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Cameron should stop the Tory wars – or send for the man who can

7 June 2014

7 June 2014

Modern Conservatives seem to be allergic to success. Every time things are going right, the party spasms. Sir John Major’s government nurtured a remarkable economic recovery, yet was beaten after its infighting appalled voters. In opposition, David Cameron acquired a habit of blowing opinion poll leads — a habit he did not, alas, shake off in time for the general election. And now, just as a Conservative victory at the next election looks likely, war has broken out again. What should have been a day of success for Michael Gove has ended in his being forced to apologise for briefing against officials in Theresa May’s department. And the Home Secretary, for her part, has lost a valued and highly effective special adviser: Fiona Cunningham.

The feuding between Gove and May is, in part, a problem of success. Gove has proven to be a radical, reforming Education Secretary; he has arguably achieved more than anyone else in government. Ms May can claim to be the most consequential Home Secretary in modern times: she has taken controllable immigration (i.e., from outside Europe) to its lowest level in 16 years and recorded crime to its lowest in 25 years, and all on a budget that’s the lowest it has been in ten years. Her recent confrontation of the Police Federation showed her at the height of her powers.

Both ministers like to fight, and both like to win. But when they fight each other, the Conservative Party loses. Mr Gove’s views on Islamism are well known: he once wrote a book, Celsius 7/7, against the appeasement of fundamentalists. Ms May’s determination is also legendary: she likes to work until 2 a.m. identifying and eliminating problems (and enemies). The deportation of Abu Qatada was her most high-profile success, and at times it seems as if she’d like to send Gove on the next flight to Jordan. He likes to offer his views; she tends to regard any interference with her department as an act of aggression — even on relatively innocent issues such as Chinese visas, which was of concern to the Treasury.

The Education Department and the Home Office have been behaving like autonomous government agencies, and it’s easy to see why. Under Cameron, No. 10 has become a coalition reconciliation service, rather than a centre of government. Cameron’s aides act as regularly for Nick Clegg as for the Prime Minister himself. Cameron does not attempt to dictate government from the centre. This is to his credit. But he has spent (and wasted) so much time keeping Liberal Democrats happy that he has neglected his own party.

The Conservatives intend to fight the next election by parading their competence — which will be difficult enough, especially when it comes to issues like government finances. But more Tory feuding may fatally undermine Cameron’s claim to be the most stable force in British politics. Such episodes are just careless, and fatal to the overall Tory message.

Yet we can expect more because there is no one in No10 – other than Cameron – who was capable of sorting this out because there is no one sufficiently respected by either May or Gove.  As it stands, No10 is viewed by both the Education Dept and the Home Office with something approaching cordial contempt – it’s seen as a coalition relationship reconciliation unit. Both Gove and May believed their achievements have come by their ignoring No10’s occasional phone calls – normally asking a favour on behalf of Nick Clegg, or worrying that their reforms would be open to challenge under some EU directive or another). And broadly speaking, they’re right.

Coalition has deformed No10, and made in into a coalition love nest. Those atop No10 work for the coalition, rather than the Tories. So there’s no one to coordinate the Tories – other than the PM himself, who is too busy. This  is yet another example of a problem that Lynton Crosby would have solved more quickly, or even nipped in the bud, if he was moved from Tory HQ and put into No10, in effect, as a Chief of Tory Staff.

That two powerful and effective cabinet members could be at war with each other, dripping poisonous quotes to the press on the day of the Queen’s Speech, reveals an worrying lack of discipline. The tendency towards omnishambles has not gone away. And it’s not confined to No10: why did George Osborne allow Treasury aides to tell Scots that the union was worth ‘10 weeks worth of chips and mushy peas’ as if they were addressing tartan untermensch? Did he see that advert? Approve it? Thoughtless, outrageous slips like this can lose a country. Allowing needless war between your two best-performing ministers can mean that voters see the shambles, not the achievement.

Cameron was right to act tonight – but, to be frank, it’s his fault that things grew so out of hand. This Gove vs May feud has exposed a lack of prime ministerial grip – which is why the PM has had to act tonight. The election is on a knife-edge: if he gets everything right between now and next June then he can win. He just can’t afford any more of these unforced errors. It’s time to take Crosby from the cramped, badly-ventilated Tory Party HQ and take him into No10, with a brief of making sure that these slips don’t happen again.

This is an extended version of the leading article in this week’s Spectator


Show comments
  • http://batman-news.com The Commentator

    In 2015 UKIP will be reminding voters of this government’s achievements:
    1. We have doubled the national debt in five years.
    2. We have emasculated Britain’s armed forces
    3. We have failed to reduce inward migration
    4. We are planning to reform the planning laws to allow the country to be concreted over.
    5. We have extradited UK citizens to the USA on trumped up charges
    6. We continue to give shelter to foreign criminals and terrorists.
    7. We are now driving an unsustainable housing bubble.
    8. We have destroyed the value of pensions and savings
    If you are impressed by our achievements vote Conservative in 2015

  • arnoldo87

    “Sir John Major’s government nurtured a remarkable economic recovery”

    Have you even the slightest piece of evidence to support this ludicrous claim? It will not be found in the national debt or deficit statistics, that’s for sure.

  • Pier66

    Listen, and listen very carefully,
    All have to do Cameron is:
    Call an early referendum to go out of EU same date 7 May 2015,
    WILL BE A LANDSLIDE 46% MAYBE MORE,
    LIB LAB And TRADE UNION DESTROY FOR LONG TIME!
    Juncker, lagarde are all socialist scum!
    Do this and you’ll see a country back to you !
    YNWA and TORY ALL THE WAY

  • Mynydd

    I am sure Mr Miliband would not object to Mr Lynton Crosby moving to No 10 as Chief of Tory Staff. He held this position when Mr Howard lost a General Election.

  • evad666

    ” The Conservatives intend to fight the next election by parading their competence” Ooh the Tories have competencies? Have these been approved by the EU?
    Coalition has deformed No10, and made in into a coalition love nest.
    Those atop No10 work for the coalition, rather than the Tories.
    A bit like Westminster working for the Commission and ignoring the UK electorate then?

  • http://english-pensioner.blogspot.co.uk/ english_pensioner

    If Cameron had been any good as a leader and a manager this would never have happened. And when it did, he asked a Civil Servant to sort it out!
    Isn’t he capable of doing anything?

    • Mynydd

      Simple answer, he isn’t

  • evad666
    • the viceroy’s gin

      I guess brother Nige was right about that. This early 2014 round of politicking was going to bring on changes in the Millipedes more than anyone.

  • CharlietheChump

    “Just as a Conservative victory at the next election looks likely”. Hmmm. And on what scientific evidence is this claim made?

    With a current Labour poll lead of never less than 1% and the Tories requiring a lead of 6% at least we should expect to welcome the delightful, talented and Marxist Ed into Downing Street.

    • Grey Wolf

      It is hard to see any significant difference between ”marxist” Ed and ”conservative” Dave on any defining issue of the day – political correctness, membership of silly organisations like UAF, marriage equality, liberal intervention overseas, welfare-statism, belief in the cult of progressivism…
      After all Dave is the heir to Blair….

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    Gee yeah Crosbys attempt to destroy Farage through character assasination really worked in the euro elections. The man is an idiot. His methods might work in America or somewhere similar, but he doesnt understand us Brits.

    UKIP will destroy the Tory party next year and good riddance. It will be a marginal bloodbath. Think Canada.

    If parties need to parachute w8nkers like Crosby in to do their dirty work then they have already lost. Morally. And apathy will grow.

    • Alexsandr

      Dont think IKIP will only damage the tories. They are snapping at the heels of Labour too. Limp dems are finished.

      • Lucy Sky Diamonds

        Well Labour have their own foreign spin doctor too dont they?

    • Grey Wolf

      Good one!
      No patriot can vote Tory
      No white working class member can vote Labour

  • an ex-tory voter

    The two most successful Ministers are achieving success “in spite of rather than at the behest of” the Prime Minister and No 10. Both being in the habit of ignoring calls from No10 begging favours on behalf of Nick Clegg or warning of a clash with some EU Directive.
    No 10 has become a coalition love nest because the occupants are of a single political mind. That is to say they are both fanatically pro EU, socialistic and nanny statist.

    The only positive aspect to this article is the assertion that Cameron and No10 have not got a grip. In response to that I say thank heavens for small mercies.

    There is only one possible conclusion to be taken from this article which is that the root of the problem is a lack of leadership and Conservative principle from David Cameron.

    He is the weakest link and he should go.

  • an ex-tory voter

    The two most successful Ministers are achieving success “in spite of rather than at the behest of” the Prime Minister and No 10. Both being in the habit of ignoring calls from No10 begging favours on behalf of Nick Clegg or warning of a clash with some EU Directive.
    No 10 has become a coalition love nest because the occupants are of a single political mind. That is to say they are both fanatically pro EU, socialistic and nanny statist.

    The only positive aspect to this article is the assertion that Cameron and No10 have not got a grip. In response to that I say thank heavens for small mercies.

    There is only one possible conclusion to be taken from this article which is that the root of the problem is a lack of leadership and Conservative principle from David Cameron.

    He is the weakest link and he should go.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Net immigration levels are at the same level as they were throughout the Labour period. May has failed abysmally and Cameron’s cheap spin about reducing immigration to ‘Tens of Thousands’ now it seems he has dropped it is reminiscent of the cynical lies told by Cameron’s hero Tony Blair..

    That Ministers are squabbling (over who succeeds Cameron when he loses) only demonstrates that Cameron’s modernisation has only turned the broken divided dysfunctional Tory Party into a shallow parody of New Labour…….

    • southerner

      Indeed.

      We all knew the “tens of thousands” pledge was a lie of course.

    • Mynydd

      With respect to immigration from non-EU countries, Mrs May is only continuing the points system introduced by the last government.

      • Alexsandr

        who cares if they are EU or non EU. We dont have capacity for any more.

        • Mynydd

          I was just pointing out a fact. I did not say immigration from the EU/non-EU was good/bad, what I want/don’t want, if we had the capacity or not. You must not get upset every time there is a positive comment on the last government.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …or else you’ll report him to the block captain?

  • Holly

    ‘Cameron has spent (and wasted) so much time keeping Liberal Democrats happy that he has neglected his own party’.
    Could not have put it better myself.

    • Kitty MLB

      The issue with coalitions and one of the reasons they
      don’t work.

      • southerner

        The issue with spineless left wing Prime Ministers and one of the reasons they don’t work.

      • Grey Wolf

        Well, get ready for more coalitions as the ”heir to Blair” in 2015 is thrown out of power.

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh come on.Labour were hardly meek lambs, they just liked
    Pulling the wool over the electorates eyes. And manipulating
    every single person with their deceptions.We know how
    utterly brutal things were with that party,with its daggers
    hidden beneath the table.
    This little spat is hardly in the same league.
    I did though find the photo in the Times amusing though,
    the Queens speech with Michael Gove’s head on the
    end of Theresa May’s sword, quite amusing and I generally
    support them both.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Oh come on.Labour were hardly meek lambs, they just liked
      Pulling the wool over the electorates eyes. And manipulating
      every single person with their deceptions.We know how
      utterly brutal things were with that party,with its daggers
      hidden beneath the table.

      Indeed Labour are proficient at this politics lark. Shame that the Tories are as you point out rank amateurs in comparison. I suppose that’s why Labour purged the Blairites ensuring no divisions in the aftermath of the New Labour period and why the Tories have been a dysfunctional and divided party for over 20 years………

      • Grey Wolf

        Tories are dysfunctional and divided because they are fighting for the same centre-ground that was defined by Blair in the late 90s after the Tory dystopian drama of preceding years. What is this centre ground? Well, it doesn’t have much for you and me but it does satisfy other constituents with a heady mix of the following:-

        -cater to Modernism (anti-tradition) / globalism (banking cabal);
        -cater to Cultural Marxism / Political Correctness at home / abroad
        -be pro EU (gels well with the 2 points above);
        -Minorityism / anti-identitarian;
        -Inordinate focus on middle-east and hostility to Russia;
        -mass immigration / population replacement
        -fundamental belief in progress / welfare state

  • Liberty

    Don’t agree at all. Gove and May are arguing bout the best way to confront extremism. they are not questioning the strategy of the government or major policies, just the best way to implement them. In a firm, such a spat would be regarded as healthy.

    • Alexsandr

      they should be arguing why they have failed to have seen theissue in brum long ago and countered it then. They have been in government since 2010 so are both culpable for the clusterf*ck.

      • Liberty

        In 2010 Labourites were in charge of education busily subverting the free society. It takes time to put a stop to this and change direction.

        • Mynydd

          What over four years to change direction, you must be joking.

    • Mynydd

      The problem is Mr Cameron in his position as Prime Minister, has failed to produce a government strategy which all members of the cabinet can sign up to. Also a Prime Minister on top of his job, would have seen this coming, and put a stop to it before it hit the headlines, especially on the day of the Queen’s speech. One must also say, Mr Cameron has shown, on many occasions, he has no backbone, as embolden Mr Gove and Mrs May to make the Conservative party civil war, general knowledge.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It’s not political hacks that Dave needs, it’s political sense. Some policy sense would be nice as well, but that’s far too much to hope for.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    “And now, just as a Conservative victory at the next election looks likely, war has broken out again. What should have been a day” … of analytical reflection will turn into twelve months of displaying unseen and sustained levels of pathologically manifest delusion.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …sorta like what you and all your many sockpuppets engage in on this website, eh lad?

      • Hello

        You’re so wonderfully primitive and primordial, I think I know what Darwin must have thought when he discovered his finches: beautifully untouched by externalities, and beautifully naive for being so.

        • Wessex Man

          You are so woefully tribal and backward, you and all the other apologists for the Westminister Village now seek only to portray UKip as ‘a bunch of racists’ because you don’t have any real political or economical arguments to put up against ours.

          You try to brand decent and honest people who may have been fellow party members of yours , who are more than likely family and neighbours of yours and yet in your hearts you know that weak leadership of your party will deliver Government to others!

        • the viceroy’s gin

          I think I know what every conservative must think when they look at one of you socialist Camerluvvies, whining and whimpering away, intoxicated with entitlement.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        So when you say it it’s the bee’s knees, when I say it it’s not socialist gibberish. Glad we clarified that. Lad.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …when you say it, it’s from any of your army of sockpuppets, lad.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            gather your army of sockmuppets, lad – where are they? They have a life, unlike you? There, have a downtick on me. Jesus.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              No, lad, you are the troll with the sockpuppet army.

              • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                No, lad, I am not having any of your sockmuppetery. What you need to do is get a life.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …says the troll with an army of sockpuppets.

  • Alexsandr

    And these incompetents drive a few more voters to UKIP.

    what have gove and may been doing since 2010 to allow the Birmingham schools to get in the mess they are in anyway?

    • telemachus

      This has little to do with Islamism or Schools
      It has everything to do with the long standing posturing over leadership succession
      *
      We all know that Gove has the charisma of a cowpat and May’s health will preclude the Tory Mafia allowing her to accede
      *
      So it was all for nothing
      *
      As to Ukip, they are now on the decline

      • Wessex Man

        Says the slimy nasty voice of labour who should have been banned from these blogs for his disgusting comment on another thread.

        Showing himself to be witless and unable to read, he states that UKip are in decline because of the result of the by-election in which UKip increased their share of the vote to 10,028 a jump of 22.9% on the last election whilst the Labour Party merely attained 6,842 votes a decrease of 4.65%.

        Only a halfwitted idiot would put forward the Newark by-election as an argument that UKip are in decline- steo forward slimy tele!

        • telemachus

          UKIP down to 25% of the vote from the Euro 27%
          And it will continue to decline

          • Alexsandr

            you guys delude yourself with dodgy psephology. All the while UKIP will creep up behind you to bite you on the ar$e next year.

        • Mynydd

          At the previous by-election UKIP obtained 29% of the vote, last week they had 26% of the vote. Any one who can do simple sums will give the answer, UNIP’s vote has declined by 3%.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Again, that is a statistically insignificant difference, but we shouldn’t expect you socialists to be fluent in statistics, should we?

            • Mynydd

              A decline, is a decline, is a decline, get over it, your attempt to belittle socialist will not change it.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                No, and again, there is no statistically significant difference, although like most socialists, you’re clearly ignorant and poorly educated and can’t comprehend that.

                • Mynydd

                  According to the BBC “At the May 2015 general election, the Conservatives need a uniform swing of 2%
                  in order to win the 20 extra seats they require to govern on their own” Do you still maintain a decline of 3% is not statistically significant. There again what would an ignorant and poorly educated Chartered Engineer know.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  You’re comparing statistical apples and oranges, and if you were working for me, “engineer”, I’d caution you in your work, as I do all such misguided young engineers.

                • Mynydd

                  If 2% makes a significant difference (20 extra seats) then logically 3% must also make a significant difference.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …and if you came back again with that stupidity, you wouldn’t be working for me long.

                • Aberrant_Apostrophe

                  As an engineer, you should know that comparing two measurements made on different objects aren’t always comparable.

                • Mynydd

                  I was comparing the results from two by-elections. The first was 29% the second was 26%, I therefore concluded that UKIP’s by-election results declined by 3%. If their second result had been 31% I would have concluded that their by-election results had increased by 3%

                  Then was there was a comment about 3% a being a statistically insignificant difference. Then to point out you cannot make such a general statement, by giving a situation where 2% can indeed make a significant difference

      • Alexsandr

        the nazis practised separation of the jews. The islamists want to separate half the human race into a separate culture where they are second best.

        There should be a law absolutely banning separating people for reasons of race, religion or gender in educational establishments (Schools, colleges and universities) funded by the state, or having charity status, which is quite a state subsidy, with the obvious exception of changing rooms and toilets for different sexes.

        It should also be illegal to have kids of primary school age in state funded schools wearing religious items, like crosses, turbans, skull caps or head scarves. Kids of that age are not old enough to have made decisions as to their religion and should not be decked out in paraphernalia they don’t understand. The argument that boys will be distracted by girls at that age is pure rot. Boys think girls are to be avoided when they are 9. I seem to remember thinking they were as weird as martians when I was 9!

        what parents do with their kids outside school is their business.

        I am uncomfortable with religious organisations being involved in state schools.

        I think the French have this about right.

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