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Graeme Archer
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I think Mark is right. I couldn't believe how appalling the NHS is when I had to look after Keith there recently. The idea that you can divorce having to pay for something from the care that you receive, or that the financial/career outcomes of the people who work there have nothing to do with the care that you receive, is now anathema to me. BUT how do you turn that into a message that people want to hear? We see the anger at every election in those (to me) amazingly resonant scenes where members of the public accuse the prime minister: but where is our alternative message? I know what I think it ought to be: but how do you make that electorally acceptable? Do we have to wait till either the economy melts down, or a sufficient number of people have experienced the truth about the NHS?
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All these sensible people are really supporting my idea that there is no silver bullet. There's Wat, saying that we need to be more radical on public services (I agree) and AnotherNIck being equally persuasive saying that we ought to accept the NHS is here to stay ( I find it hard to accept that we just have to accept that -- anyone here been involved with someone who had no option but to put up with the "service" from an NHS hospital?). Just how DO we forge this elusive narrative, marrying freedom (low tax, consumer choice) with the inbuilt British fondness for suboptimal public services? I wish I knew.
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It is annoying being right all the time ... now all we need to sort out is what we did wrong! I wish there were a silver bullet but I fear its ellusivity is a sign of its non-existence. But please Sir Malcolm, not another 18 months of asking public sector people how to do things better. I could do the responses for you now in two minutes: More Money From People Like Graeme Archer To Spend On Our "Superb" Public Services.
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Hear, hear Oberon and Malcolm. It's so temping when you're blogging away to write something like "only a fool could disagree with the following proposition", or "you can't be a conservative unless you believe in X" etc (I know, I know - mea culpa! but I'm trying!) (Actually I don't agree with everything you said Oberon but I like your style Mister!)
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James is as ever completely right. I've been trying to say in blog after blog what he gets beautifully in one sentence "Not very nice and incompetent do not equal an election winning formula". IDS' article's very timely no? There do appear to be a large cohort of MPs and others who think that if the economy faulters big time then Brown will get the blame for it ... forgetting completely the lesson of the '92 election (that the opposition has to be more credible than the govt even if you partly blame the latter for a recession).
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Hear hear Simon. I've also been hinting to the editor that a fringe meeting for this community (dread word) would be one of the best reasons for going to conference this year. What about it Mr Ed? And I copywrite the name ("Conservatives-not-at-home.com"). Some ideas for a fringe debate: -- Are we from Soho, or Easterhouse, or Notting Hill? (you know where I'm from :-0)) -- Is a religious revival key to a Conservative revival? -- How many communities can a nation contain? (We could explore a Tory view of society - in contrast to the socialist or liberal's view of boxes of communities to be set against one another)
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"You're not allowing the Hackney thing to influence your decision are you, Graeme?" How can I put it? :-0) I know I'll get in troub from the ed for this but if you want to see why Hackney Tories are so "special" have a butchers at http://www.blog.co.uk/main/index.php/eastendlife/2005/07/18/shoreditch_parade_17_july_2005
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I've spotted a chance for the party to reclaim the media's interest ... Big Brother finishes this Friday on Channel 4 ... surely we're well-positioned to take over? A few weekly tasks for the remaining candidates ("Who can sell the most cigarettes to the poor in order to win a luxury meal?" "Who can shin down tall buildings and date the most fading pop stars?" etc) would get us back firmly in the public gaze, while the voting system for BB seems admirably clear and democratic compared to the "don't ask, we won't tell" mess we're sleep-walking towards (I know, I've changed my mind on this, that's what you get if you expose someone with the attention span of a fruit fly (that's me) to people who think about these things properly (that's you)). Week by week we could vote out the least popular candidate (sorry Ken) who would move swiftly onto E4 to be interviewed by cross-dresser Kemal about their views on making poverty history (sorry Ken) ... then in just 5 short weeks we'd have a winner. In time for conference! Imagine that! Can we expect more from the increasingly lucid and sensible Theresa May on her ideas for primaries, an idea whose time has surely come?
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"You heard it here first! 100% of Clarke's supporters voted for him in 2001 while holding their noses" Well I certainly did. And that makes two of us! (Similar logic applies to any BBC radio opinion "poll"). I note that none of you refute the overwhelming reason for agreeing with everything that Oliver says: that he was once a candidate in Hackney North (this may have something to do with his response to the burglar) (and will certainly have informed his views on the conveyor belt of crime; again seriously this was one of the best pieces of thinking from a Tory in the last parliament no?). Simon I've now read your FIRST post properly and I am in awe at the beautiful punning of "pontificate" with "young cardinal".
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Wat you are right -- I voted for KC last time, but I held my nose while I did it -- so I suspect the 2001 poll actually OVER-estimates his popularity within the party (you know, I'm a statistician, so that extrapolation-from-my-n-of-one anecdote is pretty appalling, but there you go)
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I've just read Simon's first post again - you are not dissing Oliver Letwin are you? He was once a Hackney candidate, is clearly the most intelligent and all round lovely member of parliament, and shoo-ed off the loathsome libdems in Dorest last time around (so not as bumbling as the media like to make out). His endorsement of David Cameron - given that I'm unlikely to meet any of the candidates in person - means a great deal to me (and I suspect I'm not alone in finding one of the offputting things about the Davis campaign the "calibre" of the MPs who back him ... shades of Planet Redwood?).
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I don't know where this "The only problem with Ken Clarke is that the membership [ie us] can't stick him - if we swallowed our pride and supported him he'd be so amazingly popular in the country" rubbish comes from. It gets quoted so often, or paraphrased, in nearly every newspaper comment about us that it's become the received truth. The latest source is some nobody who worked for New Labour. Let's drop everything we believe in and listen to him, then. Quite apart from the sheer stupidity of thinking that our enemies like the BBC and the Labour party would ignore the fact that practically nobody in the party agrees with him about Europe, there is the small matter that he makes a lot of money out of, err, selling cigarettes to poor people in the developing world. I couldn't care less who sells what to whom (within reason) but, please, in a country where the nanny left set the cultural parameters we're allowed to operate within (like it or not), why doesn't this curious facet of cuddly Ken's background get more scrutiny? And I'm sick of the "David Cameron is too young" assertion too. First of all, in any normal world, late 30s is not too young to assume a leadership position. Secondly, "he's too young" is precisely the sort of vacuous, information-void statement that we're all supposed to loathe like the plague (to judge from some postings).
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He's always seemed quite a real person ie a life outwith politics, which I like, and I think he's constantly under-rated by commentators who are determined that this is solely a Davis vs Cameron discourse. The speeches which have most impressed me during this period have been by David Cameron and (on a wider brief) those by Liam Fox. I can nearly forgive him the "Put the Doctor In The House" stickers from Perth conference in the '80s :-0).
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sono cento per cento d'accordo con James. Well said geezer!
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I agree with the Telegraph - taking time is no bad thing. We've had enough bounces to last a lifetime. Finally the serious candidates are discussing political strategy. Maybe discussing the human rights abuses in some places won't win a vote come election time. But - apart from being important in and of themselves (and this mirrors the discussion on the other thread about partnership legislation) - these atoms (which, in a way, are the antithesis of the "grudge" politics that has been our tactical entirety for years, that is the hard-sounding attacks on gypsies, immigration etc) can coalesce into a more rounded, decent, outward-looking Conservatism that won't, frankly, embarrass people to publicly support. We all know how good individual Tories are, how much they care about their communities; but we've let the Left write us out (near pun) of moral debate, allowing us to be caricatured (I wish totally caricatured, but there you go) as hangers and floggers. Are we to posit absolutely no connection between this reality, and the reality of our loathing among the younger demographic? I don't think older people are more right wing, I just think they can remember Tory governments and what good we did, so it acts as a sort of counter-balast to the constant slurrying of our name. But anyone under 30 can't REALLY remember a Tory past, and all they have to go on is this (false) caricature. Therefore, I think it is important to change that (uncontentious I think), and more, I think it's worth expending some political time on these totemic atoms (like human rights abuses, same sex partnerships) because this music will open the ears of the sceptical outsider. (I also think those two issues are important of themselves, let me emphasise, but I agree with "Tory Reaction" that they count for little themselves in terms of swinging floaters. It's their totemic potential that interests me.)
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What about the wonderful John Moss's proposal (late of this parish ie Hackney South's parliamentary candidate) - that we (da grass roots) elect the party chairman, while leaving the westminster party to elect the leader? I just can't get those hustings I attended last time round out of my mind ... I'll be more careful what I say this time, but honestly, I don't believe anyone even vaguely interested in winning the country could have witnessed the "discussion" and retained their faith that selection by the grass roots members is the best way to choose a leader.
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I agree with James though I think I'm veering towards support for David Cameron ... the Times has become the mouthpiece of New Labour over the last few years (with the exception of a valiant rearguard of some of its columnists like the blessed Matthew Parris and of course our own wonderful Editor :-0) ) so I don't think we should be too concerned over its editorial choice (most of its editorials leave me feeling nauseous - there is no meddling government law which the Times can't be relied upon to find something good to say) .. anyway - I think James is right. Discussing the biography of a candidate beyond the basics (has s/he ever been, or likely to be, imprisoned for perjury? is the obvious example) seems to get us neither here nor there in terms of where the party has to go. I'm not dissing the importance of a narrative in terms of political utility (I thought Peter Oborne's articles about the basic deceitfulness of narrative were wonderful polemic, but I don't agree that because an image cannot be 100% accurate, it is therefore 100% false, or that it can have no function in terms of a party's conversation with the electorate). But I do feel, so far, that the extent of David Davis's message is all about his narrative - "I grew up on a council estate, while HE went to Eton" - hmm. It's not getting me very far towards understanding what sort of society this man wants to see.
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People might choose lots of things - not to reveal their identity on a website for example. But one thing they do not choose is whether or not they're gay. Something we DO choose is how to respond to that fact ... I've always been astonished at the language used to describe gay politicians; one doesn't have to be Derrida-esque to deconstruct the language to hear the real sneering underneath. The party's got a long way to go before it's grown up about homosexuality. It astonishes me as well that this sort of Moderniser agenda is dismissed as irrelevant on council estates: do you imagine that there are no marginalised gay folk on council estates?! I'm mentioning homosexuality here because I think there are certain canonical aspects to the conversation a party has with itself: homosexuality is used as such a totem, not just as an end to itself. We will start being even worth paying attention to by the 30something professional class when we are truly comfortable with gay people.
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I'm struck that when there's a posting about personalities - like yesterdays, on Who Did Best At Cheering Up the "return to the 1950s" (forgive the shorthand, I'm teasing) meeting of MPs - we all get excited and cheer on our favourite (sorry editor, I think I'm firming more and mroe towards David C, even though Scottish Harlow George wouldn't even let me finish the sentence on Tuesday night before blasting me from the room) -- but when Liam Fox says something really interesting and thoughtful - we're all as quiet as mice. I like a LOT what Liam Fox is saying here. It combines our core principle ("core" since the 1980s anyway) of promoting free trade between and within nations, with a strong moral impulse to do good - here is one argument where right of centre people have the strongest economic AND moral ground on which to stand (see Spectator editorials passim). Is this a neat example of the "and" theory of Conservatism expounded on the tory-strategy blog?
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This was the meeting I was worried about a few weeks ago, thinking it was going to herald some right wing daily mail type (I don't know why I use that "daily mail" shorthand since I do read it and like it but you know what I mean) teeth gnashing about how ghastly britain is and how much better it would be if we could only unpick all those 1960s reforms and return to a 1950s world where no-one had deodarant and everyone was happy in their place. Do you ever think that about the 50s by the way? That it must have been a horrid smell since hardly anyone showered every day. So at least it seems we were spared that. Am not surprised that David Davis performed poorly, since it's only confirming that nascent feeling I've had about him since the start, ie basically a good bloke but not an intellectual giant and not a brilliant communicator. (I do want to point out that I like him, this is a subtle shade of differing opinion type thing). What does "lightweight" mean re David Cameron? That he is smiling and optimistic about life? We could do with some of that Reagan type optimism. Finally - I guess we should remember that we're hearing the views of only 3 MPs so we might not be getting an unbiased view of the meeting!
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oh god apologies for posting without thinking - I didn't intend to suggest I loathed fellow party members. But I don't think they're suitably typical to be given the task of choosing the leader of the opposition. Will be more careful editorial wise in future. "Freak", "obsessive" and "downright unpleasant" applies only to myself.
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How many of you spend your time in local associations? I can't think of anything more ridiculous than putting the leadership of the party into the hands of the various freaks (guilty), obsessives (guilty) and downright unpleasant (you decide). Like many I suspect, I've had various lie-in-the-bath-oh-god-why-do-I-do-this moments during the decades in the party. One was clause 28, and another particularly vivid memory was during the hustings in Harlow at the IDS vs Ken Clarke election. I've never heard more unpleasant attitudes than I did that night - one of the esteemed members told me I was "degenerate" because I liked the Clarke speaker. You cannot seriously believe that putting the vote into these hands would help improve our votability. I'm sure that Michael Gove's views are affected by the no doubt lovely people who work in Surrey South West. Though I also remember the south west London tories I met at Excel in docklands just before the election (at the Howard rally). They had never been on the tube before and thought it hilarious the amount of effort their lib dem opponents were putting into canvassing. I think someone's used the word "selectocracy" and that sums it up. OMOV would be fine were we in the 1950s and a mass membership party. It's lunacy with the local associations in the state that they are. Primary elections to select candidates, and MPs selecting the parliamentary leader - please.
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It's easy to caricature this point that Osborne and Cameron are making - as James did very well yesterday - but surely you can all see that there's something in it? They're not saying silly things about supermarkets. They're saying that it's been revolting the last few years watching the party jump onto various bandwagons in order to make spiky appeals to various subgroups in the populations. (This is what Labour does with the gay vote by the way). We have tried it with fuel duty, with tuition fees and with gypsies (for god's sake). Each policy on its own achieves good tactical goals - it embarrasses the government and shows voters we're listening - but unless the spikes arise from a coherent world view they look like opportunistic, foundation-less vote grubbing. This is what I understand by what Osborne/Cameron are saying (and I think David Davis has good track record here too from his time chairing the audit committee).
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Yes I see what you mean (and it's an argument I often use at work, when someone proposes a mission statement for a project which is of the "for good, against badness" variety). We could do with some more specifics couldn't we. Well at least conference is going to be interesting this year!
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Do you really believe that his thinking on policy is determined by the single example question he gave when being interviewed (I think) on breakfast tv?! I'm can't imagine that he's that shallow (if he were I would agree very much with your thinking about him).
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