Sunday, December 11, 2005

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!

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