Does a party have to be united to stay elected?


I feel one of the old myths reappearing in the political debate. Some are out and about saying that the Conservative party has to be more united to stay elected. They clearly remember no political history.

Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were both very successful Prime Ministers when it came to winning elections. Both won three in a row with large majorities. Both led divided parties, with very visible splits. Margaret Thatcher faced continuous opposition especially in the early years and at the end, from the so called “wets”, senior politicians including Cabinet members who thought her economic policy was wrong. They regularly briefed the press against her. There were occasional resignations and vocal opposition in the Commons from backbench sympathisers of the rebels.

Tony Blair faced down – and probably encouraged – old Labour opposition, as he wished to show New Labour had changed and was different. His belief in lower taxes, fewer rights for Trade Unionists, and tough on crime was designed to hold some former Conservative voters into his coalition, However, he faced far noisier and more serious opposition from within the heart of government, from his Chancellor living next door.  There were endless stories of the rows and tantrums. Both men had small armies of MPs and adviser supporters, briefing their corners. Foreign Secretary Cook and Overseas Aid Secretary Short both resigned – somewhat belatedly – over Mr Blair’s wars.

None of this is to say that divisions and mega personality rows at the top are a good thing, but it is a reminder that  unity is not the main thing that electors look for. They look for a strong economy, for their own rising living standards, and for other  policy changes that go in a direction they like. They do not regard division and disagreement as an impediment to voting for that party. Some see it as a positive, showing that there is challenge and tension within the government, making the top people think carefully  before committing. Reasoned challenge to policy ideas or statements of the government’s position is a good thing.

Nor is it true that John Major’s government was brought down by Maastricht rebels. It was brought down by the failure of the Exchange Rate Mechanism economic policy, and the high interest rates and tax rates that brought. Labour campaigned persuasively against “Tory tax rises” and “boom and bust”, the symptoms of the ERM failure. I do not recall them campaigning about the joys of the Maastricht Treaty.

There are voices today within the Conservative party urging differing policies and choices on the leadership. That surely is entirely healthy. It is best done without personality disputes and rancour – the Blair/Brown tensions were often over the top and unpleasant in tone. If there were  no arguments going on about what the government could do next., and how to improve the lot of  voters, some would ask is the party dead or merely sleeping? A lively political party has internal debate, and strives to improve through discussion and argument. Please do not go back to the odd idea that everyone in a party thinks the same, and therefore has to say the same thing. If that happened government would struggle more, and the public would then have a good  reason to demand a change.


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  1. lifelogic
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    The right direction and “what works” is what matters and is far more likely to unite and be popular, in the long term, than the current socialist, pro EU, fake green, tax, borrow and waste direction.

    I am sure we are all very grateful for the£200 Million spent on the Anish Kapoor Olympic Helta Skelta sculpture and would far prefer it to the 2,000 new houses or 5,000 permanent jobs it could have created.

    Greg Dyke on Newsnight:- “Murdoch undermined political system”. Talk about the pots and kettles given he was the DG of the BBC responsible for much of the undermining and dumbing down. The main thing undermining the political system is the BBC and EU and even using our taxes to do it. With mutual cheering on by the BBC and the EU at every stage.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      “Foreign Secretary Cook and Overseas Aid Secretary Short both resigned – somewhat belatedly – over Mr Blair’s wars”. If only we had had rather more opposition to these absurd, pointless and counter productive wars.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Absolutely lifelogic.

        I met with my MP the week before the vote on the Iraq war and after long discussion obtained his commitment that he would not vote for the war unless the second UN resolution was agreed.

        He did not stick to his word and that action was a disgrace to British politics.

        There’s plenty of debate and disagreement within the Lib Dems and I wouldn’t have joined them if there were not. I disagree with some of their policies and I expect to have air time for my disagreements. Otherwise how would I every come to understand why policy is as it is or to influence policy if, after substantial debate and analysis, I found that my concerns were robustly grounded?

        • Christopher Ekstrom
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          Worry not. The UK is no longer able to project significant military force abroad. As a neutered force the UK can now participate in all the UN resolutions it desires. Joy! What bliss for Miss Hansen…& what utter shame for the late, great, Britannia!

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            It’s Mrs Hanson to you Christopher.

      • rose
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        We still haven’t had any opposition voiced at all to the Kosovan war. This was an abuse of NATO if ever there was, and there was no proper casus belli. NATO has not been the same since, because it lost its reputation and credibility. No amount of propaganda from Campbell can make that up now.

        • APL
          Posted May 12, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          rose: ” .. and there was no proper casus belli.”

          Was to give a certain former Liberal Democrat airs and graces far, far above what he merited.

          Then he did nothing to warrent the faith that had been placed in him.

          Another example of the British political class, freeloading and preening at the expense of everyone else.

    • forthurst
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      “I am sure we are all very grateful for the£200 Million spent on the Anish Kapoor Olympic Helta Skelta sculpture”

      Yes. Indeed. For the whole world to be able to admire what would normally only come within the purview of a practising proctologist is a gift to the nation almost beyond price. Makes up for the minor cockup over aircraft carriers as a result of Fox and Werrity allocating their time to the much more important issue of the security of a ME country.

    • Derek W
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      I have often wondered why Murdoch was seen as some sort of agent of destruction of democracy yet the BBC a taxpayer paid body has done more to destroy freedom of speech and non-socialist thought by its pernicious Political Correct policies and propaganda.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Because the BBC sets the agenda and frames all the “debate” in a BBC mode.

        As an example to the BBC the economic debate is “are we cutting too fast to quickly and risking a double dip”. In fact we are getting a double dip from not cutting the state sector or untying the private sector at all.

    • rose
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      The more I see of the Leveson inquiry the more I wish it were into the undue and unhealthy influence of the BBC.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Indeed a bunch of hugely over paid lefties. I see Mary Beard is another spot on absurd BBC lefty message on Question time.

  2. les
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink


    “It is best done without personality disputes and rancour” – if only!

  3. alan jutson
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Divided opinion or not, surely the most important thing is for the Prime Minister to listen, to try and understand the arguments of all free thinkers in their Party, and then make a calculated decision, which is deemed to be in the country’s best interests and that of its people.

    The above can only happen of course if a Prime Minister does not surround themselves with like minded thinkers, yes men/women, or cannon fodder.

    I was pleased to hear (in one of your replies a couple of days ago) that you have the opportunity of this Prime Ministers ear on occassion, let us hope that a few other competent people do as well.

    Heathy discussion is vital, but some sensible loyalty is also required, otherwise it becomes an internal war, is very draining for all concerned, and leads to total and utter confusion in the publics mind over policies.
    With that in mind, perhaps the Lib Dems should not be issuing seperate press releases for their own political purposes, and perhaps our Prime Minister should listen less to Mr Clegg, and more to his own party MP’s.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Off topic

      I see that we have now re-ordered the American Harrier for our new carriers.

      The cost of cancelling it in 2010, ordering a different version, looking to modify a carrier design, cancelling the new replacenment aircraft, and re-ordering the original now, is put at anything from £100-250 million cost.

      Money Wasted !

      Given that we sold the original Harriers to the US for a song, after a (I believe) a £600 million re-fit, why did we not simply keep the old ones for a few more years, wait to use them on our carriers until the new ones were ready, rather than have carriers without aircraft for 10 years.

      This is rather akin to my own Local Authority replacing street lamposts after having them all painted, because after 25 years they were deemed life expired.

      Who really believes that a lampost becomes life expired after 25 years, when its internal workings can be simply replaced and new bulbs (lamps) fitted at a fraction of the cost.

      Why is it that so many Politicians/Local Authorities appear to have no business or commercial savy at all.

      Do they conduct the spending (wasting) of their own money in such a cavilier fashion.

      If they do, then why are they given such positions of power in the first place.

      If they do not, then why spend our money in such a manner.

      Does power really confuse the brain to this degree ?

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        “Why is it that so many Politicians/Local Authorities appear to have no business or commercial savy at all?”

        Because it is not their money of course. They do not care what they do – so long as some fool (the tax payer) will fund it all.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        I absolutely agree!

        Does anyone recall the fiasco under the Labour government of the 1970s regarding the state-owned car company, British Leyland?

        They would produce junk cars that very few people wanted to buy, and stockpile them at places such as the former Rolls-Royce aerodrome near Coventry, whilst the tax-payer was obliged to put his hand in his pocket to pay for it all!

        Yet another instance where socialism doesn’t work!

        That the examples you rightly give, happened under a Conservative administration, makes me wonder if we perhaps require the services of men of steel who have the backbone to put it right?

        Personally, I can’t be doing with wasteful ditherers, what ever their party.


        • John Fitzgerald
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          The only difference with the BL fiasco and what is happening now is at least keeping BL afloat meant it kept all the people working for BL in a job and the money, more or less, just went round in a circle. This present mess will just result in millions going to the USA and gone forever.

          The only excuse I can find for this government is they had sold the Harriers to the Yanks before they realised two glaring facts: 1) They could not cancel the aircraft carriers 2) The aircraft carriers could not launch normal aircraft due to the length of the runway deck and lack of a catapult! Also they discovered they could retrofit a catapult!

          I cannot understand however why the previous government decided to order the carriers and opt for the F35 route when a refitted Harrier could have done the job easily.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        It won’t be long before they have people actually digging holes and filling them in again.

        • APL
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          Brian Tomkinson: ” filling them in again.”

          Don’t worry Brian, there will be two distinct departments in the department of BIS, one responsible for digging, the other for filling in. Both will arrange for their chief executive to produce glossy brochures informing nobody (for nobody will read the glossy brochures), how many holes have been excavated and filled in.

          But most important of all, they will sit on the executive remuneration committees for each others remuneration packages.

          Their outrageous pay and remuneration will thus be ‘independently’ evaluated and of course follow ‘best practice’ in industry.

          Code for: The Tax payer is going to get reamed.

          This is the sort of work that folk like unamie5 and Bazman think would add to the productive capacity of the Nation

          • Bazman
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

            Putting everyone on the dole and letting the infrastructure degrade in order to give tax cuts to the rich and allowing large corporations to ‘increase’ their profits by getting reduced tax bills and subsidies from the taxpayer to top up their shockingly low wages, but not to themselves, might be seen as digging to Australia and wondering whether your head or feet might come out first.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          The modern version of holes are pointless windfarms, it will not be long before there are grants available to remove them all to “improve the environment”

          • Bazman
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            Grants are available for atom farm quackery or nuclear power stations as they are called, to build, run and mostly to clean up safely afterwards. Often to improve the environment in many cases.

          • APL
            Posted May 14, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Bazman: ” atom farm quackery ”

            The man is (foolish-ed).

          • APL
            Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

            Bazman: ” atom farm quackery ”

            What Bazman calls ‘atom farm quackery’ produces 20%, that is one fifth of the electricity we use in this country.

            Windfarms, which it seems Bazman approves of, produce 1% of the electricity we use, and only then on an intermittent basis.

            He proposes to replace the atom quackery that has produced electricity continuously, with … nothing actually.

      • A Different Simon
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Alan ,

        At a guess I suspect that the column of the lampost itself is warranted for 25 years and the local authority will believe they are liable if it should suddenly collapses and fall on someone after 26 .

        That is something I have always wondered about offshore windfarms .

        The media mentions that the rotors and hub need replacing after an estimated 25 years – which would not seem unreasonable to me with a modicum of mechanical nause .

        What gets me is that nobody bothers to ask what the life-span of the pylon is !

        • alan jutson
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink


          Like your comment about the life of pylons.

          Reminds me of a question I asked during a radio phone in a few years ago about nuclear waste which at the time was being dumped at sea in concrete covered steel containers.
          I asked the expert on air how long nuclear waste was toxic for, got an answer of many thosands of years, and then asked how long was the lifespan of the containers in which it was contained, which were then being dumped in the sea.

          Silence for about 10 seconds !!!!!!!

        • Sebastian Weetabix
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          A pylon isn’t under a strong dynamic load.

          • Dan Holdsworth
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            A wind turbine pylon at sea doesn’t actually have to be under much loading to fail, as it is always going to be subject to considerable chemical attack. One would hope that the sacrificial anodes on the wind turbine pylons are nice and large and are easy to replace.

        • Bazman
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          You think this has not been calculated and investigated quite thoroughly? Maybe they just build them in the hope that they will not blow down in the wind as this could prove to very inconvenient to lot of chaps around teatime.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        UK growth would have been helped enormously if the Harrier was still a UK aircraft made in the UK!

      • uanime5
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        I suspect that they needed something to spend their budget on so it wouldn’t be cut because they hadn’t spent it.

  4. colliemum
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more with this post, and with all the points you make here, John.

    Let me just say that this sudden uproar about ‘disunity’ in the Tory party, especially in the wake of the local elections, and the wagging fingers about this apparent disunity going to lose the next elections or having led to the loss in the recent local elections, is driven by the MSM. Notice how there are no reports about ‘disunity’ in the ranks of the other two parties?
    Obviously some MPs and Tory activists have picked this up and are using this to try and bash the perceived opponents into submission.

    Perhaps you ought to send this post to all your colleagues, John.
    Some MPs and activists might need to be reminded that ‘unity’ at the cost of reasoned debate, and that having one ‘leader’ whose words and deeds mustn’t be questioned, are how Stalin and his successors used to run their party, and that this is most certainly not the way parties should be run in our democracy.

    • Chris
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Healthy debate is indeed what is needed, and the attempt to portray those who disagree as on the outer fringes, or worse, are counterproductive and unhealthy. The Independent today has a very interesting article on this and other issues, and quotes Mark Pritchard’s wise remarks at the end of the abstract below.
      “Yesterday David Davies, the right-wing Tory MP for Monmouth, apologised to his constituents for “incompetence at the highest levels of government”. He warned: “David Cameron needs to change his tack very rapidly, otherwise he’s not going to be in position for very long.”
      Downing Street is accused of muzzling such critics. At a private meeting of Tory MPs on Wednesday evening, loyalists rounded on Nadine Dorries, the outspoken backbencher who branded Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne “arrogant posh boys”. Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said yesterday: “As we move into a new parliamentary session, No 10 appears to want to wound or neutralise all who might speak truth to power. This is dangerous and will ultimately be politically counter-productive.”

  5. Antisthenes
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    You are quite right division in a party is normally not that serious that it puts off large numbers of voters but when it is coupled with other factors it does become serious. The problems confronting the Conservatives are many and varied that makes any division just another straw added to the camels back. The main problem of course is the economy and the public if they feel that other matters are distracting the government from tackling that then that distraction becomes more negative than it would normally be. If the economic house is put in order then division as long as it does not turn into mêlée will stop being a major issue. Putting the economic house in order is rather a tall order as the euro-zone once more hovers on the brink of collapse and debts of all western nations becomes ever more unsustainable. Systemic problems with economic, political and social models are not being tackled to encourage growth in anywhere near enough vigour and in most cases in ways that are counter productive. I am of the definite opinion that the government and even you do not understand the scale of the problem facing us. I see no sense of urgency or understanding that this time this recession is not a cyclical thing that with a bit of money thrown at it here and a bit of tweaking there will eventually solve the problem. To me this is crunch time where decades of following social democratic and imprudent economic policies has brought us to a point where the UK and other western nations are not going to exist as societies in anywhere like their current form.

  6. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    ” A lively political party has internal debate, and strives to improve through discussion and argument.”

    Yes but……..
    The problem for the Conservatives seems to be that UKIP is not in the party and it seems to becoming more and more attractive to more and more Conservatives because it appears to stand for what they believe in. That is the sort of split which the gang of four did to the Labour Party and they ended up in the Lib/Dems. Labour, as I remember, was not elected.

    Yes but…….
    The political debate seems, from scattered snippets we are thrown from time to time, to be conducted among a tiny group of people round the PM.
    Some of them are elected (George Osborne, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg) others are not (Andy Coulson and the fellow who went off to America with his wife).The senior Civil Servants now decide policy when they ought to be carrying it out. Many MPs, we are told, feel excluded (David Davis?) All rather vague from down here in the Fens.

    Meanwhile (another snippet) Messrs Cameron and Osborne, apparently, come to Cabinet late and reveal what has been decided and there seems to be very little discussion. Most of their big announcements seem to be made outside parliament (tractor factories). At the very start, there was, apparently, an attempt by Mr Cameron to disable the 1922 committee.
    All very top secret. When Robert Walpole revealed the original cabinet, it was made up entirely of representative elected MPs. No longer.

    This is a change brought in by Mr Blair. From what you remember and from what I understand, Mrs Thatcher went out of her way to meet, discuss and share stuff with her Cabinet didn’t she? Way back in the past, I thought Mr Macmillan spent a lot of time in the tea rooms listening and enjoying MPs’ company. I really wonder if that is happening at the moment, although you said the other day that you regularly meet with Mr Cameron.

    Is there a bubble?

  7. Kevin Ronald Lohse
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Be fair to Mr. Cook. He was a vociferous opponent of the Iraq War, mostly for the wrong reasons, and fought his corner in the Cabinet with great skill. The Dodgy Dossier was probably aimed at him and his supporters, and it is to their shame that they did not follow him into the wilderness. He resigned only when the Country was committed to War. I agree that Ms. Short was another kettle of fish.

  8. david
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I see Mr Redwood you left one vital element out of your little piece, Mrs Thatcher had a working majority of over 40 when elected, increasing to 144 in ’83. Tony Blair had a majority of almost 170 when elected. If the entire ackward squad of Labour MP’s (about 30) had decided to resign the Whip, Blair wouldn’t have cared less, in fact he’d have been delighted. Would you like to amend your piece by telling us what majority the Conservative Party actually has, or are they in coalition for the fun of it?

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      The reason they gained no majority against sitting duck Brown was because Cameron put a pro EU, fake green, forced equality, high tax borrow and waste, happiness index, soft socialist light agenda to the country. He continues on this road to the cliff edge.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Spot on!

        Cameron appears to be just another social democrat, and is likely to go the way of those of that ilk who have gone before him – Heath, Major etc.

        For the benefit of others, who question my assertion that mainstream man is basically right-wing, have they ever noticed how a politician’s approval rating (in this case Cameron’s) leaps up as soon as they stand up to the EU, or get tough on law and order?

        There has to be a strong, collective message there. And that leads me to the inevitable conclusion, there’s a broad swathe of the electorate who are not properly represented. The 68% of stay-aways at the local elections would appear to confirm this.

        So why doesn’t the Conservative party take advantage of the situation? I guess the answer is, they have changed, where we have remained true to our beliefs that are founded upon (no sleight intended) sound logic.


        • uanime5
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          Care to explain why the right wing William Hague, Ian Duncan Smith, and Michael Howard weren’t able to beat the left wing Tony Blair in 3 elections if the electorate likes right wing leaders. Perhaps the mainstream man is actually left wing and Cameron was elected because he was a social democrat.

          • alan jutson
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink


            Blair would probably have beaten Cameron as well.

            Remember Cameron was up against Brown.

          • Andrew Johnson
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            Care to explain why the “right wing radical” Margaret Thatcher was elected three times?

          • lifelogic
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            Because the voters could still remember the disaster that was Major (the ERM, the 15% interest rates and lack of even at apology) who thus destroyed the Tories reputation for managing the economy efficiently. Blair’s Labour then did not make too much of a mess at fist either so they stuck with him.

          • Steven Whitfield
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

            Cameron didn’t win the 2010 election despite going up against a dead man walking – Gordon Brown. Brown had a terrible personal reputation cemented by calling a mild mannered pensioner a’bigotted woman’ and the economy he had built on a bed of straw was imploding.

            Yet despite a fair wind and an open goal , Mr Cameron with his oh so trendy liberal credentials was unable to beat him outright . So if sounding Liberal is popular why didn’t he win and win the election well ?

          • Tad Davison
            Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

            Easy, Major didn’t just lose the 1997 election, he made the duplicitous Tories so unpopular, they lost the next two in 2001 and 2005. And just when you felt it was safe to get back into the clear blue water, we get another John Major!

            Have a think about coming out of the EU and the restitution of the death penalty, then tell me mainstream man isn’t right-wing!


          • lifelogic
            Posted May 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

            Tad you are quite right on Major & Cameron – but no thanks to capital punishment on balance it is negative, pointless and would do more harm than good.

  9. oap
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I am sure you are right that political parties need open discussion and debate about the way forward. Suppression can hardly be healthy. More worrying are the signs and suggestions that suppression is what the so-called Cameroons want.

    Debate is needed today more than ever. Some policies are not working as advertised – notably controlling public spending. Some are unsoundly based – notably energy policy. Some require re-examination because of external events -the euro crisis. A party that fails to respond to changing circumstances is dead – both in the water and from the neck up.

  10. Tad Davison
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Interesting thought. Interesting too, that you cite two of Britain’s most successful Prime Ministers, who just happen to be ‘right wing’. That would suggest that mainstream man has a certain affinity for their policies, and for their strong, decisive style of leadership. Quite unlike the assurances given by another who occasionally posts on this blog.

    J B Priestly once said, ‘Britain’s biggest national vice, was self-deception.’. I really can’t understand those who deny the attractiveness of strong leadership, when historically, the public have so readily responded to it in such a positive way. Not everyone of course, will accept that mainstream man is basically ‘right-wing’, but in my experience he is. So it would seem that a strong leader who shares those values, has got it made.

    Right, where can we find such a person?

    Tad Davison


    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Indeed people may say one thing if asked (because they want to be seen as, and feel nice and caring) but the voter is indeed for smaller efficient government. Not that they ever get it.

    • rose
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes, unspun, unreconstructed conviction politics are what the public respond to, which is why the BBC/Guardian axis are so terrified of it and always try to destroy the reputation of anyone who looks as if they are qualified to give that sort of leadership.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    You omitted your own direct challenge to John Major.
    Cameron doesn’t strike me as a good listener or strategist but more of a salesman prepared to sell whatever Osborne puts in front of him. I wonder just who actually decides on the cabinet, which has long needed changing? When the changes are eventually made it will give us another opportunity to see if Cameron has learned anything from the disappointing performance of the first two years. I’m not optimistic.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      He remind me of a slick photo copy salesman. Happy to say black is white, cast iron is rubber or we are a pro business government – all with a straight face no shame and at the drop of a hat.

  12. Winston Smith
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    You seem to forget that divisions within a Govt were not so important under Blair and Thatcher because they held large majorities and ran successful economies. Plus, they had clear visions. Its frankly, quite laughable to compare this shambles with such strong governments.

  13. Leslie Singleton
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Debate is one thing, blatant idiocy another. I listened to Simon Hughes telling everyone that all three main parties had House of Lords reform in their manifestos, even then not quite as true as he said it. SFW is my comment on that. Politicians seem to be on a different planet and it seems to me that, rather than all main parties meaning anything, it would have been better for the iconoclasts and anticonstitutionalists to have had one party in favour of reform and if that party had won that might have meant something (not much but something). One could even say that Low Turnout is indicative of no desire for reform (says me).

  14. Charlie Beckett
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    This is an excellent post but I think it actually disproves its own headline thesis. Yes, both Thatcher and Blair had serious opposition but the point is that they were strong enough and successful enough to face it down and effectively defeat it. Major was the opposite. A very good leader but forced to compromise and thus never able to assert himself so the divisions became – quite rightly – proof of the party’s lack of direction and lack of a strategy for government. Cameron is not Major but Coalition is having a similar effect.At the moment the ‘division’ is dual, both with his own Right-wing and the Lib Dems. It is not yet a problem in terms of public perception but if he continues to drift then it might become so. I don’t think a swing to the right, however, is remotely likely to produce either stronger leadership or increased public approval.

    Reply: The ERM destroyed the Major government, not the disputes over Maastricht.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink


      I think it was both. I attended a number of meetings held by so-called ‘Rebel’ MP’s, some now retired, some now deceased, some voted out, and a few still serving. I got to hear the private grievances behind the scenes, and being called ‘Bastards’ didn’t go down very well with either them personally, or with the electorate with whom their views on the EU largely coincided.

      Major came out of the Maastricht summit clicking his fingers in triumph as though he’d cracked it with his fantastic opt-outs, only, the public didn’t see things his way. They want out of the EU, not more of it. They registered their protest the only way they could at the 1997 general election. This present administration is making the same fatal mistake.

      And taking-in the historical perspective, and seeing the social and economic devastation within the EU, who was right all along, Major and the Heath-ites, or the Maastrict rebels and mainstream man?

      Tad Davison



      • lifelogic
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        It was certainly the economic damage of the ERM that buried them politically for 3 elections.

        • StevenL
          Posted May 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          I reckon that even without the ERM the credit and land price bubble would have burst, tanking the economy, as they always do. Outside of the ERM devaluation could have entrenched inflation and inflationary expectations, leading to 15% interest rates anyway.

          We will never know, but credit and land price bubbles have been part of the recessions in ’74, ’92 and ’08.

      • zorro
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Perversely, it was the economic mistakes of 1992 which brought down Major in 1997….even though the economy had improved substantially by 1997. So even though the Tories had improved the economy by then, they still paid for the visible mistakes made in 1990-2…..This is not good ews for Cameron because even if by some miracle the economy does improve by 2015, he is still unlikely to benefit and is likely to be blamed for the current double dip and the fact that he imposed swingeing cuts while increasing spending!


        • StevenL
          Posted May 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          It was also a failure to get unemployment down under 2 million despite an improving economic backdrop. High levels of employment improve workers bargaining power and are very popular with the masses. Blair promised more jobs.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:10 am | Permalink

        Even though the ‘longest period of economic growth’ that Gordon Brown used to crow about, actually started four years before labour took office in 1997?

        I sure would like to have that level of debt once again, instead of the mess Labour left!

        It’s stretching the memory a bit, but I think you and I once had a brief chat in the central lobby about your brave and welcome stance on the ERM. It was when I was complaining about the personal assurances given to me back in 1979 by Heseltine, about Britain not becoming a part of a federal Europe. His words were vaccuous, and I venture it was the pro-EU con in general that people didn’t like.

        That could be why the Tories haven’t been elected outright ever since, but will they ever learn?

        Oh look, there’s another flying pig!

        Tad Davison


    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      “The ERM destroyed the Major government” indeed and entirely predictably too. This and Major’s idiotic failure to even apologise for all the lost jobs, repossessed houses, suicides, bankruptcies, broken marriages and liquidations pointlessly caused by his pro EU political experiment commenced when he was chancellor.

      Not even a new chancellor initially and then later only Ken Clark – an advocate of the failed policy.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Sacking half the state would not bring the same results? Maybe you could explain how. We would all just decide to run out own business or stop doing pointless things like paying the bills and eating?

        • The Realist
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

          The State is a parasite!

        • zorro
          Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          It would cut down on obesity….


          • Bazman
            Posted May 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

            How would there be less fat people? Do tell. Less money less fat? Oh really?
            The fact is that if you have no money or job you can drink more. Magic!

    • Spinflight
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      So weak leadership had nothing to do with it? I doubt many would agree.

      Major came across as a good bloke, but not a leader.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        He was clearly week and seemed very dim too but his ERM fiasco and his failure to even apologise or lead (even after white Wednesday) made him totally unelectable.

  15. MajorFrustration
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    All very reasonable JR but there surely comes a time when one takes a view as to whether the leader of the day is likely to get the party/supporters to the “sunny uplands” – based on performance over the last two years. I have me doubts.

  16. Atlas
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    On the more generalised theme of Parties within Parties: didn’t Wilson have a ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ ?

  17. Mactheknife
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    A bit of “creative tension” is good I believe and from conflict comes consensus. In any large organisation there will be divisions and differing opinions. However the current government has a problem in that they are tied to a party with a totally different political agenda and whilst there has been briefings on policy to the media from different camps, it is clear that Conservative policies are being stiffled. This results in a “fudge” and I think we’ve seen this on several occassions and it results in confusion – the last budget is a prime example. This is the danger for Cameron and the Conservatives at the next election.

  18. NickW
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Political divisions of opinion are not limited to Parliament, they extend into the electorate, many of whom may share the opinion of the MPs with divided views.

    A divided party is therefore synonymous with a discrete group of supporters whose wishes are being ignored by the party leaders.

    Political divisions therefore matter enormously when the majority of the electorate is lined up behind the MPs whose views and wishes are being ignored.

  19. Neil Craig
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    The big example in British politics is the split between David LLoyd George and Asquith during WW1. It did finish off the Liberals. However this was not because they disagreed but because they couldn’t come to a common list during the election which is a quite different thing.

    There seems no doubt that had DLG not rebelled against Asquith’s dilatory prosecution of the war we would have lost, which puts party matters in some perspective. DLG remained the greatest British politician of his age & in my opinion was a greater one than Churchill. However he lost his electoral base because of the Liberal’s implosion.

    My personal opinion is that Asquith was entirely at fault for refusing to accept the plain wishes of Parliament & his own lack of any actual policies to challenge DLG on, which made the fight all the more bitter.

    I’m not sure what the lesson is. Perhaps that country is far more important than party. Perhaps that the best service former PMs can do for their party is to loyally support successors (IDS & Hague rather than Heath).

    reply: I think the Liberal party was killed by prosecuting such a long and brutal war in the way it did

    • Spartacus
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      The Liberal party was in terminal decline when millions of working people suddenly got the ability to vote (thanks to the Liberals), and a new party called Labour appeared a small principled party fighting for just a few key aims.
      1. Allow working class MPs into parliament (by paying MP’s a salary).
      2. Prevent workers being sued by employers for losses if they went on strike.

      I doubt any split in the Liberal party can be blamed for the demise.

      Labour split the Liberal party vote in many seats eventually to the point were they had to agree to implement its key principled policies by 1906 to get MPs elected. As Labour broadened out its aims, by the 1920s the Liberals were basically dead)

      Of course looking at the current Labour front bench of well connected public school millionaires shows how its failed in its aim of representing ordinary working people through ordinary working people.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      But the Lib Dems sure as hell aren’t doing themselves any favours in 2012 by prosecuting the EU cause, when it is already seen by the rest of civilisation to be a pointless exercise. It’s like booking tickets on a ship you absolutely KNOW is going to sink!

      Tad Davison


    • Neil Craig
      Posted May 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      From 1915 all 3 parties were in the government that fought and won WW1. I don’t think the Liberals were particularly blamed for it – quite the contrary, in 1918 DLG was far and away the most popular politician in the country because he was, correctly in my ipinion, seen as having been responsible fot victory.

      Spartacus you seem to be uninformed of “any split” in the Liberals even happening. Considering what a key event of the period it is I would question how much you know about the real history of the Labour party.

      Reply: Why then did the LIberals collapse as a serious electoral force shortly afterwards?

  20. david
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I wonder what John Major would say about this piece, wasn’t Mr Redwood one of the b*stards who made Major’s life hell? What is Mr Redswood saying that the divisions in the Tory party didn’t contribute to their landslide defeat in ’97? Is he also saying that the Tory Wars that followed didn’t contibute to the Tory 2 other defeats?

    reply: The polling evidence is quite clear. Conservative support collapsed on exit from the ERM and never recovered. It did not collapse over the Maastricht wars, and our ratings went up during my leadership challenge.

    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Major to this day refuses to face up to the magnitude of his mistake on the ERM and refuses to retract or apologise for the the ad hom attack he made on the ‘rebels’. But he couldn’t handle losing the argument back then without resorting to childish abuse so I doubt much has changes in the last 20 odd years.

      The so called civil wars were always overstated by the Labour party in my view. Major fundamentally trashed the Conservatives reputation for economic competence by his bungling and reckless experiment with the ERM. The memories of crippling interest rates followed by home and business failures is still fresh in people’s minds.
      It’s rather odd that despite all this pain a sizeable number of Conservatives thought they would find salvation in….another EU federalist leader!. David Cameron must go before the next election before he did what Major and Heath did to the party.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      It was “the Economy stupid” the failure of the ERM a political construct that Major inflicted on the country because he lacked the mental capacity to see what damage it would do.

      Had he just understood positive feed back systems he would have avoided it. Bad economy – so weak pound – so higher interest rates to strengthen it against the arbitrary 2.95 DM level he idiotically fixed, so worse economy so weaker pound so ……..

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      And ratings would go up immeasurably, if the Tories would just get us out of the EU, and give proper deterrent sentences for criminals. Nowt wrong with giving the people what they want, it’s called democracy!


      • lifelogic
        Posted May 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Happy with real deterrents for the sort of crimes where deterrents can work – but not capital punishment please – our courts and police are too incompetent as we have seen time after time.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    “There are voices today within the Conservative party urging differing policies and choices on the leadership. That surely is entirely healthy.” Agreed.

    Ideally the differing policies and choices are aired BEFORE the leader(ship) decides what the policy will be. And ideally that choice is in favour of that which clearly won the argument. That way embarrassment and the dreaded “U-turn” can likely be avoided.

    Sometimes, of course, established policy has to be challenged in the light of new information, new circumstances and new thinking. The prime example, as it has been for a long time, is the UK’s relationship with the EU. How things develop within the Conservative Party as voices are raised on the this issue we await with pressing interest to see.

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Yes, a divided Party can be elected, which is just as well because someone has to make it their business to get Conservative policy right on Europe going into the next election.

    A propos of which Lord Owen, speaking in the Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech, has made a quite magnificent return from the dead, highjacking chat abouts Lords reform to insist on talking about reforming our future relationship with Europe.

    He said all the right things: that we must be mad to let a European Federation form before our very eyes without doing anything to stop it, that we should strive to make it as small as possible, that we should redefine our relationship with Europe as a trading relationship and take as many other EU Member States with us in joining an enlarged EEA.

    Bravo, sir!

  23. Captain Crunch
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The Conservative Party is basically a coalition and has been for many years. Under our system of first past the post, the two big parties have to coalesce.

    But right now, the Prime Minister has established a coalition with the Lib Dems and gone out of his way to exclude Mr Redwood and others on the right. This probably suits him. He’d rather have Vince Cable in Government than JR.

  24. Mr. Bubbles
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Spot on. I would add another point to the list of things voters want from a party of government: competence. This government looks increasingly incompetent, and that’s the main contributing factor to the Conservative party’s slump in the polls in my view.

    Up until the budget the party was ‘defying political gravity’, as they say, and was consistently achieving poll ratings that were level, or even above, the percentage of the vote achieved at the general election.

    After the budget and the series of cock-ups that followed the party’s support started falling, slowly but surely. It has NOTHING to do with backbenchers sounding off, and EVERYTHING to do with incompetence in government. To paraphrase one of your own MPs, voters don’t expect to love Conservative administrations, but they damn well expect them to be competent.

    • rose
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Mr Bubbles, would you include in your list of cockups the successful prevention of the tanker drivers’ strike?

      Don’t forget to compare Maude’s handling of this throughout – never mind the Watson/Miliband spin for which so many gullible people fell – with New Labour’s lack of preparedness for the same threat during their time.

      • uanime5
        Posted May 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        By preventing the tanker drivers’ strike are you referring to the fiasco caused by Cameron and Maude which lead to panic buying of petrol (which would have happened if there actually was a strike), or are you referring to the negotiations between the unions and their employers which actually prevented the strike.

    • Martyn
      Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      …. This government looks increasingly incompetent….

      You took the very words out of my mouth. It almost matters not whether the government is actually incompetent, but it very much matters that the perception given to onlookers is that of incompetence – and all the spin, bluster and shouting in the world will not alter that perception.

      Plus, of course, the impression of there being a complete lack of common-sense in what they are about, let alone being in touch with the world that most of us inhabit.

  25. Duyfken
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Do you remember the “Gang of Four”? They decided that their conscience would not allow them to continue to support the far-left socialist and Unions-dominated Labour Party, and honourably in my view, got out and formed the (albeit ill-fated) SDP.

    By contrast, the manipulative Cameroons, instead of forming or joining another Party, decided to subvert the Conservative Party and covertly traduce the Tories’ traditional principles, such that remaining “true” Conservatives have been left bereft.

    That is not just a local in-house difference of opinion, but a major schism from Conservativism. The Cameroons, instead of plotting (so successfully but dishonourably) to take over the Party, should have had the integrity to split in the way Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins & co did so.

    Barring the removal of the Cameroons by the Tory parliamentary Party (still but a faint possibility), we are left with what electors may make of the situation. Recent indications show just how frustrated we the erstwhile Tory voters have become.

    Conservative MPs may be prepared to be tolerant, but the electorate less likely so.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

      I’ve wanted the Tories to get rid of the pro-EU Heath-ite faction for years. The sneaky, duplicitous toadies are the ones primarily to blame for getting us ever closer to political matriculation without proper reference to the people, and a lot of people won’t forgive them for it!


  26. Barbara Stevens
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    When you opt to lead a country or a party, you need good judgement and commonsense; Cameron appears to lack both with his gaffes of late. This is why some are giving warnings and remarks. You have to be able to take it on the chin and asbsorb it all. If you lose your rag it’s a sign of weakness. When fellow MPs begin to bully those who speak out it smells of irritation and small mindedness. This will get them no where; are they forgetting these people may have been out and about and heard comments from their voters? Those elite, locked in the parliament bubble, don’t really know how the other half live, do they care? However, making laws for all of us is our affair, and if we don’t like what we hear, we have the right to say so. That’s democracy.
    This is one of the problems, the elite are hearing but doing nothing. It isn’t changing quick enough for those who are suffering on the ground, or those who are trying to run businesses in the fraught economic situation. Meanwhile, people discuss, pass judgement, and get angry at the unresponsive government process.
    This is what is happening, and the Conservative party may be a victim of its own making, and being tied to the Lib Dems won’t help them one bit. The sooner they free themselves from these shackles the better. Liberal ideas are silly, expensive, and outrageous.

  27. Electro-Kevin
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The question should not be about the unity of the Party but the Party’s unity with the people who are supposed to vote for it.

    Putting aside the recent mid-term election losses, the more important indicator is that Tory Party wasn’t popular enough with its core voters at the last General Election.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:35 am | Permalink

      Was right Kevin!


  28. Susan
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I have always believed that a political party should be a broad church in order for fresh new ideas to be generated. I do not however agree about Margret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Tony Blair took over as PM after the economy had been put in good order by John Major. He therefore presided over a boom period in the UK economy. The public felt they were able to spend, felt secure in their jobs and enjoyed all the feel good factors that go with a booming economy. This meant that even though there were divisions within Government and the wars, people still felt Mr. Blair was improving their lives as the Government gave the impression they had the ability to keep spending. This was the reason the public voted for Tony Blair.

    For Mrs. Thatcher it was not so easy. She became PM at a difficult time and by the force of her personality, ability and a belief in her vision of how she wanted to change the UK, was successful despite the divisions in her party. This proves that when times are good for the economy a PM does not have to be exceptional to survive. It is when times are difficult that a really good leader is necessary. I am not sure David Cameron has that kind of ability to deal with a failing economy, divisions in his party and the added problem of the Lib/Dems in this Coalition.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      It might surprise you Susan, but you’re dead right.


  29. rose
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    No-one ever tried to make out Mrs T was inept. I should have liked people to have shown that Blair was inept but they didn’t. The death knell for Major was making stick that charge of ineptness, which is now being tried on again with this government. I agree it was the consequencesof the ERM – bankruptcy and unemployment that made many conservative voters desert Major at the polls on the day, but the mood swing was brought about by the intense press campaign on “sleaze” which reminds me of the pasting the PM and his colleagues are getting now from the anti-BSkyBid alliance.

  30. Steven Whitfield
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Those that wish to see the Conservative party more united, instead of carping should press for policies that don’t offend the sensibilities of the majority of the party. Policies designed to actually work and command broad support. Polices based on practical realities NOT an un-hinged desire to ‘de-toxify’ the Tory party brand.

    The party is a broad church but if the likes of Kenneth Clarke cannot fit into the party, why should the party have to shift it’s position to accomodate a handful of individuals with un-popular liberal opinions. Let them leave.

    The worst possible scenario in my view is unity brought about solely by group-think mentaility.

    Did anyone seriously stand up around the cabinet and say ‘look Mr Blair, invading Iraq is madness ?

    Did anyone stand up to Teddy Heath and say ‘ We really should be honest and tell the public that the EU is a political not an economic union.

    John Redwood to his credit did make a stand over the ERM- but for his pains was subject to an ad hom attack by Major who wished to close down the debate. If more of his colleagues had been a bit more independently minded and less hung up over the party unity issue, the Labour party wouldn’t have been handed such a big stick to beat them up with.Perhaps they wouldn’t have been out of power for over a decade.

    It isn’t that the political class lack the foresight to see these dangers – but that the group-think mentality at Westminister refuses to acknowledge views that don’t fit with perceieved wisdom.

    Watch a programamme now like BBC’s Question time and I KNOW instinctively what the government minister will say and that’s a very bad thing for democracy. They all are left leaning and cow tow to to political correctness. We need more debate not unity imposed from a top down administration.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 12:42 am | Permalink

      Exceptionally good post, and for me, one that says it all.


    • APL
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Steven Whitfield: [Kenneth Clark3e] … “Let them leave.”

      The man has been such a malignant influence, (words left out) consorting openly with Blair when he thought there may be a few spots on this or that committee or this or that quango, he shouldn’t be allowed to leave.

      He should be expelled!

  31. BobE
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    In London housing benefit allows low paid workers to be available in the capital. Does this mean that the taxpayer is subsidising the rich who refuse to pay a living London wage for their servants?

    • Bazman
      Posted May 12, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      Just can’t get the staff these days.

  32. Derek Emery
    Posted May 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    ….it is a reminder that unity is not the main thing that electors look for. They look for a strong economy, for their own rising living standards, and for other policy changes that go in a direction they like.

    I think most of the public would agree with that but what actual policies does the coalition have to restore growth? The public are not impressed by an endless stream of social engineering policies because none of these are in any way addressing the economic problem. Social engineering is no substitute and merely makes the coalition look weak and rudderless.

  33. David Langley
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Being off message is a luxury the government cannot afford. A cabinet pulling in different directions can lead to an incoherent strategy and poor tactics leading not to success but failure. A board of directors can destroy a company if they have different aims and objectives, not unlike Brown who destroyed the image of new labour by his manic determination to take over the reigns of power.
    We have seen through the expenses scandal and the failure of MPs reiterated above, their approach to climbing the greasy pole to riches and preferment, extending to being whipped into the lobbies to follow the party line and stay on message.
    Frustration is a prime motivator, and the electorate is being frustrated by this government fiddling with unimportant issues as indicated in the queens speech. I am motivated by a team being encouraged and disciplined to follow a clear and understandable direction.
    You rightly want the conservative party to succeed in holding onto the reins of government to achieve your policies outlined in your manifesto, or “Wish list”.
    The clear and present danger facing the cabinet is the Euro meltdown, we are being told that all bets are off and the impact of bank failures are likely to be horrendous. Impacting on us in ways that we are not ready for. In these circumstances it would be better to be told that all hands are on board and pulling on the right ropes. Not pursuing their own little vanities or worse back biting and back stabbing. Lets concentrate on the big issues for bit. Ignore the EU council directives that hurt us and issue some that will stimulate us. Use our wealth to do what you suggest trade out of this mess by getting our goods out via good old fashioned export encouragement and take off the EU brakes that have lead us into the buffers.

  34. Jane
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I disagree with you. None of us knew the extent of the difficulties between GB and TB and I say this as a supporter of Tony Blair. It was only in the later stages of his premiership that we became aware of the magnitude of the problems as in the early days all conflict was contained and dealt with behind closed doors. Those who opposed policy issues such as Robin Cook were supportive of the then PM and this was reflected in his resignation statement. Labour had learned that they had to remain united to continue in government and I would have thought the Conservatives although in coalition would have felt the same. Yes there were one or two not on message such as Claire Short but her views like those of Nadine Dorries did not matter a jot – all personal attacks fail.

    I accept that within any political party there will be differing views on issues. I loathe the word right and left as individuals can move between these positions. Nevertheless, I am of the mind after reading Norman Fowlers book that those on the right made John Major’s life difficult and contributed to the huge loss suffered in the 1997 election. I feel perturbed when I hear some MPs behaving in the same way and totally forgetting that we have a coalition government. I was pleased to hear new MPs taking on the usual culprits at a recent meeting – something Labour MPs did with people like Bob Marshall Andrews.

    Those who say that pursuing policies to suit one particular section of the party do not live in the real world. A reminder that manifesto’s in 2001 and 2005 did just that and got you no where. David Cameron is doing a very good job given the hand he was dealt. He is a vote winner for the conservative party as his views resonate with many. If continuous bickering continues, then Ed Miliband will enter Downing Street. I will say you only have yourselves to blame.

    Reply: The polling evidence is very clear. John Major lost massive support after exit from the ERM, owing to high interest rates/higher taxes/economic disappointments. He did not lose support during the big rows over Maastricht.

  35. Richard1
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    There is nothing wrong with lively debate in a party – its essential to test ideas in argument to get the right policy. But I hope other Conservative MPs, perhaps privately, will express a hope to Nadine Dorries that she doesnt repeat her rude and foolish personal attacks on Cameron & Osborne and that no others will think of doing likewise

  36. Local Tory
    Posted May 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    John, I totally agree with you. But is it really necessary for the Conservative Party to be led by a Liberal?

  37. Backwoodsman
    Posted May 13, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Internal debate is generally healthy,and it is far from certain certain that abrasive personality disputes harm a party in public esteem,at least overall.However unfortunately it may be the conventions of a more gentlemanly age are not those of contemporary politics,as any reading of newspaper columns,and blog contributions shows all too graphically.Agonising about Nadine Dorries seems to many irrelevant or mealy-mouthed.
    The historical record suggests that far more threatening to a party and government than mavericks ,however strident,are deeply felt differences over flashpoint issues,especially if they ramify and multiply.The Ultra Tories,the Peelites,and the Liberal Unionists all seceded ,on this basis,and brought down the administrations they had originally supported.Such conflicts go well beyond normal healthy internal divergences or faction wrangling.It is surely in this direction that matters are moving.There is still time and hope,but the writing is already on the wall in ten foot high letters for those who care to read.

  • 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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