Thursday, 28 February 2008

David Cameron: "Please be my friend."

David Cameron is looking more and more like the new kid at school. The bullies at his last school were always laughing at his clothes. So now mummy has moved him away. She took him down to Topshop and she bought him a new iPod and now he's joined up on Facebook but oh no HE STILL AINT GOT NO FRIENDS :(

So he tells the other kid's he's just like them.  Likes the same bands, the same clothes the same films. Then he picks on the kid with the accent and says look at him everyone he's so saaaaaaaaaad!

Then he tells the kids "come over to my space. I got xbox and broadband and ting." But first add me and please tell me you're my friend. Please please tell me and we will always be friends...

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Boris and the Bananas Vote

I'm sure all Londoner's have heard the repeated mantra that 'Boris can't possibly win'. He is too much of a clown, London will be a joke, etc etc. I sometimes think that these people will be repeating this even as they see Boris picking up the keys to City Hall. To these people I say wake up. 

On another May day six years ago, the people of Hartlepool in their wisdom decided to elect a man in a monkey suit on a platform of free bananas.

Now whilst most Londoners take the future of London seriously, there are a significant number who have been won over by Boris' monkeying around. This is the case despite the fact we know nothing of the quality of bananas he has on offer.

In fact while many Tories were angry that Boris has run such a low profile campaign, it is becoming increasingly clear that this may actually be of benefit to Boris. The less he talks about policies, the better he seems to do.

To those Ken supporters who think that Boris will slip on another banana skin, I say get real. Boris does nothing but slip on banana skins. He has made a career out of it.  If Ken really wants to take on Boris he must force him out of that monkey suit. Show Londoners what a Tory mayor would really be like. Force Boris into the debate. It is only by taking on the debate that Ken can win.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Cameron to Reverse on Green Tax

David Cameron will retreat on his proposals for green taxes, according to a report in today's Times.

Cameron's taxes on flights were widely criticised at the time, for being both too tough and for not being tough enough. However, along with his miniature wind-turbine, and huskie-driving photo shoots, this policy helped establish Cameron as a new kind of Conservative. 

But now in the face of the resurgent, right-wing of the party, this landmark policy looks set to be buried. The document acknowledges that the public had perceived it:

"to involve higher costs, more tax or some form of consumer sacrifice."

When Cameron initially proposed this tax he followed it with the caveat that any flight taxes would be offset by tax cuts elsewhere. It seemed to me at the time that no shift in consumer behavior could actually occur if the overall level of taxation remained the same. The proposals appeared to be a gesture and a modest one at that. So it is a sign of the real shift in Tory priorities, that even proposals as weak as these are now seen as unpalatable.

So as each week now goes by we see a gradual but very real re-branding of brand Cameron. On the way out is the Blair-lite ready to take on his party over unpopular policies, and on its way in is the all improved Nu-Major, back to basics but with a PR sheen.

From tax-breaks for married couples, to reductions in the age for abortions, we see the new Cameron brand alive and well. Not frightened to give in over Conway, not fearful to give in over Grammar schools, not terrified to give in over our environment. This is the new Conservatives. At their best when they're boldest. At their best when they're Tories.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Why the knives came out for Cameron

There's nothing the old dames of Fleet Street like better than a good gaffe and last night David Cameron provided them with a corker. There may have been very little meat to the story itself. Most of the feigned outrage was in itself pretty pantomime. But what mattered was that Cameron had offered himself up for a kicking. And a very good kicking he did get. So why did it happen?

Well as I say below, Team Cameron's handling of the Northern Rock saga was amateurish. Osborne's histrionics were misjudged and for once Brown's attack at PMQs (that the Tories were playing student politics) hit home. Now that policy fluff up, along with yesterday's PR gaffe, has provided a focus for those who think that team Cameron needs an injection of seriousness.

Secondly, the impression is forming that Cameron has become too confident for his own good. To put it simply, no bugger likes a cocky bugger and at the moment there's no bugger cockier than that cocky bugger Cameron. Whether its comparing himself to Arnold Schwarzenegger, or making personal and braying attacks on the Prime Minister, Cameron's recent time in office has brought an ever increasing display of chutzpah. It is this chutzpah which got him elected of course, but in recent weeks it has looked increasingly perilous. Fleet Street have noticed it, and if it had been accompanied by success in the polling they probably would have ignored it. But chutzpah can only take you so far and if the fish aren't biting, then its time to reel in the lines.

This chutzpah was still in full force last night of course. Having called the Auschwitz trips a gimmick, he then clarified that they were a gimmick that he supported and how dare Labour suggest he had called them a gimmick. Hurt by the grammar school row last summer, Cameron was probably desperate to avoid a similarly embarrassing climb-down. 

But what the Tories should be really desperate to avoid is the impression that the Green Team Cameron in just a little too green. Cockiness can only get you so much and if you want to look like a Prime Minister in waiting you have to act like a Prime Minister in waiting. As Barack Obama has shown, youth is only appealing to voters if it is accompanied with dignity and restraint. It is a lesson Cameron would be wise to learn.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Old Boys vs Boy George

Conservative Home are the latest to brand this as a poor week for George Osborne. His widespread trumpeting that last Monday would mark the death of Labour, has been followed by a further narrowing in the polls. This has only confirmed the suspicions of many that Osborne is playing beyond his game:

'Many journalists thought that the two most powerful figures in the Conservative Party had overdone it. One told ConservativeHome that they were being too political and insufficiently serious. The impression wasn't helped by George Osborne joking about Channel 4's news budget during the press conference. Try serious serious, serious in future George when People's mortgages and shares are at risk.' 

With the Tory stock stubbornly refusing to rise above its current level, those on both the right and left are wondering whether Cameron should bring in a substantial 'grey hair' as Shadow Chancellor. One name that is rising above the rest is ex-treasury spokesman and member of the Treasury Select Committee Michael Fallon (pictured). 

Fallon has plenty of experience in dissecting the nitty gritty of government economic policy and also has the broad shoulders that the position requires. He can usually be seen sitting near the back of the chamber near other grey-hairs such as Howard and Clarke. With someone like Fallon on board, the Tories could bat away Brown's 'all style no substance' claims in a flash.
So the question remains: Is Cameron brave enough to take on his old friend for the good of the party? Does he have the courage to choose wisdom over youth?

Boris Manifesto: Wind-up Cars and World Peace

Who said we shouldn't take him seriously?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Should Osborne be Pushed off the Stage?

One hell of a stink is being kicked up over at The Torygraph. Simon Heffer's savaging of George Osborne has provoked a storm of comments on the site. To be fair there are probably as many attacking Heffer as there are Osborne, but notable by their absence are those supporting the Shadow Chancellor.

Now, I was always amazed when Osborne was spoken of as a possible leader of the party. Cameron, for all of his faults, is at least vaguely likeable. He may have no experience, political opinions or credibility, but at least you wouldn't be ashamed to be seen talking with him.

Osborne on the other hand is an obvious embarrassment to his party. I mean, even if you put aside his 'selection' of policies on Northern Rock, and fear of committing to tax cuts, then you are still left with the nasal voice, the pasty boyish skin, and the open-jawed, half-smug, half-gormless face. 

However, like Brown with Darling, Cameron is stuck with his Boy George. To get rid of George now would be an act of open surrender to those on the right of the party. Heffer suggests that John Redwood should be brought in to replace him, but I doubt Cameron has the stomach for this. It seems to me that Cameron only has three options: 

1. Stick with the status quo
2. Shift George out of the public eye
3. Propose tax cuts

Given the mood in the Tory press, only the last of these seems viable. Osborne tried to placate his critics by hinting at cuts in the future. But Heffer's virulent attack will have shown him that this was not enough. If Osborne is going to prevent today's storm turning into tomorrows flood, he is going to have to come up with some proposals and come up with them fast.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Cameron's Fears Over Northern Rock

The Tories have taken a lot of flak from those on who believe they over-played their hand on Northern Rock. On a day when the Tories might have expected support, many of their usual cheerleaders turned on them instead. The Daily Mail's Ben Brogan judged that:

'In fact the only thing that's getting folk along the Burma Road excited is the poor judgement of the Tories. The consensus is that Dave's call for Brown to sack Darling was misjudged, and that George Osborne over-egged things by claiming we've gone back to the 70s.'

Over at The Torygraph, Iain Martin's verdict was that Cameron and Osborne were forced into a miscalculation because of fear of their own party. A 'Cameroon insider' informed him that supporting the government policy on Northern Rock would have led to:

'An instant Tory split and rebellion in  Commons votes, with many of the party's backbenchers and even some members of the shadow cabinet objecting that the Tory party should be against nationalisation at all costs. John Redwood would have been furious and far from alone.'

So there you have it. Cameron is afraid, just like the rest of us, of the old Tory masses braying behind him. For all his bravado, Cameron knows just how thin his support is among the party. 

In fact it is easy to forget that before Brown's botched election, many commentators were openly speculating that Cameron could be gone by Christmas. Andrew Neil even went so far as to state that the Tories could be politically dead for a generation.

Now in reality that never happened. However, the same tensions still lurk within the party's backbenches. Like Blair and Labour in the nineties, a large minority of Conservatives have never much liked their leader.  He has been tolerated, such as he has, because the public seem to prefer him to past Tory leaders. 

As long as Cameron bashes Gordon at PMQs and hints at tax cuts, the Tories will keep their swords in their sheaths. But if he ever dares to move beyond platitudes onto genuinely progressive policies, Redwood and the rest of them will be onto him in a flash.

How can the Tories give more for less?

The Trolls over at Conservative Home are still pushing for tax cuts despite the fact that:

1. The 'Iron' Shadow Chancellor has told them to shut up

2. The public still overwhelmingly support good public services over tax cuts.*

Cameron and Osborne know that the public don't want a return to public service cuts. However, they also know that wild horses can't drag their party to support increased spending. So stuck as they are between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, the Conservatives are left promising both better services and slower spending.

So basically they are promising the public far more whilst hinting at spending far less. Nobody bought this at the last election and the latest ICM Poll shows that nobody is believing them now.

There are now only 3 points between the parties which is within the margin of error. This is not a good position for either party and is certainly not good for voters.

As voters we have the choice between a high spending party with mixed results on public services and an inexperienced oppositon, which is unable to promise more or less spending.

Labours spending policy is at least clear even if their record is not trusted. However, the Tories are left neither being trusted or coherent. So as trust in the government inevitably declines, most votes still look like going to the 'none of the above' party.

*51% against 36% prioritise spending on public services against tax cuts. (ICM)

Monday, 18 February 2008

Is Cameron Getting Squeezed out of the Agenda?

When David Cameron ran for party leader, a key part of his success was his promise to withdraw the Conservatives from the European People's Party. it was largely because of this promise that many who would otherwise have supported Liam Fox, switched their support. 

However, almost as soon as he won the nomination, Cameron retreated from this promise leaving many right-wing tories felling rightly vengeful. I suspect that this, even more than the grammar school debacle, was what lay behind Conservative in-fighting last summer. 

Now most commentators agree that Fox has been extremely successful at pointing out government failures over defence. His office have been behind a number of high-profile stories that have made the tabloid front-pages week after week. 

So when Fox appeared on Sky News over the weekend, you might have expected him to have been given the green-light to commit to increased defence spending.

Yet when he was repeatedly asked by Adam Boulton if the Conservatives would pledge to increase spending and manpower, he appeared uncomfortable and drifted off into a ramble about 'freeloaders' in Nato.

Herein lies the central problem for the Tories in the next few years. Cameron has committed his party to the government's level of public spending, afraid that to do otherwise would lead the public to think that their public services would be cut. But pushed by limp poll results and internal criticism, this firm commitment has been turned into a vague statement that these issues would be reviewed if and when the Tories get in to power. 

Yet what little success the Tories have had in recent times has been from the hands of the Tory right
It was Osborne's tax cuts and regular scoops from Fox and Davis that have stolen the agenda. Cameron's leftish ideas such as increased post-natal support have sunk without a trace. 

All of which is making David Cameron look like the Tory party freeloader.

Fox and the Tory right couldn't care less about any of Cameron's pet issues and right now it is their agenda that is in the ascendant.  And that agenda is clearly less overall spending but more spending on defence. 

So basically it is less nurses but more wars.

I'm sure that will be a winning slogan for the next election.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Where's a Tsunami When You Need One?

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Tory Boys in The Brownstuff as Poles Head Home


It has only been a few days since the latest Pole-baiting binge from the Tory press. 
In fact ever since Poland joined the EU, The Daily Mail and Express have taken great joy in squeezing terror into its readers. We have been warned of a marauding army of spanner-wielding, Kabanos-chomping Catholics, clogging up our schools and grasping all our jobs.

Yet new evidence reported by The Times shows more are now moving back home than moving here.

Of course this has not been without precedent. Similar headlines were used with Irish immigrants in the past and the German press did the same during the Boys from the Blackstuff era

When the British economy was on its knees, thousands of out of work laborers headed out to find work in the East. but when the British economy picked up, the vast majority headed home.

This is the untold success story of modern Europe which the Tory press willfully ignore. When times were bad here, German industry helped us out and we have done the same for Ireland and now Poland. Ireland is now a success story and Poland will be too. In fact if and when the British economy returns to its knees, British workers will certainly find themselves heading out to Warsaw and Krakow in search of work.

This is why Europe works. Just don't expect to be reading about it any time soon.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Boris Logic: Domestic Flights are Criminal. So let's build another airport

In a remark which must have caused hairs to bristle in Conservative HQ, Boris Johnson told the crowds at yesterdays Green Hustings that: 

"Domestic flights in this country are a crime, they are a sin. You will not find, under a Johnson mayoralty, 381 officials taking flights within this country. That's absolutely criminal."

With recent revelations about Cameron failing to properly declare three domestic flights laid on by donors, this seemed to be sailing a little bit close to the wind.

But never mind that discrepancy. Boris was there to sell his green credentials and paint his vision for a greener London. So what was it?

He made it clear that he was against an expansion of Heathrow and that he had the perfect alternative:

Build another airport in the east.

Another successful day in the re-branding of Boris then.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Boris Gets it Seriously Wrong (again)

We know that Boris hasn't hot a head for numbers. Recent press conferences have left him scrambling in vain for the correct figure. But you would have thought he would have been well briefed for his first 'serious' interview with Andrew Marr. Especially when Marr barely got a chance to ask any questions at all. 

Boris had a message and he blundered along until it was finished. 
Unfortunately for him, he seriously fluffed the figures.

Boris told the nation that only 300 kids have had their Bus passes taken away in London since they were given them free by the Mayor. Yet figures acquired by Channel Four's Factcheck show that since September 2005 a total of 9036 cards have been taken away temporarily and 957 have been confiscated for good. Channel Four rated Boris' statement as 60% false. I think they were being a little generous...

Similar confusion was caused at todays Green hustings where he urged voters to reject 'Ken's Garden grab.' He accused the Mayor of allowing housing and other development on gardens in the capital. Now it is true that this happens. But it is also true that local planning applications on small sites (such as gardens) have zero input from the Mayors office.

So Boris here is a word of advice. Forget about trying to be serious. Just concentrate on getting the facts.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Raus Raus Mein Tory Nazis.

You may wonder why Andrew Gilligan has directed you to this obscure two year old blog post written by somebody you've never heard of. The following links may give you a clue:

The BNP are calling for their fellow travellers in the Tory Press to rise up and show their true colours.
In a half-mocking, half-pleading open letter, the BNP ask their favourite columnists to rid themselves of the 'Littlejohn Syndrome' whereby journalists preach the BNP message but dissassociate themselves from the party. They sum up the dilemma that these 'acceptable extremist' journalists have:

"The problem with assaults on political correctness is that they attract the wrong kind of people, the ‘unmentionables’. Members of the BNP, its supporters and others... are more likely to read the ‘acceptable extremists’ than they are to read anyone else in the establishment media. Their writing comes closest to articulating a lot of what the BNP believes in.
And this is a pretty uncomfortable position for members of the establishment to be in. So every now and again the ‘acceptable extremists’ make a token effort to distance themselves from the conclusion that their writing points to. In the case of Richard Littlejohn a good half a dozen times a year he launches into an absurd tirade against the ‘knuckle-dragging BNP’, presumably in the hope that somehow it will erase the fact that much of what he says is compatible with much of what the BNP says."

Now whilst actual votes for the 'knuckle-dragging' BNP remains fairly low, the BNP presence on the internet is growing rapidly. The BNP website gets more hits than Webcameron and Labour Home combined and the growing youth-wing of the party are increasingly making their presence felt on the net.
So as newspaper sales go down month on month, we have to ask at what point will the success of the right-wing online, push fellow-travellers such as Littlejohn and Bushell out into the open? Keep your eyes out for defections trolls.

If Only We Had Ken

Those unhappy trolls at Conservative Home are getting all dewey eyed over John McCain. 
The prospect of an elder statesman going into an election as the candidate of strength and experience is causing many Conservatives to question their rejection of Ken Clarke for Tory leader. David Cameron was keen to re-align himself with Obama as soon as the campaign swung in the senator's favour. 
However, for most Conservatives, an inexperienced candidate going into an election with slogans but no policies is not a happy prospect.
And whilst Obama is busy working the stumps and wooing the crowds, their own boy wonder is barely to be seen outside of Westminster and Notting Hill.
No wonder many Tories are lining themselves up for a boot at the tortoise.