Monday, September 26, 2005

TORY LEADERSHIP 3: Who Am I Backing?

First rule of politics: never publicly back anyone for leaderhip in case they don't win; unless they are offering you something in return.

Since when did I ever obey the political rulebook?

So for anyone who is interested here is my current ranking (i.e. my preferred choices) of the party runners and riders:

1) David Cameron, because I think he is a breath fo fresh air and also precisely because he hasn't been in Parliament for yonks I think he would make afresh choice and a clear break with the past.
2) David Davis, because he has an almost unbroken track record of success in politics, firstly as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the 97-01 parliament, he was an excellent Party Chairman in 01-03 and since then ahs excelled himself as shadown foreign sec.
3) Liam Fox, because he has a brilliant 'bedside manner' because he was a first class chairman of the party, because he has premier league brainpower, and lastly because he is good on TV.
4) Er, I'm struggling a bit now. Theresa May would be good - she is moderate, articulate, female, intellegent and wily, but I think she would be outclassed by Blair/Brown.
5) Ken Clark, well I'd learn to live with him as leader, I expect. I agree that he would give us an immediate fillip in the polls and would stand up well to Brown, and I back most of his politics except on Europe where I am directly opposed to his kind of 'muddle along for the time-being' view of the EU.
6) Andrew Lansley. Nice bloke, and down to earth. I'd have a spring in my step if he won but I really don't have a clue what he'd be like as a leader.
7) Tim Yeo. See 6.
8) Rifkind. I put him last because he is bettered in almost every way by one or more of the other candidates.

Noticeably I am, in common with nearly every Tory member I know, not basing the decision on their political beliefs as we have been prone to do in the last few leadership elections, because I think the (vast majority) Party has come to a kind of Euro-sceptic, but socially inclusive 'one-nation' consensus on the best way forward. I think the 'drift to the right' during the last fortnight of the general Election campaign that coincided with a drift downwards of three points in our poll ratings was the final proof that it's good, new, centre policies we need if we are to win.

As I have already said, all the leaderhip contenders are saying so, in one form or another, so I am not going to be too fussed whatever the outcome as long as they all stick to their guns.

Friday, September 09, 2005

So who gets to be mayor of Torbay?

After the Conservatives decided last night to elect former mayor and existing councillor Nick Bye as our candidate many people are asking : will we be beaten by one of the grwoing number of independent candidates?

Could Sammy the Seagull steal the show?

Much has been made in the press, mainly through the Herald Express letters page, that voters want a 'non-political' person to win the mayoral contest. But why? Why do they say they want someone with no political experience to become Torbay's No 1 politician?

Would you, for instance want a 'non pilot' to be commanding the 747 you are due to fly on? Would you want to be operated on by someone 'not connected with the medical profession'?

So why doe people apparently seem so keen on a political freshman for Mayor?

The given reason is that the public have becme disillusioned with party politicians, somehow the Tories are to blame 'as well' because we had a three years stunt in 2000-2003 and therefore we are 'equally' culpable. This is unfair and incorrect. When we were in there was a real effort made to at least keep the streets clean, keep the flowerbeds full and keep the Bay's schools open and successful.

Just because the Lib dems have made such a mess of things why should so many letter writers blame 'all politicians' for the state of Torbay? During the 1970's and 1980's the bay was run exclusively by the Conservatives, and there was nowhere near the level of discontent and frustration with the council then. Sure, some poor planning decisions were made but by-and-large the only reason the Tories lost power was nothing to do with local issues, it was all about the poll tax and a very unpopular national Tory party losing out to a very vocal and politically active local Lib Dem party.

The fact is the minute anyone becomes elected to run Torbay they will have to become a politician in very short order. 'No political experience' will quickly equate to 'not a snowball in hells chance of changing anything' when the successful candidate finds themself facing a wall of opposition from the Lib Dems and council officers to any serious changes he or she wants to make.

If we end up with an ineffectual or powerless mayor we will be worse off than ever. The only choice will, in the end, boil down to between having a Conservative mayor who can command at least enough votes in the council to stop the Lib dems opposing what he wants, or a Lib dem mayor who can bulldose anything he wants through the chamber.

And that means the only way to change Torbay for the better on October 20th will be to vote for my colleague Nick Bye.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Leadership Contest - 2.

Sat and watched Newsnight last night with rising frustration. Of course Ken Clarke is picked by most people - he is the most familiar. Follow that line of thought and Ford would still be making the model T.

They ramble on about left wing and right wing contenders taking no account of the fact that modern politics is so much more complex. The old battleground of Left vs Right has long been blurred to obscurity.

But an interesting fact is being missed by all the main politcial commentators.

All of the expected candidates are echoing a step-change in our thinking that has already occurred. They are all campaigning -in one form or another- on the platform which we can call "Compassionate Conservativism".

There has been a quiet revolution amongst Conservatives who now accept that we are not just the Party that celebrates enterprise and economic success but also that we have obligations to the most vulnerable members of society.

Most Tories now accept the fact that a 'good society' is not just about creating wealth; tax cuts and free markets, it's about creating a successful civic community. This means finding answers to many of today's social problems such as youth crime, the breakdown of families, poor educational achievement, inter-cultural and religious tensions and above all the so-called 'dependancy culture' - as Governments have done more and more, individuals have had to do less and less and the result has been a massive loss of personal responsibility.

We believe that many of the solutions to these problems will not be found by ever more Government initiatives and new laws but by empowering the institutions of civil society: family, local community (including local councils, schools etc.), church and charity, which we believe have been progressively eroded by the State.

We want to restore a sense of civic duty and pride create a more 'neighbourly society’ in Britain, so that we can tackle our problems together and not just by leaving it to 'them' ('Them' being the Police, Social Services or indeed, the Government).

Often evolutionary change is only visible in retrospect. I think that the Conservative Party has already changed, we have found a new ethos and a new destiny.

All we need to do is choose the leader who can convey it best.