Tag Archives: Conservative Party

Lynton Crosby – the DEFINITIVE answer from DC…or is it?

Below is the transcript of Andrew Marr’s conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron, on the subject of  Lynton Crosby, the Conservative Party’s “campaign consultant” and his input or influence on the question of cigarette packaging.

I do so without comment (it would be superfluous) – apart from reminding DC that a “question” is merely a request for information.

Andrew Marr:

“So can I ask you again whether you have actually talked to him (Crosby) about this issue?”

Cameron:

“Well I think it is important this issue of lobbying because, well look, let me be clear he has not intervened in any way, on this or indeed on other issues and the decision, it’s very important people know this, we haven’t actually changed our policy, I mean, I think there are merits to plain paper packaging for cigarettes, we need more evidence, we need greater legal certainty, we’re not going ahead with it right now,  but I certainly don’t rule it out for the future.

“So the whole thing actually, from start to finish has been something of a media invention. So, he hasn’t intervened, it would be wrong for him to intervene in any way, the decision was actually taken by me, sitting up there (points towards building in No. 10) at my kitchen table, let’s not move ahead with this now, we don’t have enough evidence, there’s too much legal uncertainty.”

“But let’s be clear, this government has been very tough on tobacco, you know we have said we’ve got to cut down on these vending machines, we’ve got to stop big shops doing big promotions, we’ve carried on with the smoking ban, we’ve put up the price of cigarettes, and if we’re too much in hock to the lobbyists as it were, why have we just published a lobbying Bill?”

Marr:

“You have told me absolutely everything except the question that I was asking, which is have you talked to Lynton Crosby about this?”

Cameron:

“I have answered the question; he has not intervened in any single way.”

Marr:

“You haven’t actually prime minister, but you won’t tell me whether you have talked to him about it?”

Cameron:

“I think as I’ve said, he hasn’t intervened in any single way, I think you’ll find that is an answer.”

Marr:

“Yes, but its not quite an answer to the question I asked.”

Cameron:

“But its all you’re getting (laughs).”

Marr:

“There we go.”

Eastleigh: a UKIP lesson

Last year, I predicted as follows:  “David Cameron will realise that UKIP is a clear and present danger and will begin the fight-back by the only way possible. He will adopt their policies and reinforce that by continuing to spray copious volumes of testosterone in Brussels.” ( #17 HERE )

In spite of the Conservatives’ best efforts to smear the Liberal Democrats with the ridiculously-timed media Lord Rennard “Gropegate” campaign, the Party has been humiliated in the fifteenth by-election of this lame government. The majority of all the other by-elections since 2010 were straightforward and predictable “Labour Hold” results – this one was different. Very different.

If the insufferably smug UKIP leader Nigel Farage struts any more zingily, he’ll injure himself! But who can blame him? The incompetence, the 19th Century policies, the 18th Century verbal jousting and lack of cogent communication by the other parties has helped UKIP to begin their final climb to Westminster.

Both main parties will dismiss this colossal electoral success by UKIP as a mere mid-term blip…and they will suffer because of their total lack of either proper analysis or strategy. To both main parties but especially the Conservatives, UKIP has been allowed to become (ironically) like the Eurozone – it has flourished into a problem without solution. UKIP is here to say.

The way any government operates is very straightforward. The first half of its term in office is given over to imposing the necessary “bad bits” – the policies which are bound to be unpopular.

The second half of its tenure (especially in the final 12 months leading to a General Election)  is usually distinguished by the giveaways – the “nice bits”. (Tax decreases, new thresholds, share handouts etc).

This time – it will NOT work. It will not work because , in the final analysis – forget policies and promises….we vote for people we like and trust. The present Coalition government (especially the Tories) have no-one particularly likeable to offer and they have certainly “blown” the last vestiges of any pre-election trust that the electorate had in them.

But the REALLY big tactical error that the Conservatives made in Eastleigh was their choice of candidate, Mrs Maria “I say what I think” Hutchings. She was the nearest that the Tories could find to their own ersatz  UKIP candidate.

They thought that they might just fool the electorate…………. and failed.

We’ve already had the traditional “Yes, it’s disappointing but I’m sure that we can win the voters back at the next General Election” announcement from the Prime Minister.

Are you sure about that, Dave?

(BTW – well done Libdems………. and Nick, there’s a difference between “stunning ” and “stunned”!)

Quaint Liberals?

Quaintness pervades British Society – from our cute little village tea rooms, the genetically coded-in inferiority complex of the working classes, Barristers’ wigs to the way we run our Parliament and economy. We wear 21st century clothes which disguise 18th  and 19th century thinking.

For instance, India has a Space programme, nuclear bombs and an industrial infrastructure which will leave our economy standing in a couple of years. Yet we still see ourselves as “England Sahib” and attempt to dispense Colonial munificence to the natives by insisting that they accept our charity. They are embarrassed, they don’t want it but we feel that they ought to accept the £200 million-odd per year.

Remember how we felt in 1974 ago when the mad Idi Amin of Uganda launched his “Bananas for Britain” campaign because he’d heard that we were starving ? Mind you, at the time, the UK  was in a spot of bother. The oil crisis had sent the economy into freefall, unemployment was rising and industrial strife was worsening. (Sound familiar?).

The following Amin telegram was received in Whitehall:

“In the past months the people of Uganda have been following with sorrow the alarming economic crisis befalling on Britain. The sad fact is that it is the ordinary British citizen who is suffering most. I am today appealing to all the people of Uganda who have all along been traditional friends of the British people to come forward and help their former colonial masters. The people of Kigezi District donated one lorry load of vegetables and wheat – send an aircraft to collect this donation urgently before it goes bad .”

The politicians and Civil Servants both greeted the message with embarrassment and derision.

That is exactly how those  millionaire and billionaire Indians feel about the “peanuts donations” (their words) that we keep forcing on them.

But that is the very essence of our collective quaintness. We are oblivious because in our minds, we are still  “KING OF THE WORLD!”  We appear to be oblivious to the fact that  since 1845 (never mind 1945!), the world has changed.

We’re still like a maiden aunt handing a 5/- Postal Order to the nephew with an iPhone.

“But English is the world’s main-language” is the oft-repeated Mantra. Yes, because hundreds of years ago, we could sail boats. That meant that we could travel  and steal lots from the natives! Then we’d force-feed them God but more importantly – we taught them the English Language.

We weren’t “quaint” in those days. We were thieving and murdering conquerors with attitude. We used to have balls!

Now we are like the wheezy old duffer draped over a worn-out leather club chair, who likes to reminisce about the “good old days” and when being British “meant something”.

Great Britain consists of 6,289  damp little  islands in the North Sea – and only 803 of those  have what can be loosely described as a coastline. The rest are rocks sticking out of the sea.

It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire – but IT DOES NOW and like a rheumy-eyed old-timer, we should wake up and smell the Earl Grey!

There is one word which we treasure above all other : “TRADITION”. Our mentality dictates thas as soon as we have done something once, it has to become “tradition”.

Everything from the Christmas Turkey to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace are “tradition”.

Why is there a ribbon on every MPS coat-hook ? “It’s for his sword, Dumbo! It’s TRADITION!”

“We vote Labour in this house -it’s tradition !!”

“You have to drink 10 pints and then be violently sick because…………” You’ve guessed it!!

I am listening to three Royal Commentators being interviewed on the subject of the Queen’s Jubilee. A great demonstration of synchronised obsequiousness borne of our love of tradition. ” The Queen does not see herself as a celebrity, she is far more than that….did you see those new photos of her….she wasn’t  just “Hollywood”…. she was….Majestic!!!”

The Brits absolutely worship the Royal family because……it’s TRADITION. It’s tradition personified.

No-one is suggesting that we should start , as the French did, by trashing the Royals. The French are almost as traditionally-minded as the Brits . That is why Monsieur le Président de la République is expected to behave like a king and why he lives in a palace.

Yet, the French have taken that important  one step forward from tradition and appear more modern and sophisticated than the Brits. They are NOT quaint. They have struck the right balance between modernity and tradition.

Why do we feel so uncomfortable in Europe? Why do we come across as outsiders? Geography is often blamed. “We’re an island…that’s what it is. We’re British!!”

Geography is to blame but it is not physical Geography. It is our mental, attitudinal Geography.

“We’re BRITISH, for God’s sake!”

Yes – we are British but we continue to treat Britishness as a virtue whilst we sit passively as the world around us grows and changes.

The government is ruled by the Conservatives (yes, even when the Labour Party is running things). They (the Conservatives) are VERY traditional. They are the Establishment.

Her Majesty’s Labour Opposition (see what I did there?) is ruled by the unions who are more conservative than the Conservatives.

Even those vast expanses of white nylon shirt displayed by overweight union leaders have become “tradition”. Their antipathy to any government has become traditional and in its own way…..quaint.

We are all drowning in a sea of tradition and quaintness – but there’s a surprising answer.

The Liberal Democrats are the United Kingdom’s newest and least-traditional bunch of politicians. But traditionally , they are  constantly squeezed from the Left as well as from the Right

Liberal Democrats do not make enough of their  “Democratic” credentials because they prefer the more traditional (and  quaint) “Liberal” – which actually doesn’t mean anything  to the average voter.

Liberal has two sets of meanings: Progressive, forward-looking, reformist, radical, libertarian, free-thinking, modern.

The second set of definitions or synonyms is the one with which the Liberals have been traditionally associated: Tolerant, indulgent, unbiased, broad, disinterested, unopinionated.

However, they do have one great advantage. They are neither in the hands of the traditionally quaint Establishment nor the quaintly traditional Unions.

That’s where our answer could be. Not necessarily in the hands of the traditional Liberal-Democrats but maybe in a new fired-up Democratic-Liberal Party ?

The quaintness has to go.

Have the Tories blown it?

A ComRes poll, commissioned by the Independent appears to show that the TORIES are losing ground to Labour.

The general flow of the poll is that voters do not think that the Conservatives offer an appealing alternative to Labour and the electorate also thinks that a Conservative government would mainly represent the interests of the well-off.

The Conservatives have been trying to convince the electorate that public services such as the NHS would be safer in their hands but the poll shows that voters are pretty neutral on the topic and not really favouring either party.

Currently, the Conservative lead over Labour is 9 points which indicates a hung parliament  and the unpleasant spectre of the balance of power in  Liberal hands.

The one single most important thing that the Conservatives must remember is that the majority of the electorate makes voting decisions based on perception and not party policy.

The current perception of the Tories is that of a rabble of millionaire toffs which has no conception of how the majority of the electorate thinks or lives. The fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of Conservatives who are ordinary working people and who were definitely born with a plastic spoon in their mouth. However, Labour has (very subtly) been driving voters’ perception and emotions back to the old “them and us”  days of class division.

New Labour was originally elected because the electorate perceived Tony Blair as competent and a “good bloke”. He had learned the lessons of Bill Clinton’s “cult of leader-personality” campaigns and had the benefit of a very cleverly orchestrated PR (spin) machine which suddenly made him a modern “man of the people” and not the opportunist also-ran that he really is. The electorate’s perception was that they were electing a “cool” , competent leader and New Labour famously encouraged the electorate to think that they had become a party of the Centre and not the Left. All that was achieved with words and without evidence – yet collectively, we bought into the idea – and it wasn’t even a new idea.  In reality, we had merely been fooled by the new packaging, which itself had been “borrowed”. New Labour was not a new concept. SEE HERE.

During the post-Thatcher years, the Conservatives have had several bad attempts at electing leaders: John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard were the potential electoral cannon-fodder prior to the arrival of David Cameron. John Major only won an election because of the sudden and fatal shift in perception that Neil Kinnock managed to self-engineer just before the voters went to the polling stations in 1992.

That’s how finely balanced the May 2010 election will be.

The Conservatives should not become too “hung-up” on the “Eton Senior Prefects’ Common Room ”  image that they have acquired over the last year-or-so.  They have to create a perceptual shift which will indicate to the voters that life under the Conservatives will be fun and that the future will be brighter than under the yoke of a bumbling and incompetent  Labour administration.

The fact that some of them attended Eton, if handled correctly will not make any difference as to how the voters see them. For instance, look at Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. He is an Eton-educated toff but has managed to persuade most of us to perceive him as a trustworthy “doer”. Consequently, there is an embryonic but  rapidly-growing “Boris for Leader” campaign. Boris has shown that a good leader transcends party politics and is elected in-spite-of  and not because-of Party policies.

The Conservatives have made several tactical errors. They should never have become embroiled in a Commons debate over Inheritance Tax because they were always on a hiding to nothing. George Osborne should not have delivered such a negative speech at the last Conservative conference. He was trying to be perceived as an honest realist who would not be making extravagant promises but unfortunately, he had been ill-advised. Instead, he came across as a “devoid of ideas” depressive who appeared to promise hardship, austerity and misery. Perception always wins out. His speech, immediately following Alistair Darling’s recent Budget Statement compounded the image problem.

There is little doubt that George Osborne is very clever and  will make a very competent Chancellor but he still has to fight and win the perception battle.

The third tactical error was the Zac Goldsmith fiasco. Millionaire toff, safe Conservative seat and a close chum of the Party Leader. A PR disaster which allowed Labour to reinforce  our view of the Conservatives as the “haves” during a period in our history when the number of voting “have nots” is on the increase.

The Conservatives will do well to remember that currently in Westminster they only occupy 193 seats out of 646. Labour has 350.

There are two enemies that they need to face and defeat before they take-on New Labour. Their own complacency and the public’s perception.