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Entries from September 2007 ↓
I counted William Hague mention Mrs Thatcher eight times in his speech. The Tory high command treat Margaret Thatcher a bit like Boris Johnson’s beloved routemaster bus. She waits years for an appreciative word and then a fleet of them arrive at once.
More funny than Paul Delaire Staines at Guido, less obsequious than Iain Dale, more informative than Labour home, less partisan than me – I am very much enjoying Westmonster.
Being photoshopped is the modern political equivalent of making it into a newspaper cartoon. The evening mail once did a number on me for the teens page on this site. They turned me into Ali G. It ended up being passed around the members tea room causing much hilarity amongst my “friends”.
Sad to report that the Watson household tuned into the parliament channel to watch the opening of the Tory party conference. How we were looking forward to William Hague’s opening speech. Alas, the sound has crashed. Not a great start.
I find it fascinating how people make their decisions to support or not support political leaders. During the 2001 general election, I lost count of the number of blokes who told me they were voting Labour becasue John Prescott punched that bloke.
On the day of our deputy leadership election I stopped to gossip with Steve Bell who was covering the event for the Guardian. He told me that he wanted Harriet to win because her face was a gift to cartoonists!
This logic is very bad news for Ken Livingstone. My old pal Matt Buck delights in the fact that a real life caricature has become a candidate for London mayor.
I’ve been meaning to add Matt to the blogroll for ages. He’s up there now, along with Political Hack who I met at Labour Party conference. A few months ago my student intern was plagued by Tory bloggers ringing him to ask if he was the guy who did the now-departed Hamer Shawcross blog. Last week I met Hamer for the first time. And to say I was gobsmacked when his identity was revealed is an understatement.
In his book, The Hammer of the Left, John Golding chronicles the titanic struggle of ideas and for control that left the Labour Party in paralysis for over a decade. Golding’s aim was to be “accurate but unfair” to his opponents, messrs Benn and Heffer. In the end, his fierce hatred of Labour’s hard left cost him greater political advancement. He gave up his seat in 1986. But arguably his vehemence created the conditions that allowed Neil Kinnock to begin the process of deep and lasting change in the aftermath of election defeat in 1987.
That struggle of the 1980′s is often satirised by many on my own side. I remember Matthew Taylor dismissing some of those old “cold war warriors” who fought the good fight in the “dark days of the 1980′s” when they failed to wholeheartedly endorse another modernising measure emanating from the number 10 policy unit in the late nineties. This was an unfair characterisation by Taylor, but he had the benefit of being on the shirt tails of power. He could write history. The cold war warriors had missed their time. We all knew it but Taylor couldn’t resist reminding them of it.
The self-styled heir to Blair, Mr David Cameron, should learn those lessons of Labour in the 1980â€™s.
Back in 1987 when I was a gauche runner-arounder at Labour’s head office in the Walworth Road, one of my tasks was to photocopy and distribute the private polling to the Campaign Management team at their early morning meeting. After the meeting, I had to collect the polling reports and destroy them – so bad were the figures in the early days of the campaign. From memory, I think on the first day of the short campaign, the Tories had a Mori poll rating of 50%.
I recently sat opposite Bob Worcester at a dinner who confirmed that his polling figures were cataclysmic for Labour. He was later removed as Labour’s pollster after 20 years of service. People claim that he gave too much bad news to Neil Kinnock and that Mandelson resented this. I have no idea whether this is an accurate account but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Peter Mandelson worked wonders throughout 1986 and early ’87. A new logo – a rose, an election broadcast by Hugh Hudson, a cast of stars from Ben Elton to Larry Adler added a real spark to the campaign. In the end we were annihilated. That struggle for ideas had not been won and the electorate new it. We had offered them a number of short-term patches to policies that weren’t right for the times.
This is Cameron’s dilemma. He has not won the battle for ideas in his party. The fact that John Redwood and Norman Tebbit still matter is proof of this. For all the leafy trees and polar expeditions, he is still sending out baffling and confused messages to people.
So his speech to the Conservative conference this week will be the most important of his political life. He has a big choice and no room for fudging it. Either he retreats into history (the Hague option) or he stands defiantly for change in his party and all the short-term consequences that this will bring.
If the headlines the day after his speech are about immigration, law and order and nimbyism we will know that he has sacrificed his modernising mission in order harden his diminishing “core” vote in readiness for an election. George Osborne’s recent interview in the Spectator seems to suggest that this is the route Mr Cameron will take, though others tell me that this is George repositioning himself for a post-election leadership bid. Only time will tell.
Back in 1983, John Golding surprised opponents by enthusiastically supporting the draft of the manifesto now infamously described as the longest suicide note in history. To Golding, the election of ’83 was already lost. He was playing a longer game where the generals of defeat would be removed from the party once and for all.
Will David Cameron have the strength of character to tell his own generals of defeat what they don’t want to hear? Will he condemn the nasty party? Stand up for continued investment in public services? Restate his green credentials? Stand up for building more affordable housing?
Though I’m obviously about as partisan as they get in this debate, I almost want him to defy his critics. If he does, he’ll bring out into the public domain what we all know any way – that there is a battle raging for the future of the Conservative party. Struggle is something Mr Cameron has never really experienced in life. But struggle he must if he wishes history to be kind to him.
Only for legal artistic purposes. Download your very own saffron revolution stencil (pdf).
I am the only candidate never to have used the phrase “I am the only candidate who….”. Now there’s a web site dedicated to this loneliest of creatures.
So, should he do it? You choose:
Potential parliamentary candidate for Hull East, David Prescott, has a blog
This story has a rude image on it so do not click on the hyperlink to a story about Blaby Conservatives if you are easily offended. You choose though, were Blaby Conservatives in the wrong?