Join the Mailing List
Enter your name and email address below:
Subscribe  Unsubscribe 
Free Mailing Lists from

The despatch box

We're you thinking what the Conservatives were thinking? Did you believe the Lib Dems were the real alternative? Is Labour moving forward not back? This blog will focus on all things political. It will be irritating, agitating and maybe just maybe it will get you thinking.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Making me an offer I can't refuse??

One little anecdote from Labour party conference was the continued offer I was made by one MP of a meeting with both Blair and Brown if I signed up to the Labour party. Now I am sure the offer was tongue in cheek - even if it was made on about five different ocassions! (as apparently the membership fee was going up the day after!)

Unfortunately for Tony I just had to say no. I just don't see myself in a party which drags out pensioners from the Conference hall and then holding them under anti terrorism laws for something so awful as heckling!

Sorry - but New Labour just isn't for me!

And launches his blog too...

Click here to access the new weblog from the Davis Campaign team. Get the news as it happens, from those in the know!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Davis launches campaign

And with it the campaign website

Well worth a look!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How dare you!

Having watched the Newsnight interview of David Davis I have to say I am more impressed every time I see him.

I have to say I had a Peter Kay moment near to the end. For those of you who have watched Peter Kays Max and Paddy - you will know how when Max takes offence he states "How dare you" - something I nearly found myself shouting when Davis was probed as to whether he dared to call his staff late at night!

Ughh - what a nasty man he must be to take his job seriously and expect his staff and party workers to do the same. In the real world politics is a 24 hour a day 7 days a week job. You don't stop being leader of a party or Prime Minister when you go to bed! The hours arent 9 to 5. Is that best they can throw at Davis - that in actual fact he is a tough task master (and not lazy as has previously been suggested).

Any Conservative leader has got to be tough, got to be hard working, has got to the know the task ahead and know what's needed to bring about the removal of a Labour Government - if Davis is indeed a tough task master then surely it makes him ideal for the job!


OOps - Im in Brighton at the Labour Conference - I hope those from the Labour party who sometimes read this blog aren't going to thrown me out of my hotel room for typing that. Maybe I will get slapped with an ASBO!

What a disgrace that a party who in the past has had Martin McGuiness walking in and out of the Grand Hotel, throws out one of its long serving members for daring to speak up against Labour policy.

I wonder if they are going to turn down funds from Unison who have dared to disagree with the Governmen'ts health plans..... Probably not!

Kinnock puts me straight

My analysis of the Blair speech was clearly wrong.

On the way up to a fringe at the top of the Metropole Hotel - who should jump into my lift but ex Labour Leader ex European Commissioner and current un-elected Lord Neil Kinnock. He commented that he thought it was Blair's best Conference speech ever (anything to do with the glowing tribute to Kinnock I wondered?)

He then added that Blair did make one mistake - when he mentioned granite.... apparently Kinnock wouldn't have said it ran through him - more like he would throw it at certain people!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blair at his best?

Taking credit for winning the Olympics and emphasising Labour needs to keep changing, Blair made his first post election speech.

Not impressed, but the best line was, "Never underestimate the tories, never overestimate the lib dems."

Sent via BlackBerry

Monday, September 26, 2005

Their advice to us

In the latest issue of Fabian Review (and no I am not a regular reader), Andrew Gamble, Professor of Politics at Sheffield University looks at the electoral prospects for the Conservatives.

Now it doesn’t take a Professor to point out that the Conservatives will be electing “a new leader, their fourth in eight years,” under conditions which have meant that after May 5 2005 it was “the first time the party had lost three elections in a row since the establishment of full democracy in Britain.”

So the analysis points out things aren’t brilliant – but actually they aren’t terminal. The party “can still count on strong media support.” But is this enough?

The article rightly highlights the huge successes – not just electorally that the party had in the 1980’s The economic argument was fought and the Conservatives won it – but then what? What does the party now do?

I have to say I completely agree when Gamble writes, “Choosing a leader is only the first step, however in a Conservative recovery. The party has to decide in which direction it wants to travel and on which ground it wants to fight.”

The leadership election has spent substantial time on superficial considerations – how old is the candidate, what do they look like etc. I have never expected to hear a huge raft of policies from the candidates when the election could be months away. People need to be realistic – you don’t get huge ranges of policies from a party until an election is upon us – and you aren’t going to get the candidates to give you a manifesto to take us into the next General Election. What you can expect is a feeling from them as to where they want the party to go.

Now is there a scenario which means the Conservatives could win the next election?

Of course there is.

“ Labour’s spending plans prove unachievable, because economic growth is much lower than expected, as the world deteriorates. With growth slowing and the risk of recession Labour is forced into tax rises in fuel costs, and a collapse in the housing market. The Government loses popularity as a result, presenting a major opportunity to the Conservatives.”

Gamble argues that there are now generally four groups within the party, (though I have to say I seem to fit in all four depending on the issue in question!) They are traditionalist (The likes of Cornerstone/Tebbitt); New Localists (The likes of new MPs and candidates who are part of; Civic Conservatives (typified by David Willetts) and finally Libertarian.

According to Gamble, the best opportunity for the Conservative party is,

“If they can convince the electorate they are serious about maintaining state funding to preserve universal services, and their aim is to improve performance by decentralising delivery and empowering all, not just the privileged few, then they may have found a serious long term platform o which to contest Labour’s hegemony.”

A new Conservative leader may well be presented with the best opportunity to win an election in recent times. The economy will not be in such good shape, Labour will have made yet more mistakes - and the Conservatives will have a leader who can command the support of the whole of the party.

Gordon had better watch out!

Labour latest - part two

I attended a very interesting fringe event hosted by The Fabian Society. The panel was made up of the Deputy General Secretary o fthe TUC, Alan Johnson (Trade and Industry Secretary of State) and Digby Jones of the CBI.

The two hot topics being discussed were pension provision and also energy (or lackof) provision. Digby Jones was his usual "chirpy self" slamming into the Union representative who expected in future that there should be mandatory pension provision - with the individual paying 5% and business coughing up 10%.

On the subject of energy - Jones pointed out that if there was a severe winter there was a distinct possibility that business customers would have the plug pulled (quite literally) on their energy supply. Whereas the rest of Europe have 55 dayds worth of reserves, this country has approximately 11. Jones suggested that the nuclear option needs to be considered - and that the current Government needs to be brave enough to say as much.

These two issues are certainly going to be up there in the issues that will dominate Labour's third term. The question is whether it will be Blair or Brown who will be steering the ship.

Hi tony

Standing in the Hilton Metropole minding my own busiuness I suddenly became aware of lots of blokes with earpieces looking around. Suddenly out of nowhere who should breeze by but Tony. I nodded. He nodded back.

My special moment with tony was over.
Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Labour latest - part one

I returned to Brighton, the place I lived for about two years, with anticipation about what this current Labour Conference would behold. Would it be all about when Blair goes and Brown takes over - or will it be about their plans for their next election campaign?

After the first day are we any wiser? Well not really.

In the bar at The Grand, John Reid and myself rubbed shoulders - both of us drinking a diet coke (yes the hard stuff). It's glad to know the man in charge of the nations defences is only likely to be impaired by to much caffeine. Having said that he wouldn't have been too pleased if he was still in his previous role as Health Secretary.

Given the number of Labour delegates lighting up and the haze of smoke drifting through The Grand, it seems that Labour's plans to introduce a ban on smoking in public places may face resistence from their own supporters. But that again - isn't John Reid also against such a move?

Celebrity spot of the day - Eddie Izzard..... wasn't he funny once?

Sunny Brighton

I'm in sunny Brighton mixing with the great and not so great in New Labour. Security is high as labours faithful start to gather. All the latest news to follow.
Sent via BlackBerry

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Blog Fashion

Now that Conference season is upon us there seems to have been a rush to get hold of these Vote Blair Out bands. I will be sure to report on any sightings of any of them in Brighton.

Could Gordon be wearing one I wonder?

If you too want to be a follower of fashion just let me know (they're selling like hot cakes!)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Surreal Alternative part three

All in all the LIb Dems must be glad their party conference is finally over. Not a particularly good one. The icing must be the news that they are now being investigated as to whether a million pound donation has broken any rules. Read all about it here.

According to Michael Brown, the Swiss-based financier who owns the firm at the centre of the donation scandal, he feels "totally let down" by the Lib Dems.

"If the people who handled my donation were elected to run the economy, I would not be happy - it would be disastrous," . ...."As a donor, I rely on the party to verify that the donation is proper. In the case of the donation made by my company, very little due diligence was undertaken."

If the Lib Dems are the answer - it must be the wrong question!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Davis has the X factor

Another backer for David Davis - this time from an unlikely source, Simon Cowell, TV's Mr Nasty on the X factor.

According to Cowell,

"I tipped David Davis years ago. In modern politics you have got to look the part."The Tories keep electing ugly blokes as leader. It is never going to work."

"If Tony Blair looked like Robin Cook, he would never have got elected."

Mr Cowell is his usual sensitive self commenting about the late Robin Cook - but would we expect anything less?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back from Blackpool - Bag from Blackpool

Well the first of the Conferences is over - the highlight was getting my Bag for Life - Lib Dem recyclable bag. I have decided to do just that and flog the thing on ebay! That's both environmentally friendly and lucrative.

Now dont you all bid at once - Your chance to own a fine item of Lib Dem memorabilia. As Norman Baker their MP has commented - they have tried to ensure their conference is carbon neutral - although with so much hot air being spouted I suspect they will have to plant a good deal more trees to counteract all that CO2 entering the atmosphere!

Any suggestions for an alternative use of such a fine bag?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Surreal Alternative part two

I found it highly amusing to see that when you peel of your pass to attend the Lib Dem Conference - it says please ensure you take this pass with you to Harrogate.

That's all well and good - and Harrogate's a nice place - but the Conference is in Blackpool.

Of course perhaps people think it's the Labour Conference. On page three of their conference guide in huge letters, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy is quoted... "I want to concentrate on looking forward, not back."

"Forward not back" - wasn't that the title of the Labour manifesto!

Someone should have a word.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Surreal Alternative

In 48 hours I will be tucked up (hopefully) in my hotel room near Blackpool getting ready for the one day I have to spend at the Lib Dem Conference. Now what questions would you be interested to hear answered by those Lib Dem delegates.

Whether they are for or against congestion charging?

Whether they want to legalise hard drugs?

Whether they are a left wing or right wing party?

What do they stand for?

Any suggestions will be taken up!

Clarke U turn damaged election prospect?

The funny thing about leadership elections is that they can often throw up of instances of politicians "re-assessing their views" or even more worryingly making an expedient U-turn in the hope that no one has noticed.

I attended a constituency function at the weekend, where the feeling I picked up on was that Davis was slightly ahead of the Clarke campaign - with alot of anger being expressed about the changes being put forward which would take away the voting rights of the members.

The most interesting thing which was mentioned to me, and I hadn't considered it, was that Ken's apparent wish to make Europe a non issue may actually damage him. For some - whilst they didn't agree with is stance on Europe they had been prepared to back him - but won't know as they have the perception that he is "treating us as if we are stupid (words from one member) by trying to make us believe he has changed his spots."

I would have expected Clarke to be playing on his "experience" when compared to the other candidates - something he played on - when he appeared on the East Midlands edition of The Politics Show today.

Unfortunately he is also trying to re-write history - and the ones with the votes - MPs and possibly members will pick him up on it.

Ken on Sunday AM commented "I have always believed in an Independent bank of England" . Now I have to say that this is one initiative that I didn't think would work - and to Labour's credit it has. Ken states he always believed in an Independent Bank of England - yet only 2 days after the 1997 General Election he wrote an article for the Financial Times stating the exact opposite. In fact he writes,

"By giving away control of one of the key levers of economic policy only days after taking office, Mr Brown has made it clear he is not ready to take on the full range of responsibilities that his predecessors have exercised.

Yesterday's unnecessary and over-hasty decision puts Britain's economic prospects at serious risk. It abandons a tried and tested approach that has delivered the best inflation performance for decades. It hands complete operational responsibility to the Bank of England at a time when its recent record is at best mixed. It is a hasty decision that Mr Brown may come to regret".

Hindsight is a wonderful thing - but I dont want our leadership contenders trying to re-write history in the hope that it will make them more electorally appealing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Heffer speaks out

Not much news on the Tory leadership election front apart from an article by Simon Heffer in the Mail:-

"I wouldn't be surprised if David Davis becomes Conservative leader despite the news that the profoundly unexciting David Willetts is supporting him. Mr Willettes makes pompous speeches about 'social justice.' His job is now it seems to do the thinking for Mr Davis who is said to be plain speaking and populist.

Mr Davis should stick to his instincts about huge tax cuts, sacking hundreds of thousands of pointless public sector workers and ridding this country of its crime epidemic.

For most of us, that would be social justice enough."

Not much you can say to that!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two Brains for Davis

If true the speculation that David Willetts is backing Davis is a major development. Not because of the masses of MPs he may bring with him - but to me it really puts pay to the nasty rumours going round that a Davis leadership would only increase factionalism within the party and would also only appeal to a certain wing of MPs and members.

I am a huge fan of Mr Davis as I think he can build a coalition of support around him that can really take the fight to Labour. The Labour MPs I have spoken to do not seem too happy at the theought os him leading the party, and those of us who fought seats in areas where there was a strong Conservative vote in a Labour held seat realise what is needed to win back those voters who have left the party since 1997.

They say an arm of stags led by a lion is far more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag. Davis is just that lion.

Willetts to back Davis

More details will follow....

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ken Clarke for 99p - cheap as chips!!

As the leadership election heats up - those entrepreneurs in society have already started to see if they can make a bit of money to pay for thos extra taxed Gordon keeps hitting us with.

My leadership watch has so far highlighted a signed Ken Clarke pic for 99p.

Cheap as chips???

Crisis - what crisis?

Just what is going on with this so called petrol protest. Driving to work this morning I was delayed by cars all scrambling to get in to filling stations. Driving home the same thing happened. After watching 80 minutes of the Chelsea game I headed out to Sainsbury's. No unleaded - fortunately my Golf runs on diesel - and no queue at all.

HOWEVER - when the DTI was contacted on Friday the comment they gave out was that they had no contingency plans in place and there was nothing to worry about. Forgive me - but do they know nothing about human nature? Have they learned nothing from 5 years ago. If you tell someone that there is the slightest possibility of petrol not being provided for just 3 days - what are people going to do? They will rush out and buy as much as they can.

It isn't the petrol protest that is so shocking - more the complete lack of understanding that Government has about human nature. Perhaps Gordon Brown's mind is occupied with deciding what decor he wants in Number 10 as opposed to solving today's problems.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Voluteering to work in the stockroom with no natural light was a price worth paying to make sure I was in the only room with a radio in it. The Ashes are coming home - and British sport notches up another memorable victory - and new heroes have been created for a new generation!

Back to the floor

I am currently sitting in a mcdonalds waiting to start the first of my 3 days working in store. Sales will be up in mansfield!
Sent via BlackBerry

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Blunkett bashing

Apparently the former Met Police Chief Lord Stevens has done a bit of Blunkett bashing - commenting that people found him "duplicitous and intimidating" in his memoirs.

Surely not - this isn't the same Blunkett who once he resigned was pictures going back to his modest home in Sheffield, failing to mention his lovely accomodation on the Chatsworth estate in rural Derbyshire.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Congestion charging sham

I was appalled but unsurprised to read Ken livingstones comments in teh Eevening standard with regards to the recent "consultation" on the proposal to extend the congestion charging zone.

According to The Standard Ken commented (about the consultation), " I think it is a complete charade. I think I should make the decisions for London. I went into the election [last year] and said I was going to do this . We will consult and we will absorb - but a consultation is not a referendum."

What I would like to know is why on the TfL website does it state "Your comments count" - when clearly they don't. Why has TfL spent thousands of pounds "distributing leaflets to households and businesses within the area of the proposed enlarges zone, as well as the area immediately surrounding it," when you arent going to listen.

Why was the consultation, "extensively advertised on the perss, on the radio and online to encourage people to respond with their views," when it looks like your mind was made up?

Labour's listening? Not much!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Labour chief leaving while the goings good?

A touching email has been doing the rounds from Matt Carter, General Secretary of the Labour party.

Yesterday, I announced I would be stepping down from my role as General Secretary at the end of the year.

It has been a real privilege to work as a member of staff since 1998, working alongside a fantastic group of party members, colleagues and senior stakeholders across the country.
The party has faced some real challenges in this period and every election has provided a serious test of our organisation. But at all times I have felt tremendous pride in the work of our party, its members and representatives. Through the election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005, we have been given the opportunity to change Britain for good. It has been brilliant to be able to witness that change happening first hand.

I really want to thank you for the support you have given me in my time in the organisation. I leave the party's employment with some very happy memories. I have chosen to step down now, as it is the right time for me to take on a new challenge outside of the party organisation, but will always be committed to the party and its continuing success.
Best wishes

Matt CarterGeneral Secretary

No mention of membership down, majority cut, taxes up, unpopular leadership....... is he getting out while the goings good I wonder?

All quiet on the Parliament Front

Having got my useful 5:30am train for my London trip I eagerly awaited catching up on any gossip that may be circulating the Westminster Village.

By 8:30 I had managed to get down to London from the Midlands and was sitting in Portcullis House at the despatch box cafe (so now you know where this blog got its name) with my Americano waiting to see who I would bump into as I did a spot of work.

The only person around was George Osbourne - clearly up bright and early (someone I rate more and more as the days go by - I think Brown will have a shock!) - No once to catch up with, no huddled groups whispering leadership talk.

An unmemorable Labour Minister brezed by - and other than that nothing to report.

The greatest excitement of the day was finding out the John Grogan (MP for Selby) likes to do his shopping at Tesco Metro judging by his carrier bags. I wonder if he has ever launched a campaign against big supermarkets.........

Roll on Conference and roll on the return of Parliament.

Monday, September 05, 2005

New BBC poll puts Clarke as most popular

A new ICM poll done by BBCs Newsnight suggests that Ken Clarke would make the most popular leader by quite a margin. According to their research 40% said Clarke would make the best leader compared with 10% for the nearest challenger Ken Clarke.

Whilst this is interestimg it still doesn't tell the whole story. Ken has launched his campaign. Davis hasn't formally announced - and others like Cameron just wont be that well known with the public.

I wonder how many members of the public would have picked out Blair following John Smith's death. Probably not as many as we would imagine. I look forward to the BBC paying for a poll to see who would make the most popular replacement to Tony Blair. I suspect all of the Tory contenders would top the current premier in that opinion poll.

Davis concentrating on Home Office job

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis has commented that "it would not be a bad thing" if the proposed changes to the leadership were turned down. In contrast to some of the other likely contenders he still hasn't launched his leadership bid, preferring to concentrate on his Shadow Home Office brief.

According to Davis, "Until we actually get under way, with the leadership contest being called, I have got to focus on that first."

Spin Spin Spin

There was a fascinating article in the Sunday papers by Margarette Driscoll, about Anthony Seldon, The Headmaster of Brighton College, and political biographer. Apparently in an article he had mentione dthat there were tensions between Blair and Charles Clarke (well would you believe it!). As soon as the article was published Downing Street started briefing about how inaccurate the piece was even though Seldon had interviewed key people from No. !0 and even Government Ministers.

To me this highlights the fact that the New Labour project really doesn't like to accept any criticism. But do they think we are niaive? Are we really expected to believe there are no tensions between Ministers? That Tony and Gordon are best buddies? That already within the Labour party they are preparing for a handover to Brown which puts Blair in a weakened position?

Come on guys - we all know the power struggle taking place within New Labour is undoubtedly on a grander scale than that within the Conservativ party - and they are actually having a leadership election!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Leader to leave early?

I hope I wasn't the kiss of death posting my podcast with my question to Michael Howard in which he chats through his achievements during his leadership. Rumours have been gathering apace that there will be a story in Sunday's Mirror suggesting MH has threatened to quit in mid October if the new election rules are not settled by the time the party Conference takes place up in Blackpool.

Is this a scoop? Or just a silly season story?

Think tank calls for rethink of leadership rules

Below is a copy of the presss release followed by the letter that the New politics network have sent to members of the National Convention. Clearly the leadership rules are becoming more of a story than the actual election itself.

News Release: Think tank calls for Conservatives to rethink leadership rule

The leading think tank on political parties and widening participation has written an open letter to members of the National Convention of the Conservative Party calling for them to reject proposals to scrap the 'one member one vote' rules for electing the party's leader.
The New Politics Network has warned party activists that failing to do so could cast the party out into the political wilderness for a generation.

In his letter, Director of the Network Peter Facey writes:"If the membership is too narrow in its view, how can the solution be to give the final say over to an even narrower group? By restricting voting to just the Parliamentary Party, the next leader of the Conservative Party will be decided by a group that is overwhelmingly white, male and from the South of England. This will not be a leader who will be able to command authority across the UK. Whatever misgivings the party leadership may have about its members, they are certainly more representative of the country than the MPs."Peter Facey goes on to support former Party Chairman Theresa May's proposals to introduce US "primary" style elections for leader, involving Conservative supporting members of the public as well as members:"Imagine if a primary system had been in place now: instead of the Conservative Party spending months having a conversation with itself, the various leadership contenders would be traveling up and down the country outlining their ideas to the public at large. Instead of the debate focusing on what is good for the party, the debate would instead focus on what is good for the country. It would be a tool for inspiring and engaging with people and subsequently would help to recruit new generations of activists. The other political parties would be forced to quickly catch up."Ballot papers are being sent to members of the National Convention to vote on the proposed constitutional reform this week, with votes due in by the end of September.



Over the next few weeks, the Conservative Party will decide its future role in British Politics. At a time when multi-party politics has become a reality, the Conservative Party needs to decide whether it is serious about restoring its position as a party of the whole nation, or merely one with a particular focus in Southern England. Unfortunately, the present party leadership appears to have concluded that the problem with the party is its members, and what little decision-making role they presently have should be removed. In doing so, they are missing a major opportunity to reinvent the Conservative Party as a mainstream movement for the 21st century.

The New Politics Network has a long-term interest in political parties and participation. In 2003 we published "Broadening Participation: Thinking Beyond Party Membership," which included an article by the then Conservative Party Director of Campaigning and Organisation Stephen Gilbert.

In it, we proposed that far from moving away from One Member One Vote, political parties should be finding ways to further involve their supporters as well as members. We cited the Conservative Party's own pilot of running a primary for selecting their candidate (Fiona Bruce) in Warrington South. The party allowed all members of the public in that constituency to register as a supporter and gave them a vote in who the next constituency candidate should be. This is an exciting model that no other political party has thus far been prepared to experiment with.

The last General Election clearly demonstrated that British politics is becoming more local in focus. Candidates from all parties who were able to demonstrate a connection to the place they were hoping to represent did disproportionately better than candidates who were seen to put party before constituency concerns; the eras of tribal party loyalty is dead. All the major parties emphasised the need for decentralisation and localism in their manifestos. It is clear that the Conservative Party has a lot to gain by continuing to experiment with registered supporter schemes such as the one used in Warrington South. Instead however, moves are being made to further centralise candidate selection to unprecedented levels.

British politics has a massive image problem; people simply do not feel that politicians listen to ordinary voters. What kind of a signal did it send out to the general public when, before the last vote in the General Election had been fully counted, Michael Howard called for his party to roll up the drawbridge and scrap one member one vote?

There is a fundamental question at the heart of this debate: does the Conservative Party represent a mainstream view of the British public and thus a serious contender for government, or is it merely an inward-looking sect with dwindling appeal? If the party leadership is correct in its assertion that the membership is too narrow to select a leader who could win a general election, then the answer would appear to be the latter. Moreover, this is set to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: why in the future would anyone new wish to join the party once membership has become about little more than helping to fill the party's coffers and deliver its leaflets, with nothing in return?

It wasn't always like this. One member one vote was introduced by William Hague out of a recognition that the party needed to make itself more relevant to modern society. It was widely recognised then that the party needed to shed its image as an exclusive club.
It is a dangerous myth to assert that the party membership selected the wrong leader in 2001. Because of the selection rules, the membership was offered a choice of just two candidates by the Parliamentary Party, coming from completely different ends of the political spectrum. The obvious solution is to offer the membership more choice, not simply exclude them from the process.

If the membership is too narrow in its view, how can the solution be to give the final say over to an even narrower group? By restricting voting to just the Parliamentary Party, the next leader of the Conservative Party will be decided by a group that is overwhelmingly white, male and from the South of England. This will not be a leader who will be able to command authority across the UK. Whatever misgivings the party leadership may have about its members, they are certainly more representative of the country than the MPs.

Why is the party not instead discussing broadening participation? It is such a shame that the party centrally is failing to see the opportunity that they have been presented with. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have far more firmly engrained membership structures that are becoming increasingly hard to maintain as mass membership of political parties continues to decline. The Conservative Party by contrast has always been more fluid and less formal. It is perfectly placed to develop embrace more radical forms of mass participation. Theresa May is quite correct to talk of introducing a primary-style system to open up the leadership election to Conservative-supporting members of the public as well as members.

Imagine if a primary system had been in place now: instead of the Conservative Party spending months having a conversation with itself, the various leadership contenders would be traveling up and down the country outlining their ideas to the public at large. Instead of the debate focusing on what is good for the party, the debate would instead focus on what is good for the country. It would be a tool for inspiring and engaging with people and subsequently would help to recruit new generations of activists. The other political parties would be forced to quickly catch up.

While such a model is almost certainly impractical in the short term, abolishing the principle of one member one vote will mean that the party will have turned its back on any model of genuine mass participation in future. If the Party as a whole was currently engaged in less talk and more listening at the moment, it would quickly realise that agreeing to this constitutional change will deal it a mortal blow from which it will struggle to recover from for a generation. Although many will welcome this as advantageous to the Conservative Party's opponents in the short term, there can be no doubt that that will be bad for British democracy as a whole.
We urge the National Convention to vote down these proposals and to instead look to more radical solutions with a view to reinventing the Conservative Party as a modern, outward-looking mass movement in the longer term.

Yours sincerely,
Peter FaceyDirector, New Politics Network

Tony told - be tough!

Well that's seemingl the advice os some of his former advisers who have slated him for being unable to say No to the media. We've all seen the spin put out by this Government - and the intense obsessions with media managemnt - but in a article in The Independent which examines a BBC Radio 4 series, those closest to Blair finally admit that perhaps this obsession has gone a little too far.

Ex Head of research at No. 10 comments, "You can actually say 'no' to the media, and saying 'no' to the media, a bit more often, I thionk, would be no bad thing."

Go on Tony - say No - The hand of history may be upon you if you do.

Aitken backs Davis

In an interview with Epolitix ex Minister Jonathan Aitken criticises teh length of the leadership contest, saying it has led to something of a leadership vacuum.

Weighing up his options he comes down on teh side of David Davis - though I'm not sure how pleased any of the candidates would be in securing the backing of the disgraced former Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Mind you they all count don't they?

Telegraph comment.....

According to The Daily Telegraph:-

"Elections are won by party members and activists who must have not only the enthusiasm to do the leg-work but also the conviction to sway the undecided. A depleted and half-hearetd army of the snubbed and the disaffected, fighting for a leader in whose selection they had no real say, would be no match for the Lib Dems' wall-eyed fanatics, let alone Labour workers with incumbancy on their side."

I have said it before - any leader not only needs to re-engage with the electorate - but they also have the job of inspiring and motivating the activists. Surely a leadership election is a prime opportunity for the candidates to enthuse us to get on with the most important job of taking the fight to Labour.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Howard backs Sheppard!

Well he did say he was sorry I wasn't elected!

In a previous post I mentioned I had made my first podcast - well a trial version at least. Well I stumbled across somewhere where you can actually listen to it. I thought Michael was interesting on what he thought he achieved - plus he said nice things about me which I wont complain about!

I can't believe I sound that awful - but things can only get better. Actually I've had some professional recording produced so when I get up and running it will at least sound a bit better than as if it was recorded by a 12 year old (no offence to anyone of that age that's for sure).

The lesser spotted Kilroy

Also in the Telegraph fellow East Midlands MEP has promised a bottle of champagne to the first person to spot UKIP, no Veritas, no independent party of one MEP Kilroy in the East Midlands. I suspect this will be one prize going unclaimed.

Helmer responds to possibility of Clarke leadership

East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer responds to the possibility of a Ken Clarke leadership bid in todays Telegraph:-

Sir - So it's official - Ken Clarke is standing for the Tory leadership.Most of the Conservative activists I know simply will not work for a Clarke-led party. They will defect to Ukip. Or they will work for a non-party, anti-EU organisation, like the Democracy Movement. Or they will sit on their hands. Neil Kinnock is right. A Clarke leadership would split the party from top to bottom, leaving it unelectable for a generation.

Roger Helmer MEP (Con), Lutterworth, Leics

Roger can always be counted on to say it straight!
Top of the British Blogs Call me!