What do the polls mean for Cameron and the Conservatives?

What a week it has been for David Cameron – a quite astounding mixture of news coverage. The 'hoodie' saga was given a new lease of life and his latest standings in the polls according to YouGov seemed to pass the world by thanks to Ryan Florence.

The age-old debate over how much importance we place on such polls continues.  Both Labour and the Conservatives publicly announced that they didn’t put much emphasis on the latest poll, although this in itself is not newsworthy.  But, unlike most surveys of public opinion, the most recent polls that put David Cameron on anything up to a 16-point lead over the Labour Party have surprisingly large implications for his next piece of tactical thinking.

The comparisons between Cameron now and the pre-1997 Blair are well deserved.  He is focussing on getting his message into ever corner of the country, highlighting the ‘principles’ with which he intends to govern the country, and taking every opportunity to increase his public profile.  Where this might become intriguing is when the policy groups that David Cameron set up to address the 'key challenges' facing Britain report back later this year. His rhetoric on these challenges has been very positive thus far but soon he must support his rhetoric with clear and detailed plans on how exactly the Conservative Party will solve problems such as family breakdown, the disastrous state of the NHS and our poor education system.

Here is the dilemma – should the new Conservative policies fail to provide viable solutions to the problems faced by this country, David Cameron’s poll ratings will sink because his tough-talking will be seen as nothing more than a gimmick (as Tony Blair has found out to his cost over the past few years); but by the same token, if the new policies are bold and radical, which they need to be, he risks alienating some voters and yet this is precisely what he has been avoiding like the plague thus far for strategic reasons.

So, the question is this: with an impressively consistent lead in the polls, will his policy groups now be tempted to shy away from the radical and structural changes that this country so desperately needs in order to protect his position in the polls?

Tom Richmond

Aussie enlightenment?

Many readers may not be able to remember the newspaper headline  stating, Will the last person to leave Britain please turn the lights out referring to the possibility of a Kinnock election victory. It now appears that if people in Australia were to turn the lights out they will in future only be able to turn off an energy saving bulb. The decision has been taken to phase out sales of ordinary (non energy efficent) bulbs. Will something similar be proposed over here, and will the energy efficient bulbs cost the same as the old fashioned ones I wonder.

A week in Scottish Politics – 19 February 2007

This week started with the Lib Dems in all sort of trouble. First of all their MSP, the deputy Transport Minister, Tavish Scott was trying to backtrack on calls for road tolls to be introduced while all news coverage from the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Aviemore suggest that there was more mud being slung than policies being announced, but knowing the Lib Dems this shouldn't be too much of a surprise to anyone.

Not content with getting the backs up of every Scottish motorist, Tavish Scott attacked David Cameron over allegations that the Tory leader smoked some cannabis at Eton claiming that the Tory party's new song could be 'Land of Dope and Glory.' Isn't it wonderful that the Lib Dems are focusing on the real issues in the lead up to May's election?

At Holyrood this weeks hot potato issue in Scottish Politics is certainly in regards to road tolling, an issue which has seemingly divided the Scottish Executive.

Heck at one time or another the Labour Party, The Lib Dems and the SNP have either called for or supported the introduction of road tolls. In October of last year the Scottish Labour MP Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for Transport, said "I have consistently made clear my hope that we can sustain a national consensus on road pricing" while the minister for Transport in the Executive, Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott, said this month "We need to make it (road charging) happen more quickly in Scotland and back in 2000 the SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said: "It should be for local authorities to decide, following appropriate consultation, whether schemes are viable and suitable."

The Scottish Conservatives have thus far led a successful campaign against the introduction of further road charges to drivers in Scotland. This week the Scottish Conservative launched their online petition against polls www.scotlandsaysnototolls.com and the party also used their last members debate of this parliamentary session to debate the issue of road tolls and put forward the party's opposition to their introduction.

The issue of road tolls is already a big one, but it's role in the election could prove great. Labour MSP Helen Eadie this week suggested that the tolls could play a large roll of in deciding the outcome of some seats in May, this is certainly the case in areas such as Fife where former Labour Whip Scott Barrie was so in favour of the scrapping of tolls on the Forth Bridge that he resigned as Whip in order to vote against the Labour and Lib Dem Executive.

There are many big issues leading into May's elections, but the one of road and bridge tolls is certainly going to be a major one, particularly in the mid Scotland and Fife constituencies.

Craig Wilson

Tory Radio consultation – you decide!

Those great gus at Global New Media are in the midst of designing a new and much improved Tory Radio website. We thought it would be a great idea to ask you the reader and listener for your ideas. We dont have an endless budget (well we don't really have a budget at all) but we'd be really interested to hear what you think.

To visit the consultation click this link

Remember what Tebbit said about hugging hoodies

 This is the front page of The Sun – which is mocking David Cameron over his hug a hoodie comment (which he never actually said).

You may want to listen to the interview I did with Norman Tebbit a while ago where for very sensible reasons he advocated the Cameron approach

Listen to the two part interview here:-

 

http://toryradio.podbus.com/lordtebbitinterviewpart1.mp3

http://toryradio.podbus.com/lordtebbitinterviewpart2.mp3

 

A world without America – from 18 Doughty Street

This video produced at 18 Doughty Street has certainly caught people's imagination having been viewed by over 40,000 people so far.

What do you think?

My letter from CCHQ

I arrived home this afternoon and in the pile of post was a formal looking letter from CCHQ.

I wondered is this the letter to say, "Jonathan we are sorry, we were wrong, you are good enough for the A list". Or perhaps it could be something telling me that, "there may be a by-election in the North and we would really like you to fight it, after the good work you put in."

Sadly no, its a request for two lots of £80 to remain a member of the candidates Association. I would have though non Alisters who werent able to apply for seats should have had a discount, but then again I have heard a rumour that someone forgot to collect the money last year and that £35,000 is still owed. Surely not!

 

Presidential polling update

 If a week is a long time in politics, then 21 months must seem like an eternity.  That is how long we have to wait until we know the identity of the next President of the United States, while in just under a year we will know who the Democratic and Republican candidates are.  So are opinion polls worth tracking at this early stage? 

Yes, in my opinion.  They will not tell us who will win or by how much, but they may just reveal which candidates we can take seriously, and which ones we can dismiss as peripheral.  Equally, the ‘head-to-heads’, such as Hillary vs. Rudy, or Obama vs. McCain provide a good insight into which opponent’s candidates should fear. 

The key figures in the Democratic race so far are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, with the undeclared Al Gore also in the reckoning.  For the Republicans the two runaway leaders are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich cannot be dismissed. 

So far, Giuliani remains the man to beat, comfortably taking care of his Republican rival John McCain and the Democrat’s top brass.  With McCain also being more popular than Clinton, Obama and Edwards, the Republicans, perhaps surprisingly, have the early advantage.

Check back here for regular polling updates.

Anton Muszanskyj

School choice a matter for parents – Even party leaders?

 The crucial and agonising decision on where to send a son or daughter to school affects all parents, yet does not normally elicit national comment. If you are David Cameron and if the choice is, shock horror, not the nearest large comprehensive but a small ‘faith school’ the matter apparently warrants column inches of speculation and national scrutiny. Armed with a politically loaded definition and dredging up memories of the Blair-Oratory controversy the Daily Mail, Times, Guardian, and Daily Mirror seem intent on hounding David Cameron on issues of school choice and religious observance.

With the recent UN report on the decrepit state of our nations ‘yoof’ and the all too clear relevance of gang inspired gun crime, the decision of Mr Cameron to invest his child’s future in a local ‘faith school’ belies a deeper concern of the morality, accountability and standards of British education. Perhaps the obsessive Labour focus on exams and entrepreneurial academies, whilst addressing employers concerns, fails to tend the distinct lack of moral guidance and citizenship that leads many teenagers astray.

Firstly Mr Cameron is exercising a choice, a choice of faith, a choice of school and crucially a choice for his child’s future. The accusations of elitism that continually dog the man are given another cheap opportunity to surface whilst the real issue of educational choice, moral guidance and long term solutions to the crisis of youth are lost. The freedom to choose where your child is educated and a historical commitment to a Church of England education, both Conservative cornerstones, represent a better future for Mr Cameron’s children than that offered by a relentlessly egalitarian and morally devoid academy, comprehensive or college.

Secondly, as many would not like to admit, the return of religious values, smaller schools and less prescribed teaching structures would go some way to correcting the attitude of a violent and disaffected youth culture. I was fortunate to spend a year at a New York high school and the prevalence of religious values, admittedly not administered through class room teaching, on the most deprived and potentially vulnerable pupils was astounding. Their attitudes to drugs, sex, alcohol and violence were markedly different from those of my English classmates, an example to be followed and one that might well go some way to reversing the unending moral destitution of our nations future.

Oliver Tree

Barely out of his political 'diapers', Barack is the wrong man in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ08

Young, photogenic, smooth talking and with a consistent record of opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Democrats must have thought all their Christmas’ had come at once when Barack Obama declared his candidacy for the 2008 Presidential Election earlier this month.  Finally, a credible candidate who isn’t Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t have the baggage of originally supporting the war (John Edwards), who isn’t completely polarising (Al Gore) and who wouldn’t put an insomniacs society to sleep within ten minutes of opening his mouth (Joe Bidden).  He can take on the Republicans too.  He isn’t past retirement age (John McCain) and has more experience than just being the mayor of a city (Giuliani).  A natural, you might say.  But what should we make of him?

Perceptive, intelligent and coherent, Obama picked up early on that there may be something wrong with the evidence claiming Saddam had WMD’s, and takes every given opportunity to remind voters of his consistent opposition to the invasion.  But this in itself does not make him a good presidential candidate.  As a Senator, he has a duty to propose a remedy to the situation.  So what does he have to say?

Last month in the U.S. Senate, Obama tabled ‘The Iraq War De-escalation Act’ which, if passed (in itself highly unlikely) would mandate “a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008.”  In short, he believes a timetable for withdrawal is the best tool the U.S. has to pressure Iraq’s warring factions to agree a political settlement, as no amount of American military power can solve “somebody else’s civil war.”  The proposal of this bill, which Obama believes plays to his greatest strength, actually illustrates his greatest weakness.

As Niall Ferguson (Sunday Telegraph, Feb 18) points out, Mr. Obama has forgotten Colin Powell’s famous pottery barn dictum: “You break it, you own it.”  In other words, America broke Iraq, so America must fix Iraq.  Claiming it to be “somebody else’s civil war” implies the current bloodshed is the responsibility of some other nation.  However, his biggest error is his belief that setting a timetable for withdrawal will lead to a de-escalation of the conflict, as if the bloodthirsty militias will just say: “OK, those Americas have gone now so we can all just play nice.”  The opposite is much more likely to happen, with one report from the Brookings Institution predicting a humanitarian catastrophe that could see hundreds of thousands perish.  To boot, oil prices would rise, potentially passing the $100 a barrel level. 

If only Obama had a better understanding of the history of civil wars, he would realise they rarely stay localised, as residents of the Balkans, Rwanda and Chad will readily testify. As the Brookings report notes, it is only the presence of 135,000 U.S. troops that is preventing an already bad situation becoming infinitely worse.  If Obama had his way, these troops would be gone by next March.

Illinois’ junior Senator is as sincere as he is naïve, but one thing he is not is ready to head to the White House.

Anton Muszanskyj