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Ronald Collinson

Our support in the last general election went up less than a single percentage point, and I was therefore disregarding it.

Going off on a tangent, it appears that the Liberal Democrat leadership is agitating for a rightward shift. They have a good record in terms of freedom of the individual, and do not have any of the rather nasty connotations evoked by talk of the Conservative Party in some circles. In the future, they might pose a very considerable threat to us.

James Hellyer

"fairness to those in need of help and fairness to those who provide help"

What does this mean exactly?

James Hellyer

Turning the italics off...


there's a tension in the Lib Dems between the Liberal side of the party (e.g. Vince Cable) and the former SDP side (e.g. Charles Kennedy).

The former, "The Orange Bookers", are more interested in free markets and individual liberties, while the latter have more in common with Old Labour.

The problem they have is that a lot of their new MPs gained their seats by being to the left of the government, while their traditional Westcountry seats rely on the "yellow Tory" vote (the local Lib Dem MPs in Devon have tended to be pro-hunting, eurosceptic marketeers, for example).

So they are now torn between shoring up two different voting groups. While Kennedy is in charge, they won't move to the right though.

James Hellyer

Fixed that. I hope!

Ronald Collinson

Nope. It's all in italics.

I don't think it's fair to pit Kennedy against Clegg, Laws and the like. As a leader presiding over a broad church, he's very good, and he gave support to both sides during his end-of-conference speech.

It is especially unfair to pit him against Vince Cable, who was a member of the SDP. The Gang of Four and their followers left because Labour was too leftwing at the time, and so should have – to a greater or lesser extent – more in common with New Labour than Old Labour.

Parts of the grassroots (especially newer members), the MEPs, some of the Lords, and the newer MPs form the opposition to the Orange Bookers. Pretty substantial resistance, yes, but the Liberal Democrats will collapse when Labour moves back to the left (which it will, eventually). If they see that, it is quite possible for that rightward shift (or, rather, movement back to the centre) to occur.

James Hellyer

Salute Mr Howard

In the past week, there has been much gloating over the rejection of Michael Howard's proposals to change the rules governing Tory leadership contests. Mr Howard would be the first to admit that the failure of his proposals is a disappointment, especially on the eve of his last conference as party leader. However, it would be a deep injustice if this setback were to eclipse the tremendous contributions that Mr Howard has made to the Conservative cause.

Apart from a brief period on the backbenches between 1999 and 2001, Mr Howard has served on the Tory front bench since 1984, when he was made a PPS to the Solicitor-General. As Home Secretary between 1993 and 1997, he utterly transformed a job that had traditionally been managerial, and took on the creaking criminal justice system. His period at the Home Office should be a model to the next Conservative Government: he showed that Tory principles, implemented with courage and intellect, can challenge liberal orthodoxy and make life better for the voters (crime fell by 18 per cent on his watch).

As Tory leader, Mr Howard's achievement was formidable: it is no exaggeration to say that he saved his party. He inherited a balkanised basketcase, but brought unity to a party that seemed incapable of such maturity. He surrounded himself with able advisers, moved the party headquarters and restored professionalism to Tory politics.

His party, it is true, did not perform as well as he had hoped in this year's general election: the number of Tory MPs rose from 166 in 2001 to 198. But, given the shambles Mr Howard inherited and the mere 18 months he was granted in which to turn round its fortunes, this result was remarkable. He saw off the threat of UKIP and the Lib Dems' so-called "decapitation" strategy to remove prominent Conservative MPs. More importantly, he leaves the party in an electoral position upon which - under new captaincy - it can build confidently.

Mr Howard reminded his colleagues of the importance of clarity and honesty; he did not, in the end, persuade the public to trust the Tories afresh. But his example should be an inspiration to his successor. For that, and much else, his party should salute him this week.


I would agree with what the Telegraph wrote

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