Sunday, September 30, 2007

Public Announcement: My Future in Politics...

After seeing this hotel on a Blackpool backstreet, Dizzy has drawn the conclusion that I shall be forsaking politics and the media for a new career as a Blackpool hotelier. And in other news today, Tony Benn announced his defection to the Conservative Party.

Boris Comes of Age

Today was the day I realised that Boris had it in him to be a first rate politician. You see, in my heart of hearts I have always wondered if he had the self discipline to get there, or even the passion. His speech this afternoon to the Conservative Conference was a barnstormer, laced with humour (but not too much), with real substance. It was a speech which said to me: "You can take me seriously. I'm in it to win it". The delivery was good and the content was good.

And the even better news is that my LITTLE BOOK OF BORIS is so far the number one conference bestseller at the Politico's stand!

Conference Diary Day 1

1230 There was a time when the opening speech of the conference by the Party Chairman was a must for all those attending. Today the hall is a quarter full. I'm sitting here listening to a discussion chaired by Caroline Spelman with the devolved Tory leaders. Someone really needs to sort the sound out. Truly terrible. Off to a fringe.

1200 Hague delivers a barnstormer of a speech - full house.

11am The nightmare for any conference organiser is that the entire sound system fails. Cue the sound system failing.

*10am Spotted on a flight from Gatwick to Manchester, none other than Francis Maude. Just as well Dave junked the Gummer/Goldsmith air taxes this morning, isn't it?
* Dizzy is not a happy boy. He is not thinking, he's just apoplectic. Despite having sent his pass application to Fingerprint Events in early July, he remains pass-less. ConservativeHome reported yesterday that the Police had processed all passes. This morning Dizzy was told: "Your pass is still with the Police". Is history repeating itself?

* Who should I run into in the queue for passes but none other than The Brute (Bruce Anderson)? "Thoroughly brilliant column in the Telegraph on Friday," he barked. "Jolly good stuff". Should I be worried?


Telegraph Feature: Top 100 Most Influential People on the Right - 100-76

Following last week's list of Britain's 100 most influential people on the Left, Brian Brivati and I have compiled a similar list for people on the Right. The first installment (positions 100 down to 76) are published in today's Sunday Telegraph (short introductory article HERE, list and short profiles HERE). The rest of the list will be published over the next three days in the Daily Telegraph. I might as well say now that you will all disagree entirely with the position of every single entry.

Being on the right does not just mean support for the Conservative Party, so the list contains figures from UKIP, right of centre pressure groups, businessmen, bloggers and the odd celebrity. The term "right" encompasses both the libertarian and authoritarian traditions. You can be socially liberal as well as socially conservative and still be classed as on the "right".
It is a big tent and we have attempted to find the one hundred people who most deserve to live in it. We have deliberately left out newspaper editors, proprietors and journalists. As with our list of the Top 100 Lefties, everyone will disagree with this list and everyone will have questions. Where is Jackie Collins? Where is Nick Griffin? Why so few ex-Thatcher Ministers? Why so few industrialists and city brokers? Everyone will have their own answers and their own lists, so let us know. This is our list, now shows us yours. Here's numbers 100-76...

76 Baroness Shephard of Northwold, Chairman, Association of Conservative Peers
77 Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament
78 Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture
79 Douglas Murray, Director, Centre for Social Cohesion
80 Theresa May MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
81 Andrew Feldman, Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party
82 John Blundell, Director, Institute of Economic Affairs
83 Margot James, Businesswoman
84 Annabel Goldie, Leader, Scottish Conservatives
85 Guido Fawkes, Blogger
86 Lord Pearson of Rannoch, UKIP Peer
87 Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion
88 Andrew Roberts, Historian
89 James O'Shaunnessy, Director of Policy & Research, Conservative Party
90 Margaret Eaton, Chairman, Conservative Councillors's Association
91 Richard North & Helen Szamuely, EU Referendum
92 Edward Lister, Leader, Wandsworth Council
93 Edward Leigh, Cornerstone
94 Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader, Hammersmith & Fulham Council
95 Desmond Swayne MP, PPS to David Cameron
96 Mike Whitby, Leader, Birmingham City Council
97 Professor Tim Congdon, Managing Director, Lombard Street Research
98 Christine Constable, English Democrats
99 Peter Bazalgette, Entrepreneur
100 Zak Goldsmith, Conservative Candidate for Richmond

Want a Blog Button on Your Banner, Sir? Oh, Suits You Sir

Matt Wardman has very kindly created some blog buttons for people to use on their blogs.

Matt has also created a different kind, which actually denote the position of your blog in the various lists. If you'd like to contact him to get your own number inserted you should email him matt AT mattwardman DOT com. There is no charge but he does ask that you link back to his Poliblogs site

Click on any of the images to enlarge them, then save them to your hard drive, upload the image to your blog provider and then insert the relevant code into the template. I'd like to provide the code myself, but haven't been able to work out how to do it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Conference Timetable

It's going to be a busy conferences for yours truly. If you're going to Blackpool and you're a reader of the blog, do say hello! These are a few of the things I'll be doing.

10.45am Panellist on Sky News Sunday with Adam Boulton


3pm-4pm Book signing at the Politico's stand


11.30am I hope to speak in the International Development session
12.30pm Chair Campaign for Enterprise Fringe Meeting with Mark Prisk, Baron Hotel, 296 North Promenade
4pm-5pm Book signing at the Politico's stand
5pm Panelist at Hansard Society fringe, Windsor Bar, Winter Gardens, "Have political parties had thei Day?" With Ed Vaizey, Peter Oborne, Theresa May and Priti Patel
7.30pm Panelist on Kings Fund Health Question Time, The Arena, Winter Gardens

Dissecting the Polls

The overnight polls did not make happy reading for those heading to Blackpool this weekend. Populus showed a 10 point Labour lead, while YouGov, for the second poll in a row, showed an eleven point lead. A few points...

* Labour's lead is gained from LibDem voters who are returning to Labour
* The Conservative vote is consistent at 32-34% but shows no sign of rising
* Parties usually get high ratings after their conferences

But that's the only comfort that can be drawn. The Brown-Cameron comparisons in the YouGov poll do not flatter the Tory leader and this week must be used to narrow that gap. The most interesting point from the YouGov survey was that 58% of people think Labour would win an election now, but might not if Brown delays calling it. That's a crucial finding.

There was positive coverage in the Mail this morning for a £2,000 tax break for families, and a hint that George Osborne will announce plng term plans to abolish inheritance tax. Let's hope there are a few more policies like these, which will appeal to a whole swathe of people in the centre and on the right.

The consensus seems to be that Brown will call an election on October 8th, the first day Parliament returns, with November 1st or November 8th being the two probabilities.

I also understand Gordon Brown has a good stunt planned to impinge on the Tory conference. Now there's a surprise.

David Davis in The Times

There's a tradition that each broadsheet carries a major interview with a leading Conservative on the Saturday before the Tory conference. This year David Davis drew the short straw and landed an interview with Helen Rumbelow and Alice Miles from The Times. Why do I say the short straw? Because being interviewed by a double act means that there's twice as much of a chance of an off the cuff remark being blown out of all proportion and misinterpreted. In this interview they try their best to draw the implication that DD hasn't quite given up on the leadership. Do they succeed? Well, read the interview HERE and judge for yourselves.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Top 500 Political Blogs in the UK - Voted for By You

The GUIDE TO POLITICAL BLOGGING 2007 is now available. You can buy it from Politico's (£9.74) or Amazon (£14.98). This is the final list which will be published on this blog (ok ok... I get the hint).

When compiling a list of top blogs last year, due to constraints, I did it all myself. I scored each blog with ten criteria and out of that came the rankings. Naturally, it was all very subjective. With more time available this year I asked fellow bloggers and blog readers to come up with their Top 20 or Top 10 blogs. These were then fed into a spreadsheet, and the list of Britain’s Top 500 political blogs emerged. In some ways, it is similar to my own list last year in that many of the recognised names appear at the top of the chart. But there have been some significant new arrivals since last year’s edition was compiled, several of which feature high up the chart. Before the analysis let’s look at a few facts.

* Out of the Top 20, fourteen of the blogs are on the right and only two are on the left
* Out of the Top 100, 42 blogs are on the right and 27 are on the left
* Out of the Top 500 154 are on the right and 153 are on the left
* 9 LibDem blogs feature in the Top 100 and 50 feature in the Top 500
* 4 blogs written by full time journalists feature in the Top 20 and 50 are in the Top 500

So the lesson is that although right wing blogs still dominate the upper reaches of the chart, left of centre blogs are showing signs of coming to life and challenging the right. I full expect to see three or four left of centre blogs join the ‘big boys’ over the next twelve months, although at the moment it is difficult to see who they might be. Kerron Cross is best placed but keep an eye on Rupa Huq.

Sceptics may well point to the fact that a right wing Blogger (ie me!) organised this poll and therefore the results might well be skewed in favour of the right. Indeed, the fact that people voted my blog the top blog of all, would tend to add weight to that argument (although
I should say I got 60% more votes than the second placed blog Guido Fawkes, and double that of third placed blog Dizzy Thinks).

However, before rushing to judgement too quickly, reflect on the fact that of the 500 people who sent in their lists, nearly half of them were clearly left of centre voters. The Top 100 blog structure very much reflects that of the football leagues. There are four blogs who, in terms of influence and traffic, are way ahead of the others – Guido Fawkes, ConservativeHome, Iain
Dale’s Diary and They are, if you like, the Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal of the UK blogging fraternity. You then have a few teams who might challenge in a good year – Dizzy Thinks (Everton), Devil’s Kitchen (Newcastle) and Recess Monkey (Spurs) – a few new comers who fizz into their first year with huge promise – Spectator Coffee House (Bolton), Norfolk Blogger (Wigan) and Ben Brogan (Reading) – and then a whole group of clubs wo are quite happy with a mid table position – Croydonian (West Ham), Archbishop Cranmer (Middlesbrough) and Tim Worstall (Manchester City) spring to mind.

There are several blogs emerging from the equivalent of the Football League Championship – Caroline Hunt, Bob Piper and the Watford supporting Kerron Cross among them. But it is further down the leagues that you find several blogs with Premier League potential. The Liberal Democrat supporting Quaequam blog, right wing ranter Donal Blaney, The Waendel Journal and Trotskyite Dave’s Part would certainly be among them.

The challenge for all the blogs outside the top echelons is to build traffic. There is a lot written about the growing influence of UK bloggers, but there are only five or six blogs which could be said to have a mass audience. They are Guido Fawkes, ConservativeHome, Iain Dale’s Diary, EU Referendum and Political Betting. Each of these blogs has a daily readership into five figures and monthly page views of several hundred thousand. Few other blogs manage more than 1,000 daily visitors. Blogs like Dizzy Thinks, which I happen to think will break into the big time in the next twelve months, have steadily built traffic over the last year but may need one big hit to make the breakthrough.

Quality of writing and insight will always win through in the end. The last twelve months has also seen several journalistic blogs spring to the forefront. The Spectator Coffee House blog is one that I thought was destined to fail because between five and ten people write for it. I thought it would be difficult for it to obtain ‘personality’, a key ingredient for success for any blog. How wrong I was. Within a few months it established itself as a daily ‘must read’, way ahead of any other mainstream media group blog. Ben Brogan is another print journalist who has taken to blogging like a duck to water. The secret of his success is that he provides snippets of insight which would never make it into the Daily Mail. His readers know he is ‘in the know’. Similarly, Nick Robinson’s success as a blogger is because he writes about things which would not make his news bulletin, or he provides added insight to an item which did. There was a time when Adam Boulton’s blog was streets ahead of Nick’s. Not any longer.

No one knows where UK blogging is going to be headed over the next twelve months, least of all me. All I do hope is that next year I will be asking you all again to vote for your Top 20 blogs. And when you do, I imagine that there will be quite a few changes at the top of the leaderboard. So here's the Top 500.

1 Iain Dale's Diary
2 Guido Fawkes
3 Dizzy Thinks
4 ConservativeHome
5 Political Betting
6 Devil's Kitchen
7 Croydonian
8 Nick Robinson
9 Spectator Coffee House
10 Ellee Seymour
11 Recess Monkey
12 Burning our Money
13 Archbishop Cranmer
14 Benedict Brogan
15 Tim Worstall
16 Mr Eugenides
17 Norfolk Blogger
18 Paul Linford
19 Prague Tory
20 EU Referendum
21 Harry's Place
22 Tom Watson MP
23 NHS Blog Doctor
24 Caroline Hunt
25 Bob Piper
26 Fair Deal Phil
27 Times Comment Central
28 Tory Radio
29 Chicken Yoghurt
30 Ministry of Truth
31 Kerron Cross
32 Slugger O'Toole
33 Nadine Dorries MP
34 Pickled Politics
35 Donal Blaney
36 Boris Johnson
37 Theo Spark
38 Labour Home
39 British Bullshit Foundation
40 Biased BBC
41 An Englishman's Castle
42 John Redwood MP
43 Hunter & Shooter
44 Craig Murray
45 Samizdata
46 Dave's Part
47 Waendel Journal
48 Newmania
49 Rachel From North London
50 The Last Ditch
51 Our Kingdom
52 Bloggers 4 Labour
53 Liberal England
54 LibDem Voice
55 Stephen Tall
56 Adam Smith Institute
57 Bloggerheads
58 Hoby
59 Daily Referendum
60 Bel is Thinking
61 Quaequam
62 The Bristow Blog
63 Millennium Dome Elephant
64 Suz Blog
65 Antonia Bance
66 WebCameron
67 Spyblog
68 City Unslicker
69 James Cleverley
70 Stumbling & Mumbling
71 Beau Bo D'Or
72 Luke Akehurst
73 Newer Labour
74 As a Dodo
75 Edland
76 Chris Paul Labour of Love
77 Tartan Hero
78 Glyn Davies
79 UK Daily Pundit
80 Westminster Wisdom
81 Melanie Phillips
82 Blair Watch
83 Liberal Burblings
84 18 Doughty Street
85 Daniel Hannan MEP
86 Matt Wardman
87 Mars Hill
88 Little Man in a Toque
89 Policeman's Blog
90 Peter Black AM
91 Mark Mardell
92 Rolled Up Trousers
93 Shiraz Socialist
94 Bishop Hill
95 Tim Roll-Pickering
96 Paul Flynn MP
97 Oliver Kamm
98 Campaign for an English Parliament
99 Ordovicius
100 Snowflake5 101 Grimmer Up North 102 Musings of a Reactionary Snob 103 Love & Liberty 104 UK Polling Report 105 Skipper 106 Laban Tall 107 Little & Large 108 Sinclair's Musings 109 Miranda Grell 110 Earthquake Cove 111 A Very British Dude 112 Wheeler's Website 113 114 Stephen Pollard 115 Evanomics 116 Roger Helmer MEP 117 The Green Ribbon 118 John Moorcroft 119 A Tangled Web 120 Norm Blog 121 Cicero's Songs 122 Toby Harnden 123 Jane's the One 124 Nourishing Obscurity 125 The Daily (Maybe) 126 Looking for a Voice 127 Curly's Corner Shop 128 Adam Boulton 129 130 Mike Ion 131 Iain Lindley 132 Darlington Councillor 133 Stroppy Blog 134 Idiots 4 Labour 135 Thunder Dragon 136 Birmingham University CF 137 PM 138 Priti Patel 139 Man in a Shed 140 Taxpayer's Alliance
People's Commissar of Enligtenment 142 Andy Mayer 143 Tygerland 144 Contra Tory 145 PJC Journal 146 Chase me Ladies 147 The Sharpener 148 The Difference 149 Rupa Huq 150 Bryan Appleyard 151 Theo Blackwell 152 Scottish Patient 153 Barry Beelzebub 154 Mike Rouse 155 Paul Scully 156 Darker Side of Bridget Jones 157 Normal Mouth 158 Pub Philosopher 159 Drink Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War 160 Not Saussure 161 Peter Hitchens 162 Philobiblon 163 Paul Kingsnorth 164 Istanbul Tory 165 Three Score Years & Ten 166 England Project 167 Labour Humanist 168 Nosemonkey Europhobia 169 Political Hack UK 170 Britain & America 171 Snedds 172 Lynne Featherstone MP 173 Open Secrets 174 Crushed by Ingsoc 175 Hot, Ginger & Dynamite 176 A Conservative's Blog 177 Richard Corbett MEP 178 Nation of Shopkeepers 179 Miserable Old Fart 180 Dr Rant 181 Gauche 182 Socialist Unity 183 Corporate Presenter 184 Ghost of the Hitch 185 Liberal Bureaucracy 186 Stephen Newton's Diary 187 David Gold 188 The F Word 189 Betsan Powys 190 Ruscombe Green 191 Nanny Knows Best 192 Liberal Mafia 193 Bethan Jenkins 194 Blood & Treasure 195 Obsolete 196 Blether with Brian 197 Waking Hereward 198 S J Howard 199 Hug a Hoodie 200 Another Green World 201 Raedwald 202 Open Europe 203 Terry Watch 204 Linguanaut 205 Labour's Fightback 206 Lenin's Tomb 207 West Brom Blog 208 Adam Price MP 209 Matt Davies 210 Wonko's World 211 Martine Martin's Lebwog 212 Dodgeblogium 213 Scottish Co-Operative... 214 Ranting Stan 215 Neue Arbeit Macht Frei 216 A Conservative Mind 217 British Politics 218 Nicolas Webb 219 Colin Ross 220 Antony Little 221 Young Unionists 222 Clive Davis 223 Media Lens 224 Three Thousand Versts... 225 Remittance Man 226 A Pint of Unionist Lite 227 Tigmoo 228 Longrider 229 Civitas 230 Vaughan Roderick 231 Vino's Political Blog 232 Patrick Cusworth 233 Lindyloo's Muze 234 Angels in Marble 235 Gaian Economics 236 Graeme Archer 237 Dylan Jones-Evans 238 Some Day I Will Treat You Good 239 Huw Lewis AM 240 Brussels Journal 241 Social Europe 242 Parbury Politica 243 J Arthur Macnumpty 244 Greenwich Watch 245 Austin Mitchell MP 246 YBF Activists 247 Ian Hamilton QC 248 Downing Street Says 249 Never Trust a Hippy 250 Jeffrey Archer 251 James O'Malley: Living Legend 252 Between the Hammer &... 253 Matt T 254 Fibdems 255 Niles's Blog 256 England Expects 257 Mabinogogiblog 258 No Geek is an Island 259 General Theory of Rubbish 260 Eric Lee 261 Belsize LibDems 262 Random Acts of Reality 263 Not Proud of Britain 264 Let's be Sensible 265 Jock Coats 266 Grendel 267 Freedom & Whisky 268 Jag Singh 269 Union Futures 270 Regalis 271 If Sam Tarran Was in Charge 272 Jonathan Fryer 273 Omar's Blog 274 Luke Akehurst Parody Blog 275 Liberal Alone 276 BBC Editors' Blog 277 Nether-World 278 Wouldn't it be Scarier… 279 GWE 280 Mutley the Dog 281 The Spine
Skud's Sister's Brother 283 Disgruntled Radical 284 What You Can Get Away With 285 Jeremy Hargreaves 286 Mary Reid 287 Cascittuni 288 Your Friend in the North 289 Stuart King 290 Social Affairs Unit 291 Revolts 292 Postman Patel 293 Phil Taylor 294 New Culture Forum 295 Gavin Ayling 296 Dasmirnov 297 Alasdair Ross 298 Richard Baum 299 Mailstrom 300 Inspector Gadget

My capacity for linking has reached its end. To find out who the next 200 are in the Top 500 I'm afraid you'll have to buy the BOOK!

When Your Own Words Come Back To Haunt You

This is an extract from a speech given by Culture Secretary to the Royal Society on 13 Sept. Click HERE for the whole thing. If you must.
Now, none of this is to say it hasn’t been a difficult year for television. It has. Of course, a politician talking to a journalist about trust is a bit like a City banker talking to a Premier League footballer about pay restraint. But, even if I’m in no position to teach broadcasters any lessons, the same thing applies to us both. In both politics and television, you devalue the only currency you have if you forfeit the trust of the public. I’m glad to see that there is a widespread recognition that something has seriously gone wrong and that it needs to be put right. Lessons need to be learned. But there is a right lesson and a wrong lesson to draw.

The right lesson is that broadcasters and producers need to respect their audience. You need to put your house in order, and if you don’t there will be a clamour for OFCOM and the BBC Trust to take further action. The wrong lesson is that this shows the public are now liable to give up on public service broadcasting. Actually, the episode shows the opposite: an idea is dying when it no longer warrants any comment, not when it provokes outrage. The public outcry showed that people still rely on broadcasting for accurate and truthful information.

Contrast that with people’s expectations of the internet, where people understand that not everything they see will meet the same high standards as they expect from TV and radio. It is in the very nature of that medium that people can say anything legal they want, and then be judged in the court of public opinion. At the end of a bad year, I don’t think the bell is tolling for broadcasting. I do think people feel let down. But you only get to feel let down if you hold something in high regard in the first place.
What can he mean?

John, Paul, Ringo and, er, James

James Purnell Won the World Cup

Culture Minister James Purnell is a photogenic kind of chap. Always keen to help out in a photo op. But as this BBC story points out, he's in the do-do over having himself superimposed on a photo (above) after he turned up late for it. His press officer denied he had agreed to this, but later they flip flopped and said they thought it was for "internal use only". Interestingly Mr Purnell was at the forefront of those critising the BBC for falsifying footage. People have now lost their jobs for that. The Tories have responded vigorously and more or less called for Purnell's head...
This morning James Purnell’s spokesman said that he had agreed to the fake photo but thought it was for internal use. This afternoon he is blaming the hospital, changing his story and pretending that he didn’t agree to the fake photo after
all. People will make their own minds up whether to believe the hospital or a Labour Minister but his position tonight looks entirely untenable.

You may think that is overkill, but just remember the Labour reaction to Ed Matts in Dorset at the last election when he photshopped a photo on his election literature. However, I can exclusively reveal that this is not the first time James Purnell has been accused of doctoring photos. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you the evidence...

EXCLUSIVE: Labour Commissions Events Management Company for October

Labour uses an events management company called Potcakes to stage their events. Apparently this company have been put on standby to work exclusively for Labour for the whole of October. I understand they expect the commission to be "confirmed" on Tuesday. Draw your own conclusions.

How Ten Per Cent May Miss Out on A Vote

Vicky Ford - one of the four finalists for the Grantham and Stamford selection - has discovered that ten per cent of the elctorate could be effectively disenfranchised by an autumn election.
I've just been talking to the elections officer.She in the middle of putting together the new electoral register, effective from 1st December. (Have you returned your form?) In my rural district there are about 105,000 voters, she currently estimates that 10,000 people have changed their addresses or are new on the role. But currently those new details don't stand. i.e. approx 10% of the voting population in this area are affected.If an election is called now Gordon Brown has to give 18 working days notice. Each of those 10,000 people will then need to be written to asking if they want their new details to be the ones that stand. If they do they have to write back with a deadline 11 working days before the election. (Not a lot of days there...) If someone has moved within the polling area they can still vote as if from their old address - but many may not have.

Coming Later... The Top 500 Blogs As Voted By You

I'll be posting the final list from my blogging book (yes, OK, I can hear the sighs of relief from here in Tunbridge Wells) later on today - probably this evening. This is the list YOU voted for and it's the Top 500 political blogs in the UK.

And do tune in to Sky News at 11.30pm tonight, where I'm doing the newspaper review.

End of commercial.

If Ali Miraj Were Leader of the Conservative Party...

Former A Lister Ali Miraj has written a piece for the New Statesman HERE outlining what he would do if he were David Cameron. Well, it's a thought! Actually, he has some rather good ideas in some areas.

Bercow Readopted for Buckingham

ConservativeHome is reporting that John Bercow was last night readopted as the Conservative candidate for Buckingham at the next election. I hope this sees an end to the speculation that he might defect.

Vicious Typing Means a New Computer

Like most people in politics or the media I am totally reliant on my laptop computer. Despite various people trying to wean me off Sony Viaos and telling me how wonderful Apple Macs are, I’m a creature of habit, and like to stick to what I know. I’ve had my current laptop for a year, but I know I should get a new one. How do I know? Because I can no longer see the letters on the keyboard. I was introduced to typing at the age of ten when my father bought me an old iron typewriter from Cambridge market. I spent hours as a teenager bashing out football league tables with two fingers – hitting the letter keys for all they were worth. The trouble is, I still type as if I’m using an iron typewriter. I may seem a gentle sort, but when I type I can be vicious.

So It's Not One Way Traffic...

Brent's first African-Carribean Mayor is to defect to the Conservatives later today. Bob Blackman, Conservative Councillor for Brent and Harrow will make a formal announcement later. Labour Councillor Bertha Joseph, who represents Kensal Green was first elected to Brent Council elected in 1986. Cllr Joseph was the borough's first African-Carribean Mayor, holding the post for 12 months in 1998 and 1999. She was also Mayor for 2006/07 during Brent's celebration of the abolition of the slave trade.

UPDATE: Mrs Joseph has issued the following statement:

“I have decided to cross the floor and join the Conservative Group on Brent Council because I became frustrated with the inaction of the Labour Group in Brent. They are not addressing the recent spate of murders and shootings in Kensal Green through a structured intervention programme and through new measures. They have also failed to address the poor representation of BME staff at the highest level of the Council by initiating a positive action programme. I have joined the Conservative Party as I feel that it is the natural thing to do because of David Cameron’s views and attitudes towards youth and crime. During his leadership he has embraced our multicultural society in a way that I have not seen projected by the Labour Party.”

Telegraph Column: Tories Must Do or Die in Blackpool

It was never meant to be like this. Labour was meant to roll into Bournemouth this week muttering about the failing leadership of Gordon Brown. The Tories would be going into their last ever Blackpool conference in a buoyant mood, with the polls showing a clear lead over Labour. Talk of an autumn election would be for the fairies. Except that Gordon Brown has confounded everybody, probably including himself. His conference this week has reflected his first three months in power – full of confidence and assertiveness. Brown continued his quest to steal the Tories' clothes and much of his speech could easily have been given by a Conservative leader.

One image from this week continues to haunt me – the sight of Alan Milburn and Peter Mandelson professing loyalty to Gordon Brown and declaring what a wonderful Prime Minister he is. This public display of total loyalty from two of Brown's sternest critics offers a warning to those travelling to Blackpool this weekend. In 2003 Iain Duncan Smith warned his party: "Unite or die." That warning should be heeded by all Tories next week.

Let there be no doubt. Urged on by the Brown spin doctors, the media will be on "division hunt" next week. Any criticism of David Cameron by the chairman of Middletown Conservatives will be blown up into a crisis for the Tory leader. A speech by Sir Bufton Tufton (the politician formerly known as Michael Ancram) hinting at the need for a different course will make front-page headlines in the Mirror. Be warned. It will happen.

Ah, I hear you say, but if we can't have a frank debate at a conference, what has the world come to? Isn't the fringe where politicians traditionally say what they really think? In normal circumstances, yes. But if the party can't recognise the need for unity when it could face a general election within weeks it will have demonstrated it has learnt nothing from the past decade and shown itself unfit to rule. Make no mistake, the electorate will be watching.
Every politician has a ''naughty brain", the one that craves attention. (Norman Tebbit, are you listening?) It's so much easier to say what you think and hang the consequences. You're flattered to be asked to speak at the fringe meeting of the Daily Bugle and there's part of you that knows that they're expecting payback. Well, this year, zip it. Keep your thoughts to yourself.

Lynton Crosby, the bombastic Australian who ran the party's last election campaign, used to suggest to all MPs and candidates that they look at themselves in the mirror every night and ask the question: "What have I done today to make a Conservative victory more likely?" Tories at all levels would do well to heed that advice in Blackpool next week.
In a strange way, Gordon Brown may have done the Conservatives a favour and shaken the party out of its complacency. Surely now every Conservative realises that they are up against the greatest machine politician since Lyndon Johnson. There's only one way to beat him – and that's to be determined in mind and united in purpose. Being the ''nice" party is just not enough. If this week hasn't proved the need for total war on Mr Brown, nothing will.

The shadow cabinet needs to get into attack dog mode and be relentless in its exposure of Brown's failures. The party needs to be far more innovative and aggressive in the way it campaigns. It's all very well coming up with policy after policy on widgets, but at the moment the Conservatives are letting Brown get away with blue murder. They should take a leaf out of ConservativeHome's The Wrong Man website and attack him where it hurts. It's not being nasty, it's what Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is there to do – hold the government of the day to account for its actions. Too many open goals have been missed, particularly on economic and health issues.

If Gordon Brown wimps out and fails to call an election this autumn it's a decision that may haunt him for the rest of his life. The Conservatives will have had a very narrow escape and will be rejoicing in the fact that their collective bluff was not called. There is then a eight-month window before the next likely election date of May 2008. The Conservatives must use these nine months to recover the ground lost in the last three. It won't be easy, but it will necessitate a change of approach.

David Cameron should open up his close-knit circle of advisers. He and his team need to continue on the path they have set out, but to widen its appeal to those who have felt excluded. This doesn't mean a reversion to the ''core vote strategy", but it does mean expounding on core principles a little more often and a little more volubly. There will be plenty of opportunities to do so, the first being Mr Cameron's speech on Wednesday.
To read Telegraph readers comments on the article click HERE.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alex Salmond to Unseat Gordon Brown?

I hear that there are serious discussions going on within the SNP about the possibility of Alex Salmond standing against Gordon Brown in Kirkaldy if there is an Autumn election. They seriously think they could defeat him. That's not for me to judge, but it would also risk jeopardising Alex Salmond's hard won reputation for being a serious politician. He's now the First Minister. That's a position for statesmen, not party political hacks. Much as I would enjoy watching the spectacle of the political equivalent of mud wrestling, I doubt whether Salmond has much to gain from taking part. It would be a self indulgence of the first order.

Conference Tales:No 94

From Matthew Parris's Bournemouth diary...
Up at 6.30 for the Andrew Marr Show, Sunday. No time for breakfast. Dash to studio. Dash back. Enter hotel. Enter breakfast room. Nice table by window. “Tea please.” Huge meal – full monty. Up to my room, third floor. Can’t find room 3301. Foreign chambermaid says “not existing”. The fool knows nothing. I show keycard. Wrong hotel. Profuse apology. Hasty exit.
Lovin' it.

An Apology

Several people have complained to me in the comments and by email that yesterday I only posted once, and today there have been several hours between posts and that comment moderation has been too slow. I am sorry that posting has been light over the past couple of days - work commitments have been such that I haven't had a lot of spare time. You will see why when you read the Telegraph next week... I do have to earn a living too, you know!

COMING TOMORROW: The Top 500 British Political Blogs, as voted for by you.

Another Day, Another Sign...

Hmmmm. I'm told that Regional Labour Party organisers have been called together tonight for an urgent meeting. Wonder what that would be about then.

Looking at No-one in Particular

Courtesy of Hoby

Tory MP Doesn't Go to Conference Shocker

Jon Craig tells us on the new Boulton & Co blog that John Bercow isn't attending the Tory conference. Nor is Patrick Mercer. Nor are at least a dozen other Tory MPs of my acquaintance. Jon Craig draws the inference that John Bercow may be defecting next week. I'm not sure the logic quite fits that just because you're not going to conference you're about to jump ship, but in today's febrile climate, who knows? I have to admit that there is a lot of chatter about two possible Tory defections being announced at the weekend. I'm not going to indulge in speculation on who it might be as I reckon that it's fairly libellous if it isn't true.

One thing I do want to pick Jon up on is his final sentence...
In a further sign of turmoil and panic in the Conservative Party, Shadow Home Secretary and defeated leadership candidate David Davis has cancelled all his appearances at fringe meetings in Blackpool.
I don't think I am breaking a confidence if I tell you that DD told me some time ago he wouldn't be speaking at any fringe events at this conference. So far from cancelling "all his appearances", he had never accepted any in the first place.

Straw Tries to Snare More Blue Brownites

Rejoice! Jack Straw is a hero. The four occasions in which he has been a 'have go hero' have inspired him to want to change the law to ensure that people who tackle intruders in their own home won't be prosecuted. Having called for just such a strengthening of the law, you'd imagine I would welcome such a move, wouldn't you? Well, I would, if I thought he was being genuine.

But I have just listened to one of the most cringeworthy interviews I have ever heard on the Today programme. It's clear that this is yet another cynical piece of spin and an attempt to hoodwink Tory voters into thinking Gordon Brown is really one of them. You have to admire the audacity, but I suspect people are already seeing through it. Sadly Sarah Montague didn't ask the killer question, which is what has changed since Charles Clarke carried out a review of the law in this area three years ago and concluded that no change was needed?

Of course, Straw had the opportunity to change the law himself when he was Home Secretary for the first few years of Tony Blair's government.

It's almost as if Gordon Brown has issued a decree to his cabinet ministers o each come up with something to appeal to Tory voters, isn't it? But that could never be. After all, we're in a new era of politics where these cynical things just don't happen, aren't we?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brown Admitted Economic Failure But No one Noticed

There was one bit of the Brown speech on Monday that caught my eye, but which no one seems to have remarked upon, and it was this sentence:
We should take pride that, under a Labour government, Britain - this small number of people on this small island - is the fifth largest economy in the world.
Didn't we always use to say we were the fourth largest?  This happened, of course, under Brown's watch -- in Dec 2005.  I think it's strange no one's pointed that particular line out -- seems a strange thing to boast about.  'Under this Labour government, we’ve lost our position as the fourth largest economy in the world…'.

Quick Quiz Question

What do David Cameron, Ming Campbell and I have in common?

[prepares himself for an onslaught]

UPDATE:Some hilarious suggestions so far - some even true, but not the one I'm looking for.

UPDATE Thur 9am: Daily Referendum got closest. The answer is that David Cameron, Ming Campbell and I all go to the same dental practice. You really did come up with some hilarious answers though. And some highly insulting ones too!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You Gov Poll Puts Labour Eleven Points Ahead

Channel 4 News have a YouGov poll tonight showing an eleven point Labour lead. Even the most cautious of Prime Ministers would surely be tempted by that. It is another sign that the momentum towards an election is becoming almost unstoppable.

I am now going to stick my neck out. Rather than say on the one hand this and the other hand that (see virtually every political journalist in Bournemouth!) I now predict that by this time next week Gordon Brown will definitely have called an election.

Of course, now that I have predicted it, it is certain not to happen, in which case I shall take full credit for it. I thank you.

Political Correctness and Racial Profiling

Apparently there were 32,000 stop and searches in London last year, a marked increase on the year before. No fewer than twenty per cent of the people stopped were of Asian background. This raises a number of questions about racial profiling, which is clearly being utilised.

A week or two ago I was in a car driven by a British Asian man. We encountered a security check along the Embankment. He was pulled over. After the Police had completed their checks I asked him if that happened regularly. He said it did, but he didn't mind at all. He said he was ashamed that people of his religion had made anyone with his skin colour a suspect and he felt he had to put up with this minor inconvenience.

He recognised that political correctness has to go out of the window when dealing with terrorism.

Why Can't the BBC Be Balanced on Climate Change?

Am I just getting crusty and right-wing, or is this an outrageous piece of BBC bias? This graphic is on the main front page of the BBC website HERE. The headline "Sinking in" over the climate change story suggests that climate sceptics are getting the message at last, having been too stupid to "get it" before.

The various click throughs invite people to "take a look at the evidence and see what you think". Naturally enough the only evidence provided is to prove that man made global warming is about to cause the end of the planet. Nowhere is there any article posing any counter arguments, allowing the reader to take a balanced look at the evidence and then make up their own minds.

Why am I not surprised.

Gullible A Lister Seduced by Brown

So Gordon Brown has persuaded a gullible A Lister to defect to his big tent. Judith Symes, an A List candidate, appeared in Bournemouth today professing her love for all things Labour and her admiration for Gordon Brown. She says...
We have had ten years of record investment in public services and the
highest employment ever, as well as a new prime minister who was the most
competent chancellor, creating stability and a growing economy.

This would be the same Judith Symes who appeared before Poplar & Canning Town Conservatives a few short monthd ago wanting to be their candidate, and whose main pitch to them was how appalling Gordon Brown is.

She complains "elitism and exclusivity are at the heart of the party." What a hypocrite. She lives in one of the most exclusive riverside developments in Docklands - Free Trade Wharf on The Highway. How she can refer to "exclusivity" in Tower Hamlets from the decadence of her yuppie luxury apartment beggars belief. I doubt there will be many people in the Tory Party shedding tears about this. I certainly won't be.


David Miliband is dying on his feet. The audience has gone to sleep. And I love the way the cameras keep cutting to Dennis Skinner. Do they do this during every speech?

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top 100 Right of Centre Blogs

The GUIDE TO POLITICAL BLOGGING 2007 is published this week. Featured among the 288 pages are a myriad of blog lists. Now for the TOP 100 RIGHT OF CENTRE BLOGS. This list was compiled by a panel of 12 right wing bloggers. Bearing in mind who they chose as Number 1 I should make clear that I had no part in it!

The right of centre blogosphere is thought by many to be in a state of rude health. It is more diverse, radical and influential than its left of centre counterpart, but still there are only seven or eight right wing blogs which have a mass readership. This list was ranked by a group of right of centre bloggers. Their decision reflects in large part the rankings of the Top 500 list, chosen by more than 500 bloggers and blog readers, with one or two exceptions. The exceptions are James Cleverly and the Waendel Journal who are ranked more highly in this list, and Ellee Seymour who is in the top ten on the main list but only scrapes into the top twenty on this list. Ellee has established herself in the front line of British political blogging, but her softer, more personal approach may not have been to the the panel’s liking. You can’t win ‘em all!

Another female Blogger who has made an impact is Caroline Hunt, whose ‘devil may care’ attitude has attracted a number of admirers. Of the top four, Dizzy Thinks, in the person of Phil Hendren, has emerged as possibly the most improved blog of the year, which is reflected in his second position in this list and third in the overall list. He has broken a number of stories and his forensic analysis continues to impress. He doesn’t let his love of IT geekery dominate the blog, and he manages to find story after story in the pages of Hansard, which the mainstream media then follows up.

Guido Fawkes has not had his best year and he would be the first to admit it. His Newsnight ppearance alongside Michael White was the blogging equivalent of David Davis’s 2005 party conference speech. It wasn’t quite as bad as it appeared at the time, but it did do him – and ndeed the blogosphere – a considerable amount of damage. Despite that, his traffic levels have held up well.

ConservativeHome has dropped to number four in this list and I am slightly at a loss to know why. It has had an excellent, if overdue, redesign and although it went through a rough patch earlier in the year it is back to its fighting best. Not everyone likes its editorial stance, and it will be interesting to see how Platform 10, its new Cameroonian rival, competes in both analysis and storygetting. It will do well to rival Tim Montgomerie’s contacts, but perhaps that’s not the point. In fact, there is no reason why Platform 10 and ConservativeHome should be considered rivals. Time will tell.

Nadine Dorries is perhaps the brightest new entrant into the blogging world. The Tory MP for Mid Befordshire has some trenchant views and she’s not backward in coming forward in expressing them, much to the chagrin of the Conservative whips. In a very short time she’s created a cult. Her blog is the one most read by her fellow MPs – and not just Tories. John Redwood has become a truly prolific Blogger. He is very different in style to Nadine, but if you want insightful analysis into the economy, regulation and globalisation, John Redwood’s Diary is the place for you!

1 2 Iain Dale’s Diary
2 5 Dizzy Thinks
3 NEW Guido Fawkes
4 1 ConservativeHome
5 14 Croydonian
6 8 Archbishop Cranmer
7 3 Burning our Money
8 NEW Devil's Kitchen
9 NEW Tim Worstall
10 7 James Cleverly
11 23 Mr Eugenides
12 NEW Waendel Journal
13 NEW Nadine Dorries MP
14 NEW Adam Smith Institute
15 NEW Donal Blaney
16 64 Prague Tory
17 11 Tory Radio
18 4 Boris Johnson
19 9 Ellee Seymour
20 56 Caroline Hunt
21 NEW Daily Referendum
22 NEW EU Referendum
23 NEW Sinclair's Musings
24 NEW An Englishman's Castle
25 52 Theo Spark
26 NEW John Redwood MP
27 NEW Daniel Hannan MEP
28 36 UK Daily Pundit
29 58 Freedom & Whiskey
30 NEW Mike Rouse
31 NEW Roger Helmer MEP
32 NEW Islington Newmania
33 NEW City Unslicker
34 NEW Matt Wardman
35 48 Man in a Shed
36 18 Dodgeblogium
37 NEW Nourishing Obscurity
38 NEW Samizdata
39 NEW Taxpayers' Alliance
40 50 Martine Martin's Lebwog
41 NEW Daily Propaganda
42 NEW Musings of a Reactionary Snob
43 22 Bel is Thinking
44 NEW Prodicus
45 65 A Very British Dude
46 NEW WebCameron
47 NEW Priti Patel
48 NEW Richard Spring MP
49 28 A Tangled Web
50 NEW Edland 51 NEW Nation of Shopkeepers 52 NEW Not Proud of Britain 53 NEW The Bristow Blog 54 79 Thunder Dragon 55 NEW Glyn Davies 56 NEW Little Man in a Toque 57 NEW Globalisation Institute 58 NEW Britain & America 59 NEW Last Ditch 60 31 Gavin Ayling 61 NEW Vicky Ford 62 NEW Birmingham University CF 63 27 Ed Vaizey MP 64 NEW Is there more to life than shoes? 65 72 Conservative Party Reptile 66 41 A Conservative's Blog 67 57 Last Boy Scout 68 NEW Tory Reform Group 69 NEW Ghost of the Hitch 70 NEW John Moorcraft 71 NEW Blognor Regis 72 NEW England Expects 73 NEW Rachel Joyce 74 NEW PJC Journal 75 NEW David Gold 76 37 Tim Roll Pickering 77 46 Remittance Man 78 NEW Tapestry Talks 79 NEW Platform 10 80 89 Curly's Corner Shop 81 24 Road to EU Serfdom 82 13 West Brom Blog 83 NEW David Jones MP 84 NEW Istanbul Tory 85 NEW Neue Arbeit Macht Frei 86 NEW Pub Philosopher 87 17 Trevor Ivory 88 NEW Brussels Journal 89 NEW The Crossed Pond 90 NEW Not a Sheep Maybe a Goat 91 NEW YBF Activists 92 38 Contra Tory 93 NEW Scottish Tory Boy 94 NEW Hunter & Shooter 95 49 Civitas 96 NEW Cross of St George 97 NEW Nicolas Webb 98 NEW Martin Kelly 99 NEW Cornerstone 100 71 Laban Tall

The Quips of Alan Johnson

On Health Minister and practising surgeon Ali Darzi:
The Conservatives had ministers who could stitch you up. We've got one who
can cut you open as well.

On Dawn Primarolo who moved to the Department of Health this year after a decade being "incarcerated at The Treasury.

This is indeed the era of a new Dawn.

Boom boom. It's the way he tells 'em.