so far, but I'm eager to hear other ideas.

James, may I ask too what you mean by 'keeping treatment free at the point of delivery' and at the same time having hospitals 'financed by payments for the individual treatment'. You'll have to excuse my utter lack of knowledge of the facts here, but can you explain for me how they're not contradictory. What I'm asking is: how can it be free and financed by payments for treatment at the same time?

I like the idea though James, but I need to see it on paper, explained fully.

Nonetheless, we are at least on agreement - like most conservatives - that hospitals need to be independent and that patients need to be granted freedom. If we achieve that, we've done our duty.


The NHS isn't good at the moment, but the essential model of publically funded healthcare needs to remain in place. There is plenty of red tape and wasted 'management' money that needs to be rooted out and if private partnerships can be used to further improve hospitals all the better. Health insurance in America is unpopular, the merest suggestion of it here would see votes for Labour pile up.

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