The mood of the Conservatives

 

            I spent some of yesterday with a group of Conservative members and activists. Their views on the government’s progress to date were interesting.

             They are all pleased to see the end of Gordon Brown’s regime. They wanted an end to reckless spending and borrowing, and to the rash of political correctness and non jobs that characterised the dying months of the Labour government. They wish this new government well.

              They refer to it as “them” not “us”. They have a number of messages for the leadership. The most common word they used to describe their reactions to events so far was “disappointed”.

               I asked them why. Were they not pleased that the government has promised to tackle the deficit and to curb  public spending? Yes, they welcomed that but they were critical that spending is going up on overseas aid and the European budget. They think  more could be done more quickly to rein in excess and waste.

                 Were they not pleased that the government has said it will reform welfare? Yes, they were strongly in favour of that. They especially welcomed the decision to provide some high cap or limit on the amount of Housing benefit that can be claimed. Their concern was why it was taking so long to bring it in. Some expressed worries that the government might amend the proposals  or back down.

                 Some were unhappy about the defence cuts. They would rather we pulled out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, to save the money on that venture, in order to preserve more of the procurement programmes. Many  wanted the Harriers to be kept on for the carriers, and at least  one wanted new early warning aircraft.

                Many were unhappy about the recent decisions on EU matters. They wanted a referendum on  the extra duties and spending of the EU, disliking the expanded diplomatic service. The one Lib Dem policy they liked, a referendum on the whole matter of the EU, is the one Lib Dem  policy they notice  that has not made it to the Coalition table.

                All want to know from the leadership what distinctive Conservative programme will be developed for by elections and the next General Election.  Fresh from their experiences earlier this year of making the case against Lib Dem candidates in local elections and the General Election, they need reassurance that there will be a distinctive set of policies to sell that show some difference from what a Coalition government can do.

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37 Comments

  1. JimF
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The leadership are “they” not “us” because they are playing a stealthy game of just about keeping your activists away from UKIP, and just about keeping the masses onside. Realpolitik says that the Labour client state grew so large that without their tacit support that there would quickly be resistance to the reasonable policies of most of your activists.
    We just don’t actually have a Conservative government. Period.

    • electro-kevin
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

      I am also in agreement with the Conservatives that you spoke to, Mr Redwood. But they and I have to admit that we are being unrealistic in our expectations. Mr Cameron – in order to win and secure office – must adopt leftism.

      I hate to say it but the British economy has crossed the Rubicon. For it to revert to sound money and sound principals it must fail. It must fail to the point that the Guardianista pay roll can no longer be afforded and that our people are hungry enough and keen enough to compete for work at the global rates which match our mediocre education and skill levels.

      As it is this f ailure seems likely to take place under a Conservative administration (or part) It could have been done quicker under Labour with true Conservatives coming to the rescue without blame.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        The economy has already failed to the extent that they cannot pay for the Guardian type jobs. You should not underestimate the state sector employees many know full well and would even support what needs to be done even if it is not in their short term interests. Other would welcome a pay off and a new more productive job.

  2. Tim Yates
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Most of these views are shared by conservative voters. I think disappointment will grow as strange decisions (EU budget-harriers and carriers) and lack of progress on cutting waste and regulations become more obvious. The Coalition is in danger of implementing the worst of both party manifestos with none of the helpful stuff.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Clearly some things will take time but a sense of direction could have been instant and very valuable. Lower tax rates particularly on income, CGT, IHT and stamp duty would have done much and raised more tax too. It is also absurd not to sort out the mess that is the NHS.

    It is true they are hampered by mad Liberal policies on most things mainly tax and the sustainable/renewable religion. But as you say the one Lib Dem policy they did like, a referendum on the whole matter of the EU, is the one dropped. We can only assume this has not made it to the Coalition table as Cameron did not like it like his worthless cast iron promise to the electorate.

    Do the Coalition realise they have only 3 years or so to actually make a difference and perhaps only 3 month to adjust the direction. If investors and businesses think, as I do, they are not heading the right way and will probably loose the next election – it may become a self fulfilling prophecy very soon indeed. Sensible companies and investors are already taking flight.

    • Bob Eldridge
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Cameron is a bildaburger and is commited to a United States of Europe. The UK is now a region of the Europian super state. Our government is now mearly a regional assembly. It is time to reduce its size to enough MPs to impliment the decisions that will come from Brussels. There is no real purpose in voting as most of the decision making power has gone. Over the next few years we will join each new EU regime, EU Army, EU bank, the Euro. I wonder what region number we will be assigned?

  4. david
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Ah well if all else fails there’s always UKIP.

    • Boudicca
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      All else HAS failed. There IS only UKIP. When will Eurosceptic Conservatives learn that they are voting for a pro-EU party. You can only change others’ behaviour by changing your own. That means abandoning the pro-EU Conservative Party and voting for a party which WILL give us a Referendum on the EU. Cameron will never do it. Farage will.

  5. alexmews
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    i agree with the comment that we may get the worst bits of the two manifestos but not the best bits. that is a real worry.

    i want also to plug this propgramme which went out on C4 on thursday. some very good bits incl Lords Howe & Lamont discussing their perspective of the national debt & deficit; exposing many MPs basic ignorance on the subject & how tame we are really being in dealing wiht the problem. It outlines much of what Mr Redwood has been saying for some time.

    If any readers have not watched the programme – i encourage you to do so on 4oD.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/britains-trillion-pound-horror-story/4od

  6. English Pensioner
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I think these views are typical of those of my generation. We are still wasting money left right and centre! And the EU is even worse. Many public officials are grossly overpaid – many of my retired friends had high level jobs during their working lives, but none ever attracted salaries like some of those being paid these days to officialdom – and the managed with a lot less staff.
    If the TaxPayers’ Alliance, instead of being a pressure organisation, started to field candidates at elections, I think the Tories would be lost for good.

  7. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Maybe this might help:

    It is too late to start economising when you find you are looking at the last sheet of toilet paper.

    • alan jutson
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Stronghold Barricades.

      Absolutely Priceless. As indeed would any future sheets be when the last one Has been used.

      John
      Your Mini think tank have got it about righ.

      Dissapointment, and I would add frustration.

      Welfare reform not happening for at least two years, will cost you the votes of all those who suffer financial hardship in the next General Election. That is Why Gordon gave them lots of money, so they could be reliant on the State, and would vote for the Party which allowed such.

      DC needs to up his game.

  8. Robert K
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I would be disappointed to, apart from the fact that my expectations have never been high. Mood music won’t solve the massive problems created by decades of state mis-management. What is needed is a rod of iron to pursue the policies discussed widely on this site, and I see little evidence of that.
    PS, it was interesting to hear Mr Cameron lecturing the Chinese on how economic growth and prosperity rests on democracy. The Chinese economy is growing at 6% and ours is growing at …? As usual with centre-left politicians, he seems to confuse democracy with liberty.

  9. Neil Craig
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    A major difference between us & the US is that there voters have some say in who their party chjooses & thus in policy where in Britain, at least in the 3 main parties, we don’t. I suspect that even MPs would have voted heavily for thje Lisbon referendum on a free vote but Cameron was able to reverse party policy without asking thjem, let alone asking the members. The effect of thjat difference is that on the US the TEA partyistscan work within the Republicans & they win whereas in Britain we know that UKIP cost the Conservatives enough votes to lose them their chance of a majority. Igf the Conservatives lose support, as seems inevitable, the next EU election is likely to see UKIP as the largest UK party. If the Tories want to avoid that they must allow their supporters some say in what they support (possibly even allow their MPs the same).

  10. Acorn
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    When it comes to political leadership, you can’t get better than Governor Chris Cristie of New Jersey USA. You may be aware that the majority of US States are literally insolvent. Most of them are being destroyed by the greed and arrogance of public sector trade unions.

    It is easy for these unions to dominate local County school boards and similar public sector service suppliers. These boards tend to have local councillors that are beholden to trade unions for their election to office.

    If local-ism takes off in the UK, trade unions will have to be stopped from doing the same thing in our local school boards etc. Governors of US States are powerful elected officials. Now, have you spotted a Westminster MP that comes close to Governor Cristie?

  11. Derek Buxton
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I fear that they are in for a disappointment if they expect change for the better.

    And when did the lib-dems want a referendum on the EU, they are front runners in wanting more of it, more pro EU than one K Clarke is, and that is going some.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      It is probably true that the EU referendum, like so much of the Liberal pre-election promises, were designed to get votes. They would never have expected to actually implement any of them.

      • alan jutson
        Posted November 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        lifelogic

        Liberal pre-election promises were designed to get votes. They would never have expected to actually implement any of them.

        Agree absolutely. thats why they had such a load of other daft ideas. like no tuition fees, green policy, mansion tax and the like

        They also had some good ones Tax threshold £10,000, and Vote in or out of the EU. But never in their wildest dreams did they ever expect to have to make good on any of them, hence the reason why they now have a problem, they have seen the books and had to get real and they do not like it.

  12. Cliff.
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    In order to have a true set of Conservative policies for the next election, we need a true Conservative leadership; sadly, the Parliamentary Conservative Party has been diluted down by carefully chosen new MPs that don’t really reflect the views of the true grassroot Conservative supporter. There is a real danger that Mr Cameron will preside over the death of the traditional Conservative Party and continue to move it in the direction he has namely, a kind of progessive Marxist Party with an authoritarian presidential style leader.
    In the next election, the LibDems will loose out due to their dishonesty over student fees etc, many people voted LibDems to keep our party out however, I suspect they won’t be fooled again. I also wonder how large the LibDem vote would have been without the student vote and the Labour supporters vote.
    If Mr Cameron doesn’t get his act together soon and start putting our country first and our national interest ahead of his masters in Brussels, I can see us loosing heavily next time and our party disappearing due to the damage Mr Cameron has done to it and it’s ideology.

  13. Peter Holttum
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    This government is not conservative – it is piling debt on our grandchildren and inflating the economy to preserve the special privileges of the New Labour class of aristocracy – ie public servants. Its so sad

    Furthermore I think John’s device of floating what other people might be thinking about the coalition is dishonest. Why can we not just hear John Redwoods views. I have mentioned this before, and he leapt to his defense. But where are the arguments against Tony Blair’s statism in the coalition – put with the force of the Channel 4 documentary this week. What became of all the visits shadow ministers made to France, Sweden, Australia etc for example. he latter have a market system for primary health care, as well as a bouyant independent schools sector.

    Where is the beef?

    My prediction is ever increasing debt and state control – unfortunately the conservative party are dominated by authoritarians, notlibertarins, and are obseesed with the number of police etc – allof whom are themselves public servants. Where is the attack on the millions of extra non jobs created by nre Labour?

    Reply: I have daily put my views out on what I think the government should do. I have voted against the governemtn when I strongly disagree with them. It is also important in a democracy to listen to other people.

  14. Alte Fritz
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Activists, by definition, are committed to policies distinctive to their party. A clear majority of the other 95% of the population was said to support political arrangements which would blur those distinctions. It is now a common criticism that manifesto promises have been broken; personally, I found that so shocking that I fell into a faint.

    Activist concern is understandable and they need a reason to give their time effort and money to their party. It would worry me more if the general public could not understand that if two or more parties sit together, then they must compromise.

  15. Bill
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Here we go again. After the election, I rejoined the party. I will now allow my membership to lapse and will probably be voting UKIP next time. Haven’t joined UKIP yet, may do so later!

  16. NickW
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    It is disturbing that Parliament as a whole appears to support liar Woolas and is keen to defend the right of MPs to lie to the electorate.

    Most of what differentiated the parties during the election turns out to have been lies.

    Labour “Tory cuts versus Labour investment”. was a lie.

    The Liberals lied on University fees.

    The Conservatives lied on Europe.

    The first step to be taken by politicians is to regain the trust of the electorate, because if no one believes them, elections become a farce and it matters not a tinker’s cuss what they say.

    I am trying to convince my teenage daughter that she must be truthful, because her good name and her reputation depend on it, her working life will depend on it, and her friendships will depend on it.

    It is a pity that politicians have forgotten what their parents told them.

  17. Amanda
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    There have been times of late when I have just put my head in my hands and cried – my country, my birthright, has been given away to totalitarian monsters; I no longer live in a democracy. My wealth is being stolen; I am forced to pay more and more for less and less – in the name of fecklessness, mismanagement and bogus science. I am surrounded by hypocrisy, hatred and injustice all got up in the name of fairness, diversity and tolerance – it is nothing of the kind.

    Foreign religions are allowed to sprout hatred, whilst Christians are persecuted and Conservatives arrested for ‘having their say’, from gollywogs to twitter. Lecturers pour scorn on soldiers and glorify missile throwing thugs, who want others to pay for their benefit. The police are the hand maidens of the state – no longer my protectors. Socialists are everywhere, trying to rule my life; telling me how they will educate my children, how I must behave and how I can enjoy myself – or not !! I am even supposed to pay for them through the BBC tax!! They selfishly want my hard earned money so they can enjoy themselves with it, yet they will give up nothing – soon even travel will be too expensive to undertake.

    Good manners have gone, whilst many of my countrymen seem to have metamorphosed into uneducated ‘orcs’ – it is often new arrivals from the Commonwealth who one relates to more. I too am beginning to rebel, I see less and less reason to keep rules or to contribute to ‘society’. If the black economy offers opportunities I (am tempted?)to take them, and I can find my way around ‘systems’ when I want. My patriotic values are true and deep – as is my ancestry; but I will not support the self-serving, socialist elite I see all around me. They can go to hell in a handcart.

    I have lost hope in the future, and I’m sick of the past being rewritten in lies. I live in fear of the next blow to my living standards, the next treasured cultural value, fought for by my forefathers, to be shattered. I want to escape, yet I also want to fight back. I despise the current government, whilst acknowledging some good in Michal Gove, IDS and Eric Pickles; but can they make a difference?

    David Cameron is not quite the traitor that Bown and Blair were, but neither is he a leader, a statesman, or an honest politician. There, that is how many a ‘conservative’ will truly feel !!!!

  18. A.Sedgwick
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I endorse the sentiments of your meeting. Further I was interested to note reports that schools could be funded directly from central government and cut out the local government bureaucracy. I have been blogging for years for state schools to follow the independent sector and be run by the teaching staff, governors and parents – local government is just an irritant.

  19. crowbait
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    It has become apparent that the lib/con government is rushing to sign up for
    the EU corrupt socialist protection racket. Apart from all the lies and falsehoods
    that have been used to achieve power,we now see that virtually every move takes
    this country into ‘the heart of europe’. The farcical defense carve up is designed
    to ensure that we can no longer operate as a sovereign nation. The so called
    supreme court overides the elected representatives without a peep from the
    prime minister. A majority of laws are now handed down from Brussels so that
    we have no protection despite our national interests. The major tax paying
    industry in this country,the City of London,will soon be under orders from
    Frankfurt and Paris.The final move will be to sign up for that tottering currency
    the euro.Cameron and his people have reneged on almost every policy that got
    them elected. The Conservative party appears to have been deliberately destroyed.

  20. Quietzapple
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    You will have advised them not to hold their breaths.

    They will long for the return of Brown and the often conservative government quite soon, if they are honest, because the cuts are too soon and too high.

    Even manufacturing was expanding quickly – better than since 1994 or earl;ier depending on the revision of the figures I didn’t trouble with – when the tories took over.

    Now we may have the worst of the USA’s influence – inflation – and the worst of Osborne’s cuts – slower or no growth.

    We look for Lib-Dems to cross the floor: I wonder who will be the first tory this time?

  21. zorro
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    John,
    It is becoming clear why Mr Cameron was so ineffectual in the debates during the election campaign and missed a mile wide open goal. Maybe he was having an off period (three weeks long) or perhaps his plan was coming to fruition. I am absolutely convinced that ‘things will be arranged’ no matter what to ensure that the Lib – Con arrangement fights the next election as one.

    zorro

    • norman
      Posted November 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      The massive risk in that approach would be that you are only leaving voters with one mainstream protest Party to vote for (Labour) and if that Party became larger than the Conservative Party, using the logic that Nick Clegg used in May of negotiating first with the largest Party, the Lib Dems would be well within their rights to say ‘All’s fair in love and war’ and start negotiations with both sides.

      Or Lib-Con numbers may fall just short, as Lib-Lab did this time, and that would also ‘force’ the Lib Dems into Labours arms. Or Labour could win a majority. What would happen if the Tories won a majority after such a pre-nup? Would they stand by Nick? Or ditch him? Stormy waters indeed.

      For all the Lib Dems talk of always having been closet fiscal hawks you have to wonder what they would do when the chips were down. Especially if those nasty Eurosceptic MP’s try and win some concessions from the EU in the next four years – which Conservative activists are demanding.

  22. London Calling
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    There is an echo chamber around Chris Huhne, the most damaging man in the coalition. He can’t hear sense, his offices are full of charity activists and energy-subsidy lobbyists. Civilisation runs on two basic commodities: water, and electricity. Without these we are dead. Yet the coalition has elevated a green fanatic to the more important of those two – energy. It is madness to trumpet those weasel words “sustainable and renewable” : they will be on our death certificate. Were the dinosoars sustainable? Mankind is smarter than that, we are built to adapt and change. Who would have predicted todays technology fifty years ago? Yet its all nodded through as an excuse to raise taxes (avoiding the ballot box issue of direct taxes) . Labour’s air passenger duty increase stopped? Aparently not.
    These disasterous pseudo-green policies are the enemy of all of us.

  23. Roger Helmer MEP
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    John, you have crystallised a point for me — because I too think (and speak) of the coalition as “them”, not “us”. I too am happy with their welfare and education policies, but I see nothing at all conservative in their supine policy to the EU, nor in Chris Huhne’s lunatic green agenda, which will impoverish our grandchildren while having no impact whatever on the environment.

  24. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    What comes across strongly is a dislike of the current relationship with the EU and a desire to present a distictively Conservative manifesto to the electorate at the next election, regardless of the fact that we are currently in coalition.

    Which brings me to timimg and tactics – when does the Eurosceptic part of the Conservative Party (the vast majority) start putting forward the European policy that it wants in the next manifesto. We can start planning right now but the time to push our ideas hard is after the 2011 and 2012 budgets are out of the way. We need LibDem support until then.

  25. Norman Dee
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I am beginning to think that UKIP might be the only alternative after all. However it needs bolstering by some credible people, Farage is good at attracting attention, and keeping it’s name in the papers etc. but he has no real respect as a politician. If however the 25 conservatives who voted against the recent legislation were to throw their weight behind them, then the talent and proven quality of some of these people (like yourself) would be the fillip it needs. At the end of the day UKIP is basically a right wing party mainly conservative party, so it would, in time, morph into what we really want, an independant eurorealist/sceptic conservative party which people can vote for and not feel betrayed as we do now.

  26. Iain Gill
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    and they didn’t mention the cap on non EC workers which is there in spin only and in substance land ICT visas are exempt and the outsourcers are using them to continue to flood the country with workers mostly in sectors where there is already an oversupply of skills?

    the harrier one does demonstrate how little the government is able to spot the BS merchants amongst their advisors, and being able to spot BS is a key skill of leadership

  27. REPay
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    One of the great disappointments is the style of the new government. Spin, telling the media first. It’s PR before policy and they are not good at making a case or explaining policy. For example, the magnitude of the cuts – much smaller than the BBC tells us as shown by you in this space. They also pander to the widely held idea that paying tax is of itself noble. I personally would be happy to pay more tax if I had evidence that it did anything other than create a huge cadre of middle class PC bureaucrats many of whom are very well paid. What happened to the 6ok cap on public sector pensions promised in the manifesto? Or did some ministers work out it would affect them?

  28. Scooper
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Cameron is not the leader to deliver the results that Conservative voters want. Firstly he’s not a leader and secondly he’s not a Conservative. It is blindingly obvious that Cameron’s primary objective is ‘ever closer union’ with that venal bunch in Brussels and this is reflected in every single Coalition policy.
    Energy, defence, finance, justice, you name it. In the background for every single policy area you can detect the foul, mendacious influence of the EU. If you can’t work it out for yourselves, our Prime Minister is continuing the work of previous PMs to ready the UK government for complete EU rule. They aren’t dumb enough to try and create a United States of Europe, they are just interested in a single EU government. It’s on it’s way folks and you’ll only help it if you continue to support Cameron & Co. I’m off to UKIP – I’ve read through their manifesto and agree with everything.

  29. kenneth r moore
    Posted November 26, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    A very interesting post. It really confirms my suspicion that many Conservative MP’s realise they have been duped by Cameron (as many former Conservative voters like myself do).

    I predict that the decline of GB will continue under Cameron …the best that can be hoped for is that the rate of decline might be abated by the voices of the few remaining sane Conservatives like Mr |Redwood.
    Imagine a bankrupt, intolerably overcrowded country, stripped of national identity – wasted by well meaning but deeply misguided spineless politicians.

    The mad obedience to the mantras of ‘fairness’ ‘equality’ continued mass immigration and the abolition of personal responsibility will i predict, eventually bring this country to it’s knees but by then it will be too late
    This is the road that Cameron and his ilk have set for us and our children.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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