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« Hague set to return as Shadow Foreign Secretary | Main | Hustings Report (10): Newport »

Comments

Bruce

These sterile arguments over the John Major legacy illustrate how the Tory Party must (in the personnel of its leadership) make as complete a break as possible with the past. If even loyal conservatives (as I believe our posters are) feel the need to argue so vociferously over past leaders and their legacy, isn't that the best argument to avoid placing those past leaders in the Shadow Cabinet? Imagine what the average voter would think if he/she heard loyal conservatives talking like this?

Daniel Vince-Archer

"It was he who stayed in despite all the advice. And it was he who wanted to raise interest rates through the roof in a futile attempt to save the policy, which cost countless jobs, homes and businesses."

Again UIVMM, this was down to Norman Lamont and his team at the Treasury. As for your 'despite all the advice' point, the special adviser at the Treasury actually advised Major of the 'benefits' of Britain rejoining the ERM. Thank goodness that adviser will never be in a position to run this party or this country. Oh wait...

malcolm

No Bruce.These arguments are as you say sterile but sometimes it does bother me to see John Major slaughtered so often both within the Conservative Party and by its enemies.
However if Cameron in particular is elected leader he will need a good deal of experience around him and therefore I would hope that there may be shadow cabinet positions for Rifkind and Clarke as well as Hague.
If Cameron is clever and is able to put together a cabinet of 'all the talents'then I believe we will shortly be looking forward to being ahead in the polls.

 Ted

Malcolm

We joined ERM in Oct 90 - remind me who was the Chancellor then?

"These sterile arguments over the John Major legacy illustrate how the Tory Party must (in the personnel of its leadership) make as complete a break as possible with the past"

Except that part of the problem is that for voters Black Wednesday and the events leading up to it were as searing an experience in the way they view our party as the Winter of Discontent was for the Labour Party, so much so that the negative perceptions it reinforced are today stronger really than the image itself.

In opposition, Labour played around with all sorts of formulations about unions, including trying to avoid the subject. Eventually they had to accept the Tory reforms and convince people that they would never allow the unions to get too powerful again. Conservatives can likewise play around with formulations about tax and the economy. Or they can come up with a policy that convinces people that interest rates and taxes will come down and not go up again as they did in such dramatic fashion then.

Btw, it was Major as Chancellor of the Exchequer--the job he held when we entrered the ERM--who successfully persuaded Thatcher to join, unlike Lawson and Howe who were only able to persuade her to sign a statement agreeing to join in principle (and incidentally even then only managed to do so with the threat of resinging from her government if she refused to consent).

Don't know about apologies except that William Hague did apologise on behalf of the party for a mistake for which he was not responsible.

erm

We all fret about finding ways to get the 30 somethings to vote for us and casually forget that their early political awareness was impacted by this series of events.

"sometimes it does bother me to see John Major slaughtered so often both within the Conservative Party and by its enemies."

I personally like and admire John Major but if we don't learn from his mistakes as well as those of others we won't get it right in future.

Daniel Vince-Archer

With all this talk of former leaders and wise old heads like Ken Clarke being given Shadow Cabinet positions, it would be interesting to know why nobody has argued that Michael Howard should be given an influential role.

sadly biased

"With all this talk of former leaders and wise old heads like Ken Clarke being given Shadow Cabinet positions, it would be interesting to know why nobody has argued that Michael Howard should be given an influential role."

Not including Malcolm in this but that would be because Michael Howard, (like William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith) is from the Right of the party and so therefore his electoral failings cannot be forgiven unlike Major, Clarke, Rifkind....

malcolm

John Major was chancellor Ted.But I'm sure you'll remember the decision to go in was taken sometime before as the poster above stated.
Major always gets all the blame for this fiasco and Mrs Thatcher for some reason is not held responsible.
If I remember correctly not a single minister publicy objected or resigned from the government at the time.

 Ted

DVA

We could go for a mass cull of anyone over 50/served in Major Government but that would be losing the experience of party management & government that an inexperienced leader requires (assuming no surprise DD win). The Duchess would be most upset!

I don't see a place for Clarke - he is at best semi-detached (the burst of energy in the summer seems to have gone) but finding places for Hague, Davis and even IDS is a good way of demonstrating continuity internally while not having just a chair changing re-shuffle of the same old faces. I'd like to see a lot more new faces with just a leavening of old experienced ones.

Bruce

These arguments over which Tory brought us into the ERM may not be sterile to many of us--but they are sterile to the voters we need to reach. Go out onto the streets and ask passerbys about the ERM and who brought Britain into it, and I'd wager 99% wouldn't have any idea what you're talking about.

If having Rifkind and Clarke in Front Bench positions guaranteed electoral success, then John Major would have won in 1997.

Would it be unfair to exclude such talented individuals from the Front Bench in 2006? Perhaps. Is it necessary, if the party is to break with the past and move forward? Probably.

Actually Nick Ridley resigned.

Mrs Thatcher argued against it in cabinet and with her ministers. Her reason for saying she would go in was that she didn't want to lose her Chancellor and Foreign Secretary (the Howe-Lawson ambush) and then joined when she felt so outnumbered in cabinet that she felt she had no choice. Seeing as Lawson and Howe resigned anyway, and that she fell from power a month after going in, it may have been better to have resisted on the grounds that said resignations and ejection from office were inevitable. But she was never a fan of the scheme unlike Major, Howe and Lawson.

 Ted

If you call being dragged protesting at every step as Mrs T was with her Chancellor, Foreign Sect and most of the cabinet threatening resignation (with Tarzan swinging around waiting for his call to No 10) being responsible then I guess she was.

Major takes the blame because of his acceptance of Chancellorship subject to entry, his defence of Maastricht and his failure to deal with the fallout from decision to leave ERM. If he had immediately responded with a set of measures to re-set economic direction and not hidden behind the body of his Chancellor the story might have been different. An immediate apology and this is what I'm going to do would have shown leadership - thats where he failed and where he continued to fail.

James Hellyer

"If you call being dragged protesting at every step as Mrs T was with her Chancellor, Foreign Sect and most of the cabinet threatening resignation (with Tarzan swinging around waiting for his call to No 10) being responsible then I guess she was."

And even then, Major was only able to see it to her by saying it would finally squeeze inflation out of the British economy.

"Go out onto the streets and ask passerbys about the ERM and who brought Britain into it, and I'd wager 99% wouldn't have any idea what you're talking about."

Yes, but people do remember the ERM and that the Tories as a party were responsible. Sure they don't care about who: why should they?

Our reputation for incompetence, division, dishonesty and lacking compassion (remember "if it isn't hurting it isn't working"--incredibly we actually boasted about that on election billboards under John Major) was forged in people's minds thanks to that whole fiasco.

Oberon Houston

I agree that we must learn from the past, and this includes the Major Government. But let’s not forget that he won an election under very difficult circumstances everybody expected him to lose. And even with a thin majority, his Government made some important steps forward in policy and handed the Blair Government a great opportunity, which has been squandered. With regards to the ERM, yes it was a mess and there is no denying that. It’s interesting to note that, even as we were pulling out, Gordon Brown was still advocating us staying in.

One of the biggest lessons that I think we need to learn is the ability to build a political consensus with the Country. After Thatcher went, the fractures began to appear, and those on the right started their ascendancy. Until very recently they were the loudest and most outspoken voice in the Party. Anybody advocating a centrist stance is bludgeoned down. Yet, what is politics about, if it’s not building a consensus with the electorate?

I believe that it is very dangerous to adopt the position that the Electorate must be made to agree with us. Yes we must develop policy to help Britain flourish, absolutely, however we must start from the position of where we are, where the electorate are and move from there. One of the guiding lights of Conservatism is in the word itself. Britons are naturally conservative, naturally cautious of change. To expect them to embrace radical policies of the left or right will not work. They need to move in stages and see what the outcome is before moving again, rather than plunging into radical agenda’s that carry an unpredictable outcome. The red faced blokes dressed in Pringle at the 19th hole may cheer the roof down at the prospect of moving to a neo-con world, but shoving it into a manifesto and throwing it at the public will not. This is why left leaning areas of the Country now run a mile from us, as do many women and younger voters. The greatest problem we face as a party is those within that treat this as some spectator sport – regardless of the consequences. Old Labour suffered greatly by the infestation of Marxists and hard line Socialists in the 80s and early 90s, and it made them unelectable. It wasn’t until they were forced by the electorate to accept that it was them that needed to change that things worked for them again. Until we accept the need for change, the same will apply.

malcolm

Yes Ted,I agree,the aftermath of White Wednesday was very badly handled,it destroyed Lamonts career and will always be remembered as Majors legacy.A real shame as I think the good things he tried to achieve have been completely overshadowed.
PS Was Mrs T really dragged 'kicking and screaming',it's not a vision I can ever really believe possible of her!
PPS Ridleys resignation had nothing to do with the ERM.

sadly biased

"They need to move in stages and see what the outcome is before moving again, rather than plunging into radical agenda’s that carry an unpredictable outcome."

Yes, that is what Thatcher did. It is what Major did for a while. But some of the stages were in the wrong direction. Strating with Lawson's messing around with the currency, and compounding his errors with later ERM entry, along with all the interest rate and tax hikes that followed, led the party to being shown the exit door.

That means that this: "It wasn’t until they were forced by the electorate to accept that it was them that needed to change that things worked for them again" applies to us too. People don't care about who is in our party or what their job is nearly as much what our party does or what they think it wants to do.

Until we convince them that we are not a party of economic incompetence, higher taxes and higher interest rates, lying, and making huge mistakes while being apparently oblivious to their impact on people's lives, jobs, homes and businesses then we will not be invited back. That is the consensus people want from us and, sadly, it is what we have failed to offer them since Black Wednesday.

for the record

Nick Ridley resigned on July 14, 1990, after calling the Exchange Rate Mechanism was a "German racket" aimed at dominating Europe.

Bruce

The average voter would find it hard to believe that Tory activists are still dwelling over Nick Ridley's position on the ERM 15 years ago. They'd see that as a symbol of our disconnect with what is going on in 2005--or what will be going on in 2009.

It's as if the Tory Party of the 1920s had been all hung up over the "Ditchers" and the 1911 House of Lords Bill. The Tory Party then was able to get over its long-past squabbles. Can we show the same maturity today?

By the time of the next election the torch will, by necessity of age, have been passed from the John Major generation to the new generation of Tory leadership, people such as Fox, Osbourne, Willets, May and others. Why not pass the torch now?

malcolm

Apologies 'for the record' you're right.After all this time my memory is playing tricks on me,I had thought he'd had to resign after some intemperate remarks about a ferry disaster.

"The Tory Party then was able to get over its long-past squabbles. Can we show the same maturity today?" Yes, but if we don't understand what we got wrong, we won't learn and improve, which we need to do.

It's like if Labour had said in the 1980s: all those days of militant strikes and union militancy, and rising taxes and inflation, and stangnant take home pay, they were all so long ago, so 1970s, let's forget about all that. We don't need to learn from our mistakes or get new policies to replace the old ones that didn't work and made everyone dislike us. Let's just have a new generation of people and wait for voters to forget we ever did anything wrong.

Instead, Kinnock, Blair and Brown and Mandleson and others said, no, we do need to learn, to show we have learned and to develop better policies that actually work so we can stay in government for longer than the usual one and a bit failed terms.

They understood they had to replace the negatives with positives. Just like we need economic competence, unity, compassion and integrity to replace our negatives.

A new generation will only help if they understand why the Tories lost power.

 Ted

Bruce

TB and co kept some old hands on board until after 1997 so that there were some with experience of government to help them - seems sensible to have a few (but only a few) like Hague to do the same for DC & co.

Bruce

The Cameron bid for leadership has as one of its main arguments that he represents a break with the past, if for no other reason than DC wasn't in a prominent leadership position during this time. The logical corollary to that argument is that the leadership team should also be "new" faces.

We cannot flush the past down a "memory hole". What we can do is minimize focus on the past, and these "Who backstabbed who in 1997 (or 2003)" debates, by selecting a Front Bench, as much as possible, who weren't front and center in these internal party wars. Why unnecessarily give the voters reason to dredge up the past? There will be enough dredging by the media and Labour without our helping them out.

By all means have our leaders analyze the past. But their analysis might be improved if they didn't have a personal stake in the past, and can come at the analysis with more objectivity.

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