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Conservative Leadership Campaign Offers Hope For The Party
It's not often that someone can witness such a sudden downfall as that suffered by David Cameron and look at the leaderless party they've left behind and feel an odd sense of hope. That sense of hope comes from the more than capable performance that each of the candidates have put in. No candidate has given a definitive reason for them to be dismissed out of hand just yet, though they will each encounter difficulties with an electorate that is already looking towards the Labour Party more than anyone should be comfortable with.
Most surprising has been the rise of Barclay Calhoun, who in all likelihood did not expect to find himself suddenly propelled into a position where if he went to the membership he would have a legitimate chance of winning. Not only this, the public has warmed significantly to him after his robust performance in an interview on the BBC. He surprised many with his pragmatic decision to sideline an in-out referendum on the EU until after the next election, but Eurosceptics will be soothed by his historic position on the EU and will be inclined to trust him. Of course there is the question of whether if he were to become Prime Minister whether he could realistically forge a working relationship with whoever the new Liberal Democrat leader will be. It isn't lost on anyone how much David Cameron and Nick Clegg enjoyed working together, whether he could build such a rapport is certainly an interesting question.
Less surprising has been the performance of Deborah Carpenter, one of the early favourites in the contest. She made it very clear that she supported the just intervention into Syria that had torpedoed Mr Cameron's ability to effectively govern, but wouldn't reopen that wound so soon. The performance in her interview was calm and collected, something that certainly bodes well should she manage to make it to the membership. She has also managed to make a good impression on the public, which may give the party momentum in the polls, especially with Labour's seemingly lacklustre field. Provided she can rally the party behind her and avoid the trap of a prolonged renegotiation with the Liberal Democrats it may not be terribly long before the Conservatives fortunes look better.
Sir Jonathon Horncastle came in with an interesting pitch to MPs, the substance of what he wants to do is certainly an interesting direction for the Conservatives. His performance was rather overshadowed by Ms Carpenter and Mr Calhoun, but he put in an encouraging performance that bodes well should he get to become the next Prime Minister. He came into the contest as one of the more solid options among party members and still finds himself with a healthy position among them. The public are distinctly less warm towards him, but there will be time for him to turn that around at the tail end of the campaign and if he should become Prime Minister, he can tout the record of the government to bolster himself.
Much of what was said for Sir Jonathon, is correct for Mary Cambel. She did not have an easy time on the BBC (neither to be fair did Sir Jonathon). Her attempts to provide a unifying position for Tories to continue in coalition with is admirable and shows the character that the party should look for in its next leader. Her standing among the general public is less than ideal following her difficulties, but crucially they are still superior to David Cameron's and people love a winner. So if she should find herself with the keys to Number 10 a lot could change for her. Crucially she can demonstrate the difficulties she suffered in the interview were just an aberration with a strong campaign.
The fact that I am able to be so positive about all of the candidates indicates that the Conservatives have been blessed (more so than Labour) with many capable people who will conduct themselves well in the office of Prime Minister. While none of them are perfect and some of them have encountered difficulty regardless of who wins, the Conservatives have a nucleus of talented people who can advance the cause of the party and the country effectively no matter what role they occupy. There is no wrong choice amongst these candidates, I'm confident that all 4 have the ability to lead the party to an even better result come the next general election.
“Stalin: Stop sending people to kill me! We’ve already captured five of them, one with a bomb and another with a rifle… If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send another” - Tito
Carpenter: the leader we need
The Conservative leadership campaign has certainly been a smoke and mirrors affair, and we're not talking about a mysterious trail of leaks and dropouts. But once again we've had the Conservative Party bickering over what is, in the mind of all too many voters, a non-issue: Europe.
That's not to say that the EU is perfect, or that any Conservative candidate should neglect it, but leadership candidates - even the more moderate ones - should keep it in mind more than what we need to consider is a leader that can effectively maintain our current coalition and keep the Conservatives the governing force they're respected for while being able to - when the time is right and the next election comes in 2015 - present a unifying vision for the country which can win a General Election. We will endorse the candidate that we feel can most effectively keep Labour, embroiled between out-of-touch Blairism and disaster socialism.
It's forgotten that most voters - indeed even a majority of Conservative members - don't care, either way, about Europe half as much as Tory MPs do. They just want to see the Conservative government clean up Labour's debt, keep their wallets secure with low inflation, low tax and higher wages and make sure their public services are kept secure through that process so they have a strong NHS and a good school to send their kids to. All of the candidates have forgotten that.
The polling makes it clear: they trust Deborah Carpenter, who will continue the legacy of the first Conservative leader to put the Tories into government in thirteen years, to continue that legacy. With the economy still shaky they do want change, but they want a safe pair of hands to deliver them. Deborah Carpenter is overwhelmingly their candidate of choice as Mary Cambel reels from disaster to disaster and Horncastle and Calhourn (before he dropped out) offer polarisation and division.
The choice is simple: do you want a Conservative Party that can govern efficiently and beat Labour in 2015? If you care about that, as we in The Telegraph do, your vote indisputably goes to Deborah Carpenter. If a rehash of the 90's and early 2000's is what you're looking for, you're spoilt for choice otherwise.
Almost) Dr. Marty | A-team
Britain's New Prime Minister: How Did She Do It?
The Conservative Party has elected its second female leader and Prime Minister, alongside the Liberal Democrats and Labour who still find themselves one behind on that particular scoreboard. Many will wonder quite how a campaign that has courted controversy at almost every stage of the contest has managed to propel their chosen person to Number 10.
Firstly the field Ms Cambel faced was a relatively strong one, especially compared to the Labour field who had a rather weaker field. Though it is worth noting that this field may have been much stronger had some of the heavy weights such as now former Chancellor George Osborne decided now was his time. Fortunately for Ms Cambel her two strongest obstacles in the contest to her withdrew and were prevented from reaching the run off by MPs respectively. This is despite the fact that all available data seemed to indicate that Deborah Carpenter, who came last among MPs was significantly favoured by both the public and the party faithful.
This leads to the question of why MPs decided to push two seemingly weaker candidates to the run-off? Especially one who has only been an MP for 3 years and another who had a difficult time really gaining significant traction among members. One aspect of it was almost certainly the withdrawal of Barclay Calhoun and his endorsement of Ms Cambel. Mr Calhoun had introduced himself to the public in his interview on the BBC and it went down a storm. Despite predictions of being an also-ran he appeared to have momentum on his side. His sudden withdrawal having apparently made his point was a boon to Ms Cambel who almost certainly would have had to face him in a run off or face the possibility that she would be eliminated after the first or second round.
That's not to say that Ms Cambel didn't have an effective parliamentary campaign, she drew upon talents from across the party and attempted to produce a unifying platform for all of the party to get behind. This was largely successful though a cloud does hang over her head as to whether the allegations of job trading have any merit to them. Then there was the comparatively weak parliamentary campaigns of her two opponents reflected in Ms Cambel winning an absolute majority of all MPs who cast their ballot. That sense of momentum probably contributed to her storming victory among the membership.
Once she was out of the parliamentary party and perhaps crucially out of the spotlight of an interview, a much more composed and detailed character emerged. The memories of her difficult time on the BBC had decisively faded as she proved every bit the equal of Ms Carpenter on the campaign trail. Sir Jonathon struggled as he spoke to the party faithful, nothing he said could be construed as bad, or indeed divisive, but it lacked the depth that had been provided by his two competitors and had the feel of a nostalgic look at an event that only took place last year (magnificent though that event may have been).
It would be impossible to tell the story of Ms Cambel without addressing the devastating and allegedly forged policies that got leaked to the BBC. The BBC's irresponsible journalism by publishing it without so much as requesting a comment from her campaign before publication probably contributed to a sympathy vote both in parliament and among members. It has also finally shed a light on the institutional issues within the BBC, who really ought to hang their heads in shame for lending validity to the leak. Still despite this she has managed to connect with the Tory faithful more than her run-off opponent.
While she still has a long way to go with the public, so does her opposite number in Labour, both are eclipsed by "Don't Know" for Prime Minister. But if she is able to continue to grow into the role as she grew into the campaign she may have a bright future indeed. Though there are still many challenges ahead for Ms Cambel, such as how she will circle the square of tax cuts combined with spending increases especially with a Labour party who will take a harder stance against austerity. So long as she does this credibly and without endangering the recovery, she may yet turn the fortunes of the party around and return to Number 10.
“Stalin: Stop sending people to kill me! We’ve already captured five of them, one with a bomb and another with a rifle… If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send another” - Tito
It’s all about the choices from here on in.
A month is a long time in politics, especially in the cut and thrust in the House of Commons. Just last month the country was being led admirably by David Cameron, our polls were trending upwards, and Labour were still committed to some semblance of sane economics. Today we stand on the precipice of a new era. For the first time in history all three main party leaders will be women, the importance of this milestone cannot be overstated. The Conservative Party have a long and storied history of women leading from the front, the first female MP to take her seat in the Commons was Nancy Astor (Conservative), the first female main party leader was the late great Mrs Thatcher (Conservative) and now the first two female Prime Ministers have been Conservative to boot. It is inspiring to be able to sit within a party so committed to real gender equity, where the best women have been able to rise to the top not because they were fast tracked as part of a PR stunt but because they deserve to be there. I may not have voted for Mary Cambel, but she earned her spot at the top through hard work and making her case to the party members well.
These leadership elections have thrown the political deck of cards so high into the air that it is impossible to know which way round we’ll be facing when they come back to Earth. The Labour Party had a choice of three women and chose the one whom I passionately believe is merely the second least bad rather than the second best. Ms Suchett has proved herself in her live and campaign appearances to be the sort of danger to this country that we would expect to find more in the Labour Party of Michael Foot than the party of Tony Blair. Her platform contains many explicit promises to increase taxes and many tired old ideas to increase our national debt and our deficit. She wants to nationalise our utilities in a move that would see us return to the era of complacency and inefficiency where there should instead be the very real benefits that are brought to us by competition, benefits that in true markets see prices fall and standards rise. Ms Suchett has rejected the positive aspects of Labour’s legacy in Government, their commitment to the free market being the greatest, and has instead pivoted to the very worst in left wing excess, tax and spend to a degree not seen on these shores in many many decades. It is clear coming out of these leadership elections that the Labour Party has not learned the lessons of their economic crisis, a crisis that catapulted the Coalition into Government and saw Labour lose hundreds of elected officials at every level of government, they cannot be allowed to enter Number 10 in any way shape or form which means that the duty of protecting the nation falls on Ms Cambel.
As I mentioned earlier I did not vote for Mary in the leadership election at either level, I saw her platform (the actual one, not the leaked one) and saw a set of policy proposals that I would really rather prefer that the party did not pursue. Her commitment to a period of renegotiation with the European Union, followed by an in/out referendum is in my opinion short-sighted and potentially damaging to the social cohesion of our nation. But like it or not she is my party’s leader and she is my country’s Prime Minister and so I shall support her in the country, in parliament, and in the party for as long as she retains my confidence. However as I sit here writing this piece I find myself wishing to make a few casual observations and well-meaning suggestions to my new boss so that she does not make the same mistakes as my former ones. I have had the pleasure, if one may call it that at times, of serving the party under 5 different leaders if Mary is included and throughout this time I have seen a Conservative Party desperately searching for a purpose. In 1997 the Labour Party very unfortunately stole our position as the party of economic management and it took a full decade for them to lose that moniker thanks to the recession that their reckless spending plans had deepened. It took Labour a decade to lose their economic crown but it will take us far less time to do so if we abandon the austerity project now after we have come so far. The deficit has fallen by a third under the stewardship of Cameron and Osborne, we must ensure that it continues to do so every single year until we have fulfilled our 2010 manifesto commitment to see it through. It’s all very well talking about bread today but if the bakery is on fire then nobody will have much bread at all tomorrow, in the same way if we buckle to what I imagine will be quite stringent Liberal Democrat attempts to restore any kind of hope to be a centre-left party the national finances will more closely resemble the economies of Greece, Portugal, and Ireland leaving us back where we were under Labour in the 1970s – requiring an international bailout.
The next eighteen months will be all about the choices we make and the decisions we do not, under David Cameron we passed a great many social reforms but the heart and soul of his message was fiscal responsibility; that is the hill upon which the Conservative Party will live or die in 2015. We have a tremendous record of lifting the poorest in our community out of taxation by raising the income tax threshold for low earners, if there are to be tax cuts it is here and in National Insurance we must focus our efforts. We must protect Education, Health, and Defence from budget cuts but we must be unflinching in our determination to see the deficit fall for the good of the nation. As any household in our nation will tell you we must pay our way or we will fall into a vicious cycle of debt, we must choose restraint over the populism of the left. The choice facing our nation is a simple one, we can either stick to our guns and rebuild the economy in a sustainable way thanks to the long term economic plan or we can lurch to the left under Suchett and her Labour Party. The Conservative Party must stand for sound economics in the neo-classical tradition or we will find ourselves back in the wilderness and having sat there for thirteen long years I can say with absolute certainty that that is not where the country needs the Conservative Party. We need to be leaders charging from the front to tackle the economic malaise left to us by the Labour Party, not simply the hostages of populism that Suchett and co would be in their socialist delirium.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Parliamentary Experience: Unknown (14)
Media Experience: Capable (44)
Policy Experience: Unknown (13)
A Liberal Plot
Sir Harold Saxon tells all about the coalition collapse
I think it’s best to talk about the elephant in the room.
I’m not proud of the last 48 hours. I was saddened to see the coalition fall. I felt betrayed to see former cabinet colleagues stick the knife in, and twist it against Mary Cambel. I was sad to see the Prime Minister resign as a result Don’t get me wrong, the actions of the Conservative Leadership have not been perfect. As much as I respect Mary Cambel, she got it wrong and made an fatal error in judgement which ultimately led to her resignation and once we had hit that point, there was no going back. Some have asked could the last 48 hours have been avoided, the answer – probably, but to be honest, breakup was going to happen anyway – there was no stopping that and I will explain why shortly.
But first, when we discuss the days that have just passed, note that I have described the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats as a relationship. Like personal relationships, you cohabit, there is marriage, and sometimes there is divorce. We’ve gone through those three stages together, and have had ups and downs. But when it comes to a divorce, things are messy. Neither side can be absolved on innocence.
From the very first meeting it was clear that the Liberal Democrats had absolutely no intention of working with our party. Whilst we scurried back and forth to try and sort out whatever falsified overreactions they'd cooked up that morning, from refusing to work with a leadership candidate because they disagreed with his stance on the EU to the colour of the sky, they increasingly used their position to, in the words of Meredith Hansen Charles herself, "leverage" the government for whatever they could lay their hands on. They walked into that first meeting intending to rip up everything that had been put into place by Cameron and Clegg. Demands for a Liberal Democrat in the Home Office were drawn up, presented, and quickly dropped when it became clear to them that it would not be acceptable grounds in the eyes of the public to pull out. Charles’ “leverage” was ultimately little more than a thinly veiled election strategy - an attempt to present herself as something different from Nick Clegg, and from the coalition itself. The truth is that the Liberal Democrats are complicit in every coalition policy that has ever been enacted - it is on their very own votes that the cuts they now claim to rally against have been delivered. In the talks, they were interested only in the future of the Liberal Democrats, not the country and not the coalition, and ultimately in the idealistic ego of Meredith herself, not with the long term plan that they claim we have broken.
I have never seen such contempt for the way things work in government, and I will not shed a tear to see them cast into opposition permanently. I will not be silent about what has happened - I believe the British public deserve to know what really took place.. Not the fantasy, not the spin about a breakdown because of policy - this was a Lib Dem orchestration to get their polling back on track. They have put jobs, the economy and frankly decent governance all at risk, simply because it was politically convenient for them to do so.There is nothing more grubby than that.
Meredith Hansen Charles had no interest in seeing the coalition last until 2015, that was obvious from her language during her leadership contest, and from our discussions with her in negotiations. She was only interested in getting Liberal Democrat policy implemented, until they began polling well enough to go to the country. The Liberal Democrats walked yesterday not because of the Conservatives “breaking” the coalition agreement, but because she knew she could exploit the situation for the Liberal Democrats own benefit, and that now would be the time to go to the country. I have no doubt that they will back the no confidence vote in the house.
A lot of the blame was put at the Prime Minister and my door. I accept that mistakes were made, both on Mary’s part and on my part, and for that I apologise. But it doesn’t give the Liberal Democrats the right to walk away scot free without taking any of the blame whatsoever. Let’s be clear here: the Liberal Democrats are not perfect either. What the Liberal Democrats failed to mention yesterday was a direct quote from Meredith Hansen Charles, that she had a transcript of an MP encouraging Conservative members to submit letters to the 1922 committee. I quote: “If you're so concerned about MPs speaking to other MPs, maybe you should speak to your own members. Because I have a transcript from Macmillan saying he is encouraging Tories to submit letters to the 1922 committee.”
What she also doesn’t say is that the Liberal Democrats were actively interfering in other government departments, where the Liberal Democrats had no responsibilities. On at least two separate occasions she asked members of the Civil Service in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence for information on Ukraine and military matters, trying to put a Lib Dem foot in the door where there had no right to be one. She was also requesting information from ministers inside the treasury and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Meredith Hansen Charles was acting like the Prime Minister. Coalition is about compromise, but at what point do you turn round and say no?
Almost) Dr. Marty | A-team
Get your act together
Whatever your view of the long, sorry saga of Dylan Macmillan, the man is the new leader of the Conservative Party and, likely, our new Prime Minister. He and his opponent, William Croft, made an admirable effort to demonstrate unity by pledging to adopt respective core positions if they won the election.
And yet the first headlines under his leadership were not of this unity, by the formation of a new "research group" by relatively unknown MP James Rackham. Effectively a party within a party, it boasts strong support on the right wing of the party; and particularly those seeking withdrawal from the EU. The group is even opening itself up to membership - quite literally a party within a party, formalising an informal grouping that rumour has it former Chief Whip Harold Saxon had cultivated.
It's as if, to a casual observer, the Conservatives have learned nothing. Their last leadership election was beset by leaks and division. Their last two months of government were beset by division and by heavy handed responses to it. The Conservatives don't need research groups or parties within parties. They need to get behind a leader they elected, however inexplicable that election to many of his hardcore detractors in the parliamentary party.
The fact is that Britain is on the verge of an election; whether it comes in 5 weeks or in 5 months, or somehow, next year. And in that election the Conservatives will face a hard left Labour party committed to tax rates of 60%, legalising drugs, and whatever other crackpot ideas have found purchase in Ari Suchet's socialist party.
Four years of fixing the mess left in 2010 could be thrown away to something much, much worse than Gordon Brown. Whatever the Conservative Party thinks of Dylan Macmillan, they owe the country their united efforts to stop that from happening.