Friday, March 16, 2007

IDS: Careless Talk Costs Votes

PoliticalBetting.com has been very naughty in recent months and taken to dubbing ConservativeHome ContinuityIDS. Strange therefore to see this morning that ConHome, in its morning press roundup, has omitted to cover a very interesting interview with Iain Duncan Smith in the FT. It's headlined "Former Tory leader urges party to keep dissent 'private'". Here's an extract...
"My message is you'll not catch me saying anything to say what David is doing is wrong. There may be things you agree with, disagree with, but I'm going for the broad canvas, not individual brushstrokes," Mr Duncan Smith told the Financial Times. "I say to everybody: if you want to have dissent, keep it among
consenting adults in private. Consider it a thing you might do but only with
your closest friends - and don't consider the media your closest friends, as was
too often the case in the past."

But he warned that the Tories' ability to capitalise on Labour's weakness
could be fatally damaged if the party undermined its newly minted "decent" image
through internal warfare. "The public will look at us and ask 'is it time for a
change?' When they do, they need to be able to say: 'these are decent people who
will be good for me and good for my neighbour'," Mr Duncan Smith said. "We're on
the edge of getting [the Conservatives' image] to move. What would destroy that
is if everybody [in the party] started up saying 'oh no, no, no'."

He argued that Mr Cameron needed to strike a "difficult balance between
changing the party enough so the public recognise that it is a decent party and
being at the same time conscious that you need as well to keep your roots". Mr
Cameron was a "Conservative whose instincts are in the right place - he's just
got to seek that balance," the former leader said.

Read the full interview HERE. IDS knows better than most the damage that can be done by anonymous media briefings and internal party warfare. He fell victim to it in the most horrible way.

His message is undoubtedly right, but it does present a problem for a site like ConservativeHome, and to a lesser extent this one. ConservativeHome sees itself as the voice of the Tory grassroots. It provides party members with a platform to air their views, both positive and negative, about what the Party is doing. If ConservativeHome was ever seen to be a Party mouthpiece it would lose a lot of its appeal, but if it's just seen as a site where people whinge about David Cameron or the national Party that would also put people off. So Tim Montgomerie and Sam Coates always have a difficult line to tread. IDS is urging everyone - including them and me - to watch what we say. He's right to do so. Perhaps it's time to resurrect the wartime slogan...

Careless Talk Costs Votes!

9 comments:

Man in a shed said...

These days people join parties for their ideas and idealism. Not to be well behaved children - seen but not heard.

The days of my party right or wrong (another war slogan) are over.

Neil Craig said...

This may be the best argument for pseudonyms on blogs. We have seen Iain pushing but not breaking the envelope on Al Gore & warming but the rest of us free to break this envelope & go marching to war over it.

Newmania said...

The days of my party right or wrong (another war slogan) are over.

They are not and with the additional scrutiny of the modern media the slightest hint of disunity can be maginified and twisted.

I must say I think IDS who I have always considered a pea brained stuffy little twerp is somewhat over reacting . He chiefly suffered from his own lack of talent for any activity connected with political life and goes on striking the wrong note .

Thanks god we`ve got Cameron ...they should wheel IDS out to remind us of what we have had to out up with

greatergood said...

'By existing online, Doughty Street can avoid the long arm of regulators, which means "we're completely up-front about our views," says Dale, 44, a Conservative blogger. His three co-directors are also Tories. But the station's weeknight chat shows are just as likely to bite chunks out of David Cameron's new-look Tories as to draw blood from Tony Blair's Labour. Says Dale: "I never want to be a lackey who trots out the party line."'

Madasafish said...

Funnily enough, IDS has gone up in my estimation since he was retired as leader.

And what he says makes sense in a way.. but debate is essential.

Having said that the Consercatives are a broad church and there are bound to be people at either extremes perpetually at odds with each other. If it's a civilised argument and not done through the newspapaers, I think it's healthy.

When you get Lord Tebbit sounding off through the papers, it would be dangerous to unity but .. imo only.. he looks to be so stuck in a groove that no-one listens. (which is probably a pity.. but entirely of his own making).

It's when you get the Militant Tendency or "Out of the EU" campaigns which are political purity gone mad that you need to start to worry because the cause then becomes greater than the need to win power.

On the other hand DC 's blandness and imo again.. the failure of the CP to oppose (where is David Davis I ask?) effectively in public....


The CP could do worse than study labour's tactics when in Opposition under Tony Blair.. highly effective mauling of a wounded party reeling under a weight of sleaze and incompetence...

On second thoughts , maybe the sleaze and incompetence are so much greater the Labour Party will lose the next elction for the CP?

Wishful thinking unless Inspector Knacker arrests a politician or two - which at present seems unlikely.

Man in a shed said...

Newmania - I disagree. There is great competition of peoples attention and affections. If the political parties stifle debate then it will decamp to pressure groups instead.

Anyway what about Tarzan and Clarke popping up on TV and Radio every 5 mins during the Hague and IDS years ?

towcestarian said...

And here we have the central problem of "branding" a political party - especially if you are trying to brand it as "nice" and "kind".

Branding becomes a substitute for policy; debate is stifled; the obsession with not offending anyone makes you look totally ineffectual and incapable of tough decisions.

The Tories are becoming more like the drippy end of the Church of England every day.

Bob Piper said...

Iain, you're spot on. ConservativeHome would lose its attraction if it just became a leadership mouthpiece... and there's not room for two of you ploughing that field, anyway.

Raedwald said...

Oh come on. Really.

I'm quite happy to share my party with folk who have diametrically opposed views to mine on a whole range of particular issues. I very much like the idea of a loose coalition of fundamentally like-minded folk rather than a rigid party cadre of conformist clones a la NuLabour.

And if the local chairman of the Steeple Bumstead Conservative Association pops up in the media declaring he'd like to birch the bare bottoms of black boys who play hip-hop on the local bus service, it's not exactly going to lose our electoral credibilty.

Celebrate eccentricity. Enjoy dissent. Love your conservative brothers and sisters. However wrong-headed they are.