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« Tories have been "deeply, deeply defective" says Rifkind | Main | Malcolm Rifkind ‘will make best party conference speech’ but his leadership bid can’t be successfully relaunched »



Can we please ditch Mr Crosby. Lets not forget he is the only man who thinks the Conservatives needed to base their campaign MORE on immigration than they did. He may have what it takes to win in Australia, but he hasn't a clue where to start in the UK.

Welcome comments from Cameron on taking the party in a new direction. As has been a criticism of most candidates there is a lack of detail on exact policies, but that is difficult when front benchers also have to fall in with party policy.

James Hellyer

Lynton Crosby's faults mainly centred around his very Australian approach. In a two party system with compulsary voting, you can just run on negative campaigning and hot button issues, and people will vote for the party they dislike least and which has hit their hot buttons most. In a three party system with voluntary voting, you drive people elsewhere or put them off voting at all by deploying those tactics.

However the points Crosby makes in the Times are far more general. The issue with them is that they do look like he's advising another core vote campaign.

Wat Tyler

I missed the BBC interview, but it's interesting what punches he threw.

"Don't trash the brand", Malcolm! Whap!

"Environment and open spaces", Tim! Pow!

No mention of public services? Looks like a bit of positioning within the "moderniser" camp.

And asked about DD, he said: "He is a very attractive politician and he is a senior Conservative figure with a lot to say."

Is it still too late for the Davis Dash?

The Political Thinker

I must agree … we really should just forget about Lynton Crosby. He may be suited to winning votes in Australia, but his tactics don’t work in Britain, and really I think immigration and asylum was a bad issue to focus on throughout the campaign.

Yes, the Conservative Party must have a strong policy on immigration and asylum… however it shouldn’t be the main policy… the economy should – but that was pretty much left out.

I find it interesting that so many people are criticising the general election campaign… I wonder whether Michael Howard will still be happy to bad Cameron, or whether this is all just a ploy?

The Political Thinker

Above I say “happy to bad Cameron
It should be “happy to back Cameron

James Hellyer

I think the persistent trashing of the general election campaign could cost Cameron quite dearly. There were the earlier rumours that because Howard was unhappy about Cameron trashing his good name, he was thinking of switching his support to Dr Fox. Of course, it's all rumours, but that's all we have ;=)

Wat Tyler

In which case, DC might be well advised to do that DD dash sooner rather than later. Wouldn't want to find himself dissed and friendless in a world in which the Doc was at the controls.

Wat Tyler

And Thinker- once again you're quite right. Ultimately it's got to be the economy.

But we're still labouring under that Black thing, while the economy just keeps trundling along. I'm afraid we need a serious derailment under the tubby Celtic controller before we will be listened to again. "Fortunately" there's one coming just down the track.

James Hellyer

The problem with that idea is that even if the economy goes off the rails, people may still think Brown offers a safer pair of hands than the Conservatives.

Last week IDS made this comparison with the situation in 1992:

"Voters knew the recession of the early 1990s was partly the fault of the Conservatives, but calculated that we [the Tories] were still best equipped to put things right. That Conservative advantage in economic competence was lost on Black Wednesday, and today voters are ready to keep a hold on nurse Brown for fear of finding the Tories worse."

So while the economy is important, I don't think we can just count on Brown screwing up.

Simon C

"So while the economy is important, I don't think we can just count on Brown screwing up."

I don't think there's a contradiction here. The economy is clearly a hugely important issue - therefore we need a serious realistic and coherent economic policy. If it starts going wrong, we need to be in a position to say what we would do to put things right.

Which leads me to agree with other postings on Rifkind elsewhere on the site. It doesn't take much penetrating analysis to reach the conclusion that the Party is still a long way from government. What is needed is a positive and compelling vision for the country, coupled with a passion to get back into power so that we can make that vision the reality.

All Rifkind appears to offer is an 18-month focus group. That isn't even the fruit of 8 minutes' hard thinking, let alone the 8 years he has had.

James Hellyer

"I don't think there's a contradiction here. The economy is clearly a hugely important issue - therefore we need a serious realistic and coherent economic policy. If it starts going wrong, we need to be in a position to say what we would do to put things right."

The point here is that some Conservatives (and I'm including some prominent MPs in this), seem to be under the impression that all we need to do is sit back and wait for Labour to screw up the economy. The problem with that approach, is there is still no guarantee that the Conservatives would be seen as a safer pair of hands.

That's why we either need to to develop and sell our econimic policies now rather than later (even Lord Tebbit admits that that tax cuts will take a long time to sell to the electorate). That way if it does all go wrong in the way we predict, we'll look like the people to turn to in order to fix it.

The alternative is to go the New Labour route and appropriate their economic competence, by adopting Labour spending plans for for the first two years of the next parliament. That would be far from ideal, but it's not like meaningful public sector reforms, for example, could be delivered straight away in any case.

But in either case, the underlying poit remains that we need more than just the economy. We cannot guarantee we'll be the economics party, so we need to make sure our policy platform is broad enough to give us appeal on other grounds.

Wat Tyler

I don't really buy the IDS analysis. We won in 1992 because people didn't see how higher taxes would help them, and of course, it was before the shambles of Black Wednesday (er...yes, OK, and the Kinnock factor)

Gordo's shambles is still brewing up (public and private debt mountains, higher taxes and fewer jobs). In 2010 we'll have had those 13 years of Labour misrule, and Brown will hardly be able to argue- a la Rifkind- "What me Gov? I wasn't there."

Wat Tyler

James- on your last post, agreed. We do need more than just economic competence. But as you say, we must re-assert our economic credentials as of now, and most of all we must ensure that our other policy choices do not compromise our economic platform (eg on public spending).

James Hellyer

"I don't really buy the IDS analysis. We won in 1992 because people didn't see how higher taxes would help them, and of course, it was before the shambles of Black Wednesday (er...yes, OK, and the Kinnock factor)"

Are you forgetting the recession that was in full swing, and John Major's election pledge that if we elected him "the recovery starts tomorrow"?

James Hellyer

"most of all we must ensure that our other policy choices do not compromise our economic platform (eg on public spending)."

I agree. One of the key failings in the election campaign was the belief that people would believe we could spend more and deliver tax cuts. It just wasn't plausible.

The James Report savings would take years to realise, which meant we actually intended to borrow to fund tax cuts (like that worked out well when Nigel Lawson did it!).

This was then compounded as a bad policy by offering tax cuts that were just deferred tax increases.

Just adopting Labour's spending plans would have had more credibility - and doubtless a similar economic outcome.

We can only meaningfully offer to cut to taxes if we are prepared to cut public spending. We cannot engage in a public policy bidding war if tax cuts are a policy. Instead we need to persuade people that a lot of "services" are no such thing.

Wat Tyler

Yes, leading on tax cuts is dangerous for all the reasons we know about. The key is to make it part of a package which encompasses the consumer choice/competition agenda for the public services.

And yes, finding the right words is difficult. This am I heard the excellent Nick Herbert on Today with Dobbo discussing the future of the NHS. Herbert talked sense, but couldn't really land any punches against the bearded one, who at one point advised "get your facts right sunshine".

Don't like to keep banging on about it, but the ability to put things in everyday street language is one of you know who's real strengths.

The Political Thinker


The problem is that few Conservatives have been bold enough to stand up and say that Britain’s economy is in a terrible state, either that or they don’t realise it. Most Britons, unfortunately, lack enough economic competence to realise how badly our economy is doing, and will just believe the government when they say the economy is in a good state.

The Conservative Party mustn’t be afraid to talk about the economy, as it has been since Black Wednesday. It’s important to realise mistakes were made, but that’s no reason to run from the economy – Be bold, show that you’ve made mistakes, but that you’ve learnt from them.

Britain’s economy: Taxes are up. Growth is down. Britain is no longer as competitive as it once was. Public sector inflation is out of control. Public sector employment is out of control. Government waste is out of control. Small businesses are unable to cope with high taxes and bureaucracy. Purchasing power is down. Personal debt is at a ridiculous level. Public spending is far too high. Companies issuing profit warnings rose by 52% in the second quarter (compared with second quarter of 2004).

I could go on… but the thing is, seldom did I hear Oliver Letwin talk about the things I’ve mentioned. George Osborne has talked about them even less. A large proportion of what I mentioned was never even talked about.

It’s not so much so that the people don’t believe Conservatives when it comes to the economy… it’s rather Conservatives haven’t been talking about the economy.

James, it’s not the case of hoping that Brown will screw up, as he has, it’s the case of whether the Conservative Party can be bold enough to talk about the economy and show the public how badly the economy is doing.

As Wat said, soon everyone – whether economically competent or not – will be able to see how badly the economy is doing, but alas I fear that even then the Conservative Party will be too afraid to talk about the economy.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe it’s simply one more heave, however it’s a dangerous business to not talk about the economy at all. And I do agree that the party must start talking about it now… but is George, or whoever the Shadow Chancellor after the leadership race is, bold enough?


You're right Thinker.I believe the reason the Tories seem so frightened to talk about the economy occured because of some disastrous attempts to 'talk the economy down' between 1999-2001.We were proved wrong then and since there seems to be a complete loss of nerve.
The situation is different today and the next year will see Browns reputation for competence severely tarnished.
However the key question is whether we have the confidence to sell an alternative approach or play safe and hope that economic disaster will sweep Labour away.
I hope for the former but expect and fear the latter.

Kenneth Irvine

Lynton Crosby and Liam Fox must given credit for improving our campaign communications, investing in telephone canvassing and introducing 21st century technology like Voter Vault.

We have heard enough about what is wrong. The candidates must set out how they will improve our campaigning and deal with the Lib Dems. Their strategy must show that is capable of winning back seats in Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and the large cities where our support has crumbled.

Only then can we assess who is the best preson to lead us back to government.

Mark O'Brien

The problem with any leadership candidates badmouthing the 2005 campaign or any preceding campaign is that they are all inextricably linked to it. Rifkind was elected on Howard's platform, and tried to be elected in Edinburgh during Hague's 'wasted' years. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't Cameron widely recognised as one of the main architects of our 2005 manifesto? If Fox and Davis start singing from this hymn sheet, you have to ask where the cries of complaint were when they were sat in a Shadow Cabinet whose position and strategy they disagreed with. Even Ken Clarke, sitting haughtily on the backbenches, laughing at all the young pretenders he could supposedly wipe the floor with, would not be free from condemnation. He has been a Conservative MP under Hague, IDS and Howard, and if he had serious problems with their policies or their strategies, why hasn't he been more vocal or more active in his opposition?

Don't get me wrong: the 2005 campaign had its faults and was hardly an election in which we put forward a radical vision for reform. But every Tory in Parliament has to be careful when he or she criticises the campaign, because they are inextricably linked to it.

As far as the economy is concerned, I think that we don't have the self-confidence to confront the issue and to retake the mantle as the party of economic competence. It probably stems from Black Wednesday and the Major years, because since then we have not been thought of as the party which could manage the economy best. However, we are Conservatives. We know what we believe in: an economy based on free enterprise, with low tax and light regulation our cornerstones of policy. And we have the added advantage of having a set of beliefs which can make the economy thrive, not falter!! There is a wealth of economic policy ideas which are available to the Conservative Party as it crafts its message for the next general election: a flat-rate of income tax with a generous personal allowance; a local sales tax to replace VAT; the abolition of all those silly little taxes which get everyone angry, but which don't earn the Exchequer much money. All we have to do is put together a rigorously costed package of economic reform, based on our belief in the free market and free enterprise, and then have the self-confidence to sell that package and pursue those beliefs to the ends of the earth! That way, not only will we become recognised as the party which can make the economy thrive, but as the party which brought about a fundamental shift from the prevailing consensus of no-questions-asked big government which even Margaret Thatcher couldn't tear down.

It's asking a lot, and if I hadn't included that last sentence about big government and Mrs. Thatcher, it could have been an election-winner in itself!!

Cutting taxes wins elections

Lets get the facts right on tax cuts. All the countries that have cut and reformed taxes, eg the UK in the 1980s, Australia, Spain, Baltic States, USA and Ireland have actually seen increased tax revenues - hence boosting funds for public services, though frankly there are enough of these that need trimming. Those who persist in the system Brown seems desperate to defend, have lost tax revenues. T

The challenge to the government should be what public services are they going to cut if they continue with the current regime, as it will start losing revenues in real terms - just as those in Continental Europe have tended to do.

The Electoral popularity of tax cuts should not be underestimated. See the below article from Mr Crosby. Also note the Tory party's successes in 1970, 1979 and 1992 were all heavily driven by tax reform and cuts + it was Gaitskell's comments on tax in 1959 that were seen as the turning point of the campaign previously swinging to Labour.

James Hellyer

"Lets get the facts right on tax cuts."

I thought we were now below the level where the Laffer Curve would result in cuts increasing revenues?

Cutting taxes wins elections

No - especially given that

-3.5 million people now pay tax at 40%, which was only ever meant for the superrich, not any above average job in London
-our rate of corporation tax is increasingly uncompetitive in relation to the rest of the globe

Selsdon Man

Candidates re-applying for the Approved List were required to agree to a 15 point list that would lead to their removal.

It included "making public statements against the Leader of the Party" and "being the cause of embarrassing media coverage".

The national convention could force MPs to be members of the Approved List under the proposed changes to the party constitution. MPs who publicly criticise Michael Howard should watch their step!

Cedric Onway

Michael Howard unhappy at criticisms of his campaign?
Ah diddums... never mind, Mikey, you'll soon be able to trudge off to the backbenches and sulk to your heart's content there.

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