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The View From CCHQ

Last Updated: Friday, April 26th, 2013

I was very heavily briefed by senior sources from Downing Street yesterday, and the result can be seen on ConservativeHome this morning.  One of the three big claims made by Number 10 is that it senses “a bit of a feel of ’91” – the year before John Major’s surprise election victory against the odds.

It’s obviously been the Conservative Party’s week for calling in ConservativeHome – presumably as part of David Cameron’s charm offensive, of which the appointment of Jo Johnson to head Downing Street’s Policy Unit is a sign – because a few days ago I was also heavily briefed by senior sources at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

Five big points were made to me, which fit in neatly with Number 10s observations to me about Ed Miliband having “spent his first year of so doing nothing very much”, and that this is now catching up with him – as his problems over welfare have shown.  They fall under the following rough headings:

  • Leadership.  CCHQ wants to capitalise not only on David Cameron’s incumbency status as Prime Minister, but on a simple sense that he is up to taking the tough decisions the country needs and that Miliband is not.
  • Being on the right side of the issues.  This is at least partly a code for being tough on welfare, and it’s worth adding that I detect a difference of tone between CCHQ and Downing Street.  CCHQ recently commissioned a poster portraying a welfare claimant as a slob on a sofa.  But Number 10 was very keen to stress to me the importance of “decency” in having a truly national appeal.
  • Competence.  CCHQ admit that the Government’s reputation for this was hit hard by the Omnishambles Budget of 2012, but claim that this year’s budget has helped to restore a sense of order and purpose.
  • “Belief in ourselves”. Dan Hodges, the Daily Telegraph’s anti-Miliband Labour writer-in-residence, recently asked if the Tories really want to win.  (By the way, Hodges is the Prime Minister’s favourite journalistic read, I’m told.)   CCHQ is eager to stress that if the Parliamentary Party is consumed by plots and conspiracies, then recovering a sense of momentum will be extremely difficult.

We will see whether all this adds up to anything.  First, CCHQ must get through this week’s local elections…

By Paul Goodman

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Paul Goodman: A view from Downing Street
“Should the Coalition go all the way to the April of that year?  Should it break up earlier, as I and others would prefer?  My sense is that Number 10 would prefer to go all the way, but that it is prepared to consider other possibilities – for example, encouraging backbenchers to open up “clear blue water” in the Commons over welfare, immigration, crime and the ECHR.  There are three points of interest.  On an EU referendum bill, there is a range of options from not publishing one at all through simply publishing one to publishing one – and then introducing it.  On tax breaks for marriage, there are signals that the policy will be implemented, perhaps as early as the autumn: “The Prime Minister is the First Lord of the Treasury,” I was told – a clear dig at George Osborne’s long-standing scepticism about the policy.  On aid, I get no sense that Downing Street intends to back off the 0.7% target.” Read more: http://is.gd/ACGrAE

Lord Ashcroft: The case against overseas aid – and for genuinely compassionate conservatism “99.3% of the UK Budget is not spent on Overseas Aid. So what is all the fuss about?’ This was the start to an attempt by Robert Halfon MP to defend the government’s determination to pump ever-larger sums into Britain’s over-inflated overseas aid budget. I think that it is extraordinary because it comes from a Conservative MP (and one for whom I have the greatest regard and respect) – but surely one of the things that unites the right is our desire to ensure all taxes taken from voters and businesses are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. So unlike Labour, we don’t pretend a few billion here and there don’t really count…The simple fact is that the amount hard-pressed British taxpayers are giving away to a variety of dubious and vainglorious causes has grown and grown under successive governments. ” Read more: http://is.gd/YdCiGv

Tim Montgomerie: Cameron lowers the Downing Street drawbridge and invites new voices into his bunker “Jo Johnson is an able enough individual but it is regrettable that yet another Old Etonian occupies yet another key position at the heart of the party. Overall, however, we’re seeing a Prime Minister who is finally getting serious about party management. Many people are correctly crediting Lynton Crosby with improvements to the operation, but the real driving force of better personnel relations is John Hayes MP – appointed as the PM’s parliamentary adviser a few days before Lady Thatcher’s death. While the PM is in a forgiving and healing mood he should warn uber-loyalist colleagues to end their briefing against Theresa May. He should also restore the whip to Nadine Dorries. The whips want this to happen but Numbers 10 and 11 are resisting.” Read more: http://is.gd/sYPAgP

Daniel Hannan MEP: The Whig aesthetic that helped to create the virtues of the Anglosphere “Hartwell House embodies the ideal of the country house poets. Here is Whig architecture in a Whig landscape, right down to the bust of John Hampden, whose family once owned the estate, on the north door, and the statue of  William III in the garden. In the classical stonework, we see made solid the tradition that exalted our freedom and, indeed, that created the American Republic. Why am I telling you about Hartwell House, in particular? Because, although this was meant to be a cultural essay, I can’t help ending with a political point. The proposed route of the new London to Birmingham rail link cuts through the grounds. Those far-sighted landscape-plotters, so confident that their property wouldn’t be confiscated or damaged, had reckoned without HS2.” Read more: http://is.gd/9A9KUR

Adam Afriyie MP: A lesson from South Shields – why we need to legislate for an EU referendum “Having spoken to one or two UKIP campaigners in South Shields, it seems to me that the only way forward is if we acknowledge the way people really feel about immigration and Europe, and gain enough credibility that they trust us to deliver the referendum after robust negotiations. If we’re serious, we must bring the legislation that enables a referendum before parliament sooner rather than later. Even if Labour and Lib Dem MPs vote against it, the British people will know we’re serious. Otherwise constituencies like South Shields will never take us seriously.” Read more: http://is.gd/R0Tyj0

Andrew Gimson: A conviction politician who survived by twisting and turning “I suggested to Moore that neither her admirers nor her detractors generally understood what a mixture of opposites Thatcher was: very brave yet also very cautious; a serious woman who was attracted to raffish men; a puritan who was tolerant of others’ weaknesses; a conventional Tory, yet the first woman Prime Minister. “This is true,” Moore said, “and it does go right through, and it’s part of the key to her success, I think, because she’s always wrong-footing people. So for example, because she’s very formidable and combative and successful, that led a lot of people to say ‘well she’s really a man’, because they think only a man could be formidable and combative and successful. It’s of course complete and utter rubbish that she’s really a man. You could not be less like a man, it seems to me.” Read more: http://is.gd/vsGTdk

Harry Phibbs – Setting the bar: What would be a good result for the Lib Dems on May 2nd? “The council by-election results, and the full council election results, last year suggest they will slip back – from the 25% national equivalent vote share they got in 2009 to mid teens. The opinion polls and the fall in the number of candidates they are putting up suggest they will slip back even more substantially. So given that even reasonable expectations for them are so dire what could possibly constitute a bad result?  Last time these councils were contested, the Lib Dems had 484 councillors elected. This time, the councils contesting and the boundaries are slightly different. But the Rallings and Thrasher projections from council by-elections imply a loss of 130 seats. If they do much worse – say lose half their seats and/or come in behind UKIP then that really will be a pretty dismal night for them.” Read more: http://is.gd/LTSEVf

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