Sunday, August 23, 2009

As the Election Looms, Will Tory Bloggers Start to Pull Their Punches?

You don't get much more Cameroon that Platform 10's Fiona Melville. She could be described as an "Ur-Cameroon", almost more Cameroon than David Cameron himself. She will probably have been horrified by Gaby Hinsliff's Observer article (published yesterday) which drew attention to her criticism of the leadership. She wrote...
I would go further and acknowledge that there are some inherent contradictions in current Conservative thinking. For example, it is undeniable that despite championing the concept of localism, there are many policy interventions that are anything but localist. It is undeniable that despite talking the talk on encouraging stable families, the marriage tax bonus is planned to be limited to a man married to a woman, whether or not they have children, and will ignore the many other varieties of what I would argue are also ’stable families’. It is undeniable that inheritance tax cuts as the first Conservative tax cut was at the time morally wrong, to my mind, and now probably unaffordable. Fortunately that one seems to have been kicked into the long-grass.

Platform 10 was set up in large part as a reaction to ConservativeHome. Those behind Platform 10 felt ConHome was far too disloyal to the Cameron project and were determined to redress the balance. It's never quite taken off, despite having some excellent contributors. It is perversely ironic that this critical article will give it a profile it has so far lacked. Perhaps one might forgive Tim Montgomerie a wry smile.

But there is a lesson in this for all Conservative bloggers. It shows that all political journalists are on the lookout for any sign of internal Conservative dissent. Splits create stories, especially in quiet news cycles like August. We bloggers may like to kid ourselves that in some way we are separate from the Conservative Party, but that is not how much of the media sees us. It's a real conundrum, which I know Tim Montgomerie wrestles with just as much as I do. We're not elected to anything and hold no position in the party but even constructive criticism is interpreted by the media as evidence of unrest and disquiet in the ranks, when it is nothing of the sort.

As an election draws ever closer Conservative leaning bloggers are unlikely to offer unconditional or uncritical support. But they wouldn't be human if they didn't from time to time, hesitate to go in quite as hard as they once might have done, as a little voice in their head wonders if what they write isn't going to rebound on the wider cause.

34 comments:

Dick the Prick said...

Not sure I agree with ya there - you mention that you're not part of the Conservative party so why do a Labour and be a sheeple. It's not our job to follow the party line, just to work within it and challenge it when we think it's wrong.

I'm fed up with organizations being 'ran' from the top - if they don't listen, they can't learn and they'll ultimately screw themselves. Look at how Labour has traduced its base for it knew better.

Alan Douglas said...

And then there is the likes of Simon Heffer. His constant carping at "Call me Dave" (did Cameron ever say this ? I do recall "Call me Tony").

In Simon's ideal world, DC is so flawed that we had better not elect him. SH's ultimate logic is to keep Labour in power, because DC is blah blah blah.

Why is it that our friends' imperfections are so much more important that our enemies' ?

Alan Douglas

Silent Hunter said...

Iain,

I think you'll find that the majority of folk DON'T want a party that isn't capable of internal dissent and indeed, where all dissent to its policies are effectively stifled . . or if it's from the public - repressed with authoritarian policing.

That's the Labour Party's job! . . . and that's why they are going to get annihilated at the coming General Election.

Honest people HATE Labour!

BUT! . . . they are not convinced that the Tories are going to repeal or redress any of the abject corruption that is so manifest in our political life (& sadly in so many of our public and private institutions).

Transparency is the word . . . if the Tories can just tell us all how it has to be, warts and all, they will at least earn our respect, if not our love . . . because, let's face it, we all still remember that the Tories were booted out because we thought that they were "Corrupt & Sleazy" . . . little knowing that compared to "New Labour", they were simply rank amateurs at it.

I hope Cameron has the balloons to just be straight with the electorate . . . which would make a refreshing change, from a politician.

True Belle said...

David Cameron is terrifying the middle /higher income earners , not to mention pensioners and the skilled workers with his higher tax/ pruning back on services etc etc.

'Putting people first ' was their last election mantra, their new mantra- ' Time for change ' is really irritating many of us .

We have had too much change in recent times.

'Gimmee dis an gimmmee dat' society is having a ball. The questing snouts of the corporate greedy are addicted to a particular brand , whilst the' have nots ' couldn't care less anyway.

Many local Tories especially councillors etc and association members are very unhappy with current Tory thinking, and feel that David Cameron is a bit of a er'WASSOCK'-- west country expression I think.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is an outstanding skewering of Bob Ainsworth and Kevan Jones by the News Of The Screws

http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/news/466641/Champagne-general-He-drinks-pound149-plonk-and-shops-at-Lidl-Richard-Dannatt.html

golden_balls said...

If the media yourself included didn't overeact when any minister MP or think tank went off message i'd agree.

You and your pals have created this situation i doubt it will ever change. Its easy point scoring for both parties.

Amused NHS Supporter said...

I guess you have been rattled by the Left's exposure of the disconnect between Cameron's espoused NHS policies and those of Hannan and his immoderate acolytes who populate the Tory blogosphere. I'm not sure you can call the rabid mouth-foaming we have seen from the latter camp as 'constructive criticism'. Good effort though, LOL.

hovedan said...

the dilemma is that the more reluctant tory bloggers are to be forthcoming with actual analysis and criticsm, the less likely journalists, and others will bother reading your blogs. There is a balance of course, but please, the blogoshphere must never just be party spin or become a patsy; journalists might start to call it the "patsyphere" (def:political bloggers who temper their criticism of their preferred party for election gain)

Houdini said...

Will Tory Bloggers Start to Pull Their Punches? ...

You mean like giving regular prominence to Labour bloggers and Labour MPs online ramblings?

Norfolk Blogger said...

Will we see you criticising the Tories at some point Iain ?

Iain Dale said...

Frankly, Nich, I'd have expected better from you than that inane comment.

Presumably you missed this...

http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2009/08/oil-tanker-of-nhs-spending-must-be.html

Uncle Bob said...

There's nothing wrong with differences of opinion. Would I pull my punches on a blog if I differed in opinion with the direction that my party was going (Not that I have a party, my vote is being lent to the tories next election)? Hell no, I'd be swinging like Steven Gerrard after being told I can't play 'Groovy Kind of Love' on a clubs cd player. Politics is all about the art of the argument and the most persuasive argument should prevail. It's not party splits, the MP's are being quite disciplined. It's bloggers, activists and think-tankers arguing what direction they want to see a tory government pursue. Do you want to know what happens when you let the party leadership set the agenda and don't dissent even when something is clearly wrong? The last 12 years, that's what.

no longer anonymous said...

"I guess you have been rattled by the Left's exposure of the disconnect between Cameron's espoused NHS policies and those of Hannan and his immoderate acolytes who populate the Tory blogosphere."

I doubt it, check out the opinion latest opinion polls. LOL

Not a sheep said...

As the election looms I won't be pulling my blogging punches but then I don't consider myself a Tory blogger. I am a blogger whose views are closer to those of the Conservative party than the Labour party; but not that close to the current Conservative leadership. If I vote Conservative at the general election it will be to assist with excising a malignancy from the government of this country and to hopefully help to rid my constituency of a prime Labour toady. Sometimes one has to hold one's nose and vote for the party most likely to behave responsibly and reverse much of the insanity of the last 12 years.

Raedwald said...

Cameron must make up his mind whether he's a central Statist or a Localist. The Tory party was always the party of Localism; the switch to central Statism from 1979 onwards has cost the party over a million members, many of whom, like me, will still put their cross in Cameron's box so long as there's no realistic alternative.

But a Conservative party run from the metropolitan centre by a cabal of cronies permanently in 'talk' rather than 'listen' mode that requires its members to be either on-message or silent is a party doomed to ultimate failure.

I see no compelling reason why a Conservative candidate in Totnes should campaign on exactly the same manifesto as one in Ely; a broad-church party run from its roots, independent-minded MPs who resent the whip and a party HQ in permanent 'receive' mode is, I'm convinced, the recipe for a huge Tory revival.

Whilst enough people will cast their votes for Cameron next time, until he casts off the Statist shackles the future beyond that remains in grave doubt.

Plato said...

"I guess you have been rattled by the Left's exposure of the disconnect between Cameron's espoused NHS policies and those of Hannan and his immoderate acolytes who populate the Tory blogosphere."

Boy, bet you're a barrel of laughs down the local.

Iain, I think it's inevitable that some bloggers of all colours will be a teeny bit more careful about what they say, however politics is about debate and I think that if Cameron plays it straight - he can distance himself from it.

I didn't like what he did to Hannan - not because of what Hannan said which was craftily recycled by Labour - but for calling him eccentric/fringe etc.

Cameron didn't need to do that - he could have moderated his language to a simple - it's not our policy, his opinion is just that and he's doing a great job as an MEP. End.

I can understand Cameron being peed off after several of these in one week - but he needs to watch it otherwise it will provoke others to go off-piste :)

True Belle said...

I am not sure whether grass roots Tories fit in with DCs idea of new Toryism.

Some of us feel there is a wishy washy element to the party, and that it is one huge PR exercise.

I think that DC has ignored the vast majority of would be voters who are now at retirement age, and has failed to engage with them.

Many will probably vote UKIP, but who knows. Many preferred David Davis as a sound pair of hands, but ideas change don't they.

Many bods in county towns are not at all easy with Tory thoughts on pruning back local government etc, and all the partnerships associated with them, they are the higher income earners and potential Tory voters!

The Lib Dems are a quirky bunch. Pensioners are drawn to Vince Cable and his ideas, so where are the sheep?

trevorsden said...

As we get closer to the election tories certainly must never pull their punches - stick it to labour with venom. Thats what elections are about.

I don't think Blair ever said 'call me Tony' any more than Cameron said 'call me Dave'.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1996703.ece

However
"Gordon Brown ushered in the new era at Downing Street by telling staff at No 10: “Call me Gordon.”"

Arden Forester said...

Simon Heffer is a snob who thinks David Cameron should be 100% Toff. It's all ridiculous. I'd prefer to stick with his actual policies, his political artwork and his natural abilities.

Last first, he has tremendous abilities in public presentation and debating skills. His political artwork is a tad dodgy currently, seeming to favour cronies over the old guard. I'm watching to see if we get any more of the Norwich North types in. As for policies, they are a bit watery. I prefer a stiffer mix!

Man in the Street said...

What on earth is the point of voting for the Tories 'because they are not Labour'?

No thanks, all the current incumbents have proved themselves to be nest feathering, pathetic lobby fodder.

We were taken to war on a lie, are currently fighting a war that we cannot 'win' and our leaders and opposition figures mumble to themselves on the sidelines.

No, they've had their chance. Cameron comes over as Blair 'lite'. No way am I going to vote for any of the big three.

The tripartite of to**ers have had their day.

Man in a Shed said...

I suspect many of us will be using both barrels for the socialist parasites who have destroyed our country up to the next election.

The interesting part will be how the right of centre blogsphere reacts to a Conservative government.

Sally Roberts said...

I still enjoy being the token "Cameroon Spaniel" as I am affectionately (?) known, on Conservative Home!

Fred said...

We will all be better off when the public accept that discussion and dissent are normal and healthy. One (of many) legacies of Blair and Brown is the totalitarian idea that everyone must toe the line of the day. It would be helpful if Cameron and Co would make this point, regularly, so that each "split" is not seen as newsworthy in itself.

Doubting Richard said...

The open conflict will always make people more partisan. Even those like I, who blog not for Conservative but more sympathetic to their ideology than this scummy government's, will pull closer. It is the nature of humans, a tribal creature.

Anonymong said...

Platform 10 was set up in large part as a reaction to ConservativeHome. Those behind Platform 10 felt ConHome was far too disloyal to the Cameron project and were determined to redress the balance. It's never quite taken off, despite having some excellent contributors. It is perversely ironic that this critical article will give it a profile it has so far lacked. Perhaps one might forgive Tim Montgomerie a wry smile.

Interesting. This is the first time I've heard of Platform 10. Having taken a look, it does indeed seem to have some interesting stuff on it. I can't help noticing though that you don't link to it from your blog Ian.

Andy JS said...

For a prospective national leader to wax lyrical about localism is always a poisoned chalice in my view, for the simple reason that a prime minister is always going to be focused on matters from a national perspective. It would probably be better for Cameron to keep his pronouncements on the joys of localism to a minimum.

King Athelstan said...

@Amused NHS supporter, I think You'll find that was another failed attempt by Labour to try and wrest some initiative back, the government are so inept the public can no longer trust them to find their arse with both hands.

simonh said...

What's the point of blogging if you don't say what you think. If you want to support 'the cause', stuff envelopes and deliver leaflets.

Bunny Smedley said...

If a party can't take criticism from its longtime friends (and let's face it, both you and I have been members of the party rather longer than Mr D. Cameron has) then heaven help it when its enemies (in the media as much as the other parties) get to work on its siller mistakes, more blatant internal contradictions and most annoying personalities ...

PS Well done for getting Christine Hamilton onto Twitter. That made my day.

Anonymous said...

Use your enemies' strength against them.

Push the line that the Conservative Party thinks that internal debate is healthy and creates better policy.

We've had 12 years of craven government-by-sheep, so it shouldn't be too hard to win the argument.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Cameron say 'Call me Dave' to differentiate himself from David Davis when the two were running for leadership?

cherami said...

Gaby Hinsliff isn't worth bothering about.

labour for the few said...

i many ways the guardian and bloggers have point to keep the conservatve project moving along.

after all the guardian backed blair and he and his project were a total and utter failure,despite great speeches and promises.

jamestheless said...

The closest I could find was this on Wikiquote:

"Lots of people call me Dave, my mum calls me David, my wife calls me Dave, I don't really notice what people call me."

Interview with Richard Bacon on XFM, 28 September 2006; "Labour in shambles over leadership, says Cameron", Western Mail, 29 September 2006, p. 4.