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Sunday, July 22, 2007

A new Kinnock?

Andrew Rawnsley asks in this morning's Observer whether David Cameron might be the Tory Party's Neil Kinnock, a leader who does much to rescue and rehabilitate the party, but who can't deliver power.

It is the Conservative Party's poor by-election performances on Thursday that has raised these sorts of questions. 'To be more competitive than they have been for the past decade,' Rawnsley tells us, 'the Tories need to be able to demonstrate that they can raise their share of the vote in Labour seats. The Tories should be squeezing the Lib Dems out of the picture, not the other way round.'

Cameron showed poor tactical judgement in the way that he handled the Ealing Southall by-election, raising expectations that could not be delivered. The problem was that Cameron's personally chosen candidate was as ideologically adrift as the Tory leader himself.

Walter Mondale's telling put-down of Gary Hart in the 1984 Democratic Presidential primaries has never seemed so relevant to a British political leader. In a televised debate between the two candidates he leaned over the podium and told his rival: "When I hear your new ideas I'm reminded of that ad, 'Where's the beef?'" It was devastatingly effective.

Cameron now faces growing dissent within his own party, his honeymoon period with the electorate has come to a crashing end, and questions are being asked about his ability to compete on matters of substance with the other two, very experienced party leaders.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are pointing out that the Tories have not changed, they are still as right wing and as out-of-touch as ever. Tory MPs are arguing that their party needs to move back to the right. Both sides of this argument have a point. Because Cameron has failed to redefine the Tories in ideological and policy terms, he is open to attack from both left and right as soon as the public relations gloss becomes tarnished.

He is now paying the price for an over-reliance on spin at the expense of gravitas and policy. The sobriquet, 'Sham Cam' may well stick, as Rawnsley suggests, in the meantime we will be asking a telling question of Cameron and his Conservative Party: Where's the beef?
A bit of trivia: Missourians (residents of Missouri, State Abbreviation "MO") have a similar quote "Show me the money". Sometimes written as: 'Show Me' The Money!

Missouri is often referred to as the "Show-Me State"
Peter, you have chosen to quote from Rawnsley, so perhaps to balance this commentary, you will allow a quote from Matthew D'Ancona?

"I find it extraordinary that there is a single Tory MPs who looks back on the last 18 months and think that they would be better off without Mr Cameron. He has taken a party that seemed doomed to lose and made it, at the very least, a contender for power. Until the Brown bounce, he was consistently ahead in the polls. Before Mr Cameron, public support for a particular policy halved when the voters were told it was held by the Tories. No longer: he has successfully decontaminated the brand."

You will also be interested to know, I am sure, that I was today contacted by former LibDem PPC (he did apply for Swansea West candidacy before we abandoned the process after the ad went out) and Welshman, Havard Hughes - he has now joined the Conservatives. Havard is a supporter of PR (works for the Electoral Reform Society) and is a progressive and mainstream politician. The Conservatives are still pulling in such people, even though the popular Labour/LibDem-leaning media commentary is that there is no real change within the Conservatives.

Anyone who was at the last Party Conference will dispute that claim - and I am 100% confident that the next Conference will show even bigger steps forward for the Party as we march to the centre ground, where we will stay and flourish. It is this prospect that you fear, Peter, and that is why you close your ears and eyes to evidence that points to Cameron's successes and leads you to put great store in the odd bump and glitch that all parties suffer in their journeys to power (even the LibDems!).
Rene, you are beginning to sound like an archetype Bond 'baddie'
I am worse than that! Roll on next May!
so who is your Kinnock then Peter
There are parallels with Neil Kinnock. In the 80s and early 90s, Labour had more councils and council seats than ever before and Labour was comfortably ahead in the polls.

Yet in by-elections Labour did not perform anywhere near well enough. For instance, the Brecon and Radnor by election was a prime target for Labour, yet it was the then Liberal Alliance who took it, and of course still hold it today as the Lib Dems.

Another bad sign is Labour's strength. In the 80s and 90s the Tories lost rock solid seats at by elections, largely to the SDP Liberal Alliance. In last Thursday's by elections the Lib Dems did well, but nowhere near as well as in the 80s against the Tories.

Even more worrying for the Tories is the parallel between now and 1990. In 1990 Thatcher was on the ropes, she was replaced by an uncharismatic leader. That should have seen Labour coast home in 1992. But it didn't, because people felt that they had had the change of PM that they wanted.

Although I was a big fan of Neil Kinnock, and without him Labour may not have got back into power, I have to concede that he did not look like a PM. Reluctantly, I have to say that Cameron does.
Can't make up my mind whether DC is a good or bad guy. Business consultants at Perth (Scotland) Business Gateway asked me to rewrite the proposal to use the Dome as a global environmental centre, this time for Scotland in 2006. The consultancy document was sent to all MSPs at Holyrood. 3 weeks later parts of it seemed to appear in Cameron's 'green rebranding'. Anyone remember the huskies and Norway.

Lawyers have had a look, similarity, access and timing. But it would be too expensive for an individual to take on a political party.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Perhaps this is his problem if he has copied the political strategy from elsewhere, he will have run into problems by not coming back to the original author to find out how to implement it. He may have taken the headings but is floundering with the detail. What the party, public and media are seeing might be the result of that.
Roger Thomas: I believe you have just hit the nail on the head with that one! Good man.

- Richie Northcote
Richie, did you read the original ecological superpower document from my blog or site? Those into politics will recall that at the end of March 2006 Cameron's environmental policy was really about less litter and no dog muck in parks, though he did go a bit further in speeches to environmental health officers etc.

Perth Business Gateway asked me to produce a brief executive summary based on the more extensive Millennium Dome proposal for Scotland in 2006. This was sent to all MSPs, including leader of the Scottish Conservatives Annabel Goldie. Two of her PAs sent confirmation emails that they have received it.

Three weeks later Cameron was in Norway calling for a global environmental revolution. The first I knew was when a Perthshire councillor shouted to me across the street "I see Cameron went to Norway then". Though he had seen the original document prior to it being sent to Holyrood, I had no idea what he meant... until I saw the news that evening.

This is the original if you haven't read it.

My I suggest you scroll down to the section Northern Tundra Alliance near the end, once you have found Norway, then read the entire document, but remove every reference that is specific to Scotland.

Is it conceivable that Annabel Goldie's people sent it to Cameron's. Were all the specific Scottish references removed and what was left became the basis for Cameron's environmental policy and the rebranding of the Conservative party. It is now 15 months since his trip to Norway and the Conservatives don't seem to have moved on since that blaze of publicity. Similarity, timing and access?

Surely a political party would not copy another source and produce a dodgy dossier based on it would they?. Any independent objective comments would be most welcome.
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