Category Archives: Conservative Party

The Lord Chancellor’s Worldview

As we live in a parliamentary system, it strikes me as being important that we judge a party, or a government, not just on the merits and de-merits of its leader but also of its various ministers and shadow ministers.  After all, these men and women will be making and executing policy over a wide range of areas, and have a potentially huge impact.  If you consider the present administration, its Conservative character has certainly been partly formed by the attitudes of Michael Gove, Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith, George Osborne.  And Chris Grayling.  Grayling has been a controversial figure at the helm of the Justice Department, the first non-lawyer in 400 years to hold the supreme legal post of Lord Chancellor.  His legal reforms have been widely execrated within the legal profession, and his prisoner book ban was held up as barbarous.  His comments on social issues too form part of the whole character of the Conservative element of the government.

Conservative Home's Andrew Gimson interviewed Grayling, and the lengthy but very readable piece is well worth going to.  He defends his position in his various controversies, and there are some interesting personal insights too.  I found it remarkable that a front-rank politician who studied history at Cambridge was not able to name any political heroes, or even political figures who inspired him.  His approach to politics seems somehow mechanical.  He comments on his brief dalliance with the SDP, and talks of his attitude to grammar schools - definitely pro, but wary of expanding them.

Gimson writes well and interjects a few counters to his subject, but of course the interview piece allows Grayling to state his positions largely unchallenged, so you might also care to go this article by's Ian Dunt, where he takes Grayling's defence of his legal reforms to pieces.  

Cameron – The Leader and his Party

Conventional wisdom is that David Cameron is more popular with the public than his party, but that he is a largely disliked figure amongst his own MPs.  Read the different blogs and comments and you find reasons ranging from the personal - they think he's haughty and condescending towards them, when he bothers noticing them at all - to the political - most think he has no principles, and those that do think he steers too much towards the left.

Such is the antipathy towards Cameron that there have not been wanting stories over the past weeks and months detailing how, if he fails to secure a majority for the Tories come May, he's toast.  One of the reasons behind the high-energy undeclared leadership campaign is just this - that the mountain for Cameron to climb to retain his position as leader is simply too high.  After all, plenty of Tory backbenchers still charge him with a failure to properly win last time, and with having rushed into a hated coalition with the Lib Dems.  Now we could spend a lot of time discussing the very tenuous threads that bind many of these backbench complainers with reality, but if the Spectator's Isabel Hardman is to be believed (writing in today's Evening Standard) they may just be marginally re-evaluating their "Cameron must go" attitude.

Hardman notes that Tory MPs generally still don't like Cameron, but they are waking up to the fact that he has more electoral pull than they do as a party.  Which is hardly surprising, given the generally centre-ground position of most voters, and the luminously right-wing position of most Tory MPs.

Giving further credence to the need for Tories to continue sheltering behind the pragmatic fig-leaf offered by Cameron's leadership might be some recent findings about the average Conservative voters' attitude towards immigration.  Here there is a lesson for the panicky out-UKIP UKIP moves being undertaken by Cameron himself too.  The centre-right think tank "Bright Blue" has commissioned a survey which seems to suggest that most Conservative voters (as opposed to activists and MPs) have a moderate approach to immigration, wanting control of illegal immigration but accepting a need to maintain immigration flows otherwise.  The New Statesman's Staggers blog reports on the survey here.

One problem for Cameron is that to appease his backbench bloodhounds he will need to fight the election on pretty right-wing territory, a factor given added impetus by the presence of Lynton Crosby as his campaign manager.  Mr. Crosby's last national campaign for the Tories was the ill-fated "Are you thinking what we're thinking" one for Michael Howard, which revealed that no, we weren't.  But if Cameron loses through having conceded the centre ground to Ed Milliband, no-one in the parliamentary party is going to thank him for running a right-wing campaign.  They'll just tell him it wasn't right-wing enough, and look for someone else.  Ironically, it looks as if his main chance of survival if he doesn't get the coveted majority might lie in another coalition with......the Lib Dems.  

Global Politics and Conservative Traitors

A quick round-up of some useful reading for students, not to mention the interested reader.

On Global Politics (A2 students):

Andrew Bacevich in the Spectator wonders about the usefulness of an American army that no longer wins wars.

In another edition of the Spectator the same author reviews an interesting new book on America's foreign policy in its post-Iraq era; has the age of unipolarity ended?

Gideon Rachman, meanwhile, in the Financial Times sees an alarming nuclear shadow behind Russia's new bellicosity (you need to register to read this).

UK Politics and the Conservative Problem:

Peter Oborne has been trenchant in his criticism of UKIP fifth columnists within the Conservative PArty, originally in this article, and then on the eve of the Rochester by-election in this one where he memorably describes the new UKIP MP Mark Reckless as "brutish" and "low-grade", a man whose leaving of the Conseravtive Party undoubtedly made it a better place.  But Oborne's real ire is reserved for the treacherous Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, who acts every bit as a UKIP MEP but has so far not needed to leave the party he now acts against.  Fascinating stuff.

Finally, an education interlude, as the Spectator's Fraser Nelson examines the failure of the state system in upwardly mobilising the poor.