Archive 2003

Archive 2003

At the end of October, 90 Conservative Members of Parliament, realising that under an ineffective leadership our Party was on the road to nowhere, decided to end Iain Duncan Smith’s two year term in office. In doing so, and having risked everything, they gave us new hope and a chance to once again become a serious force on the centre right of politics.
The unopposed election of Michael Howard has shown that all sections of the Party will untie around a plausible candidate who has presence and who can be seen as a potential Prime Minister. And to have served in the Cabinet as Environment Secretary, Employment Secretary and Home Secretary under two different Prime Ministers is a great advantage.
Some of our Party workers and Members will complain over lack of consultation with the grass roots in the election of Michael Howard. They have a point. But surely they don’t want a repeat of the fiasco of August/September 2001 when both Iain Duncan Smith and Kenneth Clarke went on the ballot paper, both with only one third support from Members of Parliament? And at the time of the September/October crisis it led Iain Duncan Smith to claim he had the support of 320,000 Party members when only 80% of us voted and of those 39% backed Kenneth Clarke. Yes, there is a rule for Party members to play but at the end of the day the Party with most MPs forms the Government and that Government has to have the MPs support to get its legislation through Parliament. Party members will always vote for someone who they think shares their own opinions. Members of Parliament will look at the broader picture, not least to their own prospects of re-election. This surely led them to ‘ditch’ IDS – and the latest opinion polls showing a marked decline in support for the Liberal Democrats means that there is much less likelihood of them losing to the ‘yellow peril’.
Our opponents have labelled Michael Howard as an extreme right winger quoting in particular his time as Home Secretary when he made the famous statement: "Prison works". In view of some of David Blunkett’s recent statements, I would say that they make Michael Howard seem like a prissy Liberal. And in 18 years of Government, from 1979 to 1997, out of seven Home Secretaries in the Thatcher/Major administrations, David Waddington is the only other one who could be said to be on the right of the Party. And as far as capital punishment is concerned, Parliament will never vote to restore the death penalty. It is a ‘dead duck’ and we should spend our time on other more important things. (Pace, David Davis!)
IDS deserves credit for getting the Party to focus on things such as Health and Education and the policy statements produced in Blackpool are an attempt to offer a different solution to the decades old notion that only the corporate state can provide such services, financed out of general taxation. Just as Margaret Thatcher took on the vested interests in the early 1980’s, so too will the next Conservative Government, whether it is in 2006 or 2011, have to face similar challenges.
The Community Charge on ‘Poll Tax’ of the early 1990’s failed because it was a fixed charge and bore no relationship to a person’s ability to pay. Yet the principle that everyone who has use of services provided by the local authority should contribute towards the cost was surely right. We now have the situation where the Government is cutting its grant to shire (and mainly Tory voting) councils who are being forced to raise the Council Tax by anything between 5% and 15%, when inflation is about 2.5%. And if Local Government finances is in a mess what about higher education and the Government’s proposals to charge each student up to £3,000 in tuition fees? For main stream Labour supporters, the answer is simple. Because the universities are funded primarily out of taxation, the Government has the right to determine who goes there and if to get 50% or pupils into higher education it means social engineering and ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses, then so be it. The logic of all this is to stamp out failure by whatever means.
We know, for instance, that a degree in nursing is now the requisite for a good job in the profession and so we have the absurd situation where 21 or 22 year olds know everything in theory but lack the practical skills that are necessary, ones which would have been taken for granted 20 or 30 years ago.
Similarly, in my own profession – accountancy – none of the bigger firms will take3 you on unless you have a university degree, although not necessarily in accountancy, economics or mathematics. The days of five ‘O’ levels and five years Articles or Clerkship (alternatively two ‘A’ levels are four year Articles) are long gone. And many of those who do become Chartered or Certified Accountants have passed the exams (admittedly difficult) knowing all the theory but having little practical experience other than going out on long and sometimes complex audits of large companies. Yet some of our finest industrialists, such as Sir Nigel Rudd, left school at 16, worked hard and obtained their ‘chartered’ qualification without spending three or four years at university.
Some will say it is sour grapes on my part in that I am deriding the achievements of those who go to university simple because I do not have a degree. Looking back 35 years later, I can say that had I gone straight from school into an accountancy practice ( having gained the two '‘'’levels required in the right subjects) I would have been much happier and probably got the Chartered examinations as I would have been ‘examination minded’ all the time. As it was, illness prevented me from going into practice until I was 24 (five years after my ‘A’ levels) and I had lost my examination touch. And I know that even with my limited knowledge, I am much happier preparing accounts than I would have been as a B.A. teaching French or Russian to schoolchildren.
What are we to make of the Government’s latest wheeze? It now wants to consult us, the general public, about major policy issues and where we think it may be going wrong. Like much else about this Government, it is a gimmick, just as the ill fated annual reports on Great Britain plc were. If Tony Blair wants to know what’s going on he should spend a bit more time in the chamber of the House of Commons. MPs grievances, voiced in behalf of their constituents, are the answer – not some remote E-mail which will be buried with all the others.
But 6 ½ years in office have taken their toll and Blair no longer has that confident, all embracing "I’m a nice guy" look which reaped dividends in May 1997. We know he has a heart murmur and recently suffered stomach pains. He is pale, haggard and obviously ahs too little sleep (hardly surprising with a three year old son to keep you awake). He committed British troops to a seemingly unending war in Iraq, faced an enquiry into the death of a senior civil servant, has had his foundation hospitals scheme scuppered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and faces a revolt of nearly 150 Labour MP’s over university tuition fees. For a Government and a Prime Minister which enjoyed a four year honeymoon with the electorate (the longest in living memory) the last 8 months must have been a nightmare.
When once asked what might drive a Government off course, Harold Macmillan replied "Event, dear boy, events." How true this is.
It seems to me that our Party’s biggest failure has been to try and mimic Tony Blair in what I call "me tooism". Of course, as time change and attitudes alter we, as a Party, must move with them. But , unlike Blair who had to ditch his Party’s commitment to Clause 4 (nationalisation etc.), our core message remains the same – less Government intervention, greater opportunities for people to provide for themselves and their families, strong defence, a social security system that provides for the truly needy, and total opposition to the idea that a European super state of 30 nations, each with their own difficulties and problems, will bring security and economic stability. And we should be banging the drum for the reform of the taxation system where more and more people on fairly on its own pet projects.
Government spending is like a Leviathan – the more you give it, the more it wants.
‘The third way’, ‘Blairism’, ‘new Labour’, - whatever you like to call it, will run its course and have its day. When Blair eventually leaves office he may be remembered more for his foreign affairs exploits (who was the last Prime Minister to lead us into five wars?) than for his domestic policies and the massive increases in public spending. He and his Chancellor have presided over an increase in welfare dependency and have confirmed that when the chips are down, Labour will always conclude that the Government, supposedly acting on behalf of the whole nation, really knows what is best for you.
We have a mountain to climb at the next General Election. It would take a ‘swing’ of over 10% to give us an overall majority of one. But many Labour held seats are vulnerably on ‘swings’, much smaller than this. We should also be able to recapture seats lost over two General Elections to the Liberal Democrats. Under Michael Howard’s leadership I am confident that we can make serious in-roads into Labour’s large majority and show, once again, that we can rise like a phoenix from the ashes, and, as I said at the beginning, become a commanding force on the centre right of British politics.
December 21st
The Honours List
The "Sunday Times" is exploding the myths about the Honours list.   We now know what a disgraceful process  the choosing of people for an honour has become.   They have exposed the luvvies of Tony Bliar but in one area they have been silent.   That area needs exposing like the others.   It is "political honours".   Why hasn't the "Sunday Times" listed those that have turned down a political honour?    Why haven't they shown the deliberations about political honours?    Why haven't they shown the workings on the committee on members of the House of Lords?   After all they have gone back quite a few years.   Is it that it would be explosive?   Do they have the nerve or is it that they just do not know?   I think we should be told.
The Ashcroft Takeover
We hear that Central Office are becoming increasingly concerned about the strings that attach to Lord Ashcroft's donation to help marginal constituencies.   Once a donor starts telling you what you can or cannot do with his money where does it end?   Is a donation attached to policy acceptable?   If there is a difference between Lord Ashcroft and Central Office as to which constituencies should get the money whose view prevails?    How do constituencies qualify?   I think we should be told precisely how this scheme will operate.

December 14th
Lord Hesketh
Lord Hesketh has been appointed as the Chairman of the Conservative Party Foundation, an appointment that we welcome (see above).    However before he starts spouting off about Tory finances he really ought to understand them.   In a radio interview with Peter Obourne he denigrated State Funding of political Parties in spite of the fact that the Tory Party has received over £12 million from the State in the last three years.   Do not bite the hand that feeds you.   Of course the Tory hierarchy are afraid of State Funding because sooner or later the Electoral Commission will demand accountability for the funds rather than just handing them over to the oligarchy that controls the party.
He then went on to say that State Funding was not that important because the Constituency Associations raise about £40 million a year.   He is living in cloud cuckoo land if he believes that.    Of the 650 Constituencies about 150 have no organisation at all.    That leaves the other 500 to raise the £40 million i.e. £80,000 each.    Would it were so.   Only a few Constituencies have an average membership fee of over £25.00 but let us imagine that they all did.   With 300,000 members (on the high side) that would bring in £7.5 million.   The best constituencies raise as much in their fund raising as they raise in membership.    In other words another £7.5 million, making a grand total of £15 million.    Somewhat short of the £40 million Lord Hesketh boasts about.
My granny used to say "Keep your head cool, your feet warm, your bowels open and your mouth shut.   Good advice Lord Hesketh until you know what you are talking about.

December 7th
Prescott prepares for Leadership Challenge
The challenge for the Leadership of the Labour Party is developing.   It has been dominated recently by Gordon Brown.   One name that never gets a mention is that of "Fighting" John Prescott.   Some say that this is because he never shows any Leadership qualities.   All this is about to change.
Tucked away in "Personnel Today" this week is an advertisement from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.    The ODPM wish to appoint consultants to provide a coach to the Permanent Secretary and the ODPM Board (member John Prescott?).   Expressions of interest are sought from potential service providers, with expertise in being coaches and guides to leaders in organisations that are undergoing change, to participate in a six month contract.   The successful provider will work with the ODPM Permanent Secretary and Management Board to draw out their leadership abilities!.
The date of the Contract award is intended to be 19th December 2003.
So now we know.   Dear John is expecting a leadership challenge in January and he needs all the coaching he can get if he is to be successful, hence the requirement for a very early appointment - these appointments usually take months to settle - but Johnny boy cannot wait that long.    This super loyal servant of Tony Bliar is about to stick the knife in.

 Democracy Assassinated 
Let no one forget that it was Conservative Party Members who chose Iain
Duncan Smith. They chose him because they trusted him and agreed with his
policies. They rejected Ken Clarke.

And yet now, after the palace coup, which brought to an end the orchestrated
media assassination of Iain Duncan Smith, and installed Michael Howard, the
policies of Ken Clarke, which two years ago were the ones rejected by the
Membership, are now the ones in the ascendant.

Michael Portillo's treachery started the process. David Davis massive ego
played its part, but the minority pro-EU faction of the Conservative Party
could never have been put back into the driving seat were it not for the
determination to orchestrate events on the part of Rupert Murdoch. The
Editors of the Sun and the Times were crying for Duncan Smith's head in
person, the day before he fell.

Normally Murdoch moves in silence promising clandestinely to influence
voters, thereby gaining TV channels and newspaper titles, as the price for
his support. But this week he has for once exposed himself to the glare of
publicity, and given us a snippet of what his recent involvement in the
democratic process may have been all about.

The EU, it seems is no problem to him when itýs all running his way. Both
Blair and the EU have rewarded him with many goodies for his unstinting
support  including almost the whole of UK satellite TV  and a good chunk
of Italian. He is still hoping he may get his hands on terrestrial TV in
the UK, as Blair has recently changed the rules so he can.

So why is he opening up now when heýs been doing so well? The answer is
Mario Monti the EU Competition Commissioner. Monti does not seem to
understand the power relationship that Murdoch has habitually achieved and
come to expect. The Murdoch view is if the EU back him and let him dominate
world football, and through that world TV, he will back their political
It seems, however that the EU is thinking of putting a spoke in his wheel by
blocking his monopoly of the Football Premier League. Murdoch is not happy.

As far as the EU is concerned, the big prize is and always has been the UK.
Britain's sublimation into a Federal EU is the only goal they have, and if
they can land the UK in one piece, then the rewards will fly. Blair has
been promised the EU Presidency. Mandelson Commissioner. There are rumours
about Portillo.

The problem for Murdoch is that with the UK in the bag, or being seen to be
close to being in the bag, as it is now, there is little he can offer the EU
as a trade for the privileges he wishes to hold on to and add to. He is
beginning to reach the end of his usefulness. Worse than that, he is
starting to realise that the EU intend to use the power he has delivered
into their hands, not only to not reward him as he hoped but actually to
start cutting him back. This awareness could well be behind his recent
moves in the UK.

Murdoch's problem was that with Iain Duncan Smith holding sway in the
Conservatives, he could achieve no leverage with the EU. If he started
supporting IDS programme to change the EU into a free trading area, that
would be seen by the EU as a declaration of war, and they would go after
him. With IDS leading the Conservatives, he only had the option of
continuing to support Blair, and hoping for the best.

But with a Conservative Party split at the top between the Duncan Smith
wing, and the pro-EU faction, he could achieve some leverage again by
working to keep the pro-EU faction in the ascendant, seeking his reward from
EU decision-makers accordingly  and occasionally allowing the anti-EU wing
some headway to keep the EU power-brokers on their toes. This is exactly
the situation he has coincidentally achieved.

Now Michael Howard may be the cleverest political player of all time, and be
able to ride successfully through this almighty mess. We will have to wait
and see.

But in every event, Murdoch has grossly interfered with the democratic
process. His power is far too great, and he is personally putting Britainýs
existence at risk purely to advance his own business interests.

When you read the papers or watch TV, please now read or watch twice. The
first time believe and trust, like you used to do. But the second time,
remember who is behind what is being said or written, and think how what
they are saying might be assisting their aims. You owe it to yourself and

Henry Curteis 2003-11-15

Subject: who killed ids and what next?
Henry Curteis
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003
The last few weeks of IDS reign as Conservative leader were an assassination, not in the real sense of a Kennedy, but in that of a Kelly.  His character was assassinated by daily attacks in the media on his probity, his judgement, his speaking ability, his ability to manage people, his niceness and so on, until there was nothing left.
The majority of Conservatives had left Blackpool very pleased with the party's progress. After being 20% behind two years ago they were now nudging a 5% lead.  The policy stall was being laid out most convincingly, and Duncan Smith's Conference speech had caused many members of the public to start taking notice of him.  48% said they trusted him against Blair's 36%.
There were, however a few MPs like Maude who had never accepted that Duncan Smith had won the leadership, let alone accept that he be permitted to become Prime Minister.   Media reports often made out that Duncan Smith had only won because of Party Membership backing him against Clarke over Europe.What they seemed to forget was that he had also beaten Portillo in the Parliamentary round, were it only narrowly.
Football players accept that a narrow victory is still a victory, but the Portillo faction doesn't see things that way.  Portillo was, according to Amanda Platell openly disloyal to William Hague during the General Election campaign of 2001.  He had been disloyal to John Major prior to that, and he has been openly disloyal to Iain Duncan Smith continuously for the two years of his leadership taking a key role in his downfall.
The media previously ruled by Campbell and latterly managed by Mandelson saw their opportunity to wreck the Conservatives progress using the Portillo faction's disloyalty.    The BBC were well aware of the need to rebuild favour with the Government after their fall-out over Iraq and the Kelly affair. They are expecting an enquiry into their future.  By co-operating with the assassination of Duncan Smith, which was much to their tastes of course, they could rebuild position with the government.  Murdoch has a long-standing deal with the Blair regime, whereby his support at critical moments is rewarded.   The Sun and the Times indeed, were right at the forefront of the IDS assassination. The Mail tried to run against the tide, but the waters were too strong.   With Charles Moore, the fair-minded Daily Telegraph Editor retiring the week of the Conservative Party conference, Iain Duncan Smith was left media-defenceless.
The coup was planned in advance, and Michael Howard was being trailed as the Duncan Smith replacement well before the Party Conference.  The Independent had even suggested who would have which posts in Howard's Shadow Cabinet.  David Frost too had suggested to Michael Howard on his Sunday Breakfast show that he would be the natural person to take the Conservative lead weeks ago.  The media involvement in the plot to remove IDS was hardly hidden from view, and without it, IDS would almost certainly have survived.

That said, it can fairly be stated that the Conservative Party leadership was decided as much by Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair as it was by Conservatives.  Why though were his political opponents in the Government so keen to get rid of him if he was supposedly so lacking in ability?  First of all, Iain was keen to tell the nation the truth about Blair.  Blair set up the Kelly enquiry to provide himself with a fig leaf.   He then lied outright to his own enquiry.  In normal times, when the media is not so tightly controlled, such an event should lead directly to the resignation of the PM.
The fact that Blair lied, however has been consigned to the footnotes of most newspapers, and has hardly been mentioned on TV at all.  IDS was sure that this was wrong and wished to expose Blair as a liar.  His message was beginning to get across.

Blair wants to sign the EU Constitution without a referendum. Duncan Smith was equally sure this was wrong, and he was determined to exact political capital against Blair for depriving the British people of their democratic rights.  It has yet to be seen whether Michael Howard has the strength or the will to continue attacking Blair when he knows the terrible revenge that will be exacted in the media if he does.  Duncan Smith had the courage, and he hoped that Conservative MPs would have the stomach for the battle.  Not enough of them did.

It is unlikely that the likes of Michael Portillo, a close friend of Peter Mandelson will have any interest at all in attacking Blair.  It is more likely he will continue his disloyalty to his own party and get his pay-off with more soft exposure in the media, acquired through his contacts with the likes of Mandelson, fulfilling his own career at the expense of those he claims to represent.
We will see in the weeks ahead of course.  But the Duncan Smith assassination might well have been the moment that Britain lost her best chance to continue as an independent country. A mere eight Conservative MPs could have saved the situation but preferred to hide away from the Blair counter-attack exploding daily in the media.  The public had enough sense to see that the attacks were being overdone, and were suspicious of some new line of spin at play.   But without the required strength in Conservative MPs to fight back, Duncan Smith became isolated.  He was gunned down like Col H Jones at Goose Green running solo towards machine gun nests with half his troops still in their foxholes.
If the Parliamentary Party wants to pull up the White Flag, and trade with Blair and Mandelson in exchange for protection from the media, the Party Membership must decide if they too want to surrender for the quiet life.  If not they must start by deselecting MPs who are working for the other side.   Michael Portillo would be target number1.Have you got any fight in you?  Only time will tell.
November 30th
Rumbling discontent
Ever since Michael Howard took over there has been a remarkable transformation in the Conservative Party.   It is united.    Nevertheless there is still some rumbling discontent over an e mail that was sent out by Theresa May MP and Raymond Monbiot on 30th October.   It opened as follows:
"Dear Colleague,
We are sure you share both our disappointment at the result of yesterday's vote of confidence amongst Conservative MPs in Iain Duncan Smith's leadership of the Party and our admiration for the way in which Iain has conducted himself during what has been a very difficult period for the whole Party but particularly for Iain and his family."
Everybody will join in their admiration but many members thought that at that stage of the proceedings neutrality was called for from the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Party.
On a positive note COPOV were grateful to Raymond Monbiot for letting them know the intentions of the Party Board.    That was good communication and although we disagreed with their action we are sure Raymond fought for the Party members interests against overwhelmimg odds.
Big Donors
Andrew Pearce of "The Times" seems to have an inside track at Central Office when it comes to financial matters.   When he speaks there is usually something in it.   There was an interesting paragraph in his article written with Tom Baldwin on 29 November.    I quote:
   "Although the Tories' financial position has improved since Mr. Howard became leader, with donor and membership income rising, they are still desperately short of cash.   This is reflected by plans to use nomination rights for a forthcoming list of new peers as a way of rewarding or encouraging some of its biggest benefactors."
So can we expect peerages for Stuart Wheeler, Sir Stanley Kalms, George Megan, John Majeski?   Any other nominees?  
When will the Electoral Commission act to prevent big donors buying influence in political parties.    Labour does it with Trade Union Leaders and the Conservatives with Businessmen.   It is time ther was a limit put on donations.

November 23rd
Party Membership
It was announced this week that since Michael Howard Became the Leader of the Conservative Party 6,000 new members have been recruited.   We welcome this, because the future of the Conservative Party is dependant on it being a mass membership organisation.   There are those that think that the days of Party membership are over.   They are not, and the first Party to recognise this will gather huge electoral benefit.   On its own admission the Conservative Party has lost 30,000 members in the last two years.    This trend has to be reversed.   The figures are probably higher but no one knows precisely because the membership records in many constituencies are in a mess.   When Central Office want a figure from the constituency for the purposes of calculating their capitation fee they are given one figure.   When it comes to a vote on the Leader of the Party another figure is given.   This is ludicrous.
A priority for the Party should be National membership records accessible to the Constituency Associations which are updated on line so the records in the Constituency and at Central Office are identical.   There is much data on the electorate which is held in the Constituency or in Central Office which is wasted because of the different records.    It is time to pull all this together.   Our opponents are doing so.    Action this day!
Agricultural Subsidies: What it costs British consumers to keep the third world poor
On 10 September WTO countries met at Cancun in Mexico to further the Doha round of trade talks.
Policy Exchange published a scorecard showing the extent and cost of agricultural subsidies in the first-world.
Today, the rich world protects its farmers with a costly and counter-productive system of trade restrictions and subsidies. As their scorecard shows:
EU consumers currently pay 42% more for agricultural products than they would if the system were dismantled. Americans pay 10% extra, Japanese more than twice as much. For less well-off families, for whom food takes up a large proportion of household income, freer trade would mean a noticeably higher standard of living.
Each EU cow gets $600 of taxpayers’ and consumers’ money each year, each EU farm worker over $9,000. As with miners and steelworkers two decades ago, the money could be better spent retraining farmers for new, economically productive jobs.
Worse, farm subsidies devastate the world’s poor. Whereas farming makes up only 2% of the European and American economies, and employs less than 5% of their workforces, it is vital to those of less industrialised countries.
Of the 900m people in the world currently living on less than $1 a day, over three-quarters are small farmers. First-world import tariffs prevent them from selling their produce abroad, while export and production subsidies flood their home markets with artificially low-priced farm goods. The system makes it profitable to grow sugar-beet in snowy Finland, while Caribbean sugarcane growers struggle to survive.
The World Bank estimates that scrapping the current subsidy system would boost global agricultural production by 17%, and third-world rural incomes by a total $60 billion a year.
Today’s trade and subsidy regime impoverishes third world peasants and first world shoppers and taxpayers, to the sole benefit of a few rich-country farmers. Cancun is a chance not to be missed.
The scorecard can be viewed on their website at If you have any questions or wish to give feedback, please contact Anna Reid, Research Director at Policy Exchange on  0207 340 2650.

November 16th
Fiona Bruce selected Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, or was she?
We understand that whilst Chairman of the Conservative Party Theresa May wrote to each constituency Association just prior to them selecting their parliamentary candidate setting out the various options they had. (If anybody has a copy of the letter we would be interested to see it).   Amongst the options put forward was a Primary style selection.   Warrington South have just conducted such a Primary.    Any voter regardless of Party could register with the Association and participate in the selection.   The list the Association had was reduced in the normal way by interview down to three who were then allowed to campaign without spending any money until the selection meeting.
We do not object to genuine Primary elections except that one of the requirements should be that any Conservative candidate can stand.   This did not happen in this case.   Also in a Primary the voters should have to register as Conservatives.   Why should the selection process be distorted by allowing Labour and Lib Dem supporters to participate.    You could end up not with a Conservative but a hybrid.   After all it is a Conservative government that the electors are voting for not a hybrid.    However for this type of primary to take place the constitution of the Conservative Party will have to be changed.
The Constitution states quite clearly that in the selection of parliamentary candidates
Rule 15.2.4    The Chairman of the Association shall convene a General meeting of the Association which shall select the Prospective Parliamentary candidate.
It would appear that in Warrington South this has not happened and with the connivance of the former Party Chairman, so Fiona Bruce may think she is the candidate but until the General Meeting she isn't.   Not a very satisfactory state of affairs.   It is what happens when Party Chairmen ignore their own constitution.
Ashcroft take over?.
It is reported that Lord Ashcroft has set up a fund of two million pounds to help the Conservative Party in the marginal seats.    The Fund will be run by Stephen Gilbert the former Director of Organisation at Central Office.   There is no doubt that money in the constituencies should be spent more wisely than at Central Office because at least in the Constituency Associations there is an elected Treasurer who is accountable to the membership.    We do however have some reservations about this scheme.   The Constituencies have to bid for the money presumably by putting forward their case.    The question that has to be raised is who takes the decision on which Constituencies get the money and how much?   If that person is Stephen Gilbert or a committee set up by Lord Ashcroft then we have no reservations, but if it is Lord Ashcroft that takes the decision then we strongly object.   It would be a dangerous precedent if a donor of funds to the Party could attach strings as to how those funds are spent except in the most general way.   This issue should be clarified.
More on the Leadership
Only one e mail has been received by COPOV criticising the stance we took.   In the interest of fairness we publish it below together with our reply.
Mr Strafford
As a member of the party I do wonder whether you wish to get behind the leadership, duly elected via the rules of the party, or whether you wish for some form of "coup d'etat"?
You cannot describe the rules as being undemocratic when clearly they have been followed.
The key issue is to remove this disastrous labour regime before it destroys the fabric of our country and our society - this can only be done by supporting the party, discussing our differences and moving forward - not sniping and griping.
On the issue of democracy I also wonder who elected you spokesman on behalf of the membership and what polling of the membership, formal not anecdotal, you have performed before airing your views to the BBC.
We need to be together, not fighting each othe. Surely that is clear, it is certainly clear to our elected members all of whom of course will be subject to scrutiny by their constituency parties before standing at the next election.
For the sake of the country please desist from this constant back biting
Yours sincerely
Andrew Deveney
Walnut Tree Cottage
Back Road
Suffolk IP10 0QR
Dear Mr. Deveney,
Thank you for your e mail of 7 November.   I have received many e mails and
letters in support of the stand I took regarding the Leadership, but yours
was the only critical one I received.   I will therefore try to answer your
points in full.

    I have no wish for some form of "coup d'etat".    Indeed all my actions
have been to try to prevent this from happening.

    Just because rules are followed does not mean that they are democratic.
Stalin's Russia had rules but nobody would describe it as democratic.
Democracy is a process by which you determine the will of the majority.
Accountability is an essential element in that process.   Iain Duncan Smith
was elected by a majority of Conservative Party members.   It should be
those members to whom he is accountable and it should be up to a majority of
those members to determine whether or not he should be replaced and if so by
whom,   That is democracy.

    I agree that one of the key issues is to remove this disastrous Labour
regime before it destroys the fabric of our country.   We have played our
part in trying to do that.   We were the first body to call for a referendum
on the proposed Constitution for Europe.   I wrote a letter published in
"The Times" in August 2002 calling for a referendum and we then pressed
Michael Ancram MP to adopt this as Party policy, which in due course he did.

    I was elected Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy at its
Annual General Meeting.   In order to be a member of the Campaign you have
to be a paid up member of the Conservative Party.   The members can get rid
of me if I do not reflect their views.   Unlike the Chairman of the
Conservative Party who is appointed and therefore not electable or
accountable to the members of the Party.   In addition to which the
Conservative Party has no Annual General Meeting.

    The Campaign for Conservative Democracy has many achievements
progressing democracy not only in the Conservative Party but in the wider
society.   Indeed were it not for the Campaign it is unlikely that the
Conservative Party would have a Constitution at all.   It was only after we
campaigned for it that a Constitution was adopted in 1998.

    We will continue to campaign even if on occasions we upset someone like
yourself.   However I do hope that you now understand our position a little

Yours faithfully

John E. Strafford

9th November
The First Broken Promise
Prior to his election as Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard said that he wanted the decision to go to the members of the Party for ratification.   Raymond Monbiot (Chairman of the National Convention, and Don Porter (President of the National Convention) both publicly said it would go to the members for ratification under the Party's Constitution.   This states that "In the event of there being only one valid nomination........ the nominee may if so ordered by the Board be ratified by a ballot of the Party Members.... to be held within one month of the close of nomination."   It was reasonable for Party members to believe that this would happen, but it hasn't.   Instead it was decided that Central Office would telephone Constituency Chairman and ask for their views after they had consulted with their Branch Chairmen.   I wonder what they would say!
We are told that the reason for this limited consultation was the cost of contacting the membership.This argument might hold water except for the fact that within the next couple of weeks Michael Howard will be writing to all party members asking them for money.   In which case why couldn't a ballot paper be put in the envelope also?   In this modern age ballots could be done by telephone or the internet at minimal cost.   You could even make a profit on the exercise.   So the cost is an excuse, not a reason.   Why is the Party afraid of going to the membership?
Two years ago in the election of Iain Duncan Smith we saw that Party membership was 330,000.   The Party now talks of 300,000 members but I have never heard of any Party spokesman do anything but overestimate the size of the membership, so we can safely assume that membership is about 275,000.    In other words we have lost 55,000 members in the last two years, nearly 20% of our membership.   It might be worse, but with no ratification we will never know.   Of course, the other aspect of this is that we would know how many members voted for Michael Howard.   In view of the way they have been treated it is thought that many would abstain.   How embarrassing this would be for the new Leader.   So to avoid all this what do we do?   Scrap the ratification.   It is sad that the first action of the Party under its new Leader is to break its promise.   Not a word of comfort to the members about improving democracy in the Party.   To the contrary it is back to the bad old days.   Until the culture of the Party changes we will continue to stumble along.   Do we have to wait for another election defeat before we change?
As Michael Howard attacks the Labour Party for destroying democracy in our constitution what will he say when it is pointed out that in his own organisation they do not practise democracy?
A Democratic Country?
Hereditary Peers By-Election Result
Nominations for the by-election to replace Lord Milner of Leeds closed on
24 October.
11 candidates registered to stand for election, as follows:
Lord Biddulph
The Earl of Carlisle
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
Lord Grantchester
Lord Hacking
Viscount Hanworth
Lord HolmPatrick
The Earl of Kimberley
Lord Monkswell
Viscount Samuel
Lord Vaux of Harrowden
The result was announced by the Clerk of the Parliaments in the House at 3
pm on Thursday 30 October 2003.
Three votes were cast. Lord Grantchester received two first-preference
votes and Viscount Hanworth one. Lord Grantchester was therefore the
successful candidate.

2nd November
The Big Stitch Up
It looks increasingly likely that Michael Howard will be the only candidate for the Leadership of the Conservative Party.    Although 156,000 members of the Party voted for Ian Duncan Smith 8 members, who happen to be MPs, got rid of him.   This makes a mockery of democracy.   It is the big stitch up.  
Under the Party's constitution where there is only one candidate, if so ordered by the Party Board that candidate will be put to the membership for ratification.   We have campaigned for this to happen and it looks as if it will.   Two members of the Party Board - Raymond Monbiot and Don Porter - have said they will ensure that this happens.   Michael Howard is also in favour.   This will be the only opportunity for Party members to express their disgust at the goings on.  
We do not object to only one candidate and would therefore not wish to undermine Michael Howard but we will request an undertaking that he will take steps to make the Party more democratic and in particular alter the Leadership election rules.   Should no undertaking be forthcoming we will recommend to the party members that they abstain in the ratification.
Candidate Selection
There have been concerns raised about the process of selecting parliamentary candidates.   We are unable to ascertain whether any of the rumours are true or not.   If anyone has recently participated in a Constituency candidate selection we would be grateful if they would answer the following questions.   Any replies will be treated in the utmost confidence and no individual constituency will be identified.
i) Are associations being sent every applicant's CV or only those whom CCO wishes to see interviewed?   If so are associations notified of the existence of other applicants?   Are their CVs submitted on request and in a timely fashion?
ii) Is CCO submitting constituency profiles? Are these designed to promote some categories of candidate over others? Are they produced by CCO or by independent sources?
iii) Has a high official of the Party (the Chairman, a Deputy or Vice-Chairman etc) visited an association? What have they said? Do they present the profile? Have there been explicit appeals to select certain types of candidates?   Have ACDs and agents echoed these appeals?
iv) Are members of selection committees being stopped from seeing CVs before they meet together? Are they being prevented from discussing CVs? If so, who's doing the stopping and on what grounds?
v) How many associations have opted for primaries, postal ballots, non-member involvement etc? What difficulties/advantages have arisen?
vi) Are candidates being 'parachuted' into general meetings without going through previous rounds?
vii) Is there any firm evidence of a "gold list" of preferred candidates?    What are the criteria for inclusion?
viii) Is there any other aspect of the selection process that has concerned associations?
The United Nations
The United Nations has 14 peace keeping operations going on around the world.   The nation providing the most troops for these operations is Bangladesh.   Makes you think!
October 26th
Election of Leader - the process
There are two major faults in the process for the Leadership election.    First of all the MPs decide who to put forward to the membership.    They decide on the basis of personal benefit.   This should cease.    All validly nominated candidates with 15% of the electoral college should go forward to the members for election.   When voting the members should put the candidates in their order of preference.   The candidate with the lowest vote drops out and their votes are then spread to their second choice.   This process continues until such time as a candidate has more than 50% of the votes.   He or she is then declared Leader.
The second major fault is that the members elect the Leader but the MPs have the right at any time to reject the Leader.   This means that once elected the Leader is never again voted on by the members.   It means that there is no democratic accountability.   Those that elect the Leader should have the ability to reject him or her.   One big advantage of this is that the Leader would pay more attention to the members.   The solution is as follows:
            The Leader should be elected for one year as is normal in other positions.
            The nominating college for an election should consist of the Conservative Members of Parliament,   Members of the House of Lords and Members of the European Parliament .    If any fifty of this body request an election by August 31st in any year nominations would be invited  by September 15th.    Any candidate would have to be nominated by 15% of the above body.    The Leader would automatically go forward.   If there are other candidates then there would be an election involving the whole membership with the closing date being the Saturday prior to the Party Conference.    Voting could be done by the internet or telephone.   The result would be declared on the Sunday prior to the Conference.
Were the above to be adopted we would stop once and for all the year long speculation about the Leadership,   It would be more democratic and it would ensure that the Leader was democratically accountable to the membership.    Everybody benefits.
Election of the Leader
At the time of the last Leadership election there was a move to change the rules of election so that any candidate who received 15% of the votes of MPs should go forward to the whole party membership.   This change was almost passed by the Party Board, but at the last moment the Chairman of the 1922 Committee said that they could not change the rules once the contest had started.    Let them change the rules now before any contest is announced
There is considerable support and activity at a high level in the Party for this rule change to be implemented   It should be done forthwith.
IDS correction
IDS keeps saying that 330,000 members of the Party voted for him in the Leadership election.   Not so.   The total membership of the Party at the time of the election was 329,650.   The total number of votes cast in the election was 256,797 and a few of those did go to Ken Clarke didn't they?
Electoral Commission at the Party Conference
A well attended meeting at the Party Conference was that held by the Electoral Commission on the State Funding of political parties.   In attendance was Lord Ashcroft who made a plea for the rules on overseas donations to be revised (most people did not understand what he was talking about although he did make some good points in particular relating to the position in Northern Ireland.)   He clashed with the Chairman of COPOV and others when he opposed State Funding in spite of the fact that the Conservative party has received more than £12 million in the last three years from the State.
In view of the way in which major donors have intervened in the affairs of the party in the last week the sooner we cap donations at £5,000 the better off the Party will be.   Don't anybody say again that big donors do not want influence.   They do and some of them have had the guts to show it publicly in the most dramatic way by intervening in the process for the election of the Leader.

October 19th
Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - The Secret Plan
We do not know whether the following paper has been implemented or not, but just in case it has, it is essential reading for prospective parliamentary candidates and Constituency Associations.   Forewarned is forearmed.
Action Plan for Candidate Selection in Safe Seats
In the run up to the next election intense media attention will focus on the kind of people chosen by the three main parties to be candidates in safe seats. This poses problems for all the parties but it creates a particular difficulty for us.
There is now a vast gap between the number of women on the Labour benches in Parliament and the tiny band of Tory women MPs. This feeds into a broader perception – that the Conservative Party is male-dominated and, worse, actively discriminates against women, blacks and gays. This is despite the fact that at the 2001 General Election all three major parties had very few new women or minority candidates elected.
There is good reason to assume that both the other parties intend to take radical action to ensure that, at the next election, they will be able to present a highly diverse group of candidates to the voters. To this end the Government has now changed the law in a way that places candidate selection outwith the scope of equal opportunities legislation. For their part, the Liberals have already declared their intention of selecting at least 40% women candidates.
This poses a huge challenge to a Conservative Party that selected no women and no non-whites in Tory-held seats at the last election. We are struggling to overcome the perception that the Party is reactionary and bigoted. It will be a public relations disaster if a large majority of our safe seats select white men next time around. Exactly how this can be avoided will be set out below but it is worth examining further the crucial importance of the outcome of the process.
Why does it matter so much?
Of all the changes that commentators have demanded as evidence of Tory ‘seriousness’ one stands out: the selection of a more diverse group of candidates to fight the next election. This has been raised continuously as an acid test. Partially because it is convenient shorthand for a media that likes to reduce everything to simplistic formulas – and partially because those least sympathetic to the Party are convinced that we will be unable to jump the hurdle they have placed in our path.
Until now the majority view inside the Party has been that of course we want more female and ethnic MPs but not if we have to use positive discrimination to get them. This position, whilst philosophically defensible, is now damaging our chances of recovery. Even if we make enormous efforts to get the kind of people we need as candidates we will get absolutely no credit for doing so unless the process delivers the intended outcome. The Party Chairman acknowledged this on On The Record on 3rd February when he said "Judge us on the outcome."
So many people, especially the chattering classes, have convinced themselves that the Party dislikes women, blacks and gays that any serious evidence that we have ‘changed our ways’ is likely to be welcomed with open arms – except, of course, by Millbank. Labour strategists would be furious at having their fox shot. Their job is to convince swing voters (and everyone else) that the Conservative Party hasn’t changed, indeed that it is incapable of change. Such vivid evidence to the contrary – on a subject that they themselves have highlighted – would represent a major strategic reverse for Labour.
How can the right outcome be delivered?
The process of candidate selection this time around must, at every stage, be outcome driven. We should determine, quietly and without public codification, exactly what is required to pass the test. Then we must ensure that it is delivered.
What would be an acceptable outcome? We need concern ourselves only with seats currently held by the Conservatives. Nothing else really matters to the media. Before the last election the Party attempted to showcase candidates like Shailesh Vara in Northampton South and Pam Chesters in Bristol West only to be accused by many commentators of placing white men in safe seats whilst leaving the women and blacks to fight marginal seats held by other parties. Getting a woman selected for a Labour-held marginal will avail us nothing – in fact the Party will be accused of treating her as a second-class candidate by placing her in a second-class seat.
In any case we have adopted different priorities for marginals. We have chosen sixty ‘battleground’ seats currently held by other parties that we hope to win at the next election. The emphasis in these seats will be on candidates with local experience and credibility including a number who fought the seats last time. The selection procedure in these seats will essentially be the same as the procedure for selection in Conservative held seats.
Having decided to focus only on Tory-held seats we can begin to quantify the task. Let us assume that between twenty and thirty Conservative MPs will retire at the next election. As their replacements we should aim to deliver approximately 50% women candidates, 20% ethnic minority candidates and at least one or two openly gay candidates. Some people may fit into more than one category but that doesn’t matter because it is the overall statistic in each category that will count. Gays are a special case in that a single high profile candidacy will satisfy the media that a taboo has been broken – unlike in the other categories where it will be a matter of numbers.
Many senior Conservative would be delighted if such an outcome could be achieved. However some of them might doubt the practicalities of bringing it about. Let us deal with this frankly.
Most of the talented candidates currently on the list are white and male. Although there has been (and will continue to be) some discrimination with selection committees the principal reason why such people get selected for safe seats is because they tend to be the best on offer. This is not surprising given the preponderance of white men on the candidates list. Given that most people who apply to the Party to become candidates fit into the white male category the law of averages dictates that there will be a similar imbalance at the end of the process. Sadly, there is no reason to imagine that this will change in the foreseeable future. A few women and Asians might get through next time but not many. Political market forces are likely to deliver a crop of candidates in safe Conservative seats very similar to those selected in 2001 – all white, all male. Therefore political market forces cannot be allowed to prevail.
There are likely to be two main sources of resistance to any serious restructuring the process: current candidates and local associations. The biggest problem with candidates is that many of them have friends who hold positions of influence in the Party (including MPs) and one can expect a strong element of lobbying and special pleading from such people. Most of the current crop of candidates do not fall within any of the target groups and may perceive (justifiably) that their own chances of success in selections will be diminished under any new dispensation.
The associations are more problematic. Whereas the Party has a number of ways of incentivising candidates it ahs little direct leverage over associations, consisting as they do of volunteers who guard their local autonomy jealously and value their ability to choose future MPs. Nevertheless not only can objections, from whatever quarter, be overcome, they must be overcome if the Party is to avoid a profoundly humiliating outcome to the selection processes.
At the moment each Conservative association chooses its candidate with the interests of the seat in mind. There is no notion of taking into account the wider interests of the Party. The members of each association pick the best placed person placed in front of them and the best person, in terms of fluency, confidence and ‘feel’ is likely to be a straight white male. Even if this is not the case in reality it may well seem so to the (largely) elderly and traditionalist selectors.
In a sense it would be unreasonable to expect them to do anything else. You cannot offer people a choice and then complain when they make it. Therefore it is common sense to offer only choices that are acceptable to the Party. We already do this by having a candidates list but now we need to develop a much more sophisticated and three-dimensional approval process. How can this be achieved?
Detail Proposals
Given that our objective must be to achieve the desired outcome with the minimum fuss, both locally and nationally, there are several ways that reform of the candidate selection process should not be done. For example, the imposition from the centre of a single candidate would cause enormous resentment. It would send a message to activists that they are not trusted and would make the position of the favoured candidate a potentially awkward one.
Nor should all women shortlists be contemplated. Not only is this a simplistic and one-dimensional approach (will we then have to have all-black shortlists too?) it is far too confrontational and risks accusations that the successful candidate would never have won had she been up against a man.
The clever approach is to maintain the illusion that a good cross section of approved candidates is being offered whilst ensuring that this consists almost entirely of people who we positively want to get selected for safe seats. This may seem a less than transparent mechanism but it goes with the grain of Tory psychology: don’t rub peoples noses in it and they are much more likely to acquiesce.
There is an obvious way forward. Associations must be told that, in order to better match candidates with seats, a new system will be introduced in which they will be given a list of twelve candidates. It will then be up to the association executive to reduce that to three names to be put to a full meeting of the association. The only thing that is being removed from local control is the initial paper sift. Indeed, the proposed system is almost exactly the same as the one the Party currently operates at by-elections.
In order to ‘soften up’ associations Central Office should develop a road show that will go to all seats where the sitting Tory MP is retiring. This road show would include a presentation of focus group and polling research about what the public thinks of the Conservative Party. This will demonstrate that the Party is seen as overwhelmingly male, white and snobbish. The road show would also include video footage of members of the public responding to questions about the Conservative Party. The answers would reinforce the message. The video would go on to show several Tory spokesmen, juxtaposed with government representatives. The contrast between the diversity (women, regional accents and occasional dark face) of the Labour side and the almost uniformly plummy white men of the Tory side will deliver the message that we’ve already got enough of this sort of Conservative and in order to regain credibility with the electorate we need more people as MPs who don’t fit the Tory stereotype. At the end of the video the people presenting the road show will answer questions and attempt to allay fears about the imposition of second-rate candidates.
Part of the means of delivering the right kind of candidate will be to create an informal ‘gold list’ of candidates who are female, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, other ethnic minority or gay and lesbian. This list must be informal because some of the while male candidates who do not fall within its remit will speak out against the system unless they believe that they have least a chance of getting onto shortlists in safe seats. If they perceive themselves as being formally discriminated against they are much more likely to be disruptive.
As the selection round proceeds the precise shape of the shortlists put forward can be altered to accommodate events. If three women in a row have been selected it may be advisable to put a couple of white men onto the next shortlist to allay suspicions of a feminist agenda – and one can safely assume that the associations given such a choice will snap up the men! If , once there have been twenty selections, not a single ethnic minority candidate has been chosen then it will be necessary to pay particular attention to the next couple of selections. And if a notably talented candidate with local credentials became available to fight a particular seat it will be legitimate to ensure that he or she was clearly the best person on the short list.
The beauty of such a system is that it is both flexible and virtually invisible. This makes it much easier to operate and creates less head wind. It will also help the Party to respond to ‘problem’ associations in an intelligent way. When Labour imposed all-women shortlists in 1997 it did so in an authoritarian fashion, giving local activists no say in the matter. This caused great difficulty. Our approach should be different. Office holders in associations in Tory-held seats where an MP’s retirement is announced should be the objects of a sustained charm offensive. The importance of ‘playing ball’ with the new system will be emphasised and the gratitude of the Party to those who respond positively should be made clear. Party agents and other staff will be expected to pay a key role in this. If a particular association proves obstinate and makes difficulties it need not be confronted. Instead it can be allocated some of the better white men. In other words it should be quietly appeased, although this should never be publicly acknowledged.
In order to ensure that there is a pool of talent sufficiently large to make up the gold list a parallel process will have to be undertaken to talent-spot, train and service gold candidates. Some of them will already be on the candidates list. Others will have applied but been unsuccessful and yet others will be novices who have been identified as suitable and approached. Obviously there will have to be a proper process of due diligence to ensure that the Party, in its eagerness to recruit people from target groups, does not allow criminals, fantasists or others who might embarrass it onto the list. However, once this has been accomplished, gold candidates should be made to feel special. They should be assisted at every stage because they are the Conservative’s Party best hope for overcoming one of its greatest disabilities – its chronic lack of diversity.
It goes without saying that the system outlined above will require a degree of sophistication to operate it. A continual process of evaluation and re-evaluation of candidates, seats, officers as well as background atmospherics will be needed. It will be like sailing a yacht – in that one would have to perform several tasks simultaneously whilst navigating the vessel towards the intended destination.
A couple of points on tactics
There are several reasons why the Party should not publicly proclaim the new methodology. Most Tories are essentially pragmatic. They loathe political correctness and positive discrimination and they would prefer not to have such things in their Party. At the same time they realise that something must be done to correct the grotesque imbalance that has developed between the parties in terms of minority and female representation. If one tries to be ‘in your face’ about the fact that positive discrimination is taking place activists are much more likely to rebel, so a version of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is called for.
It is also important not to succumb to the temptation to try and gain kudos from the media by offering them snippets of the work in progress. The danger is that they will give us little or no credit merely for trying. They will judge us by the eventual outcome. In particular they will ask us how many Tory-held seats have selected candidates who are not white and male. If we try to milk a particular selection (of, say, a black woman) for publicity journalists will suspect that it is deeply atypical and is being used to provide a smokescreen to conceal a wider failure. The word ‘token’ will be used. We cannot prove to the outside world that we would have been genuinely successful until the process is complete -–and we should not try.
A third reason to keep quiet is that, like a conjurer, we’ll get more applause if the audience cannot see exactly how the trick is performed. The objective should be to convince the public that it is the Party as a whole that has changed. The more that the profusion of women, black, Asian or gay candidates appears to be the result of spontaneous open-mindedness on the part of grassroots activists the greater will be the accolades.
Yet another factor that should persuade us to do our good work by stealth is the fact that, as of today, our opponents don’t believe that we’ve got a cat in hells chance of passing their test. That means that they will continue to use it as a stick with which to beat us. The more they build it up the bigger the pay off for us if we can trump them. As soon as they seriously suspect that we may be able to deliver on candidate diversity they will attempt to move the goal posts. The louder and longer they bang on about it the less credible will be their volt face so it would be counterproductive to tip them off.
On a separate note, the handling of white male candidates should be done with sensitivity. They should not be made to feel second-class and must be assured that the Party wants them in Parliament. However such candidates should be told that the only chance the Conservatives have of winning power again is to gain seats at the next election. This means that we need our strongest candidates in our sixty top target marginals. If the Party does reasonably well then they will all become MPs anyway – and if we do as badly next time as we did last time then the game is up for all of us.
It should be made clear to all those on the candidates list that an extremely dim view will be taken of anyone who tries to force their way onto a shortlist in which they have not been included. Any attempt to do so, either through local influence or lobbying by grandees, would prejudice their chances of being advanced in the future. Time is too short for those making such difficult and delicate decisions to be second-guessed by ambitious and pushy candidates.
Another point worth bearing in mind is that the conventional wisdom that the Party needs to select candidates early does not apply to this process. If, at the next election, we are in the position of having to fight hard to hold seats that we won last time we will be in a terminal position. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that candidates in Tory-held seats need not be selected just yet. This will give us the time required to put in place the mechanisms to ensure desirable outcomes. The more time the better. To this end it would be unhelpful for the Chief Whip to encourage colleagues who are thinking of retiring to make announcements in the near future. On the contrary it would be much better if they held off – at least until the new systems (and new gold list trainees) are ready.
The Candidates Committee of the Board will, after March, be composed largely of people well disposed to the Action Plan, the key component of which is a reduction of the number of names put forward to associations (ie – the imposition of by-election conditions on safe seats). There is an enormous amount of work to be done, not just to implement the plan but also to identify, attract, train and deploy new talent. None of this will be easy but, taken as a whole, the Action Plan represents the best (and probably the only) way forward. With the active support of the Party leadership we can deliver an outcome to the selection process that will confound our critics and delight our friends.
A lot of the current problems could have been avoided if the Leader had kept his office in the House of Commons and Central Office was there to serve the whole Conservative Party and not just the parliamentary party.    It illustrates  why we should have elected Chairman, Vice Chairman and Treasurer accountable to the membership and in day to day control of Central Office.    An increasing number of MPs are beginning to think in the same way.
Brent East, reasons for failure?
No. of leaflets distributed:                     Liberal Democrats            30
                                                           Labour                             12 plus a video
                                                           Conservative                      3
The Party Conference, Second Thoughts
  • Can we please go back to the time when a standing ovation was only given for a brilliant speech.   There are now so many standing ovations that they have become devalued.
  • The BBC has been taken to task for calling those attending the conference "delegates".   The Conservatives have never had "delegates".   We used to have "representatives" but that was before the decision was taken that any member could attend the Conference and speak in their own right.   So the correct description is "Conservative Party members".

12th October
Conservative Party Conference - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Good
1)    There were two excellent innovations at this years Party conference.   The first one was a series of Policy and Ideas discussions organised on the Monday and Tuesday of the conference chaired by Members of Parliament with a report back to a meeting in the main conference hall on the Wednesday morning.    The subjects of the working groups were: The Common Agricultural Policy, Northern Ireland, Immigration/Asylum, Local Government and Low taxation/better public services.
The Chairman of COPOV attended the session on Northern Ireland which was chaired by John Bercow MP and attended by Quentin Davies MP.   It was  a very worthwhile exercise.
What a pity that nobody knew about these sessions because they were left out of the Conference handbook.   the only notice of them was on a flyer which few read,   This experiment should be continued next year with the programmes clearly set out in the handbook.   This idea could be developed with great benefit to the Party and it was a real opportunity for members to participate.    Top marks to CCO for organising it.   Zero marks for screwing up the publicity.
2) The second innovation owes its success to Lord Ashcroft for sponsoring the Champagne reception on the Tuesday evening.   At £10,00 per head the tickets were within the reach of ordinary members.   The atmosphere was like a family gathering come together.   It created a marvellous feeling of all working together.   The addition of a few entertainers added to the pleasure everyone felt.   From the Leader of the Party to the ordinary member everyone enjoyed this occasion.   Lord Ashcroft deserves everyone's thanks and congratulations for this.   We understand it was Don Porter's idea so lets thank him also.
The Bad
1)    Why didn't the Leader of the Party or the Chairman of the Party attend the Northern Ireland reception.   The members of the Party in Northern Ireland have time and again proved their loyalty to the Party in spite of continuous snubs by the hierarchy.   David Trimble continues to be given special treatment in spite of the fact that he is the Leader of another Party, even being invited onto the platform for the feedback session at the Policy and Ideas discussion.    It is time that this discrimination ended.   Both Scotland and Wales are represented on the Party's Board.   Northern Ireland should be represented too.   Maybe then they will be given the respect that they deserve.
2)    In spite of advertising in the Conference Agenda that speakers from the floor would have two minutes to speak in the debate on Foreign Affairs it was announced at the start of the session that nobody would be called from the floor.    By which time a number of speakers had submitted speakers slips.    To add insult to injury Bob Stewart was invited to address the audience and announced that he did not belong to a political party.   So, we give a platform to non party members but refuse it to party members.   Is it any wonder that the attendance at conference is declining.   It is a disgrace.   At this rate they may as well have the conference in the Outer Hebrides on a Sunday afternoon with party members excluded.   I think there is a hotel there that can accommodate twenty people.   That will be about the number that will be interested.
The Ugly
1)    The Conference was effectively ruined by the continuous lobbying regarding the Leadership of the Party.   Because there were no morning sessions the representatives and press had nothing to do but gossip.    They fed on each other day after day.   The parliamentary party have nobody to blame but themselves.   The rules for the Leadership election are solely in their hands.   It should be taken out of the hands of the 1922 committee and put into the main body of the Party's Constitution.
BBC Party
To celebrate the end of the conference season I hear that the BBC held a party at a working man's club.   Instead of being politically correct I am told the jokes were more in line with Bernard Manning.   Blushes all round!

October 4th
The Agents Ball
    We were told that the Agent's Ball had to be cancelled because the cost of security was £10,000.   What we were not told was that for the first time the Agents were told that they could not hold the Ball in the Wintergardens because the powers that be did not want to upset their priceless stage.   So the agents had to look outside the secure area, hence the extra costs of £10,000.   The Agents are poorer as a result, but the arrogance of the Party hierarchy shows no bounds.    Maggie never caused a problem like this!
Party Slogans
    The slogans for the Party conferences this year are remarkably similar.   Can you tell us which is the Labour slogan and which is the Conservative one?
"Fairness for all"
"Fairness for everyone"
Labour Rules    One good thing about the Labour Party conference was that the debate on the changes to their constitution were not only open but were televised.    What a contrast to the Conservatives where the ordinary member is kept in the dark about any change and the decisions are made behind closed doors.
    It was good to see ordinary members of the Labour Party trying to make that Party more democratic but I am afraid that as ever the Trade unions dominated their agenda.   Where was the Conservative voice pointing this out?  As ever no where.   Sad!
November 2nd
The Following are a few of the e mails received regarding the vote of confidence in the Leader:
From: "Andrew.sibley" <>
To: <>
Subject: Where is the militancy?
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 09:41:28 -0000
Dear John Strafford
I am not a Tory member, although I was a supporter of IDS. I am disgusted by
the way IDS was removed by a small section of the party. I have read his
policy statement on the Conservative Christian Fellowship website, and IDS
had very compassionate policies to appeal to ordinary people.
But what are the grass roots party doing about this undemocratic coup which
has removed him?
If IDS was your man, then why not get together a petition to bring him back?
Organise your own poll for grass roots Tories who voted him in. March on
parliament, chain yourselves to the railings of central office if necessary.
Socialists are far more committed to their beliefs and people than Tories.
Personally I think the parliamentary party, in electing Michael Howard as
leader will hand victory on a plate to Tony Blair. Michael Howard might look
good in parliament, but then so did William Hague. However it is ordinary
people who vote in general elections not a parliamentary clique, and IDS was
making headway in the country. The only other hope now is Theresa May as
If the Tory party lets this coup stand, then they only have themselves to
blame if the parliamentary party walks all over them again.
Bring back IDS!
Yours sincerely
Andrew Sibley
19 Cork drive
CF23 8PU
From: "Robert E A Harvey" <>
To: <>,
Cc: <>,
Subject: Re: FAO Quentin Davies & Theresa May
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 08:28:48 -0000
So, they did it. I am extremely annoyed.
I am more annoyed at the current speculation that someone will be shoed-in
without the members in the country having a say. I made it quite clear in
my previous two letters that this was the sort of high-handed action that
would make me think very seriously about whether I would still be able to be
a member of the party.
It reeks of nothing less than a return to smoke-filled rooms. This whole
campaign has been lingering on for a month. Who can doubt that the actual
vote of confidence was delayed until the forces of the dark had stitched up
the sort of deal that is being discussed on the wireless today? There is an
obviousness to this manoeuvre that makes the whole conspiracy transparent.
For years the party in Parliament, and central office, have ignored the
opinions of the grass roots. CPP/CPF groups have made coherent suggestions
which have been ignored, and the briefing papers have become steadily weaker
and more totemic, until now they merely rehash the current headline concerns
and seek the cheers of the crowd in the forum. The policy of the party over
Europe, particularly under Mr Major, was at complete variance with the
attitude in the country. And now the haughty members in Westminster are
riding roughshod over the membership in the country with a wholly unrequired
leadership battle, and a vicious manoeuvre to avoid having to listen to us
at all.
If Mr Smith was such a plank, why did the members put him up two years ago
for us to vote for? Were we "supposed" to vote for Ken Clarke? No-one who
has ever listened to the mood of the party faithful on Europe would ever
have believed that possible.
This whole debacle has left me with the conclusion that the members in
Westminster cannot be trusted, either to take sensible decisions or to act
in an honourable manner. A pox on them, I cry.
Robert Harvey

Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 05:16:13 EST
Subject: re democratic principles and the vote of confidence, etc
I am not familiar with your Organisation and listened to you with both
interest and further expectations in mind on Radio 4 earlier today. I very much hope
that you and your close colleagues will be heard by all MPs at all levels
...and indeed that they will be guided by yourself for are they not duty bound
to Represent those who elect them; in so doing I trust that you will be able,
within days/ if not hours, to demonstrate or validate your main point
obtaining a very high level of grass roots support. Your point needs to be
made with immediacy ... made forcefully but always in a constructive/ positive
fashion. In my view, it would be potentially catastrophic if this matter were
'swept under the carpet' in the general urge to now 'move ahead' in electing
a new party leader. For I strongly suspect that there are a very large
number of both former and hi-potential conservative voters who will not repeat
NOT be able to either 'stomach' ...or more importantly believe in or respect a
political party where the record shows such scant regard ....indeed in this
case no regard, for the basic requirements of Truthfulness and Openness; the
party must change the ground rules and address these accusation or it will be/
remain the target of abusive and mischievous attacks ...both privately and in
the media. I do not have the details, but it seems clear to me from the long
chapter of events of the last months that the Rules, Codes or other Conventions
under which Central Office, The 1922 Committee, MPs and the elective /
reelective system currently 'works' lack proper democratic integrity and is thus
deeply flawed well as failing the test of truth and reason, and the
demands/ expectation which underpin 'political credibility', the 'leadership
system' is patently unstable, open to rumour and mischievous abuse and inherently
dysfunctional. It may also be that under Human Right legislation certain
procedures may be unlawful. I hope you can get your message across for change
...effectively this juncture ....during what is inevitably a trying and
difficult time. Good luck. Brian Tanner 30 Chester Road
Wimbledon London SW19 4TW
 (Sent Just before Iain Duncan Smith's resignation.)
There is no point in beating about the bush any longer. Our once great party, the natural party of government and the envy of its political opponents, has been reduced to a laughing stock. How and why has this come about? Can anything be done to revive its fortunes or will it, like the Liberal Party of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wither away but never quite die? On the face of it, there should, in any democracy, be a party of the ‘Centre Right’. Have our opponents moved so far towards us that we are all competing for the same ‘common ground’? Have we lost out because we have won the argument and been proved right in our belief that the state should NOT control the means of production, distribution and exchange? One thing is certain – there are no easy answers and there can be no ‘quick’ fixes.
Unfortunately we have been mesmerised by Tony Blair and New Labour. ‘New Labour’ was designed for the purpose of gaining power after 18 years in opposition. It is ephemeral and you only have to read Rob Cook’s memoirs in the Sunday Times where he contrasts Blair’s lack of the ‘Big Idea’ with that of Margaret Thatcher. Although our Party Conference was overshadowed by the continued question mark over the leadership, there were some interesting policy developments, particularly in education, health and pensions. But these need wider discussions with all the parties involved – teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses, old people and, yes, the trade unions (many of whose members, perhaps surprisingly, still vote for us), and like Ferdinand Mount in the Sunday Times, I wonder if we have not been fecklessly opportunistic in promising to abolish university tuition fees and linking pensions to earnings as opposed to prices. And we have not answered the question as to how we can reduce taxes and maintain decent public services. Although it is patently obvious from Gordon Brown’s spending spree and heavy increases in tax and National Insurance that this will not in itself improve public services. (There has to be a complete change with a ‘consumer’ based approach and a will to enforce such a change,) We are unable convincingly to win the argument and are always thrown back on the defensive. You only have to remember how, at the last General Election, Oliver Letwin disappeared from view after suggestion £8billion of ‘cuts’. Gordon Brown has created a ‘dependence on the state culture’ which will not be easy to shake off. Labour will be in office (though perhaps not in power) for at least another six years by which time public spending will be at least £800 billion. The wealth creating private sector squeezed to the bone and plenty of Labour ‘fat cats’ demanding – like Alistair Campbell - £25,000 for an after dinner speech lasting 30 minutes. Many of them will be owning second and third homes in the countryside far divorced from the squalor of their inner city constituents. They will be the new capitalists, preaching the virtues of socialism from which they themselves have escaped. These are the people who mocked Thatcher’s ‘acquisitive’ society, based on greed, but are its chief beneficiaries. They, like Tony Blair, can preach the advantages of comprehensive education knowing that they can move at any time to a good ‘catchment’ area in either a leafy suburb or in a rural setting.
Most people, when voting, do so on the basis of which Party they feel will be the best for them and their families. Although lots of people have deserted Labour, they have not turned to us in any great numbers. We still have not shaken off the legacy of "Black Wednesday" in September 1992 and by many we are seen to be old fashioned and out of date. For a national party, we are underrepresented in large areas of the United Kingdom. In Scotland and Wales we have one Member of Parliament out of 123 and in terms of councillors, none in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. In the Metropolitan counties (those large urban areas created by Edward Heath in 1974), we have about 470 councillors, 30 less than the Liberal Democrats. The Brent East by election illustrated the mountain we have to climb. In 1987, just 16 years ago, we polled over 36% of the vote and were only 1,500 votes behind the winner. Our vote in the by election was 16%, 2% lower than in 2001. For Theresa May to say "Well, this is not a Conservative seat or natural Conservative territory" shows how far we have been divorced from reality.
Any National party, certainly one aspiring to replace the present Government, needs to poll its maximum potential support in every constituency. This we manifestly failed to do. What kind of message does it give to our party workers – the ones who do the day to day work in the constituencies with fund raising events and so on – many FO whom know that in the 200 or so ‘safe’ Labour seats, a Conservative will never represent them in Parliament>? J Surely you fight with the intention of winning the seat?
Our Party organisation is shambolic if the writer’s experience is anything to go by. I have lived in my present constituency for three and a half years, and am a fully paid up member. I was sent a voting paper for listing or preferences for candidates to the National Assembly FO Wales. But as far as the constituency is concerned, I have had no notice of the annual general meeting or of other meetings. I am a ‘persona non grata’. I have the usual appeals for cash issued by Central Office and signed by our Leader’s unreadable hand. These are binned straightaway. I’m not prepared to give financial support in present circumstances. Why should I when we are not behaving like an official opposition, let alone an alternative government?
This brings me to the leadership (or lack of it?). The past three weeks have shown up the inadequacies of Iain Duncan Smith and how, with him in charge, we will go done to another disaster in 2005 or 2006. The electorate have already decided he is not Prime Ministerial material and will return Tony Blair because we have failed to provide a sensible alternative. A leader who polled less than 1/3 of our MPs, and only 60% of the membership as a whole was always going to be on a sticky wicket. Duncan Smith was elected only because our membership wanted little to do with Europe and he was the best on offer as anti-Maastricht and ant further European integration. Party members often fail to look at the wider picture – simply preaching Conservative values will not do. You need to make converts and to gain the support of many who would not, under normal circumstances, vote for you (as Tony Blair did in 1991 and in 2001.) You need vision, determination, courage and good oratorical skills. You need to get everyone ‘on side’ and to make the most of everyone’s talents. Three of the most talented – Clarke, Portillo and Hague from John Major’s Cabinet – have been allowed to languish on the back benches where their friends or those close to them, can plot and scheme.
From reading press reports, IDS has treated some of his lady staff with disdain and tried to manipulate others. I applaud Vanessa Gearson who stood her ground and refused to compromise. These days, people who stand by their principles often lose support and I am sure if the electors of Cheltenham chose to place their faith in her she would not let them down.
Parties and those who support them at the grass roots want to win elections. For us it is even harder. To gain parity with Labour in terms of seats we have to poll 5% more in terms of the national vote. To gain a comfortable working majority we would need an 11% swing.
I believe that in 1997, and certainly in 2001, we should have elected Kenneth Clarke. Even then I don’t think we could have won in 2005/2006 but with Clarke in charge we would have been in with a chance of about 80 or 90 extra seats, i.e. 250 or so seats as opposed to 160+. We would have been given hope. In many seats, we would have withstood fairly easily strong Liberal Democrat challenge. With the present leader I cannot be nearly as confident. Although I did not hear IDS’s speech at Blackpool, it was reported that he lashed out at Tony Blair, calling him a liar, and at Charles Kennedy for his drinking habits. Had I been Leader I think I would have said in relation to Blair "Let us wait for the Hutton Report which will reveal all we need to know about the workings of Government under the Prime Minister", and in relation to Kennedy: "We ignore the Liberal Democrats at our peril for they will make every effort to steal the ‘soft’ Tory vote. We must expose their policies for what they are – designed to appeal to Conservative voters in the North and Labour voters in the South – a sure case of you should not be in the circus unless you can ride two horses, pulling in different directions, at once." No, I am afraid with IDS in charge we face catastrophe and this is not being pessimistic, but realistic. I cannot believe that out of 160 Members of Parliament there is not one person who can get us out of this unwholesome mess. When the Government should be on the ropes with its long term disastrous policies, we have once again allowed our own internal divisions regarding the Leadership to become the main talking point. But make no mistake. If we carry on as we are and refuse to grasp the nettle now (and it needs only 25 MPs to clear the air once and for all) we will again be humiliated at the polls and will be in opposition indefinitely on a road that leads to nowhere.

    Forty years ago in the Summer of 1963 the Profumo affair coupled with the Denning enquiry dealt a fatal blow to Harold Macmillan’s government and by October of that year the Prime Minister had resigned. Will the Kelly affair and the Hutton enquiry do the same for Tony Blair? Probably not, but one thing is certain: there can never be a ‘glad, confident morning again’. A Prime Minister whose support from his own party for this venture is lukewarm, who relies on his ‘payroll’ vote and has substantial opposition from his own backbenchers is always going to be in trouble whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument. I do not know nor is it of great interest to me whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed within 45 minutes, nor is it of great concern to me whether the dossiers or documents were ‘sexed up’ or who did what when. What is of concern to me is that this Labour government which came in in May 1997 with the promise of a new Jerusalem has shown itself to be no better than any of its predecessors and in many cases a lot worse.
    My own view is that the Prime Minister realised that he did not have the full consent of the people of the United Kingdom and sought some kind of dramatic gesture to support his case. The affair gives us an insight into the workings of the Downing Street machine, with its coteries of unelected advisers responsible only to the Prime Minister. They ran the whole show and panicked when things did not go according to plan e.g. Andrew Gilligan’s assertion that Alistair Campbell had been involved in including the 45 minutes time limit re the deployment of the weapons. But for many, Iraq is a far away country about which we know nothing and care even less. It should come as no surprise that the BBC has been dragged into this unholy mess – far from being unbiased and willing to explore the arguments of both sides it has deliberately taken an ‘anti government’ stance which is perhaps surprising given the number of people at the top of the authority who support the Labour Party.
    Another disturbing feature is how marginalised the Houses of Parliament, in particular the House of Common, has become. True we have had reports from the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee but there have been no great debates in Parliament and other than the resignations of Robin Cook and Clare Short and the occasional outburst from the Father of the House, Tom Dalyell, little opposition. This should come as no surprise coming from a government whose Prime Minister is so conceited that he thinks that the position of Lord Chancellor going back over hundreds of centuries, can be abolished at his diktat.
    And as for our party what is there to be said? We seem to be more irrelevant than ever and I doubt if 20% of the general public know the name of the Shadow Foreign Secretary. We are at least seven years from power; maybe more and apart from Michael Howard and one or two others such as Liam Fox and David Willetts are failing to land any punches on a government whose policies in the long term (and I emphasise long term) will prove disastrous for the country.
    We are seeing massive boosts in public expenditure, particularly on health and education, which will by 2005/2006 reach £500 billion. Then there is the creation, particularly in the public sector, of all sorts of so called jobs which have grand sounding titles and which mean absolutely nothing but nonetheless pay very well. All this is financed by a mish mash of direct taxes, indirect taxes, stealth taxes, tax credits, National Insurance and so on. It is in all honesty, a bureaucratic nightmare all too typical of a bossy, interfering government who despite its protestations, is as envious and as jealous of the successful wealth creators as any of its Labour predecessors.
    I have no objection to a welfare state provided it caters for the truly needy and those, who through no fault of their own, live on the margins of society but when the Attlee government created it immediately after the Second World War it surely could not have realised it would become a tool in the hands of the feckless and of those who intended to live indeterminately on state benefits and state handouts. As a result we have a true ‘underclass’ many of whom do not seek help because of the numerous forms they have to fill in to gain the bare necessities and who, in some cases, can neither read nor write.
    And despite 35 years of Conservative government since 1945 our taxation and benefits systems are such that for many it is less rewarding to work because the wage or salary earned is less than the benefits provided by the state.
    My own case illustrates the absurdity all too clearly.
    As a self employed accountant, only part qualified, my income is not great and I am dependent on sub contract work. From April to September I have plenty of work on as many of my clients’ year ends are either 31st March or 5th April, coinciding with the tax year end. My income is halved from October to the following March. I pay my Income Tax and National Insurance in the normal way on 31st July and the 31stJanuary of the following year but then I am able to recover it all through the working man’s tax credit. This current year I will receive back in tax credits £500 more than I have paid in income tax and national insurance. The whole system is crazy and if you do not complete the necessary forms correctly you will lose out. I think no-one earning under £10,000 should pay income tax and that national insurance should be levied only when your net profit or gross income is above £5,000 and that this should be on a sliding scale as at present.
    Does anybody realise that the annual TUC conference was held last week? More to the point, does anybody care? Well, if you are a frustrated commuter on a dirty train which runs late for all manners of strange reasons – points jammed, leaves on the line and so on – you probably will. Or if, like me, you are Secretary of an Association which has to send out within the next week or so 250 letters, you will obviously be concerned at the prospect of a postal strike. I read an article in the Daily Telegraph by Graham Turner about the current TUC leadership. The present Labour Government has bowed down to virtually all their demands – the minimum wage, paternity leave, shorter working hours in accordance with EEC directives, recognition of trades unions in the work place even though a large minority to dot want it and so on. What an ungrateful lot they seem to be. Public spending which to them is a sacred cow has gone through the roof and all they did was complain that their government was privatising the Health Service when in fact all it was doing was to introduce a limited number of foundation hospitals able to set their own terms and conditions of employment and have control in a limited way over their own budgets - plans which, incidentally, have been restricted by Gordon Brown at the Treasury. So any radical plans Tony Blair had – thinking the unthinkable and so on – have already been shipwrecked. Of course, the Health Service is not all bad and in many instances has much to commend it but what is so frustrating is that a 1940’s state controlled model, financed mainly through taxation, is regarded as a shining example of how to proceed in the 21st Century based as it is on the assumption that everyone receives equal treatment no matter who they are or where they live. Anyone who questions this is thought to be a non-caring privatiser or more simply just plain '‘loopy".
    "Education, education, education" was one of Tony Blair’s familiar slogans when he took over in Number 10. The recent Advanced level results in which 13% of our school children gained an ‘A’ grade in their subject has reopened the debate as to whether these exams are challenging enough for our brighter students. The answer is probably ‘No’ for this simple reason. The government with its obsession for targets has decreed that 50% of those leaving school at 18 or 19 should go into higher education – either at university or college. When it is discovered that on present form and under the current marking system only 40% were likely to make the grade it shifted the goal posts and made the pass mark much easier. And of course those universities who have few private investments or endowments will dance to the government’s tune as they need the financial assistance which only the government through general taxation can provide. And this is what makes it difficult for us as Conservatives – we want to set people free enabling them to make decisions for themselves and their families and to reduce the role of the state – yet we are constantly reminded as to how much control the state has over us and how powerless we are to do anything about it.
     In recent week I have been watching a TV programme entitled "That’ll teach ‘em!" It placed current 16 year olds who have just sat their GCSE’s in a 1950’s situation – a mixed state grammar school with a boarding element. It reminded me of my schooldays in the late 50s’/early 60s’ although mine was a single sex school with the number of boarders restricted to 50. In my day very few scholars got three grade ‘A’s at Advanced Level – if you did you were Oxbridge material and were encouraged to go for the best. And even they would probably get a grade ‘B’ in one of their three subjects and perhaps a distinction in a special ‘S’ paper. At Ordinary level, no one, not even the brightest (and we had some very able scholars) got eight or more Grade ‘A’s. If you excelled in the arts or humanities you were probably not quite as good in science or mathematics and vice versa. Yet these days it is not uncommon to read of pupils getting ‘A’s in all their GCSE subjects. I can only assume that it must be a totally different kind of exam from the one I sat 40 years ago if only for this reason.
    In 1958, 20% of were ‘creamed off’ for a grammar school education and of that 20% there were an awful lot of ‘O’ level failures particularly from the ‘B’ stream. The abilities of those pupils in the Comprehensive Schools, particularly where there is no streaming, must vary widely and it follows that the examination cannot be as challenging if it is to be taken by those less academically minded and who enjoy more practical things such as woodwork, art, metalwork and so on. What I did find strange was how little regard the present generation has for its predecessors. The discovery that many English words have Latin as their root and that sentences are constructed in a particular way (prepositions, nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on) was of little interest to them. In mathematics some could not do even simple multiplication and division. Long division, fractions and decimals were completely unknown. It was hardly surprising then that 50% plus failed to answer correctly the arithmetic questions from an 11+ examination.
    History for me was not just learning the dates of the Wars of the Roses or being able to recite in the correct orders the names of the Kings and Queens. It was much more than that. For instance we had to compare and contrast the foreign policies of Castlereagh and Canning or give reasons for the loss of the American Colonies or outline the major acts of Parliament passed during Disraeli’s premiership of 1874 – 1880. Our politicians do a grave disservice to the present generation of scholars. Instead of trying to pretend that there are more geniuses about than 40 years ago (when clearly there are not) "We should be applauding their successes not trying to denigrate it" is the usual cliché, they should be honest enough to say that for various reasons the standard has had to be lowered so that it can accommodate everyone, including those who are less academically minded. I have just been reading the Sunday Times supplement about our universities and in some the "drop out" after the first year is very high, in part due to the fact that many have just scraped in with Grade E’s and now find the work too taxing or not to their liking.
    Finally a comment on the local election results which took place last May (how long ago that now seems). The thinking currently in fashion is that because we picked up 600 seats Iain Duncan Smith was spared a challenge to his leadership. But in some of our so-called heartlands we have serious problems. We lost a lot of seats in places like Bournemouth and Windsor/Maidenhead to the Liberal Democrats who with a mixture of guile and popularist policies continue to reek havoc. In Torbay we lost control with no less than 21 councillors being given their marching orders. We failed to regain either Eastbourne or Worthing. In former times, seaside towns with their private hotels and landladies were Conservative strongholds. Nowadays the hotels are either owned by big consortiums or are let out to DHSS recipients. Cheap package holidays within a three or four hour flight of the Untied Kingdom are a great attraction leaving the poor seaside landlady to cope as best she can in a shrinking market which is also beset by more rules and regulations such as the Health and Safety Acts. And the relentless rise in Council Tax is an added burden.
    In the northern cities we have no representation in Manchester, Liverpool or Newcastle and just one seat in Sheffield. Leeds, Bradford and Birmingham are a little better but apart from Bradford where we are level pegging with Labour we cannot hope to take control for many many years. The sign of how far we have fallen can be measured when we congratulate ourselves on regaining control of Guildford. (Will we regain the parliamentary seat, which should never have been lost, I wonder?). If we are to have any chance in 2010/2011 we need to pick up a lot of seats in 2005/2006. On present voting intentions we will struggle to reach 200. We will be trying to fight off the Liberal Democrats in seats we hold at present and only then can we challenge them in seats that they have taken from us but where we are clearly the main challengers. The other problem is that we are now in a presidential as opposed to a parliamentary situation. Blair is the incumbent and despite Iain Duncan Smith’s qualities, he does not strike me as a potential Prime Minister. I know that many said the same about Clem Atlee and even he in a limerick acknowledged the unlikelihood of his achievements but Attlee sat in Churchill’s wartime Cabinet for five years and was Deputy Prime Minister. While I hope Duncan Smith will put up a good fight I think the electorate will stick with Blair on the "better the devil you know rather than the one you don’t".
    We will then have another election and hopefully the fiasco that happened last time can be averted and we chose someone who will reflect not just the prejudices of our own party members but can carry much wider support among the electorate at large.
    My final point is this. A number of big wigs in the party thought it wrong of our Party Chairman, Teresa May, to say at the last Party Conference that we were seen as nasty and out of touch. Why then do we have, as one of our chief supporters and fundraisers, the comedian Jim Davidson appealing for funds? His jokes are lewd and on his own admission he has evaded paying his taxes. If we continue with the likes of him and continue to dance to the tune of the Jeffrey Archers’ this world then we will be treated with contempt and rightly so. Office will be decades away and it might be the final nail in the coffin of a once great party which commanded and received support form all sorts and conditions of men. This cannot be allowed to happen but who is there to lead us out of the mire?
September 28th
"Strategic Error"
    Iain Duncan Smith thinks that it was a "strategic error" for the Liberal Democrats to win Brent East.   Has he taken leave of his senses.   What is the point of fighting a by-election unless you want to win it.   Would he have called it a "strategic error" if the Conservatives had won and the Liberal Democrats had lost?    This is the politics of the mad house.  
    In the same speech on Friday 19th September he accused the Liberal Democrats of wanting to get rid of the monarchy because the issue was being debated at the Liberal Democrat party conference.   Perhaps he does not understand that until an issue has been debated you do not know the views of those taking part.   Is this fundamental flaw in his knowledge the reason we do not have any motions at the Conservative Party Conference?.   That explains everything.   Could somebody please tell Iain where he is going wrong.    Just for the record when the Liberal Democrats debated the Monarchy they came out in favour of it!
Agents Ball
So the Agents Ball has been cancelled at the party conference.   We are told that the cost of security is the reason, but is this true?   The numbers attending conference are diminishing.   Anybody wanting a room at the Imperial can have one.   They used to be like gold dust, only for the high and mighty.   Last year MPs wives and the wives of members of the House of Lords were recruited to sell ball tickets.   They didn't find it easy.   One more tradition bites the dust.   Sad for the agents whose numbers are also diminishing.   What will happen to the deficit on their pension fund?
The Whips
Is it true that the Conservative Whips office took over the campaign in Brent East?
Didn't do a very good job did they?   Was this because there were not enough volunteers on the ground or was it interference by the parliamentary party?   I think we should be told.
The Conservative and the Labour parties relied extensively on telephone canvassing.   The Liberal Democrats put people on the ground.   No wonder the Lib-Dems did well.   Somebody should have told the main parties that only 30% of Brent residents have fixed phone lines.   The rest either have mobile phones or no phone at all.    Just as the Conservatives have mastered the art of telephone canvassing the art has changed.    Bad luck.

21st September
Another Press Release
This week I heard a member of the shadow cabinet say that the result of Brent East by-election was not a disaster.   Central Office put out the following press release:
"The Government has seen the collapse of its vote in one of its heartland constituencies.   This is a massive blow for Labour's credibility and shows that nobody believes a word they say any more.
Contrary to predictions the Conservative vote held up very well.   The result is a sign of Labour weakness, not Conservative".
What planet are these people living on.   To get 16% of the vote on a turnout of 36% means that the Conservative Party managed to get 5 electors out of every hundred to vote for them.   If this is not a disaster what is?   Does disaster strike when we only get three out of every hundred to vote for us?   Until the Party faces up to the realities then our terminal decline will continue.   What has happened to this once great Party?
Andrew Gilligan
Why is Andrew Gilligan being hung out to dry?.    The pressure put on him is enormous, so much so that he has been forced to admit to mistakes which clearly were not mistakes.   The BBC is in great danger of allowing this battle of spin to be won by the Government because the BBC hierarchy are determined to protect their own backs, and they allow Government hacks to blatantly lie on programmes like "Newsnight" and get away with it.   The hacks believe that if you lie often enough and convincingly enough eventually people will believe it is the truth.   Does it remind you of a certain German?
The Tortoise
This week I heard a Director of Central Office say that he hoped that when an elector went into the ballot booth he or she would have on their mind a picture of a tortoise with Duncan Smiths head.   Mind boggling.
Focus Groups
The entire Conservative strategy is being determined by focus groups.   Why hasn't anybody pointed out to the Conservatives that all you get from focus groups are the views of those people that like to attend focus groups.    As they get paid about £25 per hour cash they tend to attract the unemployed, the house wife that wants to make a bit on the side, the intellectual that thinks he knows everything and the curious as well as those that have got nothing better to do.   To wholly rely on these bunches of sads as representative of society as a whole is a big mistake which the Conservatives keep on making.

Height of Hypocrisy
This week the Chairman of the Conservative Party said "We do not support the argument for state funding of political parties."    She went on "A healthy democracy is underpinned by political parties which rely on their own efforts to secure funding and which therefore seek to engage with their members and supporters."
As the Conservative Party has received over £12 million in the last three years, incidentally far more than any other political party, we now know that their own efforts have been negligible and because of the funding they have not bothered to engage with their members.   This explains a lot.    Nevertheless the hypocrisy which reeks from Theresa May's statement is one of the reasons why the people no longer trust politicians.   Perhaps it would be as well if we had a "Quiet Chairman" as well as a "Quiet Leader".
European Ideas Network
Over the last few days one of the most influential think tanks of the centre right in Europe met in Madrid.   It was addressed by the Spanish Foreign Minister as well as the Spanish Prime Minister.   There was a strong Conservative presence.   There were ten working groups at this "Summer School" and they are developing some very interesting ideas.    If the "Eurosceptics" want an influence on the future developments in Europe they should get involved.   They just might learn something.    If you want to see how things are shaping up visit      

September 7th
Dumbed Down Conference
You will recall that last year the morning sessions of Conference were abolished in favour of extending the afternoon sessions to 7.30pm.    It proved disastrous and in Blackpool it would have been worse for the Blackpool land-ladies do not take kindly to moving dinner times around.   The Party learnt the lesson and the afternoon sessions will end ot 5.30pm, but the morning sessions have not been reinstated.   Of course there are no motions for debate.
The total hours now devoted to full conference session amount to 13 compared to 17 last year and 23 hours in 1995 when we had motions to debate.    How long will it be before somebody says "why don't we just have two days for the conference".   All this is disastrous for the Party.    Will they not learn?   Membership continues its decline.    The Constituency Associations are getting weaker but the hierarchy do nothing because the one thing that they could do to change all this would involve them giving up a little bit of power.   Sad really!
Electoral Commission joins the Establishment
For four successive quarters the Labour Party has been late in reporting donations to the Electoral Commission.   This is a criminal offence so why has the Labour party not been prosecuted?   Is it because the Electoral Commission has become too cosy with our established parties?   After all it pays out millions of pounds of taxpayers money to undemocratic political parties that do not account for the money spent to their members or even allow their members to elect their Treasurer, and we thought they were going to be independent.   Some hope!
History of Spin
    With the acres of newsprint being devoted to Alistair Campbell's resignation it is appropriate to remember that perhaps the first spin took place at the time of Athenian democracy, approximately 450BC. Thucydides – a political opponent of Pericles and a former Olympic champion in wrestling– said of Pericles "If I wrestle him to the ground he will deny this and deny it so vigorously that he will convince even those who witnessed the fight." A tribute to Pericles power of oratory or the first case of political spin?
10th August
2 Cheers for the BBC
When the BBC does something well in the realm of politics, then politicians should congratulate it.   On Saturday 9th August the BBC did two things well.    First of all on the "Today" programme Laura Trevelyan jointly presented with John Humphreys and refreshing it was too.   She was cool and clear and and the programme benefited from having a new voice.   Well done.
Later at 11am the "Talking Politics" programme was presented by Dennis Sewell on the subject of "torture".   This was a superb programme, well put together with excellent contributions from all, including Bruce Anderson and Peter Hitchens.   This programme was in the tradition of the BBC.   Well informed, good debate, and a joy to listen to.   Well done BBC.
Now for the complaint.   I hear that Ann Widdicombe is to replace Michael Portillo on the late night Andrew Neill programme.   This programme started off disastrously but has grown into a good programme.   It would be an enormous setback if Portillo is replaced.
One more complaint: Tim Sebastian is one of the best interviewers on the BBC.    His programme "Hardtalk" is put on at the ridiculous hour of 11.30 pm on BBC 24 hours.   How about repeating it at a more sensible time on BBC2?    Enough about the BBC.
Iraq War
Since the end of the war in Iraq 55 US servicemen have been killed.   1,000 children under five have been injured or killed by unexploded bombs, in particular cluster bombs.   The United Kingdom should ban these weapons immediately.   It is a disgrace that we still use them.
Did you Know?
One third of all members of the United States Congress are millionaires?

August 3rd
Conservative Party Accounts
This week the Accounts of all the political parties were published by the Electoral Commission.   In order for them to have a common year end the Conservative Party Accounts were for the nine months ended 31st December 2002.
For a Party which professes not to believe in State Funding we see that in the nine months the Party accepted £3,000,000 in State Funding and still managed to have a deficit of £500,000.   No less than 30% of the Party's total income now comes from the State; but where is the democratic accountability for this dollop of taxpayer subsidy.   It is non existent.   The Electoral Commission has got into bed with our two main political parties and would appear to be quite happy to hand over our taxes to the oligarchies which run the parties.    There is not any pretence.   The Conservative Party has reverted back to stating that Central Office is the office of the Leader of the Party,    So much for William Hague's reforms.   We now have the following appointed by the Leader: Chairman, Deputy Chairman, six Vice Chairmen and Treasurer.
Looking in detail at the Conservative Accounts there are a couple of interesting points:  
  • £1,757,000 was spent on raising £5,761,000 in 2002 compared to spending £1,557,000 to raise £17,495,000 in 2001.   Things are getting harder!
  • Changing Auditors has brought about a considerable saving from £177,000 down to £61,000.
  • There is a strange note relating to "Quasi-subsidiaries"   It states "The net assets of the quasi-subsidiaries totalled £5,764,000 at 31 December 2002 (31 March 2002 - £7,472,000), including property of £5,655,000 (31 March 2002 - £5,715,000 and investments of £113,000 (31 March 2002 - £208,000).   Other assets and liabilities are insignificant."
        No explanation is given as to why the net assets have declined by £1,708,000.   It cannot be property or investments because these figures are shown separately and do not show a significant decline.   They state that other assets are insignificant.    What is going on? Has somebody dropped a clanger or are we being misled.    Unfortunately we probably will never know because in spite of the original promises, there is no forum at which these accounts are presented so that questions can be asked.
July 27th
The Name
Before the tragic death of David Kelly the name on every journalist's lips was John Scarlett - Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
It is very convenient now, for the BBC to state that the sole source is a man that cannot deny it although when he was alive David Kelly said that he did not think he was the main source for Andrew Gilligan.   Makes you think!
European Election
The European Elections are to be held next year.    The results will be closely scrutinised for an indication of the General Election result.   So terrified is the Government that they are about to be decimated that they are going to change the system of announcing the results.    Last time the results were announced by Constituency making it very simple to see what would have happened if it had been a General election.   This time they are going to announce the results by Local Authority Area thus making the waters muddy.    The Spin Kings continue!
Lord Archer
At nearly all possible occasion, whenever Mary Archer met a Conservative MP she asked them to go and see Jeffrey in prison.   It is a sign of her persuasiveness that over 70 of them did so. n  Was it guilt that a man that did so much for Tory fund raising was so unceremoniously kicked of the Party?
Bliar's Speech to Congress
In his speech to Congress Tony Bliar spoke about freedom justice and democracy and his admiration for the United States for upholding these ideals.    What a pity then that he did not also mention Guantanamo Bay which is what you get when freedom is lost, justice abandoned and democracy treated with contempt.

July 13th
***Star of the Week*** - Iain Duncan Smith MP.   Again.  This is getting to be a habit.   Good performance at Prime Ministers Question Time.   The Conservative are starting to make progress.   Good contribution from John Major on the "Today" programme.   Another good performance from Tim Collins defending the motorist.
"Wally of the Week" -  Peter Mandelson MP.   In his interview on "Newsnight" this stupid man raised the issue of the BBC and Iraq no less than six times.   Boring.
A New Europe
In a major speech Iain Duncan Smith spoke in Prague this week about the European Constitution.   He made many good points, in particular about trading with Africa and the Common Agricultural Policy, but there were some significant omissions.   In a speech about democracy in Europe he never mentioned the European Parliament.   What is he going to do with it?    As a Westminster MP he wants the power into the Council of Ministers and the National Parliaments.   Like all politicians they seem to believe that democracy only relates to them.   What about the people?   The only time they got a mention was in connection with a referendum.   It is unbelievably sad that there is not a single politician that will stand up for the people  to have a say in this new Constitution.   It says something about our politics and about our politicians.
Referendum in Wales
This dictatorial Labour Government is determined not to let the people have a say in a referendum on the European Constitution but can they stop the Welsh Assembly having a referendum in Wales or the Scottish Parliament having one in Scotland.   Will this be one more example of the English and the Northern Irish getting stuffed?.
Meeting of COPOV 12th July
At a meeting of COPOV held on 12th July It was agreed that only Registered Conservative Voters and members should have a vote in the selection of Conservative Party Candidates.   Theresa May please note.
Political correctness.
Is it true that Parliamentary Candidates cannot put their photographs on their CVs?   Has Central Office gone mad?    Are they all ugly?   What nonsense!

July 6th
***Star of the Week*** - Iain Duncan Smith MP.   This has been the best week for the Conservative Party for a long time.   IDS gave a sensible interview on the "Today" programme.   Michael Ancram put the knife in over the "dodgy dossier", even Tim Collins was amusing on "Question Time".    We are beginning to put out some sensible policies, but the real sign of progress was that IDS welcomed back to the front bench those Conservative MPs who resigned over the Iraq war.   This was an act of magnanimity which shows a mature approach to politics.   Well done all!
"Wally of the Week" -   Margaret Hodge MP.   This woman presided over one of the most shamefull episodes in Local Government history and yet Tony Bliar promotes her to Minister for Children.   The Conservative Party is right to demand her resignation.
Theresa's Roasting
Conservative backbenchers gave Party Chairman a roasting for her ridiculous proposal to allow Labour Party members a vote in the selection of Conservative Parliamentary candidates.   This is a cuckoo proposal which could easily be used by the LibDems or UKIP to their advantage.    Except for this her other proposals were sensible, particularly the one allowing a postal vote to party members.   One word of caution though, primary elections can be horrendously expensive, particularly if you go down the American route.    There would have to be strict controls over expenditure or you will end up with only multi millionaires as candidates.   We hit this when choosing the candidate for the Mayor of London.   Remember Jeffrey Archer?
Justice For All?
For the last eighteen months six British men have been held in prison without being charged and without being tried and the British Government has done nothing about it.   Holding people like this is certainly mental torture and as they have not had access to a lawyer or personal representative they may have also suffered physical torture.   The fact that they were held by the United States Government makes no difference.
We now know that they are to be tried by a MIlitary Tribunal.   They will not hear all the evidence against them.    They will have no right of appeal.   Their defence will be appointed by the U.S.A. Government as will the Judges (no jury) and prosecution.    There is no seperation of powers here.   Even if they are found not guilty there is no guarantee they will be released.   At the end of this appalling process they could face the death penalty.   What is happenning in Guantanamo Bay is a disgrace to humanity.   How can you pretend to believe in justice when you allow this to happen?   The British Government should call the United States to account and tell them that unless these people are tried in accordance with American or British legal systems the United Kingdom wil take the strongest possible diplomatic action.   The way in which a Nation exercises justice and law determines whether that Nation is civilised or not.
Regional Assemblies
Out of 42 million voters 8,000 want a referendum on a Regional Assemblies and if there is one the Labour Government will not set any threshold of voting in the referendum so a handful of people could swing the issue either way.   Only those that have no respect for democracy could put forward such an undemocratic process.
Dr Caroline Jackson MEP
Conservative, South West of England,
14 Bath Road ,Swindon SN1 4BA
3A Molesworth Street, Wadebridge, PL27 7DA
7 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, GL50 5HX

Dear Reader,
The European Parliament in June 2003
The main parliamentary session took place early this month, so that I travelled to Strasbourg on 2 June. As I drove to Heathrow I listened to the service marking the 50th anniversary of the Coronation, marred only by the BBC commentator, Nicholas Twitchell (?) who insisted on explaining the moments of silence - during the silences. I knew exactly what I was doing 50 years before: I was listening to the Coronation service with my mother at home in Penzance. Later we went to St.John’s Hall where the mayor gave me a rather nasty commemorative mug. It was the beginning of my consciousness that people could have different opinions on important events. I was an enthusiastic royalist, and registered deep shock when, on announcing to my father, who was sitting in the garden, that the Queen was crowned, his only reaction was "Oh really". Meanwhile, in another part of the Empire, my future husband was doing his bit, waving his Union Jack as part of the "II" of " EIIR" in his primary school in Northern Rhodesia.
Once in Strasbourg MEPs hardly covered themselves with glory on the subject of their own future salary arrangements. At the moment everybody gets what MPs in their own country get, and pay national tax. There has been a move for some time to put together a "Members’ Statute" which would finally settle salaries, tax, and allowances, so as to make everything "transparent". Against the wishes of the British MEPs, the majority of MEPs opted for a salary based on that of a judge at the European Court of Justice (giving British MEPs a salary 30% higher than MPs, but reducing German MEPs’ salaries considerably), subject only to a special low EU rate of tax. Clearly many of my colleagues never have to explain themselves to their electorate. I suspect that this will not come to pass, because it has to be agreed by EU governments – who will oppose it.
This is the kind of thing that damages the prospect of building public trust in an institution – the European Parliament – that does have real legislative power. Another element of that distrust in the EU is the perception that fraud is rife in Brussels. Normally one plays this back to constituents, with the argument that 80% of EU funding is in fact spent by national administrations. But this month provided further lamentable evidence of the financial mess at the heart of the EU. First the Commission’s own head of audit found serious accounting errors in the accounts which the Commission had earlier defended against the "whistle blower" (Mrs Andreason) who is backed by the Conservatives. Then it emerged that three Commissioners who could have taken action were not aware that key staff at the EU’s own statistical office were diverting money to companies they had themselves set up. If things are like this before the 10 new countries join, I shudder to think what will happen afterwards when a lot more EU funding will be flowing through inadequate control systems.
Two developments in Europe this month will have repercussions in Britain. First the Convention concluded its work on what is now generally described as the "draft EU constitution" – although the British government may try to wrestle it back to the status of a "constitutional treaty". Although the precise proposals are still slightly obscure, it seems that the Convention proposes that the European Parliament should be given the same powers over the size of the overall EU budget, and over the Common Agricultural Policy, as MEPs already have over other areas of EU policy, including the environment. This would mean that ministers would have to share power with MEPs, who would have a veto on whatever is finally proposed. I have my doubts about whether this will survive the chewing over that the Convention’s proposals will now get from EU governments.
Then at the end of the month farm ministers agreed a "historic" reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, involving a switch from subsidies geared to the volume of production to a flat annual payment, based on past subsidies received. There will be more funding for rural development and environmental improvements. The French, who have most to lose, could have used a veto (by pleading that their "vital national interests" were affected) to stop anything really radical, so this reform is hedged about with compromises: Member States do not have to start the main reform - decoupling subsidies from production – until 1 January 2007; some subsidies for cereals and beef production will in fact remain; sugar, a crop where EU subsidies do huge damage to third world producers, retains those subsidies intact.
In Britain, making sense of the new rules regarding what qualifies for funding as a rural development measure will open up a new and fruitful field for government regulators, no doubt already limbering up at a new training college. The question of who is entitled to the new "decoupled" (from production) single farm payments when the scheme comes in will produce hard cases that will be difficult to resolve. But this reform does mean that the EU can go into the next international trade talks with some evidence, previously lacking, that it is prepared to change its ways. It is just possible too that, once the reform has taken place, the French and other governments may be more prepared to give a greater say to MEPs in the future of the CAP- and that they may therefore accept that MEPs should be given equal power with ministers to decide future agricultural and budget policies. But don’t hold your breath on this.
The three main items that people write to me about at the moment are the investment services directive, coming up in Parliament in July, where our British Conservative rapporteur is trying to change Commission proposals which would make it more expensive for individual investors to buy shares; EU action on traditional and herbal medicines, where we have not reached the second reading, but some people fear over-regulation; and animal welfare. MEPs will soon be considering a new law aimed at improving the protection of animals in transit. This introduces a new maximum travelling time of 9 hours, with a complete ban on transporting young animals. "Inadequate" say the animal welfare groups – but it is a start.
Finally I have to report that God has still not made it into the text of the draft EU constitutions. Rather than refer directly to Christianity, the Convention has come up with the preamble "drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe" thus leaving a chink of hope for the Turks to join us.
Yours sincerely,
Caroline Jackson MEP

In the last week we have seen our party torn apart by various warring factions, proving yet again how unfit we are for office which, on present form is at least 10 years away (and probably more than that). At a time when the present Government is struggling, not only on the home front, but is having great difficulty in convincing the general public that a showdown with Saddam Hussein is necessary, we have shot ourselves in the foot by allowing our internal problems to become the focus of attention. The sad thing is that it was totally unnecessary and our esteemed leader Iain Duncan Smith has proved what 70% of the general public think – namely that he is simply not up to the job.
I believe it was the American Henry Ford who once said: "All history is bunk". I don’t agree. We have only to cast our mind back 28 years (how long ago that now seems!) when Margaret Thatcher was elected leader. Although she had served as Education Secretary for four years, she was still an outsider. In the then Shadow Cabinet she had the support only of Sir Keith Joseph. Yet, with Airey Neave as her campaign manager (he having escaped Colditz camp during the Second World War) she won against all the odds. Recognising that most of the old guard, including the chairmen of the constituency parties, were against her, she set about consolidating her position. She was, of course, considerably helped by the narrowness of the Labour government’s overall majority, its eventual capitulation to the International Monetary Fund as it was engulfed in an economic crisis, and its failure over devolution. Certain ideas, notably the reform of the trade unions and the sale of council houses, were designed to appeal to the wider electorate and gradually policies emerged. Above all, was her conviction that Britain could do much better and be a force for good in the international circle and where undertakings given to allies would be honoured. But she played for the ‘long term’ and it was not until September 1981, six and a half years after her leadership challenge, and two and a half years into her premiership, that she found a Cabinet more to her own liking by promoting colleagues such as Nigel Lawson and Norman Tebbit.
Iain Duncan Smith has obviously learned nothing from his botched sacking last summer of David Davis, the then party chairman, or from the fiasco created when the Adoption Bill was debated. Here is a man who had the backing of only 34% of the Members of Parliament and of only 61% of the constituency membership behaving completely irrationally. Any sensible leader would recognise that to have any chance of success, he needed support of all those who voted against him – he had to be a healer otherwise old wounds would fester and sooner or later divisions would reappear. He seems to have done exactly what William Hague did – firstly by trying the ‘touchy feely’ approach by concentrating on the public services, those trapped in poverty, single mothers and the ethnic minorities. Now he seems to have totally changed courses with promises of tax cuts, removing asylum seekers and so on. Part of the problem may be that we now have the total professional politician – people who live and breathe politics all the time and have little experience of life outside Westminster.
As a young man, politics for me was fun. I remember seeing Harold Wilson in 1964 easily taking on hecklers at one of his election meetings. And who could forget Harold Macmillan, in his plus fours, when at a shoot on the Scottish moors? All this is now part of an age long gone. "Ou sont les neiges d’artan?" (Where are the snows of yesterday?) as one French writer once put it. I did not hear John Humphrey’s interview with Iain Duncan Smith but apparently our leader went completely over the top and gave what Ferdinand Mount described in the Sunday Times as a "manic, computer generated cackle which went on and on" in answer to some of the questions.
It is at a time like then when one realises how idiotic it was to let the whole of our Party membership have the final say in the selection of our leader. I am all for the widest possible consultation but our own membership is already committed and many are unlikely to see the wider picture. IDS won because he was anti Maastricht, anti Euro and anti any further European integration such as monetary union.
These are the facts. We have been deserted by 6 million voters since 1992. We are flat lining at 32% in the polls. Any anti Government protest vote has gone to the Liberal Democrats and not us. We should be at least 10% ahead in the polls and are claiming it as a success to be only 2% behind. How then do we get out of this malaise? For this is the first time in my lifetime when we have made no progress in opposition. After 5 ½ years in 1950, Churchill reduced Atlee’s Labour Government’s majority from over 140 to just 6. Harold
Wilson in his second term (1966 – 1970) lost by-election after by-election with ‘swings’ sometimes of over 20%; a similar pattern during the Wilson/Callaghan Governments of 1974 – 1979.
These days we deride the time when our leader somehow ‘emerged’ after the due processes of customary consultation (dubbed by the late Iain Macleod as a ‘magic circle’). But Baldwin, Churchill, Eden and Macmillan all won general elections and Sir Alec Douglas-Home only lost by a ‘whisker’ in 1964. We seem to forget that had 2,000 people in the most marginal seats voted Conservative instead of Labour, Douglas-Home could have, of right, remained Prime Minister.
We simply cannot go on as we are. Our party can trace its roots back 300 years to the reign of Queen Anne. It was once a party of the landed gentry and the Church of England but over the centuries it has evolved and attracted all classes and creeds. How else could it have won so many general elections? Yes, there are arrogant, toffee nosed Hooray Henries in our Party, but there are also many more of us who are decent, hard-working ordinary people who want to be independent of the State, to run our own lives as we think best and to make our own provision for things such as pensions and health care. It seems to me that our problem stems from the fact that the world of my youth no longer exists and that we have to find a role during this time of relentless change. How can a Party, which by virtue of its name alone, wants to keep things as they are, adapt? Our strength surely has always been this: we don’t like change but if, as a result of change, things seem to work and there is no desire to turn the clock back, then leave well alone. Having said that, I don’t believe we should sacrifice our basic principles. I want us to be a low tax Party but at the same time we have to protect the most vulnerable in our society – notably the elderly and those not financially secure. For far too long, we have allowed our opponents to brand us ‘non caring privatisers’ in respect of the Health Service simply because we believe that there are other methods of health care not simply the bureaucratic nationalised ‘statist’ model we have become accustomed to over the last 50 years.
No leader can be successful if he surrounds himself with ‘yes’ men and with people who agree with whatever he says. Therein lie the seeds of disaster. You also have to abide by the rules laid down in the Party’s constitution. So it is no good ignoring the Board just because they might not agree with you or with the action you have just taken. And if you want to sack someone do it yourself and not hand the job to someone else. And don’t sneak it out on a Friday night when you know Parliament is not sitting and everyone’s gone home.
I applaud Michael Portillo for speaking out. The very people who are criticising him now are the ones who failed to back him when he was subject to calumny during the leadership election. He sees the Party he has served all his life making no headway in the polls with a leader who is not only a quiet man but an invisible one. He sees an arrogant, bossy Government being given an easy ride and being allowed to destroy much of what once made Britain the envy of the world. He sees taxes rising at an alarming rate in an attempt to provide cash for failing public services. He sees the universities being compelled to accept students whether their academic ability merits it or not. He sees our country being forced into a European super state without the full-hearted consent of the British people. He sees a country split between those who want a war with Iraq and those who don’t. He sees a Prime Minister willing to take Britain into the Euro simply as a result of a successful outcome to the war. He sees more and more concessions being made to the republicans in Northern Ireland who know that sooner or later Britain will accede to a 32 county Ireland and rid itself of the Unionist problem. He sees the economy getting weaker as companies struggle with a mass of red tape and presided over by a Chancellor of the Exchequer who with his various tax credit schemes wants more and more of us to be dependent on State benefits. He sees his own Party, the official opposition, failing to score when an open goal is at its mercy. And he supposed not to rock the boat. A leader should be ‘primus inter pares’ (first among equals) but the fact is that over the last 30 years we have developed a ‘presidential’ style of leadership in which the personalities of those wanting to be Prime Minister are all important. It probably cost Neil Kinnock it in 1992 when he made a bizarre appearance at a rally in Sheffield. The baseball cap of William Hague did nothing to improve his image. It may well have robbed us of 50 seats in June 2001 but I believe we still would have lost whoever then had been our leader.
I have always thought it better that our Party is led by someone who is not too far to the right. One of my complaints about Iain Duncan Smith is that he seems to have no clear strategy. Last August he thought Theresa May was the Chairman the Party needed: now, it appears, she is not. I view, with horror, her suggested replacement – John Redwood, for he would be a walking disaster. Not only does he look weird at times but he would have no appeal to the uncommitted voter. The Liberal Democrats have done well in his parliamentary constituency of Wokingham and in the local elections they are not far behind us. Surely that should tell us enough.
There is no doubt that unless we get our act together pretty soon we will make no headway in a 2005 or 2006 General Election. I predict that with our present leader we will not reach 200 seats. The Liberal Democrats will continue to chip away at our safe seats until they eventually fall – Torbay is proof of that. But perhaps our Party is incapable of being led. Perhaps the divisions between the traditionalists and the modernisers is too great a gulf to be bridged.
I want a Conservative Party that is modern but recognises its past traditions. I want a Conservative Party which, as well as letting the strong walk tall, has a compassion and concern for those less fortunate. I want a Conservative Party that allows its most gifted children to make the best use of their talents in the best universities and colleges while at the same time recognising that those not so academically minded are of value and can make an equally worthy contribution to society. I want a Conservative Party that will restore Parliament as an effective authority for debating the great issues of the day. I want a Conservative Party which while accepting the family unit as the best way of bringing up children understands that there are many single parents and many others whose lifestyle may be different but who, nevertheless, are human beings and entitled to live their lives in peace without harassment.
At the 1964 Republican Convention, Senator Barry Goldwater, that Party’s candidate for the U.S. President, used this phrase in his acceptance speech:
"Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue; extremism in pursuit of liberty is no vice."
Needless to say, Goldwater went down to a disastrous defeat, winning only six States out of the 50.
The moment our Party adopts extreme right wing policies it will be doomed to electoral oblivion and rightly so. The appointment of Barry Legg suggests we are content to remain in the wilderness for many more years. For those of us who want to win and to win well, it is not an exciting prospect. We can only hope that commensense will sooner or late prevail but the omens are not god.
June 29th
***Star of the Week*** - Alan Duncan MP - For his performance on "Newsnight" in putting the boot into the dodgy dossier.
"Wally of the Week" -   "Comical Ali Campbell" the Scottish relative of a well known Iraqi press spokesman.   This recovering alcoholic and sycophant for Robert Maxwell makes Goebels look like a choir boy.   It is time he got his come uppance and with a bit of luck the BBC will give it to him.   It is time that the press spokesman for No. 10 reverted to being a civil servant.    The British public are sick and tired of spin by a political hack whose former experience consisted of writing for a soft porn magazine.
Selection of Parliamentary candidates
Were it not for the appalling performance of "Ali Campbell" the Chairman of the Conservative Party would be a prime candidate for "Wally of the Week" for her crackpot idea of allowing members of the Labour party to select Conservative Party candidates.   Is she off her trolley?    In her speech to the Hansard Society she stated "For example, in constituencies that have not yet selected their candidate and do not have a sitting MP, we are offering the option of experimenting with U.S. - style primaries.   Under this plan, every registered Conservative voter in the constituency - or even electors regardless of political affiliation - would have the opportunity to choose the candidate they want from a shortlist drawn up by the constituency party."
We applaud the idea of primaries.    We can see the benefits of registered Conservative voters having a say but why members of other political Parties?   Has she never heard of entryism?    It is as though she got up one morning and said "How can I insult Party members?   We are told that this cuckoo scheme was dreamt up by one of the youngsters in Central Office who has no experience of the Party.   Why does the Chairman not listen to the members?   Perhaps it is because the Chairman is appointed and not elected by or accountable to the members of the Party.   It is time he or she was.
Democracy in Europe
Speaking to the Vice Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe the Chairman of COPOV was told by him that he did not know of a single democratic political Party in Europe.   We know that the Conservative and Labour Parties are undemocratic but it is a sad reflection on Europe that they do not have any democratic political Parties.   The Liberal Democrats come near to being democratic.   Does anybody know of any others?
Congratulations to the Director of Campaigning and Organisation
It was announced this week that Stephen Gilbert had been appointed to the above position.   If you remember he held it up until the demise of Mark Macgregor when at the same time SG was made a Consultant.    It is nice to know that common sense has prevailed and he is back in his post.   Congratulations Stephen!

June 22nd
What is going on?
First of all we learn from "The Times" that PricewaterhouseCoopers are no longer the Conservative Party's Auditors.    Then the Treasurer, Sir Stanley Kalms resigns.   It is rumoured that BDO Stoy Hayward are the new Auditors.   If the Conservative Party was a public company there would have been headlines in the media asking "What is going on?"   It seems there has been a lot of agro in Central Office over the last twelve months.   It started with the publication of the Accounts for 2001 which were twelve months late in being published.   In fact they were only published after the Chairman of COPOV had written to the Electoral Commission complaining that for a body which was receiving over £4,000,000 of taxpayers funding not to have published its accounts was a disgrace.
    It is of interest that they were only published after the following years accounts had been completed.    This is perhaps because PricewaterhouseCoopers were worried about the Party as a "Going concern"
Ever since Martin Saunders first published the Party's Accounts in full it was always stated that they followed as far as possible the principles which applied to a public company.   This is what gave rise to the "Going Concern" problem.   No more.   Now it is recognised that the income of the Conservative Party is uncertain, except of course for State Funding.   The 2001 Accounts for the year ending March 31st 2001 were eventually published in 2002.
    We have also had the changes of personnel at Central Office.   How much compensation has had to be paid out as a result?   All in all the last year has not been a happy time to be Treasurer of the Conservative Party, but will the members of the Party be given any explanation?   I doubt it.   All the talk at the time of the Party reforms has come to nothing.   We were told that the Spring Forum would be like the Annual General Meeting of the Party.   That the accounts would be presented to the members at that meeting so that they could ask any questions about them.    Did it happen?   Not on your Nelly.   When will the Party learn that in the 21st century it is unacceptable not to have a Treasurer elected by the membership and accountable to the membership.   Until this happens we will stagger on from financial crisis to financial crisis.   Of course there will always be rich individuals who will take on the role of Treasurer.   After all it is the one position that guarantees a peerage.   So soon it will be Lord Kalms.   Sad isn't it?

June 15th
European Constitution.
On 22 May 2001 "The Times" printed a letter from the Chairman of COPOV setting out five democratic tests for the European Union.   They were:
  • If the Commission is to be part of the legislative process the people of Europe should directly elect its members.   If it is not to be part of that process it should act like the civil service, under instruction from the Council of Ministers, and have no formal powers,
  • The Council of Ministers should meet and debate in open session.
  • The closed party list system of proportional representation for election to the European Parliament must be abolished, because it denies the people the ability to elect or get rid of particular representatives.
  • Each Member of then European Parliament should represent a similar number of people.
  • The meetings of the European Central Bank should be held in open session with the Council of Ministers having the power to dismiss one or all of the directors of the Bank
  Of the five tests only the second is any way to being met within the draft constitution.   The British people will not take kindly to having a Constitution forced upon them which is wholly undemocratic.    It is essential that there is a referendum on this Constitution.

8th June
As a result of an article in "The Times" about the Conservative Party finances a statement was put out by Central Office saying that PricewaterhouseCoopers were no longer the Party's auditors.    Of course nobody bothered to inform the members of the Party.   Why were they changed?   They have been the auditors for as long as one can remember.   Is it because there was a row over the accounts for the year ended 31st March 2001.   After all they were not published until 18 June 2002.    It was rumoured at the time that the Treasurers refused to give guarantees that the Party was a going concern.   I think we should be told.
Have you noticed that the BBC now speaks of IDS as The Leader of the Opposition?   Is this because the Conservative Party has complained to the BBC about its treatment or is it because the BBC realises that the way the Labour Party is going the Conservatives could form the next government?
Reverse discrimination!
In a move to get new members the Gerrards Cross Conservatives targeted the ethnic minorities (mainly Asian) and invited them to a reception with the local MP.   In 1980 Gerrards Cross had 1.902 members.    It was the strongest branch in the country.   Today it has just over 300.   It is some years since the ordinary(non ethnic minority) residents of Gerrards Cross were invited to a reception with their MP.
The Conservative Party should be open to all regardless of race creed or gender and we welcome moves to get new members, but until the Party becomes democratic it will not retain its members.   You can guarantee that if any of the Asians sign up for membership, within three years they will have ceased to be members.   Why?   Because they will realise, like the ordinary people of Gerrards Cross that they have no say in the development of policy and the Chairman, Treasurer, and Vice Chairmen of the Party are appointed so they have no say as to how the Party is run.   If they want to change the Constitution of the Party they cannot because the MPs have a blocking vote.   Regardless of race gender or creed there is no equality within the Conservative Party.
Did You Know?
The 300 richest people in the World have as much wealth as the 3 Billion poorest.   Food for thought, or as the poorest might say "We would rather have food for our bellies."

June 1st
The European Constitution - What the Media ignored
In the debate about the draft European Constitution the most important question is "Is it democratic?" The test of whether a constitution is democratic is "Can it be changed by the people either directly through a referendum or indirectly through their elected representatives?"
Applying this test to the draft European Constitution we find that there are no clauses within the draft specifically relating to how it can be changed. Any changes must, therefore, follow the normal process by which European legislation is passed.
Under the draft Constitution all legislation has to be proposed by the Commission but the Commission is appointed and unaccountable to the people so the democracy test fails at the first hurdle.
Unless and until this issue of democracy is addressed the people of the United Kingdom should reject this draft Constitution or a thousand years of struggle to become a democracy will be wiped out by a single act.
I'm Alright Jack!
There is a shortfall of £25,000,000 in the MP's pension fund, so guess what, it is going to be topped up.   MPs are not the only ones to have their pensions with Equitable Life, many of their staff are also with the company, but it does not look as though their pensions will be topped up.    Now that an MP has mega sized allowances how about them dipping into their own pockets. or is that asking too much?
Daniel Hannan MEP
By a large majority Daniel Hannan came top of the Conservative Party list for candidates for the European Parliament for Southern Region.   This would normally mean that he would be the Leader of this group, but his colleagues were not too keen about his comments on NATO so have made the man who came second the Leader.   Congratulations Nirj Deva.
Adam Ingram MP - Minister of Defence bomb.gif (356 bytes)
On the "Today" programme Adam Ingram stated that 100,000 bombs had been made safe since the end of the war in Iraq.    We are told that there is a 10% failure in cluster bombs.   Does this mean that 1,000,000 of these flying land mines were dropped on Iraq?   No wonder we are fast becoming "Most hated nation."

May 25th
The Referendum
This week the "Evening Standard" asked the question "Who was the first to demand a referendum on Giscard d'Estaing's fiendish European Convention?".   Having gone through "The Daily Mail", "the Sun" and "The Independent" it finally alighted on Lord Blackwell on 2 April in the House of Lords.   What a pity the "Standard" does not read "The Times".   If it did it would have seen the following which pre dates Lord Blackwell by seven months. 
Letter published in "The Times"      August 30 2002
Jack Straw MP has called for a written constitution for the European Union (Report, August 28) and the Convention on the Future of Europe is in the process of drawing up such a constitution.   By defining what the European Union can or cannot do you also define what the United Kingdom can or cannot do.
Some 55% of legislation affecting the United Kingdom now emanates from Brussels. For the first time in our history we will effectively have a written constitution. Such a critical and historically important step must be put to the people of the United Kingdom in a referendum for their approval or disapproval. All political parties should commit themselves to this now.
Yours faithfully,
    To put the record straight the first politician to call for a referendum was James Elles MEP at a meeting of COPOV on 8th November 2002.   As a result of this meeting the Chairman of COPOV wrote to Michael Ancram MP asking for the referendum to be Conservative policy.   After some delay he confirmed that it was policy in February 2003.   It has taken the media some time to catch up but thank heavens, at last they have.
Letter to the Chairman
On 19th March the Chairman of COPOV wrote to the Chairman of the Conservative Party asking specific questions about membership.    So far there has not been a reply, not even an acknowledgement.    Perhaps her time is spent adding up the £500,000 that it is said that the Party is having to pay out to former Chief Executives and others as a result of the cack handed way the Party(or was it IDS) has treated its senior staff in the last six months.  
Therese Villiers
We congratulate Therese Villiers on becoming a westminster Parliamentary candidate, but wasn't it only a few months ago that she was reselected for the European Parliament?   Is her move to Westminster anything to do with losing her position as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group in the European Parliament?
Who is paying for Democracy?
Every Westminster MP now receives over £100,000 each year for researchers, computers etc.   In other words over a parliamentary term of five years he or she will receive a cool half a million pounds to help them retain their seat.   At the next election their opposition candidates will receive no money at all, thus making their task of replacing the sitting MP ever more difficult.    Democracy in the United Kingdom is becoming more and more remote, but it is as well for MPs to remember that democracy was born out of revolution.   The people have taken to the streets - Fuel tax protest, Iraq war, Countryside march.    One day they may go further if the politicians do not listen to them.

May 18th
Reorganisation back on the Agenda
    At the well publicised bonding weekend of Conservative MPs we understand that one session was devoted to the old chestnut "Restructuring the Conservative Party"   Once again Central Office have got their eyes on the Constituency assets.   The view is that the Constituency Association as an organisation is redundant.   The Party should be run and contolled from the centre.   This is why in spite of dramatic drops in membership (one Constituency reports a loss of 400 members in the last six months) there is no attempt to increase membership except at the centre.   The promise that the centre would not approach local members has long since been abandoned.
    On top of this there is a battle royal going on between the Chairman of the Party and the National Women's Committee.   The latter think that every Constituency "shall" have a Women's committee, whereas Theresa May thinks only that they "may".    Not surprising really, Women's committees are sometimes quite powerful as Theresa knows in her own constituency.
Northern Ireland Democracy        jetplane.jpg (11298 bytes)
Because the IRA will not agree a statement the elections to the Northern Ireland assembly have been indefinitely postponed.    So now we know that terrorists control elections in the United Kingdom.    I thought that we had just been to war to defeat terrorism and create democracy, but maybe that only applied to Iraq.   Back home in the good old United Kingdom heaven forbid that we try to be democratic or do we need a war here too?    Could it be that the stealth bombers will soon be flying over Belfast?
Referendum on the European Constitution.
Congratulations on the Conservative Party for demanding a referendum on the European Constitution.   With 84% of the people in favour of a referendum the Party is at last starting to get in touch with the people.   Modesty stops me saying that it was COPOV that first campaigned for the Party to adopt this popular policy.   Could it be that if the Party listened to COPOV a little bit more it could break out of the flatlining that it has had in the opinion polls for the last ten years?
Iraq                     dynamite.jpg (16479 bytes)
    In the introduction to Enoch Powell’s book "The House of Lords in the Middle Ages" he states "All government rests upon consent, and consent is not to be had without taking counsel with the most eminent or influential or representative of the governed, and seeking their advice: the act of taking counsel cannot be separated from the act of exercising authority. All government rests also upon habit, upon being exercised in the same way to that in which the governed remember or believe that it was exercised before. Brute force can break with habit; but as soon as brute force begins to turn into government, it does so by starting to observe habitual forms of behaviour. Habitual forms or institutions for counsel are thus of the essence of government."
    What a pity that the governments of the United Kingdom and United States did not understand these fundamental points when considering the reconstruction of Iraq. If they had done so they would have realised that in any vacuum of power the Iraqi people would soon turn to their habitual institutions e.g. the Islamic religion.
    It is clear that the two governments do not have a clear plan for reconstruction. In which case they should allow the United Nations to take charge and put their troops under U.N. control. Speed is of the essence, otherwise we may well soon find ourselves fighting another war to undo the structure created by the vacuum which the United States and the United Kingdom have created.

May 11th
How the mighty fall
In 1980 Gerrards Cross branch of the Beaconsfield Conservative Association was the strongest Conservative branch in the Country.   It had a membership of 1,902.   At that time almost 40% of the electorate.   It was strong on fundraising, providing 40% of the Beaconsfield Association funds.
Last week an Independent was elected a Councillor in Gerrards Cross for the first time in history.   Today the Conservative branch has a membership of just over 300 out of an electorate approaching 8,000.   Its fundraising efforts are almost zero.   What went wrong?    It failed to listen or to communicate with the people.   It allowed its organisation to disappear.  It became arrogant and out of touch.    After choosing an Independent to fight as a Conservative in the previous election it was utterly predictable that there was an opening for an Independent this time.
At Parish level the Liberal Democrats are making a sustained effort to take control of the Parish Council.   Watch out for a big effort by them at the next District Council elections.
The pattern of events described above is a warning to Conservatives everywhere.   No matter how strong you may feel you are today, neglect the electorate at your peril.   There are others just waiting to move in.

May 4th
A "Fantastic Success"
The results of the local elections were greeted by the Party as a "fantastic success".
With The Conservatives getting 35% of the vote on a turnout of 34% we managed to persuade one voter in every nine to vote Conservative.   If this is success what is failure?
Central Office were forecasting that we would gain 30 seats.   If they really believed this then they ought to be fired, for a strategy based on this would have meant that we put all our resources into seats that we were going to win, neglecting those marginal seats we could have won.
Congratulations to CrispinWe applaud Crispin Blunt MP for his courage in speaking out about the Leadership.   Let us hope that his views do not change as fast as his secretaries.   We are told that in the last six months he has had no less than five!
At present there is no desire within the Conservative party for a Leadership contest.   Primarily, because there is no agreement on a successor.   Nevertheless, as the Chairman of COPOV was told only last week by a member of the Conservative Whip's office, this issue will not go away.
The Party Establishment would like to see Malcolm Rifkind as Leader, and have been plotting to bring this about since the Party Conference.   The problem is that he is not an MP.   Even if he is selected in Windsor nobody wants to risk a by-election in the current circumstances, so there is a desperate hunt for an interim Leader.   In the mean time Central Office have told Windsor not to select until the Autumn, hoping that this will reduce his profile.
At the COPOV Annual General Meeting held on Saturday the following motions were passed:
"That this Group has confidence in the present Leader of the Conservative Party." - passed by an overwhelming majority.
"That this Group has no confidence in Conservative Central Office." - passed nem con.
Democracy in Iraq.
At all the meetings to decide on the future of democracy in Iraq women have been virtually unseen.   Is the democracy that is about to be created similar to what we had in the United Kingdom 100 years ago?
Conservatives After the War Campaign
A majority of the people were against the war with Iraq, although naturally they completely supported our troops and continue to do so.   What should be done now?   We suggest the following:
  • All troops in Iraq should be placed under the command of the United Nations and they should be authorised to take whatever action is necessary if attacked..
  • Sanctions should be lifted immediately.
  • A programme should be formulated for holding free and fair elections in Iraq.
  • The United Nations should be reformed and a programme for reformation developed giving a higher standing to democratic nations.    A nation's representatives to the United Nations should be elected by the people of that nation.
  • The reconstruction of Iraq should be under the control of the United Nations.
Large numbers of Conservatives are unhappy blindly following Bush/Bliar whatever they decide.    If you wish to join the "Conservatives After The War Campaign" let The Chairman of COPOV know.
April 27th
We will teach democracy to Iraq?
  • Hopefully before we start trying to teach democracy to Iraq we will put right some of the undemocratic elements of the British - soon to be - European constitution.   Democracy is the process by which you determine the view of the majority.   The Convention on the Future of Europe has spent its entire time arguing about the redistribution of power amongst the politicians.    The people do not get a look in.   If the present system of membership of the Commission were left unchanged, with the ten new members of the Union the seven smallest countries with 2.4% of the population would have more seats and votes than the six biggest members with 75% of the population.   This is the kind of distortion you get with electoral colleges.   So what is being proposed?    Why another electoral college.
  • Under the Royal Prerogative the President - oops, sorry Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has the following powers:
                The appointment of judges
                The appointment of Ambassadors
                The appointment of the Director General of the BBC
                The right to sign treaties
                The right to declare war.
He has these powers without any check by parliament.   Perhaps it is time we recognised the reality.   The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has more powers at his disposal than the President of The United States.   It is time his powers were defined by Parliament.    We might even go so far as to recognise reality and have the Prime Minister directly elected by the people.   Now that would be democratic!

20th April
Big Hitter
Word on the grapevine is that Sir Christopher Gent is being groomed to take over as Chairman of "The Conservative Group for Europe".   He will be the guest speaker at their Annual General Meeting.   Some of us remember Sir Christopher as a member of The Greater London Young Conservatives.   He then went on to make his fortune.   Look for a higher profile from C.G.E. if he becomes Chairman.  Is it any coincidence that Kenneth Clark is about to give the Macmillan lecture at the beginning of June.    Looks like June could be an interesting month.
One thing you can guarantee, is that whenever a new team take over in Central Office they will want to move the furniture around and often much more besides.   We remember the £2,000,000 Kenneth Baker spent and how Archie Norman cleared the desks.   Well the tradition continues.    We hear that £150,000 is about to be spent on another refurbishment.    At a recent meeting of Conservative House of Commons staff, when asked what they would like to see one suggestion was that Central Office be closed down and we started again with a blank piece of paper.   That is exactly what the Progressive Conservatives did in Canada and they manned their new office with volunteers.    They went on to win the General election.   Makes you think.
Lest we forget
In "The Sunday Times" of April 13th Jon Swain wrote a two page article under the heading of "Anarchy in a Power Vacuum".   Tucked away in the article was the following:
    "There were two captured men, one in front wearing camouflage, the second in a dark blue uniform.    They were made to lie on the ground face downwards.
    At 8.49am the man in camouflage turned over on to his back.   Three shots rang out and his body jerked up and down.   Later his body was still lying on the ground while his companion, in blue, was standing by a wall with a group of prisoners.   All who saw it agreed we had just witnessed the shooting of a prisoner of war by American soldiers,"
    We now know of one man who never lived to know what it was like.

13th April
People's Peers
tb1_.gif (1421 bytes)Tony Bliar has got his almost wholly appointed House of Lords.    One of the gimmicks he used was the appointment of People's Peers under a commission chaired by Lord Stevenson of Coddenham.   So how have these people's peers done?   Out of 200 sitting days in the 2001/2 session Lord Browne of Madingley managed the grand total of eight.   A little better was Lord Adebowale with fifteen, but what about the Chairman of the Commission.   He managed the grand total of four days.   The sooner this charade is finished the better.    Let us have a wholly elected House of Lords which is accountable to the people, not a bunch of Tony's cronies.   At the very least we could have a "Celebrity House of Lords" where the people voted out the dumbos that do nothing.   Come to think of it we might apply the same idea to the House of Commons.   After all the Greeks showed us the way with the use of "ostracism".
Conservative MEPs
The Conservative MEPs have sent out a questionnaire titled "Consulting Party Members on the Future of Europe"    Good for them.   This is a step in the right direction.    The only problem is that out of fourteen questions only two relate to the fundamental issue of democracy in the European Union and the involvement of the people.
We are asked whether we want a directly elected President and whether we want a referendum on the Treaty arising out of the Convention.   What about the disgraceful way in which party lists are used to elect MEPs to the European Parliament?   What about the disparity in the numbers needed to elect an MEP between say Britain and Luxembourg?   What about transparency in the Council of Ministers?   What about the ability of the Commission to promote legislation?   The answers to these questions and others would dramatically alter the answers one gives to the other questions in the questionnaire.    So is the questionnaire a real exercise in consultation or a paper one?    Perhaps before drawing it up they should have consulted some party members.
April 6th
Hooded Prisoners
Am I alone in being disturbed at seeing Iraqi prisoners of war kneeling on the ground in the "execution" position with their hands tied behind their backs and a hood over their head.   On capturing a prisoner of war they should be thoroughly searched and their hands securely tied behind their backs.   During this process it might be necessary to put a hood over the prisoner's head, but immediately the search has been completed the hood should be removed.    The only reason for leaving the hood on is psychological torture.    This is not the action of a civilised nation and should be stopped.
Small Donations
On the "Today" programme on the 1st April there was an item about the donation of £2.5 million by David Sainsbury to the Labour Party.   Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive roundly condemned the donation and said that the Labour Party should be trying to get new members in order to raise its funds.
The Chairman of the Conservative Party Teresa May MP, whilst not condemning the large donation said that the Conservative Party should try and get lots of small donations.   We all can now agree that lots of small donations are better than a few big ones.   There is less likelihood of influence being exercised.   However would it not be better to get the funds by increasing membership?   The only problem with this is that members might demand accountability through the election of those that spend the money and that would not suit the oligarchy that run the Conservative Party.
The rush into this war seems to have been occasioned by two beliefs:
1) That it would be a short war
2) That it could be completed before the hot season.
It now looks as though the troops are doomed to spend the months ahead
either fighting or "digging in" until the summer heat is over. My heart
bleeds for them.
Some time ago I heard a very sensible contrary view:
1) We should time any assault on Iraq to begin at the end of summer -
at a time when temperatures are falling.
2) This would give plenty of time for the weapons inspectors to do their
work and establish the true situation.
3) If there was proof that Iraq was intending to harm other nations,
then it would be easier to get the support of the Arab world and the UN.
4) If proof could not be found in six or eight months by an extended
team of weapons inspectors, then the world should settle for continued
inspection and control of Iraqi oil revenues.
5) If Iraq was shown to have evil intentions, the invasion (by the US,
UK and other forces) could begin with the winter months ahead to
complete the task.
It seems incredible that the judgement of our political masters and their
advisors can be so poor. Heads must roll.
Jack Clayton
5 Old Brewery Yard
Market Place
Suffolk IP19 8AW
March 30th
It is said that fear is the midwife of war.    Today, war is the midwife of fear in the Tory Party.   Many members oppose the war in Iraq but fear prevents them raising the issue at meetings.    Why?   It is because the Party has got itself into an impossible position.   If the war is quickly won Tony Bliar will get the credit.    If it goes badly the Conservative Party will go down with him for supporting him.   The future is uncertain.   Who knows what the position will be at the time of the local elections?   If the war is still on at that time look for a massive upsurge in support for the Liberal Democrats.   It is beginning to dawn on the Conservative establishment that we are certain to face trouble, so the words they have been asked to concentrate on are loyalty, deference, unite, no splits, support the Leader.   All the usual words to drown out any debate.   That is why members are acting as though they are shell shocked.   A Leadership election now looks a certainty in May or June.   Watch this space.
Did You Know?
One of the reasons why people join political parties is because they want to participate in the development of policy.    Having joined the Conservative Party they leave after a couple of years because they realise that nobody is interested in their views and they have no opportunities to participate in policy development.   Not so according to Sir Michael Spicer, Chairman of the 1922 Committee.   Writing in "The House Magazine" he says "The 1922 Committee has always had a hand in policy-making.    This is particularly true when the party is in opposition.    Recently the mechanism for this has taken the form of four policy groups open toall members of the party.   These deal with Home, Foreign, Economic and Environmentaal matters on a rotating basis on Tuesdays at 5pm."   He doesn't say where, but no doubt we can find out.   Has any member ever been to one of these meetings?   How do they find out about them?   We should be told.   After all when their deliberations are published we will be told then that party members agree with them!

March 23rd
Members resignations
We are hearing of members resigning because of the Party's stance on the Iraq war.   The vote of Conservative MPs does not reflect the views within the Party.   The Deputy Chairman of the Beaconsfield Constituency Association has just resigned.   Many Party members agree with the Liberal Democrats on this issue and resent the attacks on them over it.
President Roosevelt
To those that threaten the freedom of speech of anti war protestors President Roosevelt said: "To announce hat there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

March 16th
The Voices that have not been heard!
Two Conservative MPs have independently stated to the Chairman of COPOV that on a free vote between 30% and 50% of Conservative MPs would vote against a war on Iraq at this moment in time.   One of the MPs was in the Whip's office so he should know.
The Spring Forum
Congratulations to the Conservative Party on an improved Spring Forum.   A very sensible decision was made to extend the Foreign Affairs session (see last week).   At last the party is starting to listen.   Also the nonsensical "one minute please" sessions have been abandoned.   With a bit of luck we will soon get motions for debate and allow speakers from the floor four minutes.
The Unanswered Question. (Speech given at the Conservative Spring Forum by the Chairman of COPOV)
Many Conservative Party members and more Conservative supporters than Labour supporters, oppose the war on Iraq unless -
They attack us or others;
Unless war is approved by the House of Common on a free vote;
Or unless war is specifically authorised by the United Nations.
There are two major policy changes that distinguish this proposed war from others. They are the policies of pre-emptive action and/or regime change. Both are highly dangerous to world stability.
The question that has to be answered is this:
If Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and we believe that he is prepared to use them, then under what circumstances would he most likely use them, bearing in mind that the policy of containment has had 12 years of success.
I suggest that the most likely circumstances in which he would use them would be if he is attacked or trapped in Baghdad. If this were to happen the war will have triggered off the very action that it is supposed to prevent.
On the other hand if he does not have weapons of mass destruction or he is not prepared to use them, then thousands of innocent men, women and children will lose their lives for the mistaken beliefs of our Prime Minister and President Bush, and when the bombs fall who here believes that the Iraqi people will say "That’s all right, these bombs are not meant for us, they are meant for Saddam Hussein."

March 9th
Dumbed Down ForumOnce again we have a dumbed down Spring Forum.    The maximum time allowed for any contribution from the floor is two minutes.    There are no motions.   Just as we are about to go to war the total time allowed for the Foreign Affairs session is 45 minutes and that includes the time allowed for Michael Ancram's speech.   Is it any wonder that membership of the Party is plummeting and attendance at the Forum is going the same way.   Soon they will be able to hold the meeting in a telephone box if it or they still exist.
Good Communications
Congratulations to Stephen Phillips at Central Office for communicating directly with members by e mail about the Spring Forum.    This is a welcome development.   Let us have more of it.

2nd March
Poor State of Party Finances
During the dramas of the last week "The Times" added to the despair by publishing an article by Andrew Pierce about the "Party infighting obscures poor state of its finances".   The finances may be bad but Andrew repeats an error that he has made before. 
He states "Under Iain Duncan Smith's leadership the Tories have sunk into deep debt only one year after recording their first surplus    of £1.1 million, since 1983, the high point of Margaret Thatcher's reign.
In the year to 31st March 2000 the Party had a surplus of £5,000 although this was after State Funding of £4,000,000.   In both 1994 and 1995 the Party had a surplus of over £2,000,000 without State Funding.    Not only does this show that Andrew needs to gets his facts right but that the situation has deteriorated faster than he implies.
A View from a local Party Worker
This seems to be a very opportune time to reconsider the leadership
election system. The first ballot under the rules that William Hague
introduced took place over a year ago - the excitement has died down but
it was not too long ago for memories to fade. There are few signs at
present of an imminent re-run to raise the temperature and cloud our
judgement. So what are the options?
Keep the Hague system? Conservative MPs selected two candidates and
paid up members chose one of them. One view of the experience is that
two very different people with very different views were proposed, and
members had a clear choice.
Another view is that MPs were in no doubt that the majority of members
are anti-EU and so could ensure that anyone standing against Kenneth
Clarke (or someone with his views) would be elected. So all future
elections held in this way would be flawed. MPs could achieve any
desired result by selecting one bete noir and one A N Other. MPs
would deny the winner the right to believe he or she was the best
candidate. Some - if not all - members would resent a system that is so
prone to manipulation. This method must be changed.
The Closed Room system: One alternative proposed is that all candidates
for the Party leadership should be locked in a room until they jointly
decided who should be the solitary candidate. This takes away the
members' mandate altogether but has certain advantages. The
self-selection process is carried out in secret and presumably, as it
involves all of the potential leaders, it would provide a genuine
opportunity for the "right" person to emerge. But there would be
widespread suspicion about the result and it is unlikely that all
involved would keep the process secret. Such a system might have suited
the Party some years ago, but it would not be satisfactory today.
A Committee-selected Shortlist: Clearly all leadership candidates must
be MPs with comfortable majorities, but other people should be offered a
role in the selection of a shortlist. As well as a number of MPs, this
special committee should include MEPs and representatives from the House
of Lords and from regional assemblies. There might even be a presence
from the candidates' list. The composition of this committee would
ensure that all candidates were assessed objectively and weaker ones
were excluded.
Once a shortlist has been chosen, the candidates (at least three in
number and no more than seven) would each prepare a short CV and
election address. These would be incorporated into the voting paper and
electors invited to vote by selecting and ranking a minimum of three of
the candidates. The postal ballot would be conducted independently and
overseen by the selection committee. The successful candidate would be
the person with most voting points.
Such a system would be seen to be fair and to result in the choice of a
popular leader who would have the assurance of knowing that the Party
had indeed selected him or her.
The only disadvantage - if it is one - is that the role of Conservative
MPs in the selection process would be weakened. Some members clearly
think that MPs have not shone in this regard during recent years, so
perhaps this is not a bad thing.
Further Alternatives: I don't claim to have considered all the possible
options here and invite other proposals for consideration. All I would
ask is that alternatives should be improvements on my Committee-selected
Shortlist proposal.
Jack Clayton
5 Old Brewery Yard
Market Place
Suffolk IP19 8AW
Tel: 01986 872425
"Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences"
US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war. Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralysed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war. And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materialises, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of pre-emption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defence. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list.
High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilising and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honoured alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging world-wide speculation.
Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11. Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshalling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional world-wide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labelling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come. Calling heads of state pygmies, labelling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone.
We need the co-operation and friendship of our time-honoured allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on.
The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land. Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilising forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace?
And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein? Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq? Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income? In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.
One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution. But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilising and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word. Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent.
On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate. We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.
To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgement of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time. 
February 23rd
Shameful Treatment
Most press comment has concentrated on the dismissal of Mark McGregor and Rick Nye, both of whom were policy advisers to IDS.    There was one other dismissal and that was of Stephen Gilbert, the Director of Field Operations.   His dismissal is an absolute disgrace.   He is a professional agent having worked for the Party for over 15 years.   His loyalty to the Party is unquestioned.    On top of the shameful treatment dished out to Chris Poole it is quite clear that this Leader has no understanding about how to treat faithful and loyal professionals in the Party.   He acts like a field mouse rather than a Field Marshall.   What  he does not realise is that the reaper is closer than he thinks.
Leadership CrisisLast weekend the Chairman of COPOV was asked for his advice on what the Party Board should do about the appointment of Barry Legg as Chief Executive of Central Office.   He advised that there should be an informal meeting of the Board at which they should agree the Terms of Reference of the new Chief Executive.    Having agreed them, they should then have a formal meeting to which he was invited and told that these would be the Terms of Reference under which he would operate.    They have had an informal meeting. We await with interest to see what happens at the formal meeting.
BBC gets it wrong
Speaking about the Leadership crisis Mark Mardell told how MPs were collecting signatures to call for a vote of confidence in the Leader.   He then went on to say that the final decision rested with the members.   Wrong.   If the Leader loses a vote of confidence he cannot stand in the subsequent Leadership election.
It is an undemocratic part of the Party's Constitution that those that elect the Leader have no way of getting rid of him or her.    There should be a clause that five thousand signatures from Party members calling for a leadership election would trigger it off on the basis that this right could not be exercised more than once per annum.   In such an election the current Leader could stand.    Now that would be democratic.
Breech of the Constitution
The Party's Constitution is quite clear.    It states:
"The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party.    It shall oversee all activities within the Party and in particular be responsible for:
the appointment of senior staff within the Party;
Unfortunately the Constitution does not set the remedy for when the Leader of the Party totally ignores it.
BBC Poll
In a Poll conducted by the BBC they found that there were more Tory supporters against the War than Labour supporters against the War.   Where does that leave the Leadership?
February 16th
"Stop the War" Protest
There was at least one Conservative banner at the "Stop the War" rally in Hyde Park on February 15th.  It was carried by the Chairman of COPOV.   Many people, including a number of Conservatives, expressed their appreciation at seeing the Conservative flag flying at the rally.   Almost without exception they supported Ken Clarke for Leader of the Conservative Party.  
How is it possible that the Party is getting so many things wrong?   The simple reason is that it is undemocratic.    There has not been, and there is no intention, of holding any meeting of the Party at which the issue of Iraq will be discussed.   At the Party's Spring Convention 45 minutes will be devoted to Foreign Affairs including a speech by Michael Ancram.   Is it any wonder that the Party is treated as an irrelevance?    By aligning itself with Tony Bliar it is going against the wishes of over 90% of the British people.   The end result of all this is that more and more people will take to the streets to protect and demand democracy.   The beneficiaries will be the Liberal Democrats.   Unless Parliament listens to the people the turnout in the next General Election will fall to under 50%.
Bin Laden
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the World Trade centre on September 11th all aircraft in the United States were grounded for 48 hours except one.   This was a private aircraft which flew around picking up the members of the Bin Laden family and taking them out of the USA to Saudi Arabia.    Was this because they had close relations with those now running the White House?   I think we should be told.   As Osama Bin Laden was the prime suspect isn't it strange that the family were not wanted for questioning, if only about his whereabouts?
Of the 19 hijackers involved in the attack on September 11th 15 were from Saudi Arabia, so we bombed Afghanistan.   Did we miss?
Central Office
So Mark McGregor is leaving Central Office and one of IDS's cronies is to replace him.   We wish Barry Legg well, but wonder whether the Party would be better off reverting to the former tradition of appointing a professional Party Agent to the job.   Their loyalty is to the Party and not to a transient Leader.

February 9th
War with Iraqjetplane.jpg (11298 bytes)
If the Prime Minister is right when he stated on "Newsnight" that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and is prepared to use them the most likely scenario for their use would be when Iraq was attacked. In which case starting a war with Iraq would bring about the very conditions that a war was trying to prevent.
On the other hand if Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction thousands of innocent men, women and children will be killed because of a mistaken belief.
Those that perpetrated the atrocity on the World Trade Centre did so with the intention of creating war and conflict between Islam and the Western World. We should not give them the satisfaction of seeing their wish come true.
Did You Know?
  • Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act there have so far been 270 arrests.   Most of those arrested originated in North Africa.   Not a single one is from Iraq!
  • According to general Michael Rose there is not a single general in the British Army in favour of going to war with Iraq.

2nd February
The Quiet Conservatives
Where was the voice of the Conservative Party this week?   Not a peep of protest on the decision by the Government to prevent the "Stop the War" rally in Hyde Park.   Incidentally has the BBC also become pure establishment?   Hardly anything was heard from them either.   They want young people to become more interested in politics so what do they do?   Ignore the political events that young people are interested in.
Tony Bliar wants a wholly appointed House of Lords - a view he first expressed in February 1996.   So where was the Conservative voice for democracy?   How much longer is this sanctimonious Prime Minister going to be allowed to destroy our democracy without a peep of protest from the Conservative Party?
Chairman of the National Convention
We hear that Don Porter has not been well and is unlikely to become the Chairman of the National Convention.   We wish him a full recovery.   They are having difficulty finding a candidate.    It is rumoured that Raymond Monbiot may be interested.   Anybody taking on this job has a huge task.   primarily because the oligarchy that controls the Conservative Party will not let go of the reins of power.   They would rather see the party go down the tubes than give up their power.   This has been the sad story for years and has prevented the party from taking the necessary action.   When will they begin to trust the members?

January 26th
***Star of the Week***
Undoubtedly the Star of the Week is Ken Clarke MP.   He demonstrated on "Question Time" with his views on Iraq that he is in touch with the People.   Also he wants a wholly elected House of Lords.
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We are constantly being told that Saddam Hussein has not disclosed everything about his alleged weapons of mass destruction, but how do we know whether this is true?   After all, 8,000 pages of the dossier produced by Saddam were confiscated by the United States supposedly because they contained intelligence information.   The reality is that the 8,000 pages showed the names of the American and British companies which supplied weapons to Saddam and were suppressed to prevent embarrassment.
Lord Lipsey
In an article in "The Times" Lord Lipsey argued for a appointed House of Lords.   The Chairman of COPOV responds:
In his article today "You could not elect someone better than me" (January 16) Lord Lipsey speaks for no one but himself. As an appointed Peer he is not accountable to anybody. No matter how much the people of the United Kingdom may disagree with his views he legislates on their behalf. He can exercise power without responsibility. Democracy acts as a restraint on that power for it enables the people to get rid of those that no longer represent their views.
Freedom is about the ability of people to govern themselves and democracy is the process by which we determine the will of the majority. That is why we should have a wholly elected House of Lords.
Tax the Rich?
This is a VERY simple way to understand the tax laws.
Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this.

The first four men -- the poorest -- would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man -- the richest -- would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the rrangement -- until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language-- a tax cut).
"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six -- the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they
subtracted that from everybody's share, Then the fifth man and The sixth man would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings."I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man, but he, pointing to the tenth. "But he got $7!". "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man, "I only saved a dollar, too, ........It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!".

That's true!" shouted the seventh man, why should he get $7 back when I got only $2?" The wealthy get all the breaks!". Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison, "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered, a little late what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill!

Imagine that!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Where would that leave the rest? Unfortunately, most taxing authorities anywhere cannot seem to grasp this rather straightforward logic!

T. Davies Professor of Accounting & Chair,
Division of Accounting and Business Law
The University of South Dakota School of Business
414 E. Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069

January 19th
Leadership bid
It now seems as though Ken Clarke wants to wait until June before launching his Leadership bid.   By then a decision will have been taken as to whether there will be a referendum on the Euro during the course of this Parliament and the local elections will be out of the way.
Of course the MPs may want action earlier.    Many Constituencies are finding that a lot of members are refusing to renew their subscriptions (they were due on January 1st).   This is making them very jittery.   In addition at meetings the MPs are coming under pressure.    The voice of the grass roots is beginning to be heard in no uncertain terms.    The polite deference is being abandoned.
Ethnic Minorities
Central Office have learnt nothing.    The culture of the organisation has to change, but what do we find?    A committee has been set up by the Party Chairman to try and get more members from the ethnic minorities.   Let me predict what will happen.   After considerable effort they will get a number of ethnic minority members.   This will be hailed as a great success and a sign that the Party is changing.       
After three years all the new members will disappear, because they will find that they have no say in the organisation of the Party, no say in how the Party's money is spent and no say in the development of the policies of the Party and no influence on anything unless they pay large sums of money to the Party.    Until these issues are addressed this exercise like previous exercises of a similar nature is doomed to failure.
Two years later it will be announced that a committee has been set up to recruit members from the ethnic minorities.   After considerable effort.........
We received a copy of the speech by Michael Ancram given to Parliament on December 2nd, but strangely he did not mention a Referendum on the Future of Europe in it. (See his letter below)   Nevertheless it did include some very interesting points.   He calls for a Europe that is more accountable, more democratic, less centralised and more relevant.   Specifically he asks for Council voting to be on the record and in public; a streamlined Commission with its powers of initiation curtailed.   He wants the Government to publish a green or white paper so that consultation can take place with the British people.    All in all, this was a good speech and could form the basis of Conservative policy on Europe which ought to unite all parts of the Party.   We still have further to go but a good start has been made.
The Sunday Times
For the second time this year there was no mention of the Conservative Party in this week's edition of "The Sunday Times".    have they written the Party off?
12th January
Referendum on the future of Europe
Congratulations to the Conservative Party for committing itself to a referendum on the Future of Europe and particular congratulations to Michael Ancram MP for putting this forward.   COPOV wrote on   12th November a Letter to Michael Ancram MP(See below) requesting a referendum.   We show his reply.   It is particularly pleasing because COPOV were the first to publicly demand a referendum in a letter to "The Times" on 30th August 2002.   The Conservative Party is beginning to listen,   There is hope yet.   Incidentally Mr. Ancram forgot to include a copy of his speech with the letter but when we get hold of it we will publish it on this web site.
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Fat Cat Trade Unionists
We often hear, quite rightly about fat cat businessmen that are paid over the odds, but what about the fat cat Trade Unionists?   We set out below for your information a few details.   Next time they complain about their members wages perhaps they might take a pay cut to bring them into line with the members they represent.
General Secretary
Salary £s
AmicusDerek Simpson100,000
 Roger Lyons300,000
CWUBilly Hayes99,000
GMBJohn Edmunds86,000
PCSMark Serwotka60,000
T & GBill Morris97,000

January 5th
Over the Christmas period we had another debacle.   We were told that the Conservative party would reduce taxes.    Then we were told that they would not.   Oh yes we will.    Oh no we w'ont.   Doesn't it remind you of the Christmas pantomime?    How long can we go on like this?   When a member of the Shadow Cabinet was asked "How do you put up with this farce?"   His reply was "We just switch off."   Much more of this and they will be switching off the lights in Central Office - permanently.
Is This a Record?
In today's "Sunday Times" with its many sections there was not a single mention of the Conservative Party.   Is this a record?
The Spring Forum
Application forms have been sent out for the Spring Forum in the middle of March.   A pass costs £25.00 and dinner £50.00.    I predict that attendance will be the lowest ever.  The costs are too high for ordinary members.   The only item of interest will be the elections to the Party Board but that will be open only to the members of the National Convention.    Why doesn't the Party be daring?   Be totally open and transparent.    Allow all the members of the Party a vote for election to the Party Board.    Let any member stand as long as they are proposed and seconded by two other members.   Allow all the candidates to be questioned - after all this was what the Convention itself wanted.   Allow motions to be debated at the forum if they have the signatures of twenty members and allow the party's web site to be used to collect the twenty signatures.   If we took these simple steps to more openness we might just start to see a Tory revival.   We have now got nothing to lose.


All recent polls must surely confirm Mr. Duncan Smith’s worst fears: his enemies dislike him and his friends despise him. More Conservatives are dissatisfied with him than content. He may care to pause and ponder why. He was, after all, elected by the majority of Conservative members – and, therein, ironically, is to be found the very cause of his, (as one might put it in a school report) lack of progress.

The dwindling Tory membership of some 300,000 is almost totally at variance in aspirations and outlook to the 6 million lost Tory voters, and indeed with many Conservative voters generally. It is these very members who elected a leader cast in their own mould. It was not his fault: it was his fate. For the first time in our political annals, a Party voluntarily voted itself into unelectability. Mr. Duncan Smith, for all his integrity, is the unsung hero of the Labour Party: for where does quietness end and dumbness begin?

Now in some circles such a state might might be regarded as political treason, not least among those with no knowledge of history, at present in the ascendant in Tory counsels. Until the defeat of Mr Major the Conservative Party’s evolution could be traced across two centuries. Peel modernised it; Disraeli traditionalised it; Churchill revived it; Macmillan popularised it. The arrival of Mr. Hague who made his best speech aged 16, masked its descent into fatuity; the multiples of the nonentities as Lord Curzon would have said, "Like cushions bearing the imprint of the last arse that sat upon them." Having wooed the ethnic vote, Mr. Hague warned of England being like a foreign land while Mr. Duncan Smith’s reconnaissance was such that he failed to spot a BNP supporter among his patrons. The fact that such a character felt drawn towards him should surely have worried him.

Now we witness the supposed debate between the Traditionalists and the Modernisers as each faction vies to be responsible for defeat at the next election.

The plain fact is that the Tory Party has had no responsible leadership since the defeat of Mr. Major – that much maligned leader able to still secure victory after 13 years of Tory rule. Five years into the Blair Presidency and Mr. Duncan Smith knows full well that Downing Street eludes him. At present the Tory Party does not remember where it has been, does not know where it is now and from these chaotic bearings is unable to plot its future.

Gimmicks have replaced policies where the largely ignored voluntary section declines the invitation to sell second rate knickers at third rate jumble sales to support a fourth rate hierarchy of youthful stereo typed chinless wonders. One nation Tories who have jumped ship have only themselves to thank; you cannot jump ship today and hope to chart the course tomorrow.

Cromwell’s words to the Long Parliament, applied to Neville Chamberlain by Leo Amery in 1940 might be not inappropriate to Mr. Duncan Smith now "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God go!"

The year 1940, however had its compensations, not least the arrival of Mr. Kenneth Clarke on this bedevilled planet.
The Tory membership, having failed the wishes of the majority of Tory voters, must, as soon as the opportunity arises, make a leap of faith. It must elect the man it previously rejected, bearing in mind that a vote among Tory subscribers in 1940 would no doubt have been overwhelmingly in favour of Chamberlain, despite the Nation crying out for Churchill. Mercifully in 1940 the subscribers were not asked.
Why did Mr. Clarke lose last time? Europe. Like Neville Chamberlain the majority of Tory members were for keeping out. In fact the proposed referendum with Mr. Clarke as leader would have allowed for an electable Conservative Party in or out of the Euro according to the nation’s wishes.

There were other reasons for Mr. Clarke’s failure to become leader. So used have we become as shadows that we fear substance when offered it. The tortuous pseudo-sophistications of the make-up boys have no effect on Mr. Clarke who is sold as seen; much healthier than hired but unseen. He has a robustness, a charm which relies upon the lack thereof, and rarity enough, is a man of principle. He did not pretend to be other than he is to secure the leadership: nor will he face the problem of being elected on one ticket and then trying to hold the leadership by adopting other tickets which he previously decried.
Let those extremists who have threatened to leave the Tories if Mr. Clarke ever became leader – let those extremists find their spiritual home in the extreme parties where their creeds will not embarrass the Conservatives. Mr. Clarke alone is capable of regaining the centre ground for the Tories; a one nation Tory rather than a one suburb Tory with a mentality that searches for a passport before entering the next suburb.

He is the Dennis Healey of the Tory Party. Lady Thatcher owed much of her success to Labour’s folly in failing to elect Mr. Healey. Mr. Blair owes a great deal of his success to the Tories failure (so far) to elect Mr. Clarke.

The Prime Minister’s idea of opposition at present is to be confronted by a frightfully decent little man opposite to be treated with contempt, made all the easier by his pledge to be quiet. As far as Mr. Blair is concerned, Mr. Clarke is frightful, decent and definitely not pledged to a vow of silence. It’s no use sticking one’s colours to the mast and then lowering the mast.

A half-witted rabbit in the latter stages of senility would be able to deduce the self-evident fact that the only reason the Prime Minster is not invariably harsh on the Leader of the Opposition is that the former regards the latter as his chief ally in a troubled political world.
It is, alas, futile seeking salvation with another version of Mr. Hague or Mr. Duncan Smith. Mr. Davis, for example, would simply be Mr. Duncan Smith with a quiff.

It falls to Mr. Clarke alone to be able to offer an appealing yet principled programme which would place the Conservative pyramid firmly upon its broad base rather than precariously upon its sharp apex. The great test of a national leader is whether people not automatically inclined to vote for his party would do so as a matter of personal trust, transcending party divisions, and thereby bring that party to power.

Therein lies the Tory conundrum. Does the Tory Party want power or does it want so-called ideological purity? – the very notion that kept the Labour Party out of power for so long. Those who voted for Mr. Duncan Smith must now ask themselves whether it was wise to vote for ideas enshrined in electoral defeat. For how could such ideas ever be implemented? Thus the Right Wing of the Tory Party has secured in safety a Labour Government.

The British people are fanatically against fanaticism, being conservative by nature, which is why the Conservative Party was once the natural party of government.

Gratitude is rarely the language of politics but the Labour Party has been known to select for the Conservatives their best leader. By refusing to serve under Chamberlain the Labour Party brought Churchill to the helm. By resolutely refusing to allow Mr. Duncan Smith to make the slightest inroad into their poll ratings, the Socialists may compel the Tories to accept the only man capable of beating them.

At any rate, Churchill observed that he hoped to see the day when an Englishman would feel as at home in Europe as in his native land. This mantle does not exactly fit easily upon Mr. Duncan Smith’s isolationist brow.

Time was when Lord Prior and Lord Tebbit served in the save cabinet weaving together different interpretations of the Conservative cloth. Lord Prior has retired and Lord Tebbit is no longer in favour because he has the temerity to suggest that yesterday’s outlaws would not be appointed today’s sheriffs. To find the parallel to contain appointments one would have to return to the day when Caligula made his horse consul.

Besides, presumably Lord Tebbit is considered too left wing; worse still he has had actual experience of government. He’s actually very pleasant but pretends to be otherwise. Modern thinking prefers the reverse.

Only Mr. Clarke can remove from voter’s minds the suspicion that shadow ministers wish to emerge from the shade merely to dismantle the Welfare State, at least at a more rapid speed than is at present on New Labour’s agenda. Put simply it is, or will be, for the Tory membership to convince millions of despairing but potential Tory voters that it is willing to elect a leader that the nation is willing to elect.

It is inevitable that the Tory Party will again shortly be faced with a choice between the monkey and the organ grinder. The organ grinder has more than generously offered his services to the monkey. In 1940, Lord Halifax declined to subvert Churchill’s claims, his greatest service to his nation and his party. Whether Mr. Duncan Smith is possessed of a similar sense of history remains to be seen; Lord Halifax continued to make a contribution while recognising Churchill was the man of the hour, without whom no practical contribution could be made by anyone.

Stephen Parker
24 West Hill,
Hertfordshire SG5 2HZ.
Tel.  01462 433939


Pensions, Transport, the National Health Service, Schools – just four of a whole series of crises in which the present Government has floundered and which would, under normal circumstances, have sealed its fate at the next General Election. But, alas, these are not normal times thanks largely to an impotent Conservative Party, more interested in turning in on itself and playing the "who shall we have as our next leader?" game. No Government in recent history has had an easier ride and no Government in recent history has destroyed so much of what once made the United Kingdom the envy of the world – the emasculation and castration of the British Constitution being the prime example. Anybody who is not part of the so-called ‘project’ is ostracised and those who are perceived as liabilities are easily cast aside – Stephen Byers and Estelle Morris being prime examples. The recent Cheriegate affairs confirms what we all already knew – the Downing Street ‘spin’ doctors will try and lie their way out of trouble if anything should disturb the court of King Tony. The idea that the Prime Minister had no knowledge that his wife planned to purchase two flats in Bristol, costing over £500,000 between them, beggars belief. But then the Prime Minister these days is living in a world of his own and is now ‘Deus Omnius’ (All God) and not merely ‘Primus inter pares’. He must be thankful that the opposition is so divided – a Conservative Party leader who is not only a quiet man but an invisible one and a Liberal Democrat leader, whose main claim to fame is that he excels in TV quiz shows.
Important issues are no longer debated and decided in the Houses of Parliament but in the media, notably television. Presentation is everything – the way things look and sound. We have a House of Commons, which, the way things are looking, will sit for two and a half days a week with MPs supposedly returning to their constituencies to spend more time there. Their basic salary, coupled with generous secretarial allowances and travelling arrangements and a pension scheme which most of us can only dream about, is far above the average wage. Yet they still have the nerve to complain how poor is their lot. The Executive, i.e. the Government must have its own way at all times and consequently much of what goes on is not properly debated and scrutinised. Regulations from such bodies as the EU are simply ‘nodded’ through with little or no attempt at discussion. Is it any wonder that MPs are held in such low esteem and that the turnout at the 2001 General Election was only 59% - the lowest since universal suffrages came in in the late 1920’s.
Our Party cannot move on as it is hampered by its recent past. Thanks to Edwina Currie we know now that John Major was not the man we once thought – kind, decent, likeable, honest – but an adulterer. We have heard recently about a con man – one Peter Foster – but in Jeffrey Archer we had one long before. How ridiculous was his speech at the 1999 Party Conference when running for London Mayor and how gullible were our then leaders in falling for such guff! Christine and Neil Hamilton never cease to amaze us with their antics and television appearances on TV shows such as "Who wants to be a millionaire?". We are continually reminded as to how unlikeable we were and this has nothing to do with our attitudes to ethnic minority groups, single mothers and gays etc. We had too many publicity seeking, self-important buffoons at the top and this has virtually destroyed us.
Our organisation, once the envy of the other Parties, is now shambolic and in total paralysis if the writer’s experience is anything to go by. Here in Wales we have Assembly Elections on May 1. Over two months ago I wrote to my local Assembly Member offering my services saying I would deliver leaflets in the town where I live and act as a ‘teller’ on polling day itself. I also wrote to the local Constituency Chairman in the Constituency office. My Assembly Member replied quite quickly thanking me for my interest and saying he would send a copy to the local branch chairman. To date I have heard nothing from either Chairman – if the branch chairman is who I think it is, I am not surprised as he and I fell out over an employment matter some 16 years ago and it took me sometime to remember who he was. Another things which irks me is this: we are asked to donate money towards a fighting fund for these important elections but when we do no letter of acknowledgement or thanks is received. I only know if the gift has been accepted when I look at my next bank statement and the paid cheque appears on it. I was asked to support the formation of branches in Rhondda Cynon Taff – dead wood for us in electoral terms as they are safe Labour seats – and I wrote back saying as much. I felt that we would be far better to spend our money in Cardiff, where we once held three of the four Parliamentary seats, and in the marginal Vale of Glamorgan where I now live. The Cardiff situation demonstrates the malaise and the mountain we have to climb. In 1986, just 16 years ago, we had 34 seats on the City Council and were the controlling Party with an overall majority. Our strength lay in seven ‘safe’ wards which always returned Conservative councillors and four or five marginal wards which in a good election would fall to us. In 2002, we are in third place with a paltry five seats, three in the Rhiwbina ward and two others. Needless to say, the Liberal Democrats have captured our safe wards and are now the main opposition to Labour in the city.
The local elections next May will be ‘make or break’ for Iain Duncan Smith. If we continue to lose to the Liberal Democrats and cannot regain Cheltenham, Worthing and Eastbourne, he will be doomed and seen as a loser.
We can thank our MPs for being so divided in the 2001 leadership election that we are in the present mess. In view of the fact that in the end Duncan Smith, Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo polled almost an equal number of votes, Portillo’s name should also have been included. The rules, which obviously had not considered this possibility, should have been relaxed. It has led to bitterness and bad feeling. I have written before that I voted for Ken Clarke despite my Euroscepticism. I felt then, and still do, that he had a better chance of widening our appeal and broadening our base, had a lot of ministerial and cabinet experience and would be able to take Tony Blair on at his own game. While I appreciate Duncan Smith’s qualities of honest, sincerity and decency, these are simply not enough. I now question his judgement. His decision to impose a three line whip which, while maybe adopting the high moral ground, on an issue of personal conscience was foolhardy and only served to expose our own divisions. The clumsy press conference served only to confirm the impression that he is out of his depth.
I read with horror that the Liberal Democrats are now devising plans to overtake us in the opinion polls and to capture many more of our traditional seats. This may well happen but it will be Tony Blair who is grinning and not Charles Kennedy. We are very unlikely to fall below 25% in the opinion polls and that should be sufficient to give us 100 seats in any future House of Commons. For this reason alone, the Liberal Democrats could never be in a majority. Furthermore, there are too many safe Labour seats which will never change hands. In the unlikely event of the Liberal Democrats being the largest party without an overall majority, who would they turn to? A discredited Labour Party which had lost an overall majority of over 170 or to a Conservative Party which they had virtually destroyed by capturing so many of its former seats? Or would there then be some cosy ‘stitched up’ deals along the "we must put country before party and work together" line?
Another reason, of course, why we are in this mess and perpetual state of crisis, is that the opinion polls have not moved one bit (or if they have, it has been downwards) and Labour, despite its many deficiencies and contradictions, are at least 14 points ahead, greater than in the actual 2001 result. But the Blair magic is beginning to wear off and, beneath the surface, cracks are beginning to appear; cracks which get wider every day. The additional National Insurance comes into effect in May 2003 and when the higher taxes (for this is what this really is) fail to improve the National Heath Service or only improve it marginally, the general public will be angry. The paradox is that people say they want more spent on health and education, yet at the same time do not want to pay the higher taxes necessary to fund them. (Perhaps they feel it is pouring money into a sieve.) This Government is never likely to be able to solve the problems which are largely of its own making because it wants to be both socialist and conservative at the same time – some sort of ‘third’ way. So instead of the Butskellism of the 1950’s we now have the Soc-con of 2002. This is unlikely to work for the reasons given and the tragedy for our country is that neither our Party nor the Liberal Democrats will be in a position to offer an alternative in the foreseeable future.

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