Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cameron Luv Fest - final report

I'm leaving Bournemouth now. Thank goodness for little mercies! So here are my thoughts on the Tories. Well, they are in good moral and think they will win the next election. They have however a significant fear that that will be put at risk by having policies. Anything that can be attacked by opposition or media must be swept off the Tory stage. This was a common theme that ran throiugh speeches and presentations. Turn over the Tory stone and you may spot the odd right winger flashing his tax cutting tail at you but all the rest of the Tory leadership insects are hurrying for cover. Just how long the Tory world can survive as a policy free zone is yet to be seen. Mind you, Labour did it for the 3 years they were in opposition under Blair.

Watching the speeches has been interesting. George Osborne, once he was over his vomit-inducing luv-in with Darling David in his speech this morning gave a competent performance on attacking Brown. He outlined where things had to change. But he offered no solutuons other than we need better education and economic stability.

Is there method in his madness? If you have no policies, what can you be attacked on? Having no policies is one line of attack. No solutions, no right to ask people to vote for them. Perhaps the Conservatives have looked back at the 90s, saw Labour at the time move to a policy lite position, decided that was how Labour won and therefore they need to copy it. For Labour it worked then because the gut instinct of the country was to get rid of the Tories as a party that was in chaos and at war with itself. That was the cover for Labour's policy nakedness.

Now is somewhat different. Whilst Labour are unpopular at the moment, and they have their leadership difficulties, the people do not regard Labour as so rotten to the core in the way they regarded the last Consercative government. Afterall, the Conservatives are only a few percent ahead in the polls, not the 15 to 20 percent repeatedly gained by Labour when under Blair in opposition.

So I wonder just how long they can survive with not policies which, as Oliver Letwin described in one fringe meeting I attended yesterday, could be torn apart by media and opponents.

Nevertheless, there is another extreme that parties can suffer from - having too much policy. And I think Lib Dems are prone to that at times. The local government paper is an example. It was short and succinct. One reason it was referred back was because it was "too short"! Filling a policy paper with vacuous statements just to make it longer does not amount to good policy making, though it does make for good hostages to fortune.

But back to the Conservative conference. Despite the leadership line on having no policy, there is an underlying tension with the activists who wanted tax cuts and are more right wing. (Though I don't regard tax cutting as right win on its own.) The loudest applause tended to be for right wing causes such as grammar schools and no to the Euro. And I overheard one conversation that went as follows:

Person A: "don't like dumping our tax cuts policies."

Person B: "well, I suppose we have to talk about the environment and all the other things Cameron wants to stop us looking like the Nasty Party.

Person A: "well I suppose so."

Hardly a ringing endorsement.

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