Friday, December 30, 2005

Just as good ol’ Dave Cameron starts to hog the all-important mid festive season headlines, knackered old Charlie Kennedy decides to hurl himself at the press super-star destroyer and battle to save his so-called leadership. Apparently some rather annoyed LibDem candidate has launched a web petition to sack Kennedy and rather a lot of LibDem members have signed it – thousands upon thousands. Then it is revealed that 400 or so of which are elected councillors. Oh dear. However, instead of ignoring the rantings of a LibDem malcontent, Mr Kennedy decided to make himself the BBC’s number 2 story by attacking his own party. Curious still is his defence. Kennedy says that the petition of his own members in no more worthy than an attack by, say, Labour or the Tories. Yet the attack comes from within his own party. Also a LibDem unnamed frontbencher says he better be gone by New Year or there’ll be a vote of no confidence.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

David Cameron’s decision to ask Sir Bob Geldof to be an advisor to the Conservative Party on the issue of global poverty was an interesting one. It has certainly upset Mr Blair, who has always treated the world of celebrity as his fiefdom, and is a very clever piece of media positioning. However I do fear a major elephant traps wait in the long term.
Sir Bob told the BBC News 24 today that he would speak his mind and, of necessary, oppose the policy that the Tories come out with if he doesn’t agree with it – i.e. if it isn’t his policy. I fear Sir Bob will accept nothing less than his point of view. We may have the tide behind us now, but what if Sir Bob is leading the charge against the new Tory poverty policy in a few years’ time? I wonder what he had to say about Michael Howard’s globalisation policy, launched just a matter of months ago. With most Tories talking about free trade rather than fair trade…

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My simple Christmas offering this year is to ask what chance I have in the Queens Speech Sweepstake. My 6 random choices, which have to appear Bingo style for me to win, are (in order of sanity...)

1. A reference to Camilla
2. A reference to natural disasters around the world
3. Queen comes out against the Iraq War
4. Queen declares herself for David Cameron
5. Queen wears something stylish
6. Queen wears something from Debenhams

I don't think I'm going to win. In fact, 2 points would be good.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Firstly the big voting news and the present Mrs Little and I are very happy with the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing results. When you reach a certain age and your babysitters are away in London, Saturday night television is all that keep you going.

Sunday was spent mainly at a party in Dereham, but I did get a chance to read Matthew D’Ancona’s excellent piece in the Sunday Torygraph today. Now either he has read my blog or he is indeed a very astute gentleman. The trust of his argument was that the Tories and LibDems are moving politically and personally closer together, maybe in preparation for a post-election coalition. Conservative Chairman Francis Maude and LibDem Treasury Spokesman Vince Cable have both been saying nice things about the other side. Plus who’d want to be the LibDem Leader who helped prop up a Brown-led Labour government after a poor poll showing? Anyway, since the Tory and LibDem leadership are getting on and Cameron is banging on about all sorts of libertarian and environmentalist ideas the notion of a Con/Lib government isn’t all that barking.

So, as predicted, the downfall of Kennedy – when, not if, it comes – will see the LibDems potentially choosing a future coalition partner. Now, obviously I believe that Cameron will be storming to a massive 341 seat majority, with Labour forced into sixth place behind Respect. However, if by some shock the inbuilt problem with First-Past-The-Post prevent this, you could see the Conservatives as the largest party dealing with Laws or Oaten. But perhaps not Hughes or Campbell. Anyway, the Sunday Torygraph seems convinced it’ll be Campbell so ho-hum.

On the Tory front, my little spies tell me that the diary of newly promoted Shadow Education Minister Boris Johnson is filling up with various jaunts around the nation visiting union bars and telling CF branches full of wonderful young blonde Tory-girls about the wonderfulness of Dave Cameron. Damn tough job, but somebody has to do it!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It has been an eventful end of the week. On Wednesday I was told that I have been put back onto the Conservative Parliamentary Candidates List and can start applying for seats as and when they come up! Good news! Hurrah! I thought the interview went well and it must have. We have been asked to join mobile campaigning units, which I am glad to do.

It seems like Kennedy has survived in tact, although The Sun tried their best as always. Campbell’s pledge of loyalty was fairly week willed, and Oaten’s Telegraph interview said more about where he wants to go than where he is now. David Cameron heaped the pressure on Kennedy this week. Despite his almost failed jibe at PMQs (a pretty good joke about decapitation strategies but flopped due to timing) he then went back on the attack by calling upon LibDems to defect to the Conservatives. I liked the timing and the speech content but I do wonder what Cameron’s speech expected the outcome to be. I just can’t see any LibDem MP defecting, we may get a handful of Councillors and activists but the key group is voters. We’ve seen our association membership jump by 13% since the day Cameron was elected – a mixture of new members and those who lapsed some years ago. We are particularly doing well in LibDem strongholds in Eaton and Town Close – so the results in May will be interesting!

Website of the day:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I shan’t pretend I’m in the least bit bothered about the woes that the LibDems have found themselves in during the past 24 hours but two things do spring forth of note worthiness.

Firstly are the similarities to the IDS Tory debacle. I found myself musing this morning about who exactly is spreading the rumours about Kennedy, particularly to Neill of the BBC. Today Party bigwigs Matthew Taylor and Paul Holmes have strongly come out in Kennedy’s defence, as have senior LibDem frontbencher Lembit Opik. So just who is spreading the rumours? Well, with the Tories I naively thought that the media had got their wires crossed and a few private mumblings of a few obscure Tory MPs made it onto the front-page, but of course it wasn’t. The finger of suspicion has pointed at the swivel-eyed loon of the LibDems Party President Simon Hughes and also the statesmanlike Foreign Affairs Spokesman (not, not Shadow Cabinet as they like to claim) Sir Menzies Campbell. So will they use this chance to come out and back their man? Because Charlie can’t take many more PMQs like that.

My other thought is about where this leaves the LibDems as a party. I’m not joining in the Tory gleeful rubbing of hands over this because I think it could be a worrying sign. Not of a Kennedy departure, but that the LibDems have come to maturity as a political party. All the best parties are big-tents who bring in people of various political viewpoints who can agree an end product but not necessarily the same means to will it to happen. The Tory Party contains Bill Cash and Ken Clarke. Labour has Dennis Skinner and Peter Mandelson. Enough said. Whilst the LibDems sat on the sidelines being irrelevant – which to a degree they did rather well under Ashdown – then nobody bothered mentioning that they all fundamentally disagree over absolutely everything. Now there’s a wiff of something in the air – not power, don’t be silly, but a chance of a seat in a coalition government. After years of Tory-bashing the rather dapper Vince Cable has started mending bridges by saying he could work with the Conservatives – just in case Cameron has the largest number of seats in 2009. If not, they could always throw their lot in with Labour – under Brown or another Blairite Leader. With the next poll result in serious doubt the LibDems are players. If Cameron crashes and burns or if he takes a commanding lead then the LibDems may well slink away to the fringes again. If not, this argument is important because they are fighting for the soul of the party and maybe even the soul of the next government. If Laws and the Orange Book Liberals win it raises the prospect of a Con-Lib coalition working effectively. If Hughes or Davey win then a coalition is only likely with Labour. Either way the LibDems need this leadership crisis badly, because an attempt to go into coalition under Kennedy (or in my view under Campbell) would be a disaster. It may never happen, but this crisis is in many ways good for the party and a clear sign that they may well help form the next period of British politics.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Had a very successful Christmas event on Saturday in Eaton ward. Very well attended and raised rather a lot for the campaign fund - or in this case sending letters out to prospective new members. Plenty of mince pies and punch too!

School today was a tad dull, though I did manage to complete marking my Mock GCSE Exams and potentially ruin the Yuletide of my 'A' Level class by setting them a whopping great essay. Ho ho ho! Though my New Year is ruined by marking...

Tomorrow is our Year 8 Celebration Assembly - the theme is Oscars. Given the amount of work that my wonderful PA did today, it bought to mind a gleeful Sir Humphry declaring that all the work of any organisation is admin. Seeing her at work, one wag mused: "If the teachers all disappeared, we'd get cover. If the admin staff disappeared, the school would collapse." Quite.
I was quite surprised today to be flicking around the LibDem website (fear not, I shall punish myself harshly later tonight) to see that they have a button on their homepage dedicated to their position on Iraq. It got me thinking about to what degree they really now have become a series of protest issues strung together into a political party. It’s like the anti-war movement meets the anti-fees students union. They made a big deal out of Blair’s war at the last election and there is some feeling within both the local and national LibDems that they will continue to do so in the future to continue their advance against Labour in the urban constituencies. I cannot really see this working. Firstly because they are fighting (maybe) Brown in (maybe) 2009 and Gordon very cleverly sidestepped blame for the war in a way that Hoon, Straw and Clarke never did. Secondly the issue will have passed, with 90% of troops being out by the time of the next poll. So why concentrate on it then? Well the LibDems seem to be struggling for a purpose at the moment. Poor Charlie Kennedy even had his resignation plans blow by old Brillo on “This Week” and had to deny his own resignation plans. Yet the whole buzz around the LibDem camp now is on positioning to be his successor. When, and if, the LibDems do that they still have to overcome the Cameron issue. The Times runs a good article today suggesting that Cameron is the heir to liberal Toryism. Maybe, and certainly not a head banging euro sceptic (copyright, Mr K Clarke). I think we are re-entering two party politics. I can’t see the LibDems falling to 11 seats, as has been mooted over on, but I can see them falling back slightly. The LibDems will struggle to define themselves – as a party to the left of Labour under a Hughes leadership or a party fighting for the liberal ground led by Laws? Or maybe a party fighting for survival under Campbell? I know it isn’t popular to knock old Ming, but I see him as a caretaker man for the job, in both leadership and ideological terms. A great guy and good media performer but he won’t advance the argument within the party. And then, without Iraq, what does the member for North East Fife have to offer? Anyway locally LibDems continue to spin themselves in circles. One leading light told me this week that they were struggling to hold onto people because of the Cameron effect. We’ve had 17 people join since Cameron became leader, and I’ll happily run a book on the first sitting or former LibDem Councillor to switch to us. Apparently a similar book is being run on the first parliamentary defection to the Tories.
Cameron today announced his plans to broaden the base of Tory candidates, a story much missed by the BBC all day. I am very weary of this big idea. I agree I want to see more female, Asian, disabled, gay and public sector Tory candidates (though not necessarily the same person, you understand). But most importantly I want to see the best Tory candidates. I am very unsure about plans to create the so-called ‘A’ Lists of candidates. Will they guarantee that no woman on this list is worse than a man who wasn’t on the list? Why are we not compiling the best 140 Tory candidates, full stop? I want women etc. to get on the list by merit alone. I am also concerned about this headhunting proposal. Why are we dragging people into a career that requires a huge amount of passion when they didn’t volunteer for it? I stomp the streets almost daily for the party and I do expect a little reward for my work – like perhaps being considered ahead of somebody who isn’t even a member. I do despair at the throngs of pin-stripped suited lawyers queuing up to be a candidate but is this really our only answer? As the member for Maidstone said recently, she would never have made it only an ‘A’ List yet she remains one of the most formidable forces in the party. Come on, Mr Cameron, is this really the only way?
I have been informed today that more people voted for Carol Thatcher on IACGMOOH than voted for her Mother during a 20 year political career.

British public again.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Welcome to my new look blog! I've changed the design to fit in with our new look association website and also because it looks rather nice. I've also added the comments facility so please let us know what you think! Around (well exactly) 12 people e-mailed during the general election campaign asking me to have comments. I didn't then because of the amount of abuse that other candidates, from all parties, suffered. However under the new leadership of consensual Cameron I'm sure we can all have a reasonable debate!

If you want me to link to your site, just e-mail me using antony at norwichconservatives dot com
Due to popular demand (well, my ‘A’ Level class) I have decided that it would only be right and proper to follow the example of Iain Dale and return to blogging. Now that politics is back on an even keel!

The Leadership. I have never been a huge Cameron fan, and it is quite well known that I backed Ken Clarke in the first round of the leadership. When he was voted out – the best news possible for DC – then I didn’t know what to do. I felt Cameron was very young, a bit policy light and may not stand up to the onslaught that Blair’s brigade would no doubt unleash. However, despite liking DD’s background and policies I felt that there was somebody not quite right. I read all the websites, documents and went to see DD when he visited Norwich (work stopped me from seeing DC). With the membership in Norwich South clearly swinging behind Cameron it wasn’t until the last possible moment that I voted, and did so for Cameron. In the end he was saying what I’ve said for years about fighting for the centre ground of politics. He seemed to know what needs doing to sort out the party. Within seconds of victory the website changed too! So Tuesday wasn’t a bad day, but I didn't hold my breath!

Then came PMQs. I thought Cameron did brilliantly – not because he humiliated Blair (although the “You were the future once” line was excellent) but because he out-thought the Prime Minister and was strategically the better man. His rant at government chief whip Hilary Armstrong was fantastic, and shut the Labour MPs up at the beginning so he got away with his first PMQs almost heckle-free. But then not to use the 6th question and rob Blair of his final big blast against the new Tory Leader was inspired. Poor Tony. He’ll never know when Cameron will use his sixth question now! Does he therefore use his best lines on question 5 and give Cameron the chance to come back or does he leave it out altogether? Similarly the decision to lead on education and climate change is symbolic of his change in policy attitude. Backing Blair on education isn’t just fun to annoy the Labour left, it is also practical politics. Blair is offering us an essentially conservative piece of law – why would we vote against it? By supporting Blair you marginalize the Labour left and help him to introduce the kind of legislation that we would have done. Where Blair is wrong, we’ll vote against him when where he just might be right… Anyway, PMQs laid my fears to rest. The papers and the media went over-the-top for Cameron – ITV’s Bradby in particular. I’m not in favour of building Cameron up too much, lest he falls as quickly as he rose, but the plaudits are always good to receive.

Then came the reshuffle. I was on the whole happy with it, particularly the return of William Hague as Shadow Foreign Secretary and keeping David Davis at Shadow Home Affairs. I am a bit miffed that we didn’t appoint a Deputy Leader, choosing instead to have a so-called “senior member of the shadow cabinet.” Hmmm. Anyway, it means that when Tony is off swanning around the world and can’t get back to the commons, it’ll be Prescott versus Hague! What a sight to behold. I will hold my judgement about Willetts at education, although the poor soul now has Boris Johnson and John Hayes in his team! I am glad that Maude kept the Chairmanship, Lansley kept Health and Mitchell kept International Development. I am pleased by May’s promotion back into a real job and am over the moon that Gillan and Villiers have been promoted, not because they are women but because they are very, very good at their jobs. Caroline Spelman, whom I admire, is also promoted to Shadow ODPM. I am surprised that Damien Green was left wanting and a bit frustrated at the childish antics of Sir Malcolm Rifkind. I have nothing against Phillip Hammond but I felt Rifkind at DWP put out a powerful message about the Tory view on pension reforms. Giving Osbourne time to grow as Shadow Chancellor was clever and I am also pleased that Patrick McLaughlin is now Chief Whip (although clearly John Randall would have been my choice!). I struggle to remember when Peter Ainsworth was our Shadow Environment before (apparently 3 years ago) but I do know that he is anti-nuclear. So is Cameron building up to dump nuclear or are we on for our first resignation due to policy differences? That leaves Fox at Defence, a bit of a shame given his result I suppose but he does have excellent relations with the US. Overall then, a good reshuffle.

Then came the speeches on the environment and the visit to the East London school of Leadership. Nice touch but a bit obvious going to a Labour stronghold like that. Why not visit Jarrow next time? I know the first visit as Leader sends a message but I feel there are enough inner-city marginal seats to choose from. Does anybody feel we’ll win that seat next time?

Then came this morning’s poll – 2% ahead according to ICM, never a friend of the Conservatives. Setting aside the fuel crisis in September 2000 this is the first time that the Tories have led in an ICM poll since 1993. We are ahead in YouGov too but they did show us bouncing around in the lead a few years back too. Anyway I am pleased that we have broken out of our 30-33 box but the champagne isn’t quite on ice yet.

On a personal level Emily is now 9 months old and into everything – the whole house is levitating 3 foot in the air to prevent her from grabbing things. She is on the move and pulling herself up on all the furniture! School is going fine, I have started teaching ‘A’ Level politics this year too, so god help them – first exam is on 11th January (my birthday).

Anyway must go, the papers need examining and a large pile of GCSE Mock Exams need my attention!
First Tony Blair wins an election and now Brenda is out of X-Factor.

Just what is wrong with the British public?