John Redwood and Nick Bourne podcasts online

Two new Tory Radio podcasts are now online. I took the opportunity to catch up with Assembly Member Nick Bourne, leader of the party in the Welsh Assembly, and also John Redwood MP. I’ll write more about the podcasts later on tomorrow – but I though you would appreciate listening to them – which you can in the player at the top of the website. Just click either pocast to listen in beautiful stereo!

A great first day of Conference. The Young Britons foundation held a great reception, and we will be speaking to Donal Blaney about their plans tomorrow.

 The Conference certaily seemed busy – and we still have interviews lined up with the Party Chairman Caroline Spelman, Francis Maude, and Zac Goldsmith!

See you in Blackpool!

The CDs have been packed. The car is full of diesel and I don’t think I forgotten anything (even the photo ID for my pass – though I would have thought my face would do).

Remember – if you have anything you want to get off your chest, rant about, or just tell us what the best bit of Conference is so far, just call 0845 257 0 427. Leave your message after the tone (you will hear a message which says your call cannot be taken – and then a tone) and your opinions may make it into a Tory Radio podcast!

Is Gordon Brown asking himself this very question?

11 points ahead in the polls? How lucky is Gordon Brown feeling?

To get you in the mood for Blackpool

Take a look at the video in the column to the right just below our poll.

Well worth buying the whole thing if you don’t already have it!

Suddenly back up in the polls

Yesterday we found out that in the poll of Tory Blogs, in Iain Dale’s Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2007 – 08 we had slipped in the rankings from 11th to 17th, but just as polls go up and down, we have increased our ranking in the overall top 500 blogs from 40 something last year to 28th (and that was before the website relaunch)

So just as some polls show the party dropping behind, yet recent local election results show us improving, the same can be said for Tory Radio! You takes your poll and you takes your choice!

Local election results won't put Gordon off

Over the past week General Election fever has reached new heights. Brown is going to go to the polls! No he’s not he’s a cautious type! Yes he is – he’s hiring staff ready for an election! Look at the polls it’s now or never.

Today we learn of some stunning Conservative local election results which seem to make the 11% Labour lead look questionable to say the least. But all these polls are surely a bit misleading.

Firstly no one can really believe that Labour have an 11% lead and are polling someting like 44%. Others have aleady pointed out that this as the level reached by Blair in those oh so sunny days for Labour in 1997. Bro

Secondly – and equally importantly – everyone who has campaigned in local elections (and local by elections) knows that people are often prepared to vote for an individual, or even the candidate who has bothered to actually campaign, rather than along party lines which come more into play at a General Election.

Gordon and his camp have teased us with the possibility of a snap General Election over the past week. Whilst it may be just that – teasing, I can’t imagine that a handful of local election results would put off the clunking fist from calling an election if he wanted to.

In 1997 Labour had the Things Can Only Get Better anthem. I’m not sure that applied to Gordon’s poll prospects. So come on. what are you waiting for?

So why did you join the Party?

When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, it may help to recall why you started to drain the swamp in the first place.  So why did you join the Conservative Party?
 
In my case, it was a dawning realisation that governments are there to serve the people, and not vice versa.  A perception that market solutions generally work, whereas top-down bureaucratic initiatives frequently fail.  I had seen the disasters of successive prices and incomes policies.  I saw the wisdom of Milton Friedman’s assertion that inflation is a disease of money.  I believed that our economic and social structures had to go with the grain of human nature.  I understood that self-interest, properly channelled within the rule of law, was a driving force for growth and prosperity.  The Marxist maxim "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need" seems self-evident, compassionate and ethical; but it fails in practice because we imperfect human beings are hard-wired to put the interests of ourselves and our families ahead of some remote general good.
 
As usual, Marx got it wrong, while Adam Smith got it right.  It was a moment of pure epiphany when I first read his killer quote: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest".
 
Yet too often in today’s Conservative Party, we seem to leave our core values stashed under the bed, while we rush off in pursuit of false prophets and fashionable fads.  And we end up taxing Tesco’s car-parks, and alienating voters.  If you believe that Goldsmith and Gummer are the guilty men, I will not argue with you.
 
One of the many reasons I love to work with American conservatives is their unashamed enthusiasm for conservative principles, which contrasts so sharply with our own grudging and intermittent approach.  They call them Jeffersonian principles, and they quote them and refer to them constantly.  They test policy proposals against them.  At a recent conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (www.alec.org) in Philadelphia, a Conservative MEP colleague, there for the first time, said "Roger, I’ve heard more about Conservative principles in an hour here in Philadelphia than in ten years in the Conservative Party".
 
And what are these Jeffersonian principles?  Liberty with responsibility.  Enterprise and free markets.  Low taxes and limited government.  Family and nation.  And of course most Conservatives — the members and activists out there in the country, not the strategists and spin doctors in Westminster — immediately recognise these values.  These are our Crown Jewels.  These are what we are about.  Of course we should interpret them and adapt them and present them for the 21st century.  But we abandon them at our peril.
 
It is because of these values that I was delighted and proud to be invited, earlier this year, to become Honorary Chairman of The Freedom Association (TFA).  TFA is a membership organisation that campaigns on just these issues (www.tfa.net).  It also sponsors the Better Off Out campaign (www.betteroffout.co.uk).  I passionately believe in the principles which TFA campaigns for, and from my personal point of view, my Chairmanship gives me an opportunity to take the message of conservative values to a wider audience across the UK.  I use a lower-case "c" for conservative here, since TFA welcomes members and supporters from all parties and from none, provided only that they agree with our core principles.
 
To hear more about conservative principles, and about the TFA, please come to our two fringe meetings at Parry Conference next week in Blackpool:
 
The Freedom Association.  "Where’s Our Referendum?". 

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007. 1:00pm – 2:30pm.   Main Stage, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool 

Speakers:

MICHAEL ANCRAM MP (Former Shadow Foreign Secretary)
PHILIP DAVIES MP (Shipley)
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association)
IVO STREJCEK MEP(Czech Republic)
PHILIP HOLLOBONE MP (Kettering)

Admission: Free.  Contact: mail@tfa.net

 

The Freedom Association.  "Cool Thinking On Climate Change"

Monday, October 1st, 2007. 5:30p.m. – 6:30p.m. The Studio, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool

Speakers:
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association)
IAIN MURRAY (Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, DC)
RUSSELL LEWIS (Former Director General of the IEA)

Admission: Free. Contact: mail@tfa.net

Any questions during Party Conference?

We have a few podcasts lined up during Party Conference in Blackpool. If you have any questions for – Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Spelman, Francis Maude, John Redwood, Stephen Hammond or Nick Bourne let us know by leaving a comment.

Get a Guru, Guys…

Iain Dale’s latest Telegraph article is one of his most interesting yet because it is right in my area of
online campaigning and so-called e-politics. He is spot on when he says
that we are years behind the USA in our approach to using the internet
in campaigns and politics and I wanted to touch upon some of the
reasons as to why that might be and offer some ideas for a way forward.

It seems that the fundamental reason why politicians haven’t taken to
the internet in quite the numbers that we would like to see is because
of a good old-fashioned skills shortage combined with the desire by
some politicos to keep a very tight control over their message.

Take
Blogger for example. It’s a free blogging platform
that lets almost anybody start sharing their thoughts and their
campaign message with the world – and guess what – you need virtually
no techie skills to work it. WordPress is a
similar sort of beast, but you do need a touch more skill, but more on
the admin side than the technical side. The beauty of these packages is
that they let the campaigner or politician voice their message without
having to go via a third person – meaning they don’t have to wait,
there’s no need to plan it out, it won’t cost anything and there’s
total control of the message.

The downsides to that is how it leads to some choices in how the
politico or campaigner commissions their own message over the internet.
They like the cost, ease of use and, very importantly, the speed in
which they can set it all up. In politics things change quickly and
sometimes the need to respond or market a message can arise very
quickly. However, where the message can benefit from a longer planning
period a good site can be put together – take the iwantareferendum.com
website for example. The temptation there would have been to create a
website or blog very quickly to extend the period of time that the
message is being delivered to the audience, however a bit of time was
taken to think about it all a little bit and as a result an excellent
site has been born that’s doing a lot to help the campaign. You can bet
your bottom dollar that the work was carried out by a web design firm.
And that brings me nicely to my second point.

The reason the US is so far ahead is because political consultancy is
strong over there. Attached to that is the recognition that bringing in
the best people for the job is a must – and in the USA they have the
money to do it too. Over here, there’s no chance a parliamentary
campaign would be able to afford to bring in a web developer on £35 or
£45k per year. So, what are the options?


Drupal
is one very good system that could really see
us closing the gap. The system is open-source and expandable almost to
the point of infinity. It’s so good that Howard Dean used it for his
2004 Presidential Campaign. Who uses it over here? Nobody. Not a single
campaign organisation (that I’m familiar with) has taken to Drupal
despite the fact it’s an ideal tool. There’s is only one blogger that
is really using it and that is Shane Greer who launched recently. He’s
using it because I built the site for him and explained the benefits it
will have to his long-term career and the features it can offer to his
users. He was sold and agreed to undergo the necessary training to
learn how to administer the site. Now he does it all by himself and
will even be able to expand the site, put it into a campaign mode or do
whatever he likes with it. Most of the developments he’ll be able to do
himself using the administration tools without the need to contact a
third party. Only if he wants some major work will he need to bring me
back in.

Another thing that needs to be done is the establishment of some party
organisation around the internet. The Conservatives, for example, have
Andy Coulson in the communications post, but what does he know about
Blogger, WordPress and even Drupal? What does he know about online
campaigning? Does he know the difference between Faceparty and
Facebook, for example? That remains to be seen, there’s nothing online
that I could find to suggest a background in this area.

The Conservatives recently advertised a post for a Digital Development
Manager, but that post needs to be more like an internet equivalent to
the communications post – it needs to be filled by a guru with a
mixture of entreprenuerial skills, IT know-how and marketing
experience. They need to have a great deal of autonomy and, quite
importantly, they need to oversee the growth of skills within the
constituencies, which can be achieved by hiring a network of trainers
for a period to go around and up-skill activists around the country on
how they can use platforms like Drupal to get the best out of the
internet and how to mould their message to the web. Building
micro-sites and providing CCHQ-based website design services doesn’t
address the skills gap and smacks of centralisation as well as blocking
out the private market.

From the Conservative point of view, they have got to pull their
fingers out fast. The Labour Party have opted for a different approach
to online campaigning – they use a stable of tools instead of blogsites
and the like. When the time comes for an election – and it could be
quite soon – the Labour Party stand a good chance of delivering a very
powerful electronic strike against Conservatives. Being complacent
because of the power of the blogosphere and it’s leaning towards the
Conservatives is not enough.

 

Tory Radio down in the polls…

Tory Radio has slipped in the polls of best right wing blogs from our position just outside the top 10 – at number 11 last year to the position of 17.

It’s great to be in that top 20, and now with our brand spanking new website, our hotline which you can call 24hrs a day on 0845 257 0 427, and our ever increasing number of expert columnists we are aiming to shoot back up the charts! In all honesty though, this site is a labour of love.

For those who don’t like it, that’s fine. As Guido would say - leave your subsciption fee as you close the door behind you. For those of you who do – thanks, and hopefully you’ll keep coming back for more!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 21,442 other followers