Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

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Last Updated: Friday, August 12th, 2011

As with last week I offer a few bite-sized thoughts for this week’s Intelligence Letter, rather than a longer essay.

After the riots. It’s too early to be sure of this week’s political significance. The drama of the riots is too fresh in the memory. It’s not clear if the situation is under control or if problems will flare up again as police numbers decline back to normal and the temperatures rise on hot urban nights. My hunch is that it will all be very significant. An immediate impact will be to drag Cameron further back to a more traditional position on law and order. That process was already underway after Ken Clarke’s prisons policy had bombed with tabloid newspapers and the public. The civil libertarians in the party are in retreat as more hawkish voices like Gove and IDS reassert the view that CCTV and tough policing methods are essential. IDS, generally, is in the ascendant. He’ll now be in charge of a cross-cutting review into how to tackle gang culture. He’s a very powerful Welfare Secretary having stood up to the Chancellor on the Universal Benefit and is riding at the top of grassroots popularity leagues. This could be a big moment for Cameron. In some ways – law and order excepted – it’s a vindication of his Broken Society agenda. There was no great public demand for his zeal for reforming the police and the voluntary sector. There is now and it complements his reforms to the welfare state and the education system. He’s giving a big interview to The Sunday Telegraph and a speech on Monday where he’ll flesh all this out. I suspect he’ll only get a hearing, however, if he can overcome the police numbers issue which Labour are hitting him with. I’ll also wait to see if Cameron can turn his solid initial response into a coherent and publicly resonant strategy. He’s good at the big moment events, not so good at seeing an idea through. He probably needs a domestic equivalent of his National Security Council and (unlike his Number 10 Policy Unit) it will need to be run by political rather than civil service appointees. 

Not a great week for Boris Johnson or Theresa May. Boris Johnson has tried to correct course by distancing himself from the Coalition’s “frail” policy on police numbers. He’s also found £50 million to help businesses damaged by the riots. Theresa May is the other top casualty of events. She’s not naturally warm on TV. On Wednesday morning she seemed too detached from the angry national mood. Not a single visitor to was positive about her performance. I’m still buying shares in Mrs May, however. For me she’s a no-nonsense marathon runner. A tortoise, not a hair. She’s Britain’s Frau Merkel. She puts in the hard yards on policy. She’ll analyse what’s gone wrong in recent weeks and put it right. It won’t be as fast as the likes of David Davis or tabloid newspapers want but she’ll get there. Most importantly, I think Cameron trusts her ‘red boxery’ too. Relations with the police chiefs are very difficult. She’ll need to go deep into her reservoir of diplomacy to stop simmering Government/APCO relations from boiling over.

Growing pains. George Osborne wrote a piece for The Telegraph last Monday about the global economic turmoil.  It ended with these words: “This crisis provides an opportunity to make some difficult trade-offs in favour of growth that might get parked in the “too difficult” box in calmer times.” They looked important to me at the time and I’m told they are. The Chancellor has struggled to produce a convincing growth agenda. His friends blame the bureaucracy and the Lib Dems (a favoured scapegoat). In reality my impression is that Osborne put too many eggs in the low interest rate basket and an inadequate number of eggs in the supply side basket. Time will tell but I’m assured the Chancellor is working flat out to beef up his pro-growth agenda. Unlike some of the declinists in the commentariat he knows that – because of demographic and health pressures – 1.5% growth is needed to ‘stand still’.

Tim Montgomerie



THE PHRASE MAY BE TOXIC BUT CAMERON SHOULDN’T GIVE UP ON THE IDEAS BEHIND HUG-A-HOODIE: “It shouldn’t be too difficult for us to combine two beliefs: “One, that we need to do more to get young people off the conveyor belt to crime and to believe that mums and dads are the best crime prevention officers. Two, those people who stay on that conveyor belt will feel the full force of the law.” More via


This was posted at the weekend:

DOES BRITAIN HAVE A SILENT MAJORITY? LORD FLIGHT THINKS SO: “Put in simplistic terms, there has remained a “silent majority” of sensible British citizens who have known all along that the Euro project was a politically motivated economic nonsense, likely to end in the sort of disaster we are now facing.  Equally there has been a majority who are robust on “Law and Order” – and supportive of the basic principle that adequate defence of the Realm should have the first call on taxation.  The same silent majority has also been sceptical of excess public spending, an economy based on excessive borrowing and of unaffordable welfare spending, well beyond the provision of a “safety net” to look after people when they fall on hard times.” More via


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