Blackpool is famous for the Golden Mile, antique trams and works' outings. It is also famous for Tory conferences, but if this year's dismal effort was anything to go by, a "Get Motivated" weekend for the Typex sales force is likely to attract a greater number of people. Is it any wonder now that the Tories are not even the natural party of Opposition? Just look at the conference agenda for Blackpool 2003 and you will see why the party's over...
Instead of burning debates about Europe, crime, asylum, repealing Labour's planned anti-countryside legislation, exposing the lies of the Blair Government (not to mention the Kelly affair and the sell-out which was the Iraq war), delegates were treated to claptrap about "patients' passports", women candidates and vouchers for basic things which we already pay for - such as schools! Yes, Oliver Letwin did come forward with some pretty bold initiatives. His plan to establish local "sheriffs" is a stroke of genius, and fits in very well with the current "Wild West" atmosphere of gun-law, thug-infested Britain. Certainly a few sheriffs here and there will be a tremendous improvement on all those vandalised Neighbourhood Watch signs.
Letwin also presented another strong idea, this time to divert all asylum-seekers to... "an island". Which island this would be, we were not told, but cynics may note that the Isle of Portland (in West Dorset) is not likely to figure among the offshore options. However, the Tories were saved, not by Mrs May in her exotic shoes, or by Mr. Letwin with his plan to dump asylum seekers on Lundy or Atlantis. Instead they were saved by one, Tim Metcalfe - a Tory candidate for Leeds (or at least he was Tory candidate for Leeds until this conference!) Mr. Metcalfe entered into a furious denunciation of this country's tissue-paper approach to crime - demanding that billiard tables be thrown out of prisons and that hooligans should get a thorough thrashing. His call for "three cheers for Tony Martin" brought the house down! Central Office officials shuffled nervously behind the scenes - and The Guardian's press team at the conference went into outraged overdrive! Thank goodness for Tim Metcalfe, widely tipped as a future Tory Prime Minister...
But what of the rest of the conference? Hoteliers and chip shop owners the length and breadth of Blackpool were lamenting the poor show from the Tory Party. Just where were all the delegates, and why were those who had bothered to make the trip not spending any money? Vacancy signs were all over the town - and not just on Duncan Smith's chair. Talking of Duncan Smith, many seasoned observers were asking just what was he doing in Blackpool at all? Very few people seem to recognise this man, and half the parliamentary party don't recognise him as their leader. He is reputed to have just experienced an expensive "image makeover", with voice and hand gesture tuition. But as John Prescott cruelly remarked at Labour's bash the previous week, the British people will give IDS a lesson in hand gestures that will be completely free!
Yet somehow, IDS does not seem as bad as Theresa May - a woman who seems to go into nervous, babble overdrive as soon as a microphone is stuck in front of her mouth. She even had the cheek to lecture IDS on his public speaking ability, telling one newspaper that: "Iain is much improved now". As if she is any expert, or someone worth copying. May's statement from the conference podium that the Tories are for you "whether you're black or white, gay or straight" makes the prospect of an oration from IDS look positively delightful. Certainly it may have driven some of the delegates to the Monday Club fringe meeting, with Lord Sudeley present. Here's man who has no truck with leopard skin shoes.
And so the Tories go off into the sunset. With no exhibitors, hardly any fringe activity, and fewer delegates than at any conference in living memory, will they ever hold another week-long seaside conference? Reduced to a couple of dull afternoon sessions, a serious question mark now hangs over the traditional annual get-together. The rumour is that next year, delegates will meet for a weekend at some convention centre in Newcastle or Birmingham. However, Central Office planners had better book up quickly. The Typex sales force may well be in town that weekend...
ONE DOWN, ONE HUNDRED TO GO!
Peter Gibbs is delighted by the departure of the Tories' Chief Executive and calls for CDA and local party workers to rise up against the social liberal gang now wrecking OUR party
At the beginning of this week (the 17th February), Michael Portillo - the failed challenger for the Tory leadership - condemned the decision by Iain Duncan Smith (the man overwhelmingly chosen by the patriotic Tory grassroots) to remove the party's Chief Executive. The Chief Executive, a Mr. Mark MacGregor, was described by Mr. Portillo as "the most talented man the Tories have ever employed" and so it was clear that the former Defence Secretary and leadership challenger was not best pleased with the decision! (It might also be observed that the Tory Party once employed Enoch Powell in its research centre, but obviously Mr. Powell - the youngest professor in the British Empire - was not quite as "talented" as MacGregor!)
To those who have followed the political plot (and indeed lost the political plot!) since the FCS heyday in the mid-80s, the name of Mark MacGregor will be familiar. Mark was Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students and played a major role in promoting the so-called Libertarian, or "sound faction" to power. The highpoint of this campaign was achieved at the infamous FCS Loughborough conference, which The Sun reported in the following terms: "100 Tory Yobs on the Rampage"! At this conference - and we are sure that Mark would have condemned this behaviour - there were allegations of some delegates shouting abuse at others, and even chanting "John Selwyn Gummer is a homosexual". Given that Mr. Gummer was then the Tory Party chairman, one can only wonder at the damage done to the image of the party and of FCS itself.
However, boys will be boys and this youthful exuberance is undoubtedly something that belongs well and truly to the past. Mark duly left these childish people behind, and became a successful businessman; a Tory candidate in North Kent (trashed, incidentally, by Labour at the last election and the one before that!); and then "Chief Executive" to the fumbling, failing institution known as Conservative Central Office, a building and body of staff which largely bleeds the cash-starved party dry.
For someone described as the "most talented person" ever to grace the heavenly Tory universe, Mr. MacGregor did not seem to make the biggest impact for the party. One would expect a Chief Executive to be moving and shaking, galvanising the organisation's key players, keeping them away from the coffee machine and the pub etc. One would also expect the Chief Exec to be a strategic genius, picking up on the latest issues and sharpening the sword of Tory propaganda accordingly. After all, Mr. MacG was supposed to be the "most talented man" they had ever employed...
However, time and time again, we watched in despair as the Tories failed to land the necessary blows on New Labour. True, Duncan Smith could have done more - said more - in the way that Kinnock in the 80s made as much as he could out of nearly every Government mistake. But IDS is a man who has been demoralised by those around him - bewildered by the conflicting advice and Letwinite psycho-babble fed to him by the so-called "modernisers". Could it be the case (and perish the thought) that those in the modernisation faction put their own agenda before that of the party - and the good of the party and its new leader?
Yes, this does sound like a conspiracy theory, but how else are we to explain the mysterious briefing put out by unknown people against Tory hero, Lord Tebbit? A few months ago, the papers were ablaze with stories about how a shadowy faction of "modernisers" were trying to kick Tebbit out of the party - HIS party - the party he helped to make electable and powerful throughout the 1980s. Indeed, he was at one time one of Mark MacGregor's political heroes, so we can perhaps gain some scrap of reassurance that Mark would have opposed these moves against Tebbit. It was possibly thanks to MacGregor that Tebbit was able to ride this storm and stay in the party - and it would be fascinating to learn from the former Chief Executive how he managed to bring his lordship back from the abyss...
However, that aside, we can say with confidence that Mark MacGregor, an apostle of Portillo - had come to be known as one of the leading social liberals. But just what do we mean by this term "social liberal", and how does it affect our party? In a nutshell (or nutcase) "social liberalism" means that the Tories talk about gay rights, rather than families and marriage; appeasing The Guardian rather than appealing to ordinary British people; moving in Islington/wine bar circles rather than among the folk at Romford market. It is a philosophy which fails to understand the difference between moving cleverly (and sometimes critically) with the times (something which the Tories have always done), and capitulating to the worst things thrown up by our times. As the political magazine These Tides observed: it is the difference between endorsing and accepting what is genuinely modern, with what SEEMS modern.
This agenda - this doctrine of social liberalism - might be considered by its supporters as clever and new. But it is something which no-one in the Tory Party has ever voted for - unlike the anti-EU policy, which (thanks to William Hague) was endorsed nearly unanimously. Social liberalism - reheated Guardianesque tripe in leopard-skin shoes - is nothing to do with the Tory message or the Tory Party, and appeals to no-one beyond the boundaries of Westminster and Islington. It has been a mad, bad, tactical mistake on a monumental scale, and has allowed Tony Blair to achieve a sort of ideological hegemony. After all, if the Opposition basically agree with you, what do you as a Government have to fear?!
Recently, Lord Tebbit made the following powerful and chilling observation. He said, quite rightly, that this is the first parliament in living memory when the Opposition has been more afraid of the Government! Usually it is the other way around, and it is a sad testament to the failure of the Tories' happy-clappy, "let's be nice" strategy that this should be so.
IDS now realises that he has backed the wrong horse, that the people of Britain in 2003 are not all Guardian-reading clots, obsessed with gay rights and "being European". Instead, the people are as conservative as they have ever been - concerned and dismayed about asylum; sickened by crime and the weak judges who encourage it; up in arms about the treatment of Tony Martin - and appalled by the guitar-strumming, epicene idiocy of Tony Blair.
Astonishingly, things now seem to be coming apart for Blair, providing the Tories with their biggest chance yet to speak for the ordinary British people - that much-maligned "Middle England". Yet like the Northern Ireland police, IDS and his party have been reformed and disarmed - tricked into taking a backseat, softly-softly role when they should have been out there fighting!
Yet IDS could still stage a comeback for our party. As Peter Robinson of the DUP said recently at a House of Commons meeting of the powerful Swinton Circle (an activist Tory group): "If Iain came out flying the blue flag - the Union flag - he might just make the party recognisable again". However, there is more to do than that.
If IDS is to get us back on the road to power, he must cast aside as ruthlessly as possible the people, circles, factions and groups who have stymied the Tory Party. This means booting out the social liberals - the non-Tories who have made us into a laughing stock - and making an example of them.
Let it be known that the CDA is right behind the moves to kick out the "modernisers". We say good riddance to MacGregor and his friends, and we look forward to the day when IDS will finally come to his senses and restore the Monday Club to full party status.
The time has come to wage war on all those who have hijacked and betrayed our party. MacGregor and co. today - Norris, May, Yeo, Bercow and Letwin tomorrow. Let's get them out - and get behind IDS!
COME OUT OF THE GARDEN MAUDE...or Frankie goes to Bollywood
A disillusioned Tory activist sends an open letter to Maude, and tells the CDA why he will be voting Labour next time. We publish his views in the interests of something the Duncan Smith Tory Party does not understand - FREE SPEECH
That Francis Maude, feeble parrot of the shallow, socially-liberal mantra of "modern Conservatism" has given the R.A. Butler lecture shows just how empty the British Tory Party has now become. Reading Frankie's comments - the way he dragged out all the old liberal-left cliches about appealing to people "whatever side of the tracks they were born" and whatever their sexual "orientation" - was like reading a job advert in The Guardian.
What is all this rot and claptrap about "people from the other side of the tracks"? Assuming the tracks are still in use (no thanks to Maude's privatisation lunacy), does Maude think that people from poor districts and backgrounds constitute some other species of human being? How uplifting and reassuring for these poor people that Francis Maude recognises them and beckons them into his world -far away from the council flats of their birth, and on, on to the better "side of the tracks". Is there nobody at Central Office who can see how cringe-making, how patronising, how clumsy, how false all this "let's be nice to the proles" sounds?
The irony is, of course, that it was Margaret Thatcher - with her upper-middle-class tones and Right-wing persona - who attracted all the working-class voters into the Tory fold. The half- embarrassed and totally embarrassing "social liberals", with their condescension and textbook idea of what people are like beyond Westminster and Henley-on-Thames, just puts the voters off in their thousands.
You attract people to a party Mr. Maude, not by stereotyping them, or seeing people as a "target market", but by championing the values of the British people. Everyone wants something done about crime; everyone wants to see the injustices of EU membership - the CAP, the CFP - rectified; everyone wants a decent school and health service. Who wants to hear about "sexual orientation" and "connecting with women"? And just what did you do in Government to make things better anyway?
Do you suppose, Mr. Maude, that the people who vote for New Labour - the people who once voted for Margaret Thatcher - are all left-wing, or are all in favour of having a "gay Prime Minister"? Do you really think that this is how they think? Of course not - they voted for Blair and will vote for him again because there is no reason to vote for your "new Tories".
These days, it is Labour which is talking tough on asylum and immigration, it is Blunkett who is laying into the criminals, it is Boateng who is supporting the family as the ndamental basis for our society. Yes, society is more "socially liberal", but the live-and-let-live attitude of today does not mean that people will approve of the ostentatious, overstated, in-your-face extreme social liberalism espoused by you and Mr. Bercow. Take it from someone "from the wrong side of the tracks", your posing and propaganda looks contrived and utterly insincere...
Spiritually and psychologically, Labour is not really for a Tory like myself. but at least Labour did not sign us into the EU or lose everyone their home in 1992, or spend their last period in office sunk in a miasma of sleaze. Byers is a sideshow compared to the Tories' mendacity and failure, and if Duncan Smith really believes that Theresa May - in her neo-Sapphic leather jacket on Newsnight - can ever be taken seriously, he's a bigger exponent of self-delusion than Frankie Maude himself.
Come out of the garden Maude - and leave the Tory Party to someone who knows what they're doing.
(Name and address withheld. CCO has threatened to expel members who state the case for true Conservatism.)
FROM OUR ARCHIVES - VERDICT ON 'TWO-BRAINCELLS'
In a week in which the Archbishop of Westminster has deplored the vanquishing of Christianity by a culture of greedy self-indulgence, and Ulster has continued its slide back into barbaric violence, we find it incredible that (in a Radio 4 interview) David Willetts MP - still chewing the fat of the suicidal agenda that destroyed Michael Portillo - has again bemoaned the fact that many Conservatives do not feel 'comfortable with modern Britain'.
You do not have to be a member of the Conservative Party to feel uncomfortable with the dirty, selfish, brutal yob-infested society that surrounds us. However, most conservatives are old enough to recall an age of better manners and morals, so to that extent Mr Willetts's analysis is probably correct.
Given that the CP is supposedly a democratic organisation, however, It would be interesting to know how Mr Willetts proposes to impose his values on those who have no intention of conforming with his 'social liberal' outlook.
Incidentally, had Margaret Thatcher decided that she was 'comfortable' with the socialist hegemony of the late 20th century, it is highly unlikely that Mr Willetts would have risen to the prominent position he now occupies in our party.
DAVID WILLETTS - LOOKING EXTREMELY PLEASED WITH HIMSELF
SAM SWERLING LAMBASTS THE MONDAY CLUB
Sam Swerling is a former Monday Club Chairman who served as a Westminster City Councillor for many years. In the opinion of very many of its members the Monday Club has had a very bad year. Its activities, apart from the presidential Dinner (where the invited guest was someone very few people had heard of) and one or two other events, have been negligible. The Club's branches are non-existent; its Young Members' Group which used to be very active, has disappeared; there are no university branches; no Women's Group (as there once was); no liaison group to support councillors and parliamentary candidates exists as it once did.
1. The Chairman
The Chairman never writes letters to the papers in the name of the Club. No Conferences ever take place. The Club's journals are thin, uncritical and, seemingly, dedicated to issues that are far removed from the political mainstream (for instance, is any serious political activist at all interested in the views of "The Heir to the Imperial Throne of Iran" speaking on "Winds of Change", a meeting later cancelled at short notice. Wasn't MacMillan's 'Winds of Change'in 1961 the authentic raison d'etre of the Monday Club?)
2. The Executive Council
The Executive Council seems to be more and more a self-perpetuating oligarchy, and the Chairman of the Club must bear full responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. There is a lack of vision, initiative and energy. There are apparently 750 Club members. Why aren't just some of them sought out to re-activate the Club? A not unreasonable question to ask is this: just what is the Club's purpose as at 2002? Forty years on from its foundation it is effectively moribund.
3. The Monday Club and Central Office
The way the Club leadership has handled this matter has been feeble beyond belief. When Iain Duncan-Smith announced he was "suspending" the Club (such gratitude for the many hundreds of votes he received from Club members for his leadership) the executive council should have immediately convened an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Club's members to explain fully what was happening. A full explanation has still not been given. Members are assumed to have read snippets in the Press. This shows a thorough disdain of the membership and a very poor understanding of public relations.
4. Mr Duncan-Smith and Mr David Davis
Mr Duncan-Smith and Mr David Davis should have been told forcefully that they have no authority whatever to suspend the Club and that their diktat would be ignored. The legal position is quite clear. The Club is an unincorporated association - all clubs have this status, as do trade unions. The Monday Club does not have an existence separate from that of its members, all of whom have to be members of the Conservative Party. There is nothing in the Conservative Party's rulebook which establishes the Party's relationship with a body which has never had any formal standing in the Party - any more than the Bow Group or the Tory Reform Group have ever done.
The only way the Conservative Party can go against the Monday Club is to expel all its members. Nothing else has any legitimacy. Since the Party has stated it does not intend to do this - if it tried to it would be the recipient of multiple lawsuits - the Club's leadership should have informed its members that the purported suspension is null, void and, of no effect, which is precisely the correct position. A robust leadership would have done so.
The events after the purported "suspension" make salutary reading for the Club's members:
Why did Lord Sudeley, as Chairman, tell the Londoner's Diary of The Evening Standard that the Club wouldn't mind modifying its position on immigration because it has other very important issues to be involved with? The change to the Club's Aims looks ridiculous and was unnecessary. Of course, the Club welcomes into its membership people of all races and religions. It always has done. It doesn't need to state so.
Why did Lord Sudeley resign as a patron of 'Right Now'? Was it because he came under pressure to do so from Central Office? Curious that this happened almost immediately after the Club received its orders from Central Office.
Precisely what are the "further discussions (which) have taken place which have been worthwhile (sic) on all sides and members will be informed of the final outcome in due course, "as reported in the Club's Newsletter? Why aren't the members being told now exactly what is going on? What is it that is so delicate, or should we say "worthwhile" between Central office and the Club's leadership?
Who owns the Monday Club? The Executive Council or the membership through its subscriptions?
Why have resolutions, properly proposed and seconded, not been included in the agenda for the Annual General Meeting?
WE DEMAND ANSWERS TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS!
MONDAY CLUB CHAIR LORD SUDELEY RELAXES WITH MISS YOUNG CONSERVATIVE 1899