David Lidington’s letter to Conservative Party members on ‘reform in Europe’ tells us not very much about almost nothing at all. It is measured, upbeat and polite, but that is the essential optimism and generous disposition of the man himself. The only interesting glimpse it offered into current thinking was confirmation of his ignorance of the Maastricht Treaty. Perhaps, like Kenneth Clarke, he hasn’t bothered to read it.
The Europe Minister wrote: ‘I’m sure [members] will be pleased to know that in their Subsidiarity Review, the Dutch Government proposed a new principle: ‘at European level only when necessary, at national level whenever possible’.’
It isn’t clear if this ‘new principle’ is untrodden ground to the Dutch Government or to David Lidington: I hope the former, if only because I expect the Europe Minister to be rather more informed and better advised. Whichever it is, that such chicanery can be sent out to loyal, intelligent and discerning Conservatives in the hope of fobbing them (indeed, us) off with frivolous sloganeering only serves to perpetuate the epistemic distance between the parliamentary and voluntary wings of the party. Continue reading →
There is perhaps no more urgent a task for the Conservative Party in the present era than that of renewing democracy – to revive its foundational raison d’être; to resurrect its national framework of membership; and to reform its mode of engagement with party members. A political party that is immune to policy progression and insensitive to the beliefs of its core support-base ceases to be a movement for renewal: indeed, it rapidly becomes a fading testimony to past triumphs and a decaying monument to ancient glories. Reformation leads to enlightenment and revival – in politics as well as theology. Continue reading →
“Please don’t feel guilty about betraying the Conservative Party, they’ve already betrayed you – and without a care.”
With these parting words, David Meacock resigned his membership of the party he has loved since his childhood and served as a member of the Chiltern District Council since 1999. He also won a by-election against the Liberal Democrats to become a Buckinghamshire County councillor, which was no mean feat back in 2001 – even in ‘true blue’ leafy Bucks. Like many loyal and hard-working party members, he had dedicated months and years of his life to canvassing, door-knocking, writing ‘In Touch’, delivering leaflets, phoning, stuffing envelopes, attending hundreds of meetings and getting out the vote.
He worked so hard that he even increased his majority in 2003, and again in 2007. In the interim, he earned a place on the Approved List of Candidates, and fought the parliamentary seat of Huddersfield in the 2005 general election – as well as a county council seat back home in Amersham. God knows how much he spent on petrol and how many hours his glazed eyes whizzed up and down the M1. Continue reading →
Much has been said and many column inches have been written on David Cameron’s first Cabinet reshuffle. The questions are profound: did it represent a tilt to the right? How many bright young things were promoted? How many women now sit around the table? How many gays? How many black or brown faces? It is as though quotas have supplanted ideas, and power-play were more important than policy.
David Cameron has only 2½ years of his premiership remaining: the reality has dawned that he might be a single-term prime minister, so by this reshuffle he had to send out a few strong messages. When you appoint a climate-sceptic to Environment, a Euro-sceptic to Justice, and an anti-equality homo-sceptic to Equalities, you’re drawing some future battle lines in terms of political direction and the tone of debate, doubtless with an eye on the fractious backbenches. But Owen Paterson, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller will soon find that their hands are tied and briefs meticulously prescribed by our overlords in Brussels: there’s little room for manoeuvre, however it’s spun. Continue reading →
Only the chosen ever attain the level of fame or notoriety which propels them to first-name familiarity with the wider public. I’m not taking about the manufactured pap of celebrity pop – those who are thrust onto the world stage all carefully processed and packaged, like Rihanna, Beyonce and Bjork (though with a surname like Buomundsdottir, I can understand why she dropped it). No, I’m talking about those whose mononymous identity emerges organically, as recognised by the people. In antiquity, one thinks of names like Galileo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dante and Raphael, not to mention Jesus and Mohammed. In modern times, there’s Cliff, Oprah, Vangelis, Diana…
How many politicians rise to such dizzy heights of popularity that the whole country knows them by their first name? Of course, you get ‘Call me Dave’ (Cameron) contempt, or ‘Gideon’ (Osborne) scorn. But mention the name of Boris and eyes dilate with visions of huggable amiability: people glow inwardly at the mere thought of his aura; they are endeared to his eccentricity. Continue reading →
Kenneth Clarke has held almost every senior Office of State. He has been Health Secretary, Education Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is presently Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
You’d think, with all this experience, that his political antennae would be finely attuned to the will of the demos. But decades of cigars and scotch in smoky jazz clubs seem to have dulled his judgment. Either that, or he never had any – at least where ‘Europe’ is concerned.
According to a ConservativeHome/Channel 4 poll, 83 per cent of Conservative Party members want in In/Out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. This doesn’t, of course, tell us anything about the likely replicability in the wider country: the validity and reliability of the ConHome/C4 data is questionable, not least because participants are not randomly selected and respondents tend to be those who favour change from the status quo. Continue reading →
The above graph shows rather starkly the decline of the “Premier League” Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association over the period I’ve been a member (‘Premier League’ is an epithet bestowed by CCHQ upon those associations which regularly contribute £10,000s to Party coffers – a kind of “cash for status” [with a bit of access]). Notwithstanding a few local variables (like the enforced “cash for questions” resignation of Tim Smith MP in 1997 – during which, it must be observed, association membership remained relatively stable), it is difficult not to attribute this alarming rate of decline to the policy direction and character disposition of the party leader: the less “robust” the pursuit of traditional (not to say “Thatcherite”) Conservative policies, the more people are disinclined to renew their Party membership, even in the “true blue” Tory shires. Continue reading →