Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

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Last Updated: Friday, August 5th, 2011

Hague wants to renegotiate our relationship with the EU but not yet. Eurosceptics are very excited at the possibility of using the current Eurozone crisis to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Brussels. George Osborne has said that the Eurozone core should be permitted to move towards some kind of fiscal union if that’s what is necessary to make the single currency work. This will require Treaty changes and, say Tory MPs, an opportunity for Britain to undo Lisbon etc. William Hague and other senior Tory ministers are urging caution. We don’t want a renegotiation opportunity early in the parliament, they say, when the Lib Dems will be in a strong position to veto anything substantial. Later in the parliament we can go for bigger changes and, if necessary, make delivering those changes an election issue. Eurosceptics are suspicious of this, seeing it as another case of mañana, mañana. They feel they’ve waited long enough for their moment. Every day Tory MPs are told that they can’t have this, that or the other because of the Coalition. The prize of renegotiation may be too big for them to patiently wait for, only to see slip away.

A good week and a good year for waste-busting Francis Maude. In the latest ConservativeHome poll of Tory members it is noticeable that Francis Maude is climbing the rankings ( When he was Tory Chairman, Mr A List, as he was then known, was unpopular with a good half of the grassroots but his steady rise reflects a growing appreciation of the competent way in which he has handled his brief in government. This week he announced that he has so far delivered nearly £4 billion of efficiency savings by renegotiating government contracts. Some of the wastefulness he has uncovered has been shocking ( Yesterday he announced new moves to increase the transparency of government ( The leading Cameroons – and few are as modernising as Maude – have been disappointed at the slow take off of their belief in ‘see-through government’. They are sticking with it, however, and are convinced that, over time, crowd and competitor-based inspections of how Whitehall departments and local councils spend money/ award contracts will produce cheaper and cheaper government. What hasn’t yet emerged is the full-blown industry for scrutinising government. But it will.

Cameron and Osborne aren’t the only ones with plans for the autumn. In case you missed it, do check out George Pascoe-Watson’s public note for Portland PR on what Team Cameron are planning for the autumn ( It’s basically a focus on the Coalition’s successful and popular things (welfare reform, immigration control and better schooling) with a drive to increase competitiveness. It’s not just the Tory leadership that has plans for the autumn, however. Two books come out at party conference time which will chart different, post-Coalition futures for the Conservatives. There’ll be one edited by David Davis, and involving contributions from twenty Tory MPs. Another is being jointly written by Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dom Raab, Charlie Elphicke, Chris Skidmore and Liz Truss (some of the party’s brightest prospects). The backbench policy committees of the 1922 have disappointed, so far, as alternatives centres of Tory thinking. These books will be important clues about the future centre of gravity of the parliamentary Conservative Party.

The coming confrontation on energy policy. Electricity and fuel prices are voters’ top worries ( The top tax cutting priority for Tory members isn’t the 50p tax band (far from it) but fuel duty. In recent weeks hardly a day goes by without the Mail campaigning against the Coalition’s energy policies. Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Forum has been hugely successful in delivering this. The Forum’s Benny Peiser has targeted the Mail with a view to shifting the debate. I am aware of a new group among Tory MPs that is preparing to coordinate resistance to ‘green taxes’ and other allegedly expensive environmental policies. The British Conservative Party is out-of-step with conservative parties in America, Australia and Canada on climate change. It will be interesting to see whether that changes as the salience of energy prices rises and this new campaign group takes off.

Tim Montgomerie




THIS IS NO TIME FOR ECONOMIC HALF-MEASURES: “With the world economy facing such a bleak decade this is no time for half measures. We need to be cutting taxes on business and funding them with deeper cuts in the over-sized state. We should be suspending environmental measures that are imposing heavy and futile costs on our manufacturing industry. We shouldn’t be loading new regulations on our banks until the economy is strong again. We need them to be lending. We need reform of competition policy, sale of public sector assets, regionalisation of the minimum wage, no-strike agreements in the public sector and refocusing of trade policy on bilateral rather than multilateral agreements. We should also realise that we can’t afford bailouts for broken Eurozone economies.” More via

GETTING RID OF 50P? “The 50p rate could be abolished by replacing it with a tax that still impacts the rich but is less economically harmful. In Coalition politics the Tories get the 50p rate abolished (and I would say should also seek a higher threshold for the increasingly troublesome 40p rate) but the Lib Dems get some sort of mansion tax. I strongly support an overall rebalancing of the tax system where we tax income, investment and family formation less and impose more tax on high value property and ‘sins’ such as pollution. This rebalancing wouldn’t only help the wealth creating part of the economy it would also help the young and therefore stem a brain drain.” More via

ANGIE BRAY MP ON LABOUR’S WASTEFULNESS: “The government basically had no idea how much it spent with its major suppliers, was not buying anything in bulk, kept minimal records on its spend on things like consultants and required no central sign off for any advertising campaigns. A box of paper bought from £73 in one department cost £8 in another – more than 9 times as much. There was a Civil Service redundancy scheme which allowed payoffs of over six times annual salary. Simply put, it is totally unbelievable how badly things were run under Labour, and no business would ever have got away with it.” More via

 JOHN GLEN MP ON INADEQUATE DEFENCE SPENDING: “On the one hand there is an expectation that spare capacity may be found through the establishment of alliances and bilateral operations yet at the same time it is expected that a Future Force 2020 will be a wide-spectrum force able to maintain routines tasks with a critical mass and spare capacity. These two dimensions do not sit well together given the lack of certainty over the budget beyond 2014. Unless the ambition of a real term funding increase is fully realised, we will have failed our Armed Forces and we won’t have what is required to deliver what we say we will need.” More via


Tim Montgomerie

From the Conservative Intelligence member's site

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