All 11 entries tagged Conservative Party

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December 17, 2008

Britain's broken back

As President-elect Obama promises to invest in the United States’ infrastructure during the recession, here there’s little sign of progress.

A depressing Friday-night journey from Nottingham to Southampton last week gave me plenty of time to ponder the uselessness of Britain’s transport network. In fact I only had to go about ten miles down the M1 before it became a car park.

We’re a long, relatively thin country with a large proportion of the population spread along a spine running from London to Liverpool/Manchester.

But the spine’s broken.

As of last weekend we’ve now got one medium-speed rail line running from North to South. It’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near enough. It’s also ludicrously expensive, hence why I was sat on the M1.

We’ve got two North-to-South motorways, the M1 and the M6. They are renowned, probably across most of Europe, for being over-stretched.

And then we’ve got internal flights, the use of which ought to be a national embarrassment.

No-one really knows how to solve the problem, and there certainly isn’t a consensus. We’re building Crossrail at the same time as considering putting the brakes on Heathrow’s expansion. We’re widening motorways at the same time as encouraging people to use public transport. It must be the least well-planned area of public policy in Britain. Nothing adds up.

One decision ought to be a no-brainer. We need new railways, stretching from the North to the South. They don’t necessarily need to be TGV-fast – in some ways making them as cheap as possible might be the most important priority.

And it actually makes more sense for them to be freight lines than passenger ones. Anyone who’s tried overtaking a lorry which is itself overtaking another lorry will tell you what causes most of the congestion on the roads.

But we’ve not built the country for rail freight. I spent much of the summer listening to people fight for or against a Tesco Megashed in Hampshire. It was to be bigger than T5 at Heathrow, and would have served most of their supermarkets in the South-East of England. It was right next to a railway line, but they had no intention of ever using it.

Personally I’m not a fan of expanding Heathrow, as it seems obvious to everyone that it was built in the wrong place. The more we expand it, the more we compound the problem. The Thames Estuary idea apparently favoured by Boris Johnson seems a good idea to me, and is worthy of investigation by the government.

Unfortunately it’s all a bit too late. A recession is the ideal time to do some of these things (it’s cheaper and employs people). But it’ll take decades for anything to be done.

We’re in real danger of becoming a country of motorway-bound I-Spy players.


December 09, 2006

If Cameron wants to be taken seriously, he needs to dump Osborne

George Osborne and David CameronIf there’s one thing making David Cameron’s bid to be Prime Minister look weak, it’s his right-hand man George Osborne.

From suggesting Gordon Brown was “faintly autistic” to getting someone to analyse his opponent’s handwriting, Osborne has been using the politics of the playground, and embarrassing the far more professional Cameron.

Cameron has styled himself as Blair Mk.II, and seems determined to replicate the close friendship with his Chancellor, no matter how inexperienced and useless he may be.

But for the party’s economic policies to be taken seriously, he needs someone presenting them who doesn’t look like a smug schoolboy. If Osborne is to be remembered for his pot-shots on Gordon Brown’s personality, rather than for new ideas about the economy, then he is in danger of becoming a major drag on the Conservatives’ new agenda.


November 28, 2006

George Osborne is a pathetic playground bully

Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2475122,00.html

According to today’s Times, the shadow chancellor George Osborne has had handwriting analysis carried out on Gordon Brown which found:

The writer is not shy. The writer shows unreliable and poor judgment. The writer was not in control of their emotions and instincts at the time of writing. There are signs that the writer is someone who does not like to give a clear-cut image of himself. There are signs that the writer can be evasive.

Pathetic George Osborne

If this is the level to which Mr Osborne has sunk, is he really a credible Chancellor of the Exchequer? Not in a million years. Two months ago he called the Chancellor “autistic”. He’s making Punch and Judy politics look good.

The article later points out that Mr Brown can only see out of one eye and that the person who carried out the analysis said that the 14 words she saw were “insufficient information” to come to any firm conclusions.

Didn’t stop The Times toadying to Osborne’s pathetic excuse for news though, did it?


November 24, 2006

The tosser within

The TosserIn their breathless search for new approaches to ‘doing’ politics, the Conservative Party have launched a viral ad campaign (see video below) about rooting out your ‘inner tosser’.

It’s caused a lot of bemusement and some mild anger from the old guard Tories who find the use of the word ‘tosser’ offensive. But arguably it’s those who the campaign is aimed at who should find it offensive.

But I’m trying really hard to find something I hate about it. It’s very classily produced, and luckily is quite funny. If they’d missed the punchline it would have been incredibly embarrassing.

Norman Tebbit predictably finds it ‘a mark of the permissive society which has been lauded by the Labour Party’ but Iain Dale is amongst the moderates who note this is not aimed at us. But I’m not sure he’s right about that.

Because ultimately, while the advert is quite amusing and makes a good point, it does so in a way which isn’t very likely to have much effect on the ‘tossers’. Instead, it’s probably aimed at potential Tory voters, who might see the party as witty, clever or having unique ideas about how to solve the nation’s debt problem.

The trouble is there’s a fine line between all of that and seeming like a smart arse.


November 20, 2006

George Osborne's debt plans

I was going to try and write something interesting about this story but I actually don’t think it’s possible.


October 04, 2006

David Cameron's Conference Speech in Quotes

  • Iain Dale Conservative blogger and A-lister:

    He has refashioned the Leader’s speech to his own character. This was not a rabblerouser. Not a tubthumper. It was reflective, statesmanlike and substantial.

  • Tim Montgomerie Conservative blogger

    The sections on supporting marriage and ‘tough on crime and its causes’ were very sensitively delivered and offered the kind of balanced conservatism – alongside the modernising green and public service messages – that this website has long hoped for.

  • Mark Hudson, writing on ConservativeHome

    Perfectly vacuous. A great example of why there’s an evaporating(ed) in the polls and his Party is collapsing in the country as members fail to renew. Thank you and Goodnight, Dave.

  • Graham in Sheffield, writing on BBC News Online

    What Cameron proves is that most of the electorate don’t understand the difference between an ideal and a policy. I keep hearing people saying that they agree with his ‘policies’. He hasn’t announced any! What he has done is talk about his ‘ideals’.

And what did I think?
I thought it was a pretty good speech, with some very welcome passages on civil partnerships which didn’t go down very well with some of his audience. I don’t blame him for not coming up with any policies yet: he knows Brown will only steal them in 2007. True, he has a lot of style, but the lack of substance is excusable this far away from an election. It’ll be interesting to see whether the policies he eventually unveils strike a chord with the British public.

What might worry people isn’t Cameron, but the people behind him. From the leaks and drips, it sounds as if many within his own shadow cabinet have quite different ideas about how the country might look in 2009/10. Rumours of ‘unlimited privatisation’ in the NHS and mixed messages over Jamie Oliver’s school meals campaign suggest that unless the party unites behind Cameron, we won’t have a clue who we’re supposed to be voting for at the next election.


July 27, 2006

Lib Dems' poll ratings take a battering

According to an ICM/Guardian poll out today:

The most obvious observation is that people who supported the Lib Dems over the Iraq War are drifting back to the two major parties again following what has been a disastrous year and quiet few months for Ming Campbell.

But here's some other thoughts:

  • Labour is clearly banking on their new leader (assume it to be Brown) to take the lead back from the Conservatives when they take power. I think this strategy's a bit risky and Brown ought to be setting out his stall already, even if he's not in Number 10. There's a danger that he won't have long enough to impress the public before he's forced to call an election. Plus, he's about as charasmatic as cabbage soup, so needs all the help he can get.

  • Labour's rise (up 3%) also suggests that voters are forgiving the government for the many problems they've got themselves into recently. This raises the question of whether people care about or understand the cash–for–honours scandal. Until it directly smacks Blair in the face, I'm not sure voters will fully associate it with the government.

  • The Conservatives are continuing to do well under Cameron, although he still hasn't had much to do so far. When he starts talking about substantive policy issues people might see him as a turn–off. So far they've only heard him talk about bicycles, underwear and solar power.

  • Ming is doomed. While extremely competent with the Lib Dems' foreign affairs brief, he's clearly not got the right skills to lead the party on other issues. If the Conservatives can do well while not talking about policy, how come the Lib Dems are finding the exact opposite happening to them?

  • The Conservatives think they need 40% of the vote in order to get a majority. With Labour likely to receive a boost under their new leader, Cameron will know he hasn't done enough yet to avoid the possibility of a hung parliament.

  • Overall, there's cause of optimism here for the Tories and Labour. But the Lib Dems have got a problem. If they lose seats at the next election, which looks likely given how close the other two parties are likely to be, then they could enter a decade of soul–searching which could cripple the party.

April 17, 2006

The BNP

Damien Green, the Conservative MP, is on BBC News 24 at the moment speaking about the apparent rise of the BNP in the local elections. But rather than take a united multilateral stance on the racist idiots, he seems to be using the story for personal gain.

He reckons that the BNP are doing well in Labour-dominated areas, because of the failings of local Labour-governed councils.

Wrong. The BNP are doing well in those constituencies because the Conservatives are so completely out of the electoral equation there that there is room for the BNP to compete! A BNP voter is much more likely to have something in common with traditional Conservatives than with the Labour councils which Green blames for the BNP's rise.

Regardless, he seemed very petty to be trying to make political capital out of the situation which is bad news for all parties.


March 25, 2006

Heard it here first…

Writing about web page http://www.recessmonkey.com/index.php/2006/03/24/tories_braced_for_shock_snap_election

Why would the Labour Party possibly be selecting its candidates for the next general election this Summer? Do they know something we don't?

Probably. The Conservatives' theory is (apparently) that Gordon will call a snap election when he becomes Labour leader in order to feed off his own mandate for five years, not Tony's.

And after my highly-reliable tip that Blair would step down in January-February 2006 (er…whoops) – my new prediction is September-October. So a May 2007 election? We'll see.


Why haven't the Tories declared their loans?

Why haven't the Tories declared their loans?
Because they've got something to hide.

I expect the Sunday newspapers will be full of this, but the Conservatives are obviously trying to cover up who has loaned them money. Conservative blogger, Iain Dale, has named one of them: Michael Hintze, an Australian with British business links. I'll remind you that foreigners are banned from donating to British political parties, but clearly this rule doesn't apply to loans.

Meanwhile, political blog Guido Fawkes has speculated that many of the Conservatives' other loans could have come from hedge fund managers who've been reaping rewards from a healthy FTSE 100.

But I've got a feeling that this is the tip of the iceberg. I wonder how long it will be before we find out about more foreign loans to the Conservative Party, perhaps from people less scrupulous than Mr Hintze.

Labour are far from clean after the Loans for Lordships affair, but by declaring who has loaned them money, it's been made clear they're all pretty much British. Until the Conservatives do the same, a cloud will hang over them which suggests some of their 'loans' may have come from dodgy sources. And I wonder if the Labour Party may know more about the Conservatives' financial affairs than they are willing to discuss publicly.

The rumour mill still has some spinning left to do.


December 14, 2005

David Cameron

It's taken me a while to get round to welcoming David Cameron to the leadership of the Conservative Party. It's taken me this long because – honestly – I had him down as the new William Hague – ahead of his time, bound to fail.

Well now I'm starting to worry I was wrong.

Cameron's just made a speech in the City of London, which doesn't seem to have been very widely reported. He was, after all, talking about economics, and who gives a toss about that? Sky News seemed to be the only people covering it, and it's not even appeared on BBC News Online.

This is despite the possibility that it contained the birth of one of Cameron's best policies so far. It can be summised as this: "Independent setting of interest rates. Great, but not very sexy. So how about changing the role of the Treasury so it can't fiddle the figures as Gordon's done so well. Much better."

Sounds like small fry, aimed only at pleasing the city financiers. But I think it's much more than that. Cameron wants to keep the Bank independent, but let an independent body make sure that the Chancellor keeps to his own economic policy. (As when Gordon Brown realised he couldn't meet his economic cycle, so moved it). Cameron would also make the statistics office independent, meaning no more 'burying bad news'. Statistics would come out when they're ready, regardless of what it means for the government.

The latter idea is well overdue. The former one is more interesting – and let's hope that this 'independent body' will have the teeth to make sure the Treasury keep to their self-imposed rules.

It's all about de-politicising the economy, and seems to be a more genuine attempt to do so than when Labour came into power in 1997. While they gave interest-rate setting powers to the Bank of England, they kept enough controls so that it wouldn't really matter. When it came to spending, they could do what they pleased. And that's exactly what they've done. To take one example – the debt owed because of PFI Hospitals doesn't appear in the Treasury's balance sheets. Neither does the cost of owning and running Network Rail, or the civil service's pension obligations. Making things seem a bit rosier. Even if it amounts to fibbing about the state of government spending.

What Cameron's said today is so blindingly pragmatic, that it makes me think we might at the least be seeing a different type of political leader. But in order to stop the accusations that he is Blair Mk.2, Cameron needs to let this pragmatism flow through all of his policies, keeping special interests out of policy, and the real public interest* well and truely in.

If he does that over the next 3–4 years, maybe we'll at last be able to believe that a Conservative leader will do what he says when he gets to Number 10.

*Selection by ability in schools not being an example of this.


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