Thursday, September 28, 2006

Article in This Week's New Statesman

I've written the Politics column in this week's edition of the New Statesman. They asked me to write about what David Cameron has achieved in his first year and what he has to do now. You can read it HERE. They headlined the article "When the best strategy is to do nothing". Not exactly what I was saying, but judge for yourselves! Here's a short extract...

Cameron knows what the right knows. If the price of getting the extra two million votes needed to win an election is to lose a few thousand "scorched earthers" on the right, it's a price he's only too happy to pay. So far, he's managed to keep the right on board despite trying its patience with his failure to deliver on withdrawing from the European People's Party and his criticism of Israel. The right-wing Cornerstone Group MPs have been tactically outplayed, and, having pledged their support to Cameron 12 months ago, they have nowhere else to go.

The revival is almost entirely down to Cameron himself. A cult of personality has been consciously engendered. He, not the party, is now the Conservative brand. He is a thoroughly modern man whose marketing persona aims at direct comparison with one man - Gordon Brown. The media perceive Cameron to be where the zeitgeist is. By comparison, Brown looks like a man of the past. And that's exactly the way the Cameroons want it.

24 comments:

Anoneumouse said...

That tan will wash off with soap and water Iain.

Shotgun said...

When will commentators, as well the public, ADMIT why Bliar and Labour won a few elections, and why they are now so unpopular, instead of these incessant and boring post-mortems of the situation!

Bliar and Labour won because the Tory party was useless, and they are now so unpopular and the Torys in the ascendancy because the Tory party is NOT now useless...it is quite as simple as that, and frankly, looking at history, it has ALWAYS been that way.

Now stop waffling shite.

newmania said...

Yes Mr. Dale the polls are looking good but I wouldn’t break out the champagne just yet The first point is that winning elections is not an end in itself as you say , I think. On Conservative Home site recently a Tax Payers Alliance poll bore the stunning news that people would prefer to pay less tax. It was very clear from the tone therein that patience with David Cameron is at breaking point not just on the old style right but from all those who have an intellectual commitment to free market and Libertarian thinking.. The Conservative party will not in the end accept another Heath or blue rinse Blair in my estimation . David cannot therefore limit himself to being nice about trees and Nelson Mandela forever
I would argue that the leader is hemmed in because while their may be a few votes in a more confident Conservatism its hard to see where extra seats could be won , In the key swing marginals there is a preponderance of government supported industry and Public sector employees and promising tax cuts outright would sacrifice all hope of forming a government .The happy polls are also highly misleading ,despite the huge lead the regional distribution of Conservative support is now so narrow that only a narrow majority would result . ( Boundary changes being delayed by NuLab would help a lot )
. Sadly mid term grumbles aside a lot of people do not see a country falling to pieces and if anyone recalls the seventies, when it was, you will see the advantage Margaret Thatcher had . We should discount then the more optimistic figures .Start with the assumption that the leadership are in the business of playing a tricky hand well and you are on the right track

Much of the opprobrium directed at David Cameron in the right wing press on tax cuts is most unfair. Labour have presided over an unprecedented historical shift of resources to the state (40 to 45%) without ever being so stupid make commitments to raising taxes. Conservatives therefore need say nothing to leave a lot of blue water between us and Brown . In fact this very social change makes it dangerous to do so. The leader’s role is to be highly sensitive to marginal votes and highly insensitive to core votes, engaged with the country not the party.
I can forgive the boy David a lot , what I think will be harder to take is an infestation of glib yes men and women into Parliament which will come . Like many I found insulting Margaret Thatcher on the anniversary of 9.11 to look Liberal unbearable and I do not believe it is only a few thousand scorched earthers at stake . I enjoyed your article Iain and I would only add the importance of regional distribution to understanding the position of David Cameron and I feel you underestimate the dangers somewhat .
Incidentally this regionalisation has other implications that in the long term which are troubling to say the least.

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

What worries me is that the media only turned on Blair when "their" man took over the Tories. - All the shit about nu labour and the drunkard has only "come out" since Mr Cameroon took charge.
I think that this is what sticks in the match box of us "scorched earthers".
-The mass media really does run the country as in Anthony Sampson's "who runs this place".

I am now starting to believe in PR as the only way of interesting people in politics as opposed to media driven emotional suffrage.

People who believe in the "right" and "left" could have proper parties with proper policies.

Meanwhile that small minority of "floating" voters who decide who to vote for in 60 English marginal seats (100,000 total?) on the basis of what the media tells them can fuck off and start their own party.

You know the sort of person - they're Man. U. fans now - they were Liverpool fans in the 1970's and they vote for the party that the media tells them is going to win.
Under PR they wouldn't understand who the winner was going to be and they would all stay at home and not vote.
Then we could be like Denmark and Holland ect and get our country in order.

Fruning Graplecard said...

There you go saying "zeitgeist" again. You are so hooked into emphemera.

Newmania says it pretty well perfectly in pointing to the longer term issues.

broadcaster said...

Christ. Do you ever do anything that does not involve the MSM and Dead Tree Press?

newmania said...

I have just noticed Adam Ricketts quote `The best view of the political pulse `. I mixed that metaphor earlier in the show folks ! Did you pick this on purpose Iain , I like to think so

This is the sort of lamentable quality we are likely to get from Candidates picked for their ability to back Cameron’s cynical waffle with a straight face .It isn’t going to be pretty

Greg said...

"If the price of getting the extra two million votes needed to win an election is to lose a few thousand "scorched earthers" on the right, it's a price he's only too happy to pay."

More than that, under our current electoral system, Cameron can afford to lose a couple of million scorched earthers on the right, if the corollary is that he gains a few thousand voters in key marginals.

Ken from Churchdown said...

Cameron is missing the point.Labour will do anything to stay in power.

If that includes being downright dihonest and unfair thats fine by them!!

The new leader will call a snap election BEFORE the Boundary Commission completes its work and evens out the playing field, taking away the unfair advantage of 20 inbuilt labour majority seats.

Just wait and watch!! I am right Labour will grab power at any price because they MUST be in power TO CONTROL YOU!!

Casual Observer said...

The next general election is potentially over 3 years away and 3 years is apparently an extraordinarily long time in politics. Anything could happen and undoubtedly will.

It seems to me that Blair has no intention of jacking it all in until he sees enough common sense being applied within the party to its future direction and replacement leadership. If a clear way forward for nulab had emerged, he would have gone by now, but there isn't.

Since there isn't much common sense about in the party right now, as if there ever has been, he has little alternative but to hang on in there until things change. It's a bit like the 5 tests for the Euro. The goal posts keep moving, so the conditions are never right. He can keep the indecision p for years if he can get away with it and he's been getting away with it for a long time now. Let's face it. He doesn't have much competition in nulab does he?

Cameron will have a number of strategies based on all the possibilities that the cons can come up with, but I doubt he'll have one for what actually happens.

It's all gooing to be a question of nulab's common sense level versus Blair's patience. I think his patience will collapse first...

james higham said...

When some friends of mine at the Works Dept were asked why they had failed to build a bypass road to ease congestion, as had been demanded by many, one concluded that the correct strategy here was 'masterly inaction'. Is Cameron the master of inaction?

david kendrick said...

DC's rebranding is much needed and very good. Not saying something when nothing needs to be said: excellent.

What he is getting wrong is the hard, rough, 'dirty' side of politics. The boring slog and associated hard work. The sort of things that the LDs do at bye-elections. The tricks pulled by Mandleson and Alistair Campbell.

The tories will do badly at the next bye-election. His critics (both inside and outside the party), will claim is because DC is 'policy lite'. Bullshit. It'll be because the tories are nowhere near being a 'lean, mean election winning machine'.

Curly said...

Perusing other articles for next Monday's New Statesman I see that they are suggesting that the Miliblogger will fill Brown's boots at the Treasury, having abandoned his master and jumped ship.

Would this mean that the Conservatives would need to find bigger and better "green tax" policies in advance of the next election, further estranging the right?

Curly's Corner Shop

newmania said...

GREG
`if the corollary is that he gains a few thousand voters in key marginals.`

Thanks for saying in a few well chosen words what I take all day about.
Note to self
Must be briefer.

Anonymous said...

Your right about one thing Iain! No one thinks the Tories are right wing anymore: what are they?

cassilis said...

Good article Iain.

There's definitely a broader piece needs writing on the subject (you touched on it) of whether or not Cameron can broaden his revolution to really change and enhance the grassroots of the party.

Speaking as a 30-something Tory who only recently decided to join and get involved with his local party I still notice a significant gap between the new Tory party that Cameron has conjured up in the media arena and among the political commentariat and the one I encounter once a month at our local meeting.

There certainly seems to be tacit support for him given his success in the polls but if it's based on nothing more than that then the Tories face a similar situation to the one Tony Blair faces now - over a decade at the helm but leaving a party that might just slip back into it's erroneous ways as soon as he's gone.

bt said...

A personality cult?
For someone who demonstrates the personality of a smug but not very bright Geography teacher in a 'progressive' school?

I wouldn't mind, but he won't even tell us what the curriculum is. Still, at least it's we who get to perform the continuous assessment - which started as:
"Keen, but lacks understanding of the basic fundamentals of the subject. Shows some promise."
and has now slipped to:
"Little improvement, wastes time and opportunities. Disappointing."

It'll be tears before bed-time, you mark my words.
In fact, I've made a couple of private wagers that Desperate Dave won't even be leader by the time the next election comes round (with the stipulation that the next NuLab/OldLab incumbent doesn't call one early "to legitimise his elevation").

newmania said...

CASSILIS
`Cameron has conjured up in the media arena ...slips back into its erroneous ways `
Would you care to expand on which errors you have in particular identified and from which we have been saved by David Cameron. I would so appreciate a friendly exchange of information on this point......?

Umbongo said...

"The revival is almost entirely down to Cameron himself". The "revival" is non-existent unless by "revival" you mean a meagre lead in the polls. Any leader of the Tories would now have a poll lead: it's nothing to do with Cameron - it's all to do with the country (at last) becoming heartily sick of Labour spin and the failure of every part of the Labour project.

A "revival" would mean a consistent 10-15% lead and rising not a shaky 4% flatliner of a lead. If Bromley is anything to go by Cameron has already lost his "core" vote: it's refusing to vote for him. At the same time there's very little indication that the "soft centre" so beloved of the Tory modernisers is particularly convinced either. Sorry Iain membership of the A-list is very far from a guarantee of a seat on the government side of the Commons next time round.

verity said...

Agree with Umbongo. The Tories should be lurching ahead, straining at the leash, in the light of the Prescott maldoings and corruption, NSY investigating the PM's close friend Lord Levy, and others close to the PM and the possibility that Blair himself will be arrested. Margaret Beckett elevated far, far beyond her level of competence. And we haven't heard a dicky bird from Jack Straw in yonks. Did he die and I didn't read about it?

And this is just the Cabinet, all briefing against one another. Never mind Labour's disgraceful destruction of British liberties, Labour's kowtowing to aggressive, ignorant immigrants, Labour's destruction of the education system and mismanagement of the NHS, and everything else.

Yet the best the Tories can manage, with much puffing and panting, is a four percent lead?

If they hold an election quite soon - let's say within a year of 18 months, it's going to be a blood bath for both major parties. And if they hold off on the election until 2009, I too believe that Dave will be history by then.

newmania said...

VERITY- I would have disagreed with you on the basis that you underestimate the drift away from Conservatism that David Cameron has had to address and the voters in marginal seats he has to acquire .
There is interesting pole in the Standard however that would support your view showing David Cameron at a surprisingly low level of personal popularity
If this were to be repeated and accepted I can see the unholy alliance between grass roots Tories and a Liberal unravelling .The electoral necessity of putting up with the man has been his armour .Could it be that it is only the `Kings clothes `? …and then what?

Adrian Yalland said...

It would be really useful if Cameron would have a deputy leader who does for the right of the party what Prescott did for the left in the Labour party! Someone like David Davies, Liam Fox, or my own preference, Willima Hague (who is deputy in all but name anyway). My reserve about having Francis Maude as Chairman is that - despite thinking he is actually correct in his analysis - the grass roots need to be treated with kid gloves. THere should be someone in cahrge of this aspect of 'party management' who understands this and is able to talk their language!

But I stil maintain that after a year in office, where he has at least put us ahead, we should still give him time to see what comes of these policy reviews.

Unless Gordon Brown calls a snap election (which I doubt he will), we still have upwards of three years.

The policy reveiw committees haven't even reported yet.

I suspect that he will come out as someone who is 'modern' (whatever that means) and fresh/youthful, but understands the issues which concern the young voter (green issues and global poverty), the issues which concern business (red tap, globalisation, europe) and the issues which concern the middle classes (lower taxes and fairer access to public services).

I also suspect that he will be fully aware of the issues facing the poor and 'socially excluded' (again, whatever that means), and will announce a range of measures which will take the poor out of tax (or at least reduce the amount they pay), take a carrot and stick approach to feral kids (hoodies) and their failing parents, give inner city sink estates a kick-up the arese (perhaps through devolving real power to local councils to deal with the issues head on), and hopefully, taking absent fathers to task!

Let's give him time. He might appear to be all PR fluff, but I suspect we are all underestimating him and the people around him.

I mean, just look at the heavyweights who are heading up the policy review committees! It reads like a list of the great and good!

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

greg said
"Cameron can afford to lose a couple of million scorched earthers on the right, if the corollary is that he gains a few thousand voters in key marginals."

but shouldn't we ask: is it right that such people should decide who runs the UK?
If we run the country to please a few thousand floating voters we'll end up with a Prime Minister, like well, Tony Blair.
Floating voters in key marginals are mainly all Man U. fans.

It really is time for PR.

Anonymous said...

Liberal Review have a piece commenting on Iain's article


http://www.liberalreview.com/content/2006/09/the-tortoise-and-the-hare-iain-dale-in-the-new-statesman