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If Cameron panders to the Tory right now, he is finished

Posted on 6 May 2012 | 10:05am

I have been around long enough to know it is unwise to believe everything you read in the the Sunday papers, but the whiff of U-turn in the Tory air has a credible aroma to it.

One word for David Cameron on this … don’t.

If it is true that he is dropping the Bill for the new HS2 high-speed rail link, it will show dreadful weakness, tactical desperation, and a disregard for what the economy actually needs.

If it is true that he is trying to find ways of parking Lords reform and gay marriages, he will enjoy the cheers of the Tory right for a few hours, but then realise there are some very voluble campaigners on the other side of these arguments.

So let me, safe in the knowledge he will ignore it, offer what would be my very genuine advice on all these issues … ask yourself if they are the right things to do for the long-term interests of Britain, and then do them. I think he would then find the decisions quite easy … yes to HS2, yes to gay marriages, yes to Lords reform.

Every Tory leader since Thatcher has been bedevilled by a right-wing that has big characters, big media support, and absolutely terrible ideas for what Britain should be in the 21st century.

In so far as Cameron has actually made any progress, it has been because he has tried to put that wing in its place. If he now starts to pander to it, he is finished, and Britain is left with the globally embarrassing prospect that one of our great political parties ends up led by Boris Johnson who, as someone brilliantly tweeted yesterday, is one pint of cider away from being the village idiot.

It is a measure of how bad a place the Tories are in that Johnson is seen as such a great white hope. As I said yesterday, he did not do as well as he had been hoping to. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing and hearing all these Tory MPs calling on Cameron to hire Lynton Crosby, the Aussie who ran Boris’s campaign. When he did the same job for Michael Howard in 2005, we raised a glass to their dreadful dog-whistle strategy every day.

  • The bizzare situation is that while the Tories are thinking a lurch to the right is the best medicine for their ails the Sunday Express seems to think the opposite.

    I thought I was dreaming when I saw today’s two lead stories on the front page; an attack on IDS for not subsidising jobs for disabled enough and what looks like a call to nationalise utilities.

    I can only assume that from now on the nations problems are due to the massive power of the leftie BBC, Guardian and Express propaganda.

  • TedMaulDisturbs

    Boris supped that pint of cider a long time ago, he’s the full idiot.
    He gets away with it because he’s perceived as a “character”.

  • Mark Wright

    Boris winning by the narrowest of margins is the worst of all worlds for Cameron.

    If he’d lost To Ken then his losing would have been lumped together with all the other Tory losses thus losing its punch as a stand-out moment.

    If he’d won convincingly then the ‘Boris-factor’ would be lauded as the aberraton that it is whilst at the same time being hailed as a ringing endorsement of Tory policies in general.

    Each of the above scenarios would be preferable to the narrative that is now starting to emerge:

    That Cameron *almost* lost the Tories the London Mayoralty *despite* Boris Johnson’s personal appeal.

    Oh dear.

    For the next 4 years Boris will be in the highest profile, most powerful Conservitive position outside of national government. He will wear on his sleeve that which Cameron and Osborne could only dream of…a mandate from the electorate. 

    Boris has won an election. Twice.

    Like Murdoch, the Tories like to back a winner and are ruthless in the disposing of those who do not meet this criteria.

    Cameron beware. The drums are beating and they are becoming ever more rhythmic and nuanced.   

  • Olli Issakainen

    Vote Right. Vote for the Conservatives.
    David Cameron is not a liberal Conservative. He is a neo-Thatcherite like Mr Osborne.
    His “reforms” already go further than Mrs T would have ever dared.
    And how much more rightwing can you be on the economy than Cameron and Osborne?
    They are doing nothing to promote growth because they believe that markets are always right and know the best.
    Left and Right.
    We have had middle-ground consensus for decades. New Labour bought into it too despite Will Hutton´s stakeholder model available in 1997.
    There has not been true ideological differences between mainstream parties.
    But now M. Hollande in France is about to change all this. Francois Hollande is a Keynesian Socialist.
    He is committed to the power of the state which the French hold in high esteem, anyway.
    Boris Johnson has positioned himself to the Right. Sarkozy has defended free markets which brought us the 2008 crisis and recession.
    The US is having the most leftwing president in decades. Republican party dominated by Tea Party has moved to the Right.
    So there are now serious DIFFERENCES between parties again. Ed Miliband demands fairness and responsible capitalism.
    The Tories want neoliberalism to continue despite of double-dip recession and low growth.
    How much should we tax? Regulate? Finding the right balance is difficult.
    But, of course, no one is demanding renationalising British industries.
    But globalisation and neoliberalism should be ditched. And plans for federal Europe.
    So is there real difference between the centre-right and centre-left? Yes there is.
    The way to win the next election is to stand for ordinary people – not for bankers and super-rich.
    FAIRNESS is the key issue.
    Voters want economic growth – neoliberalism cannot provide it.
    Taxes for the poor must be cut.
    State must intervene in the economy. We need more regulation and active industrial policy.
    Britain needs to promote manufacturing. Build more houses.
    But Labour must also be tough on crime, immigration and welfare.
    Vote right. Vote Labour!

  • mightymark

    Alistair – straighttforward, genuinely info seeking question – do you really think the British people care about Lords reform?

  • Ehtch

    Boris, Boris, BORIS!!, glad I got your attention. Anyway, Dylan Boris. Who he says, WHO, ilierate oxbridge twat in their own personal corrupt world. Dylan fucking Thomas from Swansea mun Boris, a great poet, get your sea-sick head together for fuck sake Boris bach,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuPO2Kvqlms

  • Marcus Dillistone

    Boris is the only senior Tory with even the slightest bit of charm. But we rarely see him under pressure – the mayoral role hasn’t yet generated too much. I sense that when he is seriously challenged, he will revert to type. The public needs to see this.

  • Ehtch

    Mixed council in my Carmarhenshire, but ni Lib Dems and Tories, which is nice, seriously nice.

    Life is nice at times.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/vote2012/council/W06000010.stm

  • Gilliebc

    I don’t want to see a parliament bogged down by relatively unimportant issues such as HoL reform and gay marriage.
    Not when they should be addressing the much more important  
    issue of the economy.

  • Gilliebc

    I wouldn’t be against any government who sought to re-nationalise our water supply or the railways either.  Not that I think it will ever happen. 

  • reaguns

    Nigel Farage on Sunday Politics says traditional Tory voters think “Cameron is like Blair, just not as good as him!” Ouch!

  • reaguns

    About to post on socialism, but before anyone jumps on me for that, please be aware that there is a difference between 100% socialism (which I don’t support) and social democracy (which I do.)

    The point is that competence and strength are not all they are cracked up to be! Hitler was rather competent in some ways, so was Chairman Mao, so was Thatcher. I doubt if the people of this board would want any of those three to replace Cameron!

    If we get a socialist running the country, then it would be much better to have an incompetent one than a competent one! A competent one might actually deliver socialism, which would obviously destroy us.

    But if you believe in socialism, then I’m sure you would rather have an incompetent socialist than a competent capitalist?

    So for these reasons, I would rather have Boris Johnson running the country than David Cameron. Then again a few months ago I would have said I’d rather have any Tory (apart from Ken Clarke) running the country than Cameron. However I have since discovered Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling and Philip Hammond all of whom make my blood boil.

  • Michele

     His two outbursts of swearing about people, one of them on camera but not shown on a TV news programme as far as I know, hint at what he might be like to work with/for, even when simply being questioned politely.
    We also know he’s had at least two workplace affairs.  Ignoring the cheating on his wife and children involved, he’s lucky to have not been sued by the colleagues involved, which I suppose means coercion was not involved (some women do have weird fancies!). 
    Perhaps job applicants have an unexpected question on their application form.  Suggestions welcome ….

  • Anonymous

    Reading the papers too the most important news item was about the fact that due to adverse weather the price of potatoes is going to skyrocket.Already ordinary folk are surviving on food low in essential nutrients and are certainly not getting their 5-a-day,a portion of chips was one.This is the issue.The Labour Party was not founded to keep food nutritious and affordable but my local Co-op was.The cost of a pound(or kilo if you must) of potatoes ought to matter to the Labour Party too at this time more than any other.
    The price of spuds,AC,the price of spuds is what matters.It may not be the Irish potato famine but spuds matter to us,the price of spuds matters an awful lot,maybe not life or death but not too far off for some of the hardest hit.

  • Michele

     Something does need to be done though Gbc.  HoL reform started and lots has been good but a long way from perfect.  We do have more non-hereditaries than before but some of the appointees have been strange.  Mrs Warsi is one, another whose career had involved assisting a lot of rich foreign students in to LSE is another.

    The Palace is a wonderful place to do a SISO at or even a full day’s work with all those facilities and the daily payment.  It should be more relevantly measured.  I believe Marcia Williams still attends every single day!

    There needs to be some balance in the numbers per party and it might even mean that appointment can’t be for life!

    I’m not for gay marriage either but straight marriage wasn’t something I ever thought would add to what should be one’s inate responsibility to a long-term and significant  partnership anyway.  I’m finding it annoying that so many words are being distorted for silly reasons and if the word ‘marriage’ is (it already has been in several countries) I think we might as well chuck away the dictionary.

  • Janiete

    Yes, I was gob-smacked when I saw those headlines. There’s something very odd going on and I’m not sure yet what it is. Could the right-wing papers be frightened of getting on the wrong side of public opinion at a time when sales are falling? If so it bodes well for progressive politics.

  • Janiete

    According to the Sunday Express front page 77% support renationalisation of our water supply. There’s hope yet!

  • reaguns

    Utter utter drivel. Cameron right wing like Thatcher? Garbage. How much more right wing can you be than Cameron and Osborne? Well so far Obama has been more right wing, is that a good start for you? (He has cut spending far more than they have.) How about Blair and Brown? They had 40p top rate of tax, this lot have 45.

    How much deregulation have this lot done? None.
    How high have they lifted interest rates? Not at all.

    You’re a brainwashed little schoolboy.

    Cameron is the leftest prime minister Britain have had since Harold Wilson.

  • Gilliebc

    This will probably make you and many others scream in horror, but I thought the HoL was alright as is was!  I genuinely believe that many of the old buffers in that place really had the best interests of this country at heart.  Even people such as Ben Elton think (or maybe thought) the same.  

    You mention Marcia Williams.  There’s a blast from the past.  To be honest I didn’t know she was still alive.    

    I agree with your comments on marriage, gay or straight, it is irrelevant to many (not all) in what is now a secular society.  You’re certainly correct about words being redefined all the time.    

    Ps. SISO?

  • Gilliebc

    That’s encouraging news.  Though I’m sure they will find a ‘perfectly reasonable’ er, reason why it would not be in our ‘best interests’ or some such.  I would certainly welcome it though because water is obviously the most important of life’s necessities and down here in the south west our water bills are among the highest in the country.  I think they may even be THE highest.   

    In the US, maybe just some states, I’m not entirely sure, but it is now illegal for people to collect rain water! 

  • Dave Simons

     It depends which brand of socialism you’re talking about. If you talk about having a competent socialist running the country then you’re investing a lot in one figurehead, which I don’t think socialism is about. Try ‘social ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange’ and throw in some ethical principles like ‘fair shares for everybody’. Forget about Chairman Mao.
    I’ve just re-read George Orwell’s book, written during the Blitz, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, and it’s interesting how, reading that slim volume, you come away with an impression of how we’ve gone backwards and forgotten the lessons of the 1930s. Orwell gravitates towards socialism but is quite ruthless in his attacks on the Left. Then, like now, what Orwell calls ‘the moneyed class’ wanted to just carry on after the financial crash as if nothing had happened.
    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘A competent one might actually deliver socialism, which would obviously destroy us’. Why would socialism obviously destroy us? Are we talking about a free National Health Service, free education, National Insurance, nationalisation of utilities, democratic control? Or are we talking about some sort of bureaucratic police state of the kind which I hope we’ve discussed and dismissed on previous posts?

  • Ehtch

    Dave going bananas on the skins, 2002 Glastie,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW2AKkwJb_c

    What were we talking about again? Anyway, 2012 fallow field Glastie, rotation. Anyone else taught the four fields cycle in school?  No?heathens!

  • Lizzylouise

    Hook line and sinker – HS2 costs the poor of this country not the rich. It’s the rich international construction lobbying industries behind it not the good of the country. It is completely and utterly appalling waste of money, environment and heritage. Suggest you see some of the PCA queries 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCwjGBX8MSs 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK84BKcMbxs&feature=relmfu

  • Anonymous

    Why does any left politician support HS2? The most vested interest project ever, costing every UK household a fortune per mile for only 1-3% of people to use.
    To me this is a classic right wing project.
    It does nothing for balancing the North, 70% of the jobs are going to be in London and it won’t even get to Manchester till 2033. No one wants it (as proved by thepublic consultation) and no one is unhappy with current speeds. HS2 is not green either as it is ultra high speed and 70% of users are predicted to be leisure travellers.
    Wake up Labour – this is a vote loser and anyone who thinks factory workers in Manchester want to pay for it so their sales director can get up a bit later to get to meetings in London is deluded (see Philip Hammond at TSC).

  • Michele

      We should be careful about buying back the reservoirs when it doesn’t
    seem they’ve been very well maintained.  Yep, water should belong to us
    all but we need to be sure the profiteers aren’t let off the hook after
    their quick bucks.

    Re your Q elsewhere Gbc, SISO is ‘sign in and sign out’ and be paid for the day.  Apparently it used to be a huge scam at the EU (although it’s always possible a person was doing a full day’s duties elsewhere and still had to sign in anyway).

  • Angelagildea

    HS2 has no business case. Pulling the plus on this project will be a demonstration that at last, our leaders are starting to listen to what the public and what all the numeous reports on finance and the enivironment have been clearly showing-it is not worth it.

    By the way, privatise the railways and do something about the current fare fixing and this will stop the overcrowding on the trains (the ones that everyone piles onto at 5 minutes after peak tariff ends).

  • reaguns

    Dave I believe in a large element of socialism (hence I said I’m in favour of social democracy) I believe in the things you mentioned such as free NHS (well its not free but you know what I mean), education etc.

    I think these things can be maintained even from the perspective of Milton Friedman or Abraham Lincoln who both said the state can do things that citizens prefer to do together rather than individually. I would even like to see a state bank (operating competitively against private banks.)

    But I also believe in individual freedom and small government. I don’t believe we should do things like fund art. We should be given that money back in tax and those who want to use it to watch art can do so, while people like me can spend on something else.

    Orwell is interesting, I believe he is classed as a left wing libertarian. Many think its impossible to have a socialist libertarian state in practice… and I think I agree, even though I admire it as an ideal.

    And no I’m not talking about police states like the USSR which were not what any true socialist had in mind. The problem is when you give government so much control… its a lot easier to start moving towards such a controlled system.

  • ZintinW4

    Lurching to the right for what purpose? It seems to me that one of the coalition’s problems is a lack of any clear goal other than being in power. The more to the right they move the more Tories risk fracturing the coalition.

    A lack of clear definition doesn’t mean the Coalition is benign. Their proposals on employment reform look like weakening job security for people just at a time when job security will be what matters to most people. As Ed has said ‘they just don’t get it’.

    The Remploy situation is an ideal way of Labour highlighting Lib-Tory failures. Here are some of the most vulnerable workers facing job loss in areas where there are few vacancies for non disabled people. At the same time the factories are being sold off to the highest bidders with no obligation to employ those already working there. This is crass. Not only are the weakest being thrown on the scrap heap but Posh Dave’s business chums get to make a nice little profit by some cheap deals for industrial units. Before the election Posh Dave was keen to tell everyone he cared about disability. He even showed an interest in social enterprise as a way forward for disable people. What could be a better foundation than giving employees the option to take over the factories they work in and support them as fledgling social enterprises? But Posh Dave just wants to reward his mates.

    What annoys me most is that we are not doing enough to really take these aloof idiots apart. It doesn’t mean we have to sound like Derek Hatton in full battle cry but we do need to find a way of showing that Labour is for the common good above all else and that all these Tories (and their fellow travellers the Glib Dems) offer is failed policies from a failed era.

  • Dave Simons

     Surely most of us, apart from a few cranks, believe in individual freedom? We have to be specific – freedom from what to do what – otherwise we’d be supporting the individual’s freedom to murder. But I’m sure the aim of most, certainly not all, early socialists was the flowering of each individual, and as I’ve said on previous posts, Marx’s aim was for the withering away of the state, which is government at its absolute smallest.
    As for funding the arts – I’ve worked in the arts world so I’ve no illusions about it. It is a nasty, snobbish, elitist world and some of the most noxious fellow humans I’ve met have populated it. I certainly resent supporting these people from our taxes. What amazes me though is how good things do manage to come out of it all, against the odds. There are genuine artists working all the time, usually leaving the media glare and the prizes to the con-artists who claim to be enhancing our perceptions and leading us into new dimensions. Read most art catalogues and you have to realise that there must be a real human being somewhere writing this bilge. But free access to art collections, like free access to public libraries, really has enhanced my life and I can’t personally complain about my taxes going in these directions. Nor can I complain about my tax funding sports facilities which I never use. There is such a thing as society and it’s not just individuals and families!

  • Dave Simons

     Entirely agree. Also some factory workers in Manchester, like their predecessors who went on the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in 1932, do like to get some fresh air, exercise and natural beauty down them after a week’s work, and that includes not just walking on Kinder Scout but walking in the relatively-unspoiled Chilterns, watching red kites.

  • miightymark

    Hear hear!!!

  • Chris lancashire

    Oh, I think Boris did do as well as he was hoping to. He’s London Mayor for another term.

  • Nick

    The HS2 Bill was always planned for October 2013, so was never intended to be in this Queen’s Speech. So quite why Cameron’s spinners are saying that it might be “dropped” is an interesting question, but doesn’t really relate to weakness. Unless they’re dropping it completely.

  • Michele

     I agree.  As a Londoner that for several years enjoyed travelling weekly back and forth to Birmingham / Liverpool etc I empathised with those living in between who received no benefit for my long fast routes that didn’t pick them up or serve them in any way.
    As a Londoner that loves Eurostar when I’m using it I felt less generous about it when frustratedly kept waiting on my suburban platform with all the local/stopping commuter trains held up to allow slightly-delayed Eurostars whooshing through (usually mostly empty, having left Paris or Brussels before 6am).

    The period I’m on about is mid-80s to late 90s. 
    Organisations had improved hugely soon thereafter, people that knew what they were doing were allowed to run and improve the infrastructure and scheduling (more/shorter trains etc) and the routeing. 
    We’re back in that former time warp with administrators that have no idea who to employ, have no appreciation of skills.

    I’m all for huge endeavours that have a point (pardon the pun but imagine being involved in building something as technically advanced as The Shard!) but HS2 doesn’t seem to have much to offer for most of the country when all the employment and investment could be spread differently.

  • Michele

     We’re in the 21C and flexi-time is well-established.
    No company should be enforcing 9-5.30 unless they subsidise the person’s extra travel costs.

  • Anonymous

    Freedom to do what we want provided it doesn’t harm others basically.

    In the case where it does harm others we should be banned from doing it if its really bad, but allowed to negotiate compensation with others where its for example noise pollution. I don’t want a factory outside my door, but if they pay me enough compensation then I won’t mind. If they are going to pollute the water and kill me, then I want them banned.

    As for withering away of the state under Marx, the problem is most believe that other forms of control come in under that system, just as socialists fear the control that comes from crony capitalism, with justification. Both sides doubt that the ideals of the other are practical, the last time I checked this debate. Socialist believe capitalism produces a police state, as they are needed to protect property rights, capitalists believe socialism requires a police state in order to force people to hand over their wages to the government.

    The topics are too big I suppose for this format!

    As for art, I’d rather have money than art, and this was more true when I was on the dole, or back when I earned £3 per hour. However, I happen to be a total philistine so am perhaps not a representative sample!

  • Ehtch

    Plaid Cymru Jonathan Edwards MP, Carmathen East and Dinefwr, has been complaining the “closet” tories masquarading as “Others” have formed a local council coalition with Labour. How true it is, don’t know, but it makes some sort of sense. One “Other” I knew well, and he was well blue-rinsed when you talked to him, so Jonathan might have a point. But PC tend to be Tory but with a small cee, I have found. Excellent bloke is Jonathan, used to play cricket with him with Penygroes, back in the days when he was home from Aberystwyth Uni. Saw his rant on his tweets, stalking…

    Should be interesting, Labour with those “Others”.

  • Ehtch

    His twitter account is here Alastair. Go meet him if you have a chance. Tell him Huw from Cross Hands that bowls marvellous googlies sent you. But it has been almost fifteen years now, since Ammanford park at the twenty-twenty mid-week thrash. Passed him on the Underground in the early 2000’s, when he was working for wotsisname for PC in Westminster, when I was off to Nortel in Paignton, Torbay (now part of Bookham Technolgy) to repair a machine, and he pointed his finger and said urr, and I did the same, but no time to do anything further, since underground trains don’t hang on for people getting into conversation, so he might do remember me. Think he liked me because he could spot that certain politicalness in me, or one of the elder lads told him
    http://twitter.com/#!/jonathanplaid

  • THE ONLY CHANCE OF THE TORY PARTYS SURVIVAL IS TO REBUILD ITS SELF AS A MODERN VERSION OF THE TED HEATH GOVERNMENT,THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
    GOOD RIDDENCE ONCE AND FOR ALL PAUL BAKER WINSFORD