Conservative Intelligence

Conservative Intelligence

This site is currently down for maintenance and should be back soon.

Tory Spring Conference 2011

Last Updated: Monday, March 7th, 2011

I decided to wait until today to write the Weekly Intelligence Letter so that I could reflect on the Tory Spring Conference. I probably shouldn’t have bothered. It was a largely forgettable event. Even ministers didn’t stay for the Prime Minister’s concluding speech. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was the only Cabinet minister I could spot who had stayed to hear David Cameron’s vow to fight the “enemies of enterprise”. There were plenty of empty seats in the hall, providing further confirmation of a grassroots party that is not in the best of health.

Nonetheless it was notable that Cameron did choose enterprise as his big theme. The Coalition has been stung by suggestions it doesn’t have a growth agenda and Saturday’s announcements of ten Enterprise Zones, costing £100m over four years was a curtain-raiser for George Osborne’s second Budget – now being billed as the Growth Budget – just 16 days away. That Budget, rather than Cameron’s war on anti-business public servants, will be the time to judge whether the enterprise agenda has legs (or whether it’s HSBC that has legs).

But, in the interests of this newsletter living up to its name, I’ll offer three headline observations:

(1)  The party is preparing the membership for the deep unpopularity to come. At least twice in his speech George Osborne talked about the long, hard road ahead. Sayeeda Warsi warned of defeats in May’s elections. One Cabinet minister told me that the next three years would be as bad as any post-war government had experienced but adversity would keep the two parties together and although there would be defeats, defections and endless doom-mongery the party had a chance if it fixed the deficit and growth returned.

(2)  The Tories have realised that they face a massive battle to avoid defeat in the AV referendum. Two weeks ago, I’m told, Downing St flicked a switch and the money has finally started flowing to the No2AV campaign. The Tory leadership – following intense lobbying –realised that Tory MPs will be VERY unhappy if the electoral system that has served them so well, for so long, is replaced. That Downing Street needed to be kicked into life on this subject is another sign that the PM is not getting (or listening to) the right message from the whips or his PPS. The Lib Dems will, of course, hate it if AV isn’t delivered and Cameron will be under enormous pressure to deliver an elected Lords to Clegg. I’m still of the view that Tory MPs will allow an elected Lords or AV but not both… but that Clegg needs one of them.

(3)  George Osborne’s centrality to the government and his growing reputation in the party was confirmed. I wrote on Saturday about the extent to which the Chancellor is winning new friends ( ). One thing I didn’t say was the extent to which he has more reliable defenders in the commentariat than Cameron himself; notably with Matthew d’Ancona, Ben Brogan, Danny Finkelstein and James Forsyth.

Tim Montgomerie




CAMERON’S BATTLE PLAN: “By doing so much the public isn’t noticing the popular things that the Coalition is doing. The new Downing Street operation plans to put more effort into promoting things like the relinking of the basic state pension to average earnings. The Coalition is also ready to dramatise its reforms by picking fights with some enemies. Cameron will today talk about “the enemies of enterprise” and style himself as an opponent of the bureaucracy in his own government. The Coalition will seek to capture some moral high ground by arguing that it’s morally right to cut welfare dependency, control immigration and reduce the huge perks gap between private sector workers and public sector union members.” More via

CCHQ MUST DESTROY LABOUR’S BRAND: “I regret we did not produce an authoritative Domesday Book, analysing Labour’s record on the economy, education and national infrastructure. I wonder if there’s still time? One year ofter becoming PM, Cameron could give a British equivalent of the State of the Union presentation – examining where we are in terms of national competitiveness and in social provision and where we need to be. Implicitly – perhaps explicitly – it will spell out the Labour legacy.” More via

WOLF REPORT ON VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: “Michael Gove has shifted his gaze today to the report by Alison Wolf into vocational education.  He’s accepted four of her “brilliant and groundbreaking” recommendations, as follows (1) To allow qualified further education lecturers to teach in school classrooms on the same basis as qualified school teachers. (2) To clarify the rules on allowing industry professionals to teach in schools. (3) To allow any vocational qualification offered by a regulated awarding body to be taken by 14-19-year-olds. (4) To allow established high-quality vocational qualifications that have not been accredited to be offered in schools and colleges in September 2011.” More via

CAMERON MOVING FASTER THAN THATCHER: “Mr Fallon, the Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party (and in reality David Cameron’s most senior parliamentary advisor outside of the Cabinet) argues that Cameron is moving “further and faster” than Margaret Thatcher… It’s a bold piece and unlikely to appeal to the Liberal Democrats who won’t like any idea that they are helping to complete Thatcherism… What is says to me is that Fallon and Downing Street understand the growing unhappiness on the Tory benches. This article is a message to them and all the more fascinating for that.” More via

 Interesting parliamentary debate on importance of transparency for better government:

And on ConHome’s Comment pages Matt Sinclair asked: Have we wound up with the worst possible resolution of the BSkyB-News Corp deal? More via

From the Conservative Intelligence member's site

Miliband’s Threat To Outside Earnings May Drive Tory Mps Over The Edge

Conservative MPs are capable of a wide range of emotions, encompassing the normal human set and then a few extras thrown in. Pride, injured pride, confidence, optimism, crushing depression, panic, fury, resentment, contentment, ambition, resignation, triumph and a host of others are within their repertoire. Even at the best of times, a healthy parliamentary party […]

Cameron Woos Mrs Rochester

“There’s no stunts or backroom deals, just a strong local candidate you can trust.” So wrote David Cameron in a letter sent this week to every voter in Rochester and Strood, where the next UKIP-engineered by-election is to take place towards the end of November.  At the end of it, he made the point again […]

To Respond To Defeat In Clacton, The Tories Will Need A Tougher Immigration Policy

Everyone expected the UKIP candidate, Douglas Carswell, to win in Clacton, but few people thought he would win by the enormous margin of 12,404 votes. An exceptionally rude kick has been administered to David Cameron. It is not much consolation for the Conservatives that a scarcely less rude kick has been administered to Ed Miliband […]

The Tories Leave Birmingham With A New-Found Confidence

No-one knew quite what to expect when the Conservative family gathered in Birmingham on Sunday. Mark Reckless had just delivered the second UKIP defection blow in as many months, and Brooks Newmark’s indiscretions were causing embarrassment (though less existential questions for the party). If anything, observers might have expected a depressed conference mood. Instead, though, […]

21 People To Watch As Next Week’s Conservative Conference Looms

1. Those two MP defectors to UKIP – if, of course, they exist at all.  If so, they will presumably turn up on Saturday evening.  If they don’t, the media will treat this as a further sign that the Party isn’t grown-up, since it talked but didn’t deliver.   2. George Osborne. The Conservative election […]

Will Cameron Go Fast And Slow On Devolution All-Around?

The Prime Minister announced this morning that more devolution for Scotland and reform elsewhere – specifically, action on English votes for English laws – will take place “in tandem” and “at the same pace”.  Draft legislation will be “published by January”. His statement opens up two possible outcomes. The first is that he pushes for […]

Whatever The Result, The Scottish Referendum Has Killed Blair’s Devolution Settlement

The Scottish referendum result is up in the air – polls swing from No to Yes and back again, all within the margin of error. The rush from Westminster to Scotland, not only of the party leaders but of scores of Labour MPs, demonstrates how seriously the prospect of a Yes result is being taken. […]

Two Conservative Scenarios If Scotland Votes Yes

Scenario One: David Cameron does not resign as Prime Minister (or as Conservative leader).  Nor does any member of the Cabinet other than Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary.  The Coalition hangs together.  The Conservative Parliamentary Party rallies round its leader. UKIP’s attempt to provoke an English nationalist backlash comes to nothing.  Perhaps unexpectedly, […]

Cameron’s Ability To Neutralise Opponents Is Brilliantly Illustrated By His Handling Of The New Surveillance Law

David Cameron will always do what the Establishment considers to be prudent.  The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, sprung upon the Cabinet on Thursday morning, is a case in point. Cameron has been told by the security services that these powers are needed. He has therefore set out to square Nick Clegg and Ed […]

Why Critical Headlines About Donor Dinners Raise A Smile In Downing Street

In politics, as with so many things, it’s tempting to judge a book by its cover. The personalities, the catchphrases, the emotional and cultural baggage carried by politicians and parties all compete for our attention. They’re important, of course, but they’re only one part of the political process. The showbiz elements often distract people from […]