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What happened to the detoxification of the Tory brand?

Posted on 6 March 2010 | 12:03pm

I must say that David Cameron is coming along rather well as a comic character. Take a look at this from page 2 of today’s Financial Times …  ‘Mr Cameron sought yesterday to attempt a return to business as usual by announcing a voter-friendly policy to ensure greater transparency in local government. Any council worker earning £58000 or more would see their pay details published under a Tory government, he promised.’

Do you get it? Lord Ashcroft can buy a whacking great chunk of his party, pay for a whacking great chunk of the campaign to make him PM, and he will not ask questions or give answers, and when the public demands to know more, he will stamp his little feet and say it is none of your damned business and the matter is jolly well closed. But if you’re on just over a grand a week, we’ll slap you all over the internet.

Put to one side the piddlingological nature of it, reflected in the fact that most media outlets ignored this shiny new policy, and the FT included it inside a story headlined ‘Embattled Cameron fails to draw line under Ashcroft affair.’

The real point is that he and his jittery advisers cannot see the irony.  And that is because for all his talk of detoxing the Tory brand, a line swallowed so easily by most of the media for most of his leadership, Cameron has not fundamentally changed his party at all.

Which is why Tory candidates and activists have been flocking to get media and political training from the Young Britons’ Foundation, a group which echoes the view of the Tory Right that the NHS is a waste of money, global warming is a scam, and we should liberalise our gun laws, not least so that environmental trespassers can be shot. 

These are views so extreme you’d think a detoxing brand manager like DC would want to distance his party. But this week party chairman Eric Pickles and defence spokesman Liam Fox spoke at the YBF parliamentary rally at the Houses of Parliament. It doesn’t mean they endorse all their views. But it does show where many Tory hearts lie, and that their Right wing continues to hold considerable sway.

It has been a bad week for Cameron. The good news for Labour is he seems unable to see how to get back in the groove. Could that be because politics is about the things he doesn’t do well, policy and strategy, and not the things he does do well, which are all in the short term communications department?

** Buy The Blair Years online and raise money to help fight the Tories

PS … lovely sunny day in North London. Will be nice to be able to walk to a match for once, rather than spend four hours in a car. Arsenal away. I’d like to say I have good vibes. However …

  • @jlocke13

    Quite frankly no matter how bad DC may be he is not as bad as the current PM….Who lied? The generals, the soldiers, the MOD, Geoff Hoon, Claire Short, the civil servants or Gordon Brown..?

  • Harold Price

    Cameron not much in evidence this week. Osborne now accepted as a voteloser. Hague too tied up with Cashcroft. So out trotted Liam Fox, who suddenly looks quite tired and flabby … and who got the tone all wrong on Gordon Brown yesterday. I thought Gordon did well, and came over convincingly. Fox looked like his little red namesake had been shot.

  • Gillian Purvis

    Maybe he is David Brent not Cameron ..

  • Colin Greer

    Did he really say that yesterday … u have to admire his cheek I suppose. But I think it all points to lack of awareness about real people living real lives and this lot not getting it.

  • olli issakainen

    About an year ago I wrote in my comment on this site that YES! – Labour can win the next election. Apart from AC (and JP) I did not notice anyone else sharing this view (and I do read a lot).
    And yet here we are. A win for mind over matter. Even though Lord Cashcroft can still go on shopping in the marginals, the gap is narrowing also there. The Tories need to gain 117 seats on a 7.5% swing – a very very tall order. It will not happen.
    Labour can win the election on policy. Labour must focus on public services and public spending. Speaking to the voters about their daily lives issues is important.
    The Tories are not as progressive or liberal as salesman Dave wants us to believe.
    Vote for change – get same old Tories!

    Ps. Arsenal v. Burnley is the featured match on our TV. I just checked the latest live pictures from London from Camvista website, and the weather looks fine. (I did spend a week in London in 1995.) Duff, Eagles and Cork must start. CC should be “rested” – “Pat Duff from Cheltenham” has more mobility. After the game I think I will finish reading Maya.

  • Robert Jackson

    Without wishing to be accused of spamming, I’ve made the following point several times elsewhere:

    The Electoral Commission report is well worth reading.

    Paragraph 2.12 makes the point that it was impossible to prove that the money given by Bearwood to the Conservatives actually came from Lord Ashcroft – so squeaky clean had the documentation been scrubbed.

    Paragraph 2.10 is even more curious – it seems to say that this pile of money went into Bearwood’s bank account and Bearwood were not under instruction to give it to the Conservative party. Just picture it….”oh we’ve just had a pile of money put in our bank account. Dunno where it’s come from. What’ll we do with it? ((Lightbulb flashes)) I know! I’ll give it to the Conservative party!

    The Electoral Commission clearly had an extremely tough time.

  • Charlie

    No matter how much you try to denigrate Cameron, your assertions are entirely speculative.

    Gordon Brown, on the other hand, is a totally toxic brand. Having finally attained high office, he is too blinded by vanity to see that he is the problem, not the solution.

    Having given his hostage to fortune in the form of evidence to Chilcott, it will be interesting to see whether voters choose to believe the word of Brown or the Generals.

    The really astonishing thing is that you, Mandy, Prezza and other lefty luminaries were too feeble to persuade Brown to quit…if only in the interest of the Labour Party.

  • Mr Eugenides

    “David Cameron is coming along rather well as a comic character.”

    And yet he is still about a zillion times more popular than the last two Prime Ministers put together…

  • Mark Wright

    “David Cameron – Asking The Tough Questions For Britain (Unless It’s Inconvenient or About a Rich Mate)”

    I’m not quite sure who Cameron’s target audience is anymore. And, I suspect, neither does he. He’s realised that sunshine does not, in fact, win the day. Besides even if it did Nigel Lawson would probably deny it anyways.

    And now the clouds have clearly descended over the Tory strategy his statement about sunshine, along with so many others, has also clearly been proved to be, in fact, bollocks.

    One point where I would disagree with you Alastair is that I’ve never believed that Cameron is good at short term communications. This idea that he had the midas touch I believe came about because GB’s presentation was so dour and woeful they wanted a bit of spark again in the media presentation. Although it would pain them to admit it I believe they were missing a lot of the old TB magic and Cameron was the closest thing.

    But an impersonator is always that. Cameron is no Tony Blair. Not by a long shot.

  • yoctobarryc

    I like the Labour government. I’m not sure I’ll agree with every policy it ever produces (42 days and ID cards etc), but I trust it to do the right thing and I think that the important people with influence (the cabinet, some backbenchers, whips and so on) have an ethos that I can endorse.

    Although I am not old enough to remember (or really have noticed) the impact of a Tory government, reading back in time it does appall me some of the things that went on. For instance the belief that being gay was unnatural and their non-cooperation with equalising the laws of consent etc.

    I admire David Cameron and actually find him a nice guy, but I wonder whether he has the ruthlessness that Blair had (eg Blair sacked Peter Mandelson twice) and other important Prime Ministerial traits. I do think there are some rays of hope (Rory Stewart), but I am less trusting of his acolytes – Liam Fox for instance – and the unseen SPADs and backbenchers who haven’t been elected yet. They just seem to be a bunch of right-wingers who think it’s their turn to be in government.

    The dilemma facing me is thus. Do I vote Labour, aiming to return a government that is running out of steam, ideas and quality personnel, and get 5 years of Major-esque infighting? Which then leads to 18 years of Tory government? Or do I vote Conservative, see what happens, give them a chance to prove themselves, also offering Labour a chance to reform and reassert itself as the natural party of government?

    While I am a political obsessive and few will have thought this in such detail, I think this is the basic conundrum most people face.

    PS @charlie Gordon Brown isn’t a toxic brand. (That’s a major tory misconception) There’s no evidence of that. Just because you have negative approval ratings doesn’t make you unelectable. Thatcher and Blair for large parts of their reigns, and yet they still won.

  • Patrick James

    I was amused by the irony of the “58K+ council workers to have details published” policy as well.

    I don’t think the Conservative party’s assault on the public sector is as voter friendly as they think it is.

    They seem to assume that everyone in the public sector is probably a Labour voter but I’ve worked in the public sector and I know that it is full of Conservative voters. Also many wealthy Conservatives have children working in the public sector.

    In general the Conservatives seem to present themselves as being people who want to attack our society in various ways.

    I think Labour should present themselves as being in favour of our society.


    The Conservatives have quite a problem. Their pretence at being progressive has been blown. As a gay guy I know that the LGBT community has become very aware of the Conservative’s links with the Polish Law and Justice Party thanks to Attitude magazine. I suspect that all the other areas interested in a socially progressive government have been turned off the Conservatives because they’ve noticed that what they say contradicts what they do.

    Cameron will find it very difficult to get those progressive types back. Equally he has lost a lot of the “nasty party” anti-progressive voters who believe Cameron’s guff about being progressive.

  • Alan Quinn

    Probably public workers earning £58K could earn more in the private sector. Does it ever enter Dave’s head that some people like serving the public?
    Dave wants to mend “Broken Britain” but he starts by attacking the very people at the sharp end. Out on the knocker yesterday (Saturday), again the public have no appetite for the tories, the public know there will have to be pain, but they know who is responsible and they want them punished. The bankers.

  • Charlie Reynolds

    What about the detox of Gordo? I would never use my kids as props. The army had all the equipment they needed. I abolished boom and bust. I will reduce the gap between the rich and poor. Tory cuts versus Labour investment. The recession will be over in 6 months. I did not want to get rid of Alistair Darling. My father told me never to lie. My parents gave me my moral compass.

    Poor old Gordon – he is the one being bullied by the horrid people who are pointing out what he has actually done. It’s not like he enjoyed the most unreal (and inaccurate) positive press coverage for 10 years as chancellor or that he has the “forces of hell” working for him. He ain’t done no wrong guv. I’m sure the timing of his visit to Afghanistan is purely coincidental.

    You know how you hate Non doms so much? Why do you accept such large donations from them? Why do Labour make them privy councillors and peers? Why did Gordon accept cash from them?

    How about we put a limit on funding to political parties? No one person can donate more than £20k per annum to any political party. Abolish union funding of political parties (Let people have their own individual choice to fund Labour – not being forced to so they can get union support). I reckon that would be the single best way to change our politics. Then you would all really have to start listening and if you didn’t you would not survive. Simples

    I think you are right on the best ways of garnering support – chucking money at things is never the answer. Perhaps Labour could apply this to government. Enabling people to improve their lives and their communities is the approach most likely to succeed. Enable not disable. Too often government disables. Money needs to be spent more wisely. It’s often not the amount that counts – it’s the method of application.

    By the way – any news on which cuts Labour will make? or which taxes Labour will raise? Or is the deficit just going to deal with itself? These are the real issues. I know you are all about the presentation but let’s hear the policies. The Tories have started setting theirs out – they involve difficult messages for electors. have any of you guys got the balls to do the same?

  • gary Enefer

    I said when you first started your blog,and also April and August of last year,much to the concern of your bloggers like Stuart La Cassick that I was mad,that Gordon Brown would win the election. I have stood firmly by this and still do.

    With talk of a hung parliament I feel that people don’t want this and will vote Labour,begrugdingly , but still Labour.

    Their tough love,good team in Peter Mandleson and Alastair Darling really show the Tories up as being so lightweight.


  • Bar Bar of Oz

    “Right decision for the right reasons: 14 UNSCR resolutions”. Following which GB flies straight to Afghanistan.

    For political junkies, nothing less than awe-inspiring to watch how Mandelson and the 1997 New Labour brains trust is running this campaogn.

  • Alan Quinn

    I see Dave was with James Dyson today talking about Britain becoming a high tech exporter. Dyson closed his vacuum cleaner factory in Wiltshire in 2002 with the loss of 800 jobs so he could move production to Malaysia.

  • irvin

    I greatly appreciated your thoughts about Michael Foot; a fine man-it reflects well on the Labour Party that such a man of integrity came to prominence within it & was so deeply loved and respected by it.And now good to see the tories exposed a little; however, the people I know who will be most hurt by a conservative government for one reason or another don’t vote.

  • Robert Jackson

    It’s good to see David Cameron being challenged by George W Bush to use his pact with the UUP to get them onside on devolved policing for Ulster.

    Some on the Right argue that peace in Northern Ireland is as much part of John Major’s legacy as Bill Clinton’s or TB’s.

    Let’s hope Mr Cameron’s legacy to the people of Northern Ireland turns out better than it looks to be heading right now, with all the best cards being in the UUP’s hand.

  • Republican

    This blog is no longer worth reading. It’s like the worst bits of Pravda. The more weirdo android partisan you get the less interesting it is and less effective it is.

  • Chris lancashire

    Alan Quinn: Yep, you’re right, Dyson closed his UK factory just after G Brown esq. visited it. The curse of the one eyed son of the manse struck again!

  • Ben G

    Have you seen the clip of Cameron doing his hair? Not quite as good as Jon Edwards in the USA, but certainly worth a few seats if repeated enough…

  • alison newport

    Having watched the bbc 2 documentary, Cracking Up, I wondered if I am able to get hold of a copy to use as a learning resource for junior colleagues?
    I work in a mental health unit and am involved in the learning and development of mental health Occupational Therapists.
    Alastair Campbell’s description of his breakdown gave me a glimpse of how he might have felt at this time. This would be an invaluable teaching tool.
    Thank you for your help

  • Alan Quinn

    Nice of Chris Lancashire to make fun of GB’s disability and the redundancy of 800 loyal workers. I bet that one went down a scream in the Tory club.