Bill's Archived Comments

for the week beginning: Monday, 16th September 2002

Contents of this page (scroll down the page to see the full text of the article which interests you)

- 'Cummings' and goings in the Conservative Party (20 Sep 2002)

- Duncan Smith and the Conservatives, one year on (16 Sep 2002)

(If you wish to see other articles, please click on the 'Archives' link above to go there now)

'Cummings' and goings in the Conservative Party (20 Sep 2002)

Dominic Cumming, director of strategy of the Conservative Party, has resigned today stating that he will carry on activities outside of politics. He had been in the job for only eight months and was considered a 'moderniser'; earlier this year he irritated some within the Party with his outspoken comments: "The biggest potential threat to the pound's survival is the Conservative Party," he said. "For many people just about the only thing less popular than the euro is the Tory Party."

It is thought that Mr Cummings was at least partly responsible for the recent demotion of ex-Chairman David Davis, who was alleged to be obstructing the 'modernisation' of the Party, it being said that he 'poisoned' Mr Duncan Smith's mind against Mr Davis. His resignation comes soon after the departure of chief of staff Jenny Unglass, also regarded as a moderniser. It is being said that Mr Cummings has walked rather than being pushed, having become frustrated by theslow pace of change within the Party. Coming only a couple of weeks before the party conference, this latest departure may prove yet one more nail in the coffin of Duncan Smith's leadership.

Francis Maude, speaking today in a radio interview, said that the concentration on repeal of Clause 28 exaggerates the importance of the issue and is 'laughable'. He went on to say that the real solution is to hold a free vote (which the Party leadership adamantly opposes, let it be said) when Mr Maude is confident that a clear majority of Conservative would vote for its repeal; I do wonder what planet he is living on. Even were one to accept his contention, however, and further make the leap of faith to accept his view that repeal of this piece of clumsy, spiteful legislation is relatively unimportant, it is emphatically not the view of many of the hard-liners such as Lord Tebbit and the recently-deceased Lady Janet Young. Nor is it, seemingly, the real view of Mr Duncan Smith himself (see article below). However unimportant or important this law is intrinsically, it is clear that it is considered of vital importance by some (the 'traditionalists') and is something of a litmus test of how far the Party has moved, or more correctly not moved, in matters of social policy. Some people, and I am one, are simply no longer prepared to accept this type of thinking and the policies it gives rise to - the Conservative Party can go on its own 'merry' and diminishing way, so far as I am concerned; as Francis Maude said in his radio interview today, some former members no longer care what happens to the Party - I have to say that whilst I am perhaps not absolutely of that view, I am pretty close to it.

Duncan Smith and the Conservatives, one year on (16 Sep 2002)

Friday 13th September (appropriate omen, no?) marked the first anniversary of Iain Duncan Smith's election as Leader of the Conservative Party. He began the week with the announcement of an update of the "Five Greats", a reference to a speech given in 1942 by Beveridge, founder of the Welfare State. This is part of efforts to try and change the public perception of the Conservative Party as 'caring about the things ordinary people find important'.

A few days before that he had paid a warm tribute to the just-deceased Baroness Janet Young, the person who as much as anyone connived at the retention of discriminatory laws under the guise of supporting "family values". People within the Conservative Party, who should know better (for example Steve Norris and the leadership of Torche [soon to become 'Gay Conservatives']), keep trying to convince us that Duncan Smith is inclined to look favourably (or at least to re-examine) the Party's current dogmatic attitude to the retention of Clause 28. Frankly, I don't buy it - according to an e-mail I had from James Davenport, the new Chairman of Torche, in the lead-up to my resignation from that organisation, the Shadow Cabinet have no plans to discuss abolition of Clause 28 for at least 18 months (e-mail written in July 2002).

A truer indication of Duncan Smith's views, in my opinion, was given in his remarks upon the death of Lady Young (referred to earlier) and in an interview he gave to BBC Radio4 'Today' last Friday to mark one year in his role as Leader of the Party. I didn't hear the interview at the time, but I have since managed to listen to it on the BBC website; whilst it is clear that in the preliminary 'set the scene' introduction to the interview, a somewhat negative picture was painted of both the Party and Duncan Smith himself, a pretty standard technique for this kind of political interview on the 'Today' programme for which Duncan Smith should have been prepared. He reacted petulantly and really made one wonder why he had agreed to come on the programme at all. It is perfectly true that John Humphrys is a tough interviewer, but this was by no means his most aggressive performance (in my view) - on the other hand, I consider that Duncan Smith had decided that the best form of defence on this particular occasion was attack. In any case, he did himself no favours - his performance was appalling.

In an interview last week (it may have been this interview, but I think it may have been another, because he gave a number last week) he was also asked the 'killer' question: "Do you think you will ever be Prime Minister?" - he seemed startled by the question [any half-decent brain-storming exercise prior to the interview would surely have lobbed this one at him, so it is bizarre that he was startled] and took a moment to respond, and when he did he gave the only possible response in such circumstances - "Yes, of course", but he didn't sound particularly convinced or convincing, to me. I rather suspect he is fairly resigned to the probability he won't survive as Leader for long enough to make it likely he will become Prime Minister - naturally, he can never admit this.

And today we had rumours in the press that a significant proportion of the Shadow Cabinet is adamant that Clause 28 be retained, led according to the rumours by recently-sacked David Davis. A further bizarre incident was a report over the weekend that Lady Cox (apparently a Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords, who speaks for the Conservatives), a person I had never heard of until now, had written a series of endorsements to a book ["Great Britain has Fallen"] which contends, among other things, that multi-culturalism is ruining Britain by importing 'foreign practices', homosexuality is 'destructive' and that abortion can be directly equated with the Holocaust. Lady Cox is quoted as saying that the book "showed the way forward" in reversing what she has referred to as Britain's moral decline. The book was launched last June at a Lords' function sponsored by Lady Cox.

It seems to me that the Conservative Party still has some way to go before it will convince the electorate it is fit to be let loose in government in the forseeable future. The coming Party Conference season should be quite interesting, I think.

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Copyright © 2002 William Cameron