Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

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A Few Short Articles…..

Last Updated: Monday, February 20th, 2012

FRANCIS MAUDE EVENT: We are delighted to announce our latest ConservativeIntelligence event. A Q&A panel from 5.30pm until 7pm on 25th April. The panelists will be Therese Coffey MP, Janan Ganesh of The Economist, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude MP and Tim Yeo, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.  Please email to reserve your place.

We are currently planning other events and would appreciate your thoughts on topics and speakers you would like featured. My email address is if you have any thoughts.

THE NHS BILL: Some of you may have noticed that I caused a bit of a media fuss ten days ago when I argued that the Coalition should drop the Health and Social Care Bill ( I certainly wasn’t expecting my advice to be heeded and it hasn’t been. The Government ploughs on in the teeth of public opposition, holding seminars on the reforms which exclude the major representatives of NHS staff. Anyway I’m not wanting to continue my mini-campaign here. What is notable is that large numbers of MPs, ministers and of course journalists contacted me after my intervention by txt, email and phone. Number 10 hasn’t contacted me once since the morning of my blog. This is not unusual, even when I’m not causing trouble. Number 10’s default setting is to give the silent treatment to nearly all people except lobby journalists. As a way of building support and understanding across the party it’s not a winning strategy. Cameron desperately needs an external relations function so that it doesn’t lose touch with key columnists, bloggers, think tank chiefs and other third parties that help shape opinion. His shaky support within the Tory Party is a relational as much as a policy failing.

THE BLUE HALF OF THE TUG-O-WAR: In the Mail on Sunday James Forsyth revealed ( that Cameron’s 17 top advisers went to Chequers last week to discuss, among other things, a game plan if the Lib Dems left the Coalition early – say next year. The Lib Dems are in no position to want an early election but the danger is they might leave the Coalition and the Conservatives would have to govern as a minority administration on confidence and supply. The smart money is still on the Coalition lasting until full term or close to full term but Numbers 10 and 11 have been concerned at the way the Lib Dems have been pushing a more aggressive differentiation strategy. This has been particularly evident on tax policy with Nick Clegg publicly warning the Chancellor and the Conservative Party to cut taxes for low income people or, alternatively, guard the interests of the wealthy. Nice. Tugged hard one way by the Lib Dems the Conservative leadership has been encouraging Conservative MPs to tug from the other direction. The recent letter signed by more than 100 Tory MPs against windfarm subsidies was very much encouraged by Number 11. It, goes the strategy, will reinforce George Osborne’s hands over climate change policy in negotiations with, now, Ed Davey. Tory MPs were also encouraged to kick up a fuss over university access tsar Les Ebdon. Vince Cable may have prevailed against Michael Gove on that appointment but aides to Cameron calculate that they are more likely to get concessions from Lib Dems in other areas if Cameron is seen to have to keep his party happy.

DIVISIONS IN THE PARLIAMENTARY PARTY: In last week’s Intelligence Letter Paul Goodman previewed what might be contentious elections to the backbench 1922 Committee in May. These elections will be used by ‘Cameroons’ and more mainstream Tories to dilute the so-called Old Right’s control of the ’22. Paul writes more about this on ConHome today ( My guess is, like Paul, the loyalists will attempt to topple the biggest critics of David Cameron on the Cttee (e.g. Brian Binley, Mark Pritchard and possibly Chris Chope) but will leave Graham Brady and other officers in place. Trying to completely replace the existing leadership could be a lose-lose strategy for the loyalists. If an attempt to remove Graham Brady is unsuccessful the risk is the Cameroons will create an emboldened centre of opposition to Number 10. Topple Graham Brady and the defeated minority will stop being team players and organise in new and potentially more aggressive ways. Adjusting rather than transforming the composition of the ’22 is probably the best strategy for ‘friends of the Prime Minister’.

DANNY ALEXANDER AND THE QUAD: Last week on ConHome I profiled ( ‘The Quad’ – the group of four that is the Coalition’s sovereign body. I noted how Danny Alexander had come under the spell of George Osborne. One Intelligence subscriber sent me an interesting reaction that I’d like to share with you. “The observation of Alexander’s peculiar loyalty is accurate, but the analysis of why isn’t quite right. It’s not the svengali like powers of Osborne. You have to understand that Danny has always been like this. To an almost absurd degree he is a naturally loyal number two to whoever he works for, whether Stephen Woodard at the European Movement, Simon Buckby at Britain in Europe or Nick and now George. I assume, but do not know he had another strong patron who he served devotedly at the Cairngorms National Park.”

By Tim Montgomerie



OSBORNE GIVES TO BUSINESS WITH ONE HAND BUT TAKES WITH THE OTHER: “If George Osborne is doing the right thing on the deficit (and like most Tory members we wish he’d cut harder and faster and have avoided tax rises) he still lacks a competitiveness agenda. For every tax cut (eg corporation tax) there are bigger tax rises (VAT, CGT, bank levy). For every reduction in red tape (eg health and safety) more regulations are being imposed (eg the Agency Workers Directive). For every good initiative (planning reform) there’s a bad one (big policy-induced increases in the cost of energy).” More via

THE TAXING CHANCELLOR: “George Osborne’s plan is to bring the government finances back into balance in the medium term and reduce government spending to just below 40% of national income. This is very worrying. By the Chancellor’s own admission, the UK government has never been able to tax its citizens more than 40% of national income. The limit of the ambitions of a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to be to tax the British population at the maximum taxable capacity.” More from the IEA’s Philip Booth via

THE POWER OF THE QUAD AT THE HEART OF GOVERNMENT: “The Quad isn’t just half blue/ half yellow but also half Treasury. “The Treasury,” concludes James Forsyth, “is an even greater force in the land than it was in Gordon Brown’s day.” Wow. He continues: “The Treasury fought for decades to get a second Cabinet post, finally succeeding in 1961, and even then remained vastly outnumbered in Cabinet by ministers from spending departments. Now it has half the people in the room whenever a major decision is taken.” Nine more observations can be read via

NEW TORY-LED EURO-ENTHUSIAST GROUP ESTABLISHED: “The group, which has offices in London and Brussels, provides daily bulletins – written by David Gow, formerly of the Guardian, and David Seymour, formerly of the Daily Mirror, and bulletins for MPs “of all parties”. Starting in April, Nucleus will also be providing briefings for MPs, journalists, think-tankers, business figures, and in March, they will start hosting quarterly visits to Brussels.” More via

STUDENT MIGRANTS SHOULD BE EXCLUDED FROM IMMIGRATION TARGETS: “The government says it wants a more diverse higher education sector with new entrants driving down tuition fees – a laudable aim. Yet its student visa controls are destroying private sector HE colleges that can offer fee rates for degrees which are over a third less than those offered by public universities. Where is the sense in that? The Conservative Party’s wish to curtail net migration to the tens of thousands is clear. But it makes no sense to include student migrants in this total. Doing so is harming economic growth and risks destroying a highly successful part of the UK economy.” More from Centre Forum via

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