Friday, December 15, 2006

Intellectual rigor

I can’t decide whether Girls Aloud’s condemnation of Cameron is a good or a bad thing. But then again how could anybody question the kind of intellectual rigor displayed by Cheryl Tweedy:

"You know that basically Labour is the working class and the Conservatives are kind of upper class, and then everything else is... I have no idea,"
Um, OK.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

18 Doughty Street debut

I’ll be on 18 Doughty Street tonight at 10pm. We’ll be discussing ConservativeHome’s recommendations for year two of project Cameron. Should be quite interesting, in particular I’m looking forward to discussing point nine:

Year 2(9): Management of the Policy Group reports

Recommendation 9: It is vital that the party anticipates the difficulties that are going to be presented by the gap of time between the Policy Reviews reporting and the
leadership deciding which recommendations to embrace. Team Cameron have reacted quickly to the Tax and Social Justice reports – shunning one and embracing the other. Will they be able to react so quickly in future? If not, how will they deal with the Labour offensive against more controversial policy group recommendations that may need some defence?
To this I would add that more should be done to prevent un-conservative recommendations such as the 35-hour week proposal.

Tea and Tony

I should probably say something about Tony’s chat with the police. But I think the fact he avoided being interviewed under caution speaks volumes already.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tory in the Wilderness of... London

I'll be in London tomorrow so posting may be a bit thin on the ground. I really need to get a laptop with wireless.

Lets remove competition from the job market

Just read an astonishing post by Iain Dale highlighting the LibDem MP Sandra Gidley’s call for school sports days to be done away with. I remember being one of the children she refers to who are last in line to get picked for a sports team etc. But it didn’t destroy my self esteem, rather it taught me that if I wanted to get picked for a team I had to train harder, get fitter, become better. This lesson carried over to other areas of my life, in particular my academic activities. I am thankful for the lessons competitive sport in school taught me.

I’m not saying that competitive sport has the same effect on all children; indeed for some it is a terrible experiece. However in life there are winners and losers. Competition is a part of our everyday lives; we compete to get jobs, we compete when we are in our jobs. The sooner children are introduced to competition the more ready they will be to deal with it in their adult lives.
Although perhaps Sandra Gidley would rather competition was removed from the job market as well; after all we wouldn’t want to damage the self-esteem of those who are unsuccessful. Besides, do we really need the best people doing the job – isn’t that just elitist?!?

Lost in Translation

BBC News 24 had a segment last night (there is a related article online) on the cost incurred by the public sector when providing translation services to people who don’t speak English. The grand total (although I should probably say shameful total) was £100m. Uncharacteristically the BBC highlighted the folly of such expenditure; it creates a disincentive for non-English speaks to learn English. The BBC interviewed two immigrants, one resident in the UK for two years, the other for 22 years; neither of them could speak English. Both indicated that the translation services provided by their local councils etc removed any reason for them to learn English.

For me however the parallels between the provision of translation services, and the provision of welfare are too important for us to ignore. If translation services remove the incentive for immigrants to speak English, is it really that surprising that welfare removes the incentive for people to work? After all, if you pay a person more to sit at home and do nothing than they could earn for doing an honest day’s work, is it surprising that so many people choose to rely on welfare rather than on themselves?

Welfare is a trap. A gilded trap perhaps, but a trap nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iran’s unrelenting aversion to peaceful coexistence

Tony Blair’s acknowledgment that Iran is a ‘major threat’ comes as no major surprise. We have after all been aware of the danger Iran poses to international peace and security for some time. The recent conference questioning the holocaust is simply another provocative move by an increasingly confrontational rogue state.

Iran’s anti-Israeli (indeed anti-Jewish) stance has not abated any with the passing of time. The venom behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be wiped off the map is as evident now as it was in 2005. We would do well to constantly remind ourselves of the seriousness with which this threat is made.

Given Iran’s unrelenting aversion to peaceful coexistence, it is worth recalling the remark made by Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s earlier this year that “military intervention might have to be considered”.

In this vein I reiterate the need to keep the military option in play.

Back from Brussels

I am now back from Brussels and ready to get back to blogging. As it happens Ireland didn’t invade Luxemburg whilst I was away.

On another note I didn’t realise how much of a welfare state Belgium is. For example I learnt, to my astonishment, that Belgians on welfare are entitlement to ‘holiday money’ once a year. It would seem things aren’t so bad in the UK after all (of course that doesn’t mean things could be described in any way as being acceptable).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Off to Brussels

I will be in Brussels (enjoying the Christmas markets) until next Tuesday, and have decided to take a break from blogging until I return.

No doubt in the intervening period Tony Blair will be questioned under caution, Gordon Brown will launch a coup whilst Blair is ‘helping the police with their enquiries’, Polly Toynbee will be announced as the new Chairman of the Conservative Party, a new tax on breathing will be announced, and, who knows, Ireland will invade Luxembourg.

A leviathon in sheep's clothing

Let’s overlook for a moment what the Chancellor’s pre-budget report has brought the Great British public (£2.2bn more in taxation), and instead address the following. If I said to you, without any elaboration, I was delivering a ‘pre-budget report’, what would you think I was doing? Would it be:

a) Delivering a mini-budget raising taxes overall, whilst leaving you with the impression I had actually reduced taxation; or

b) Delivering a report, which does not alter the current level of taxation in any way, prior to the budget in the coming year

Personally I think the name ‘pre-budget report’ gives the impression the latter should be happening. Of course in the world of New Labour, nothing is as it seems (it just wouldn’t do to be straight forward with people).

So there we have it, the pre-budget report; a leviathan in sheep’s clothing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Better to have and not need, than need and not have

Tony Blair’s commitment to retaining nuclear weapons is probably the best decision he has made in the… well, in a very long time. The problem with the argument made by the majority of critics is that their opposition to the replacement of Trident focuses far too much on the short term. Whilst a need for a British nuclear deterrent may not be immediately apparent, the same may not be true in 20, 30 or 50 years. Liam Fox hit the nail on the head:

"We don't know what we will face [in 2025]. One thing we know is that you can't suddenly conjure up a nuclear deterrent if you require it."

With rising threats in the Far East, not to mention the potential for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, it is more important than ever than we retain a nuclear force.

My only concern with Tony Blair’s current position is his indication that a reduction in the number of submarines is being considered, along with a 20% reduction in the number of warheads. Let’s hope these statements are there simply to placate critics, and that they will never be acted on.

As for the ruling-out of a transfer to a land-based nuclear weapons system, Tony Blair should again be commended. The whole point of a purely submarine based system is that our enemies remain constantly in the dark as to where our nuclear weapons are; thus reminding them that a nuclear attack on the UK, even the utter destruction of the UK, will not prevent an immediate and overwhelming retaliation.

As for Ming the Meaningless’ position on the Trident debate, I believe it’s a case of the less said the better.

Put simply, nuclear weapons are very much like the military generally. It is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back to blogging

I have returned to the wilderness of Northern Ireland (although not for long) and will get back to blogging tomorrow.

In short though, the news about the apparent grassroots rebellion is disturbing, although not surprising. That said I continue to maintain that Cameron’s poverty speech may indicate a firm, albeit implicit, commitment to conservative values. However the more an overtly leftist message is communicated to the electorate, the more difficult it becomes to deliver sound conservative policy in the event that Cameron becomes the next Prime Minister.

Moving to the Trident debate, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s commitment to replacing the current system should be welcomed. The very idea of doing away with our nuclear deterrent is deeply disturbing. Also disturbing though is the possibility that our current number of warheads may be reduced.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The end of an American odyssey

My American odyssey comes to an end later today. I have spent three very interesting months in the DC area, during which I have learnt a great deal.

The political world in the US is in many ways very different to that of the UK. The vast sums of money pumped into politics is a prime example of this, the polarisation of public opinion on certain issues is another. However despite these differences there is a great deal we can learn from our cousins across the pond. We share a lot of the same values, but very few of the same successes. Let’s hope that can be changed before it’s too late.

Sharia law being applied in the UK

Clive Davis has a worrying post about the spread of sharia law in the UK. Very worrying indeed.

Are we reducing or redistributing government?

Nick Hurd MP has pledged to support David Cameron’s Sustainable Communities Bill. In doing so he had the following to say:

"At present, we have a vastly over-centralised system. We need to end Labour's 'dictate from Whitehall' approach, and let communities take action on their own initiative. And by giving local government and local people greater powers to decide local spending priorities, this Bill gives people much more say over how their community looks and feels, and how it is run."

On the whole it’s a fine statement. It goes without saying that power has to be moved away from the centre and into the hands of private individuals. However it is worth bearing mind that a transference of power from central government to local government is not a reduction in government size, rather it is a redistribution of that power.

If a true reduction is to be achieved a concerted effort must be made, not to change who in government makes the decisions, but instead to reduce the number of decisions people in government can make.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sporadic blogging

Unfortunately blogging will be going on the back-burner for a few days. I return to the UK on Thursday and so have a hundred and one things to before then. Hopefully I should be able to get a few posts up though.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tories to enforce a 35 hour week?

Cameron’s Quality of Life policy group is apparently considering whether a Conservative government should impose a 35 hour week. Of course it is important to bear in mind that their investigations are very much in the preliminary stages. This being so it is very easy to pay only cursory attention to the possibility of such a regulation eventually becoming Conservative Party policy. However as conservatives we should be deeply concerned that such a proposal is in any way being considered.

Aside from anything else people should be free to work the hours they wish to work. Personally speaking I have no problem with the 40 hour week, equally I don’t have a problem with working a 60 hour week. The central point though is that that choice is mine to make.

Moreover the question of whether a 35 hour week would increase the UK’s productivity is one that should be left to the market to answer.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tony Blair’s successor being sought

It would appear the hunt is on for the next MP for Sedgefield. This of course got me thinking about who would be suitable. In doing so it occurred to me that since we are cozying up to Polly Toybee (hopefully for no other reason than to widen our appeal: and given Cameron’s poverty speech this may be the case), perhaps the Labour Party should offer the candidacy to Simon Heffer.

Any better suggestions would be welcomed in the comments.

Conservatism may still be strong…

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by David Cameron’s poverty speech. Reading between the lines it would appear, and I may be wrong, that Mr. Cameron is true blue, through and through. The speech is couched as one would expect in the ‘arms around the world’ language which currently appeals to the electorate. However if I were to identify a central theme it would be that power should move away from the state and into the hands of individuals. For example:

The poverty-fighting agenda I have outlined today is a radical one for my Party, because for the first time it commits us to tackling relative, not just absolute poverty. But it is also a radical agenda for politics in this country, because it involves a dramatic decentralisation, a big shift in emphasis… …from the state to society.

And also:

Throughout Britain there is a yearning for more control and more responsibility. People are fed up with having their communities managed for them by the state – especially when they are often managed so badly.

Furthermore the following extract contains a number of signals, albeit ones couched in vague terms, that conservatism is strong in Camp Cameron:

I know full well how important funding is. The task is to ensure that money goes where it’s needed and where it will make the most difference. Of course, some may fear that state funding of smaller, local organisations will crush the independence and flexibility that makes them effective in the first place.

Well, it depends on the state’s attitude. It depends on how the funding works and how the contracts are managed. There’s no reason to think that state funding automatically damages a local organisation. We need to be more trusting, more open to risk. [Note that Cameron indicates the need to change the way state funding works, without committing to any specific change]

That way we will avoid the voluntary and social enterprise sectors becoming indistinguishable branches of the state. Finally, some ask whether there is enough capacity in the voluntary sector to do the job. The straight answer is – no, not yet. That’s why I will never pretend that the big shift from state to society can be achieved overnight. [Clearly a big shift from state to ‘society’ is intended. However Cameron quite sensibly accepts that such a change will take time; the length of time however is sidestepped]

But I am supremely confident that as we allow communities to take over responsibilities for their own neighbourhoods… …as we change the funding system to reward creativity and innovation… …we will witness a fantastic flowering of social enterprise, the like of which we cannot even imagine today. [A clear reference to Cameron’s intention to devolve power form the state to the individual]

For years, we Conservatives talked about rolling back the state. But that is not an end in itself. Our fundamental aim is to roll forward the frontiers of society. We understand that a strong society means moving forward together, no-one left behind, fighting relative poverty a central policy goal. [The rolling back of the state may not be seen as an end in itself, but Cameron clearly believes it is a fundamental goal of the Conservative Party]

In short, my previous concerns may have been misplaced, or perhaps overstated. Cameron may yet prove himself to be the conservative leader our country so desperately needs; time will tell.

It is worth adding of course that the poverty speech was not pleasing in its entirety. A tendency toward overregulation was still present:

…at our Debt Summit on Monday we announced a range of policy proposals to help address the issue, including: Tighter rules on the marketing of Individual Voluntary Agreements… Ensuring that home credit companies are subject to the same data sharing requirements as mainstream lenders… Requiring credit card companies to provide clearer information on repayment terms… And a cooling-off period for store cards.

What about personal responsibility?

Despite this hint at overregulation the speech may have provided us with a unique view of Cameron’s Britain. And contrary to the prevailing wisdom, it may yet turn out to be a very conservative Britain indeed. Let’s hope that is the case.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ten things I would never do

Martine got me with a meme, so in the spirit of the blogosphere here goes.

Ten things I would never do:

  1. Buy a Mac
  2. Start reading the Morning Star
  3. Get a tattoo, or piercing
  4. Join the Labour Party
  5. Live in Northern Ireland again
  6. Choose to listen to Techno
  7. Believe in big government
  8. Watch big brother
  9. Start smoking
  10. Join the Fabian Society

In keeping with standard meme practice, I nominate the following bloggers: Ross Cowling, the Devil, and Kerri Parish.

British Airways boycott

It would appear the boycott of British Airways is gaining pace.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Greg Clark must be stopped

If Greg Clark gets his way all is lost. We will no longer be a party shifting ever closer to the centre ground, instead we will be a party sitting in the very heart of socialist territory. Greg Clark would have us believe that “Polly Toynbee is a serious thinker about social policy… it would be ridiculous not to benefit from effective analysis." However in reality her analysis of social policy is typical of someone completely out of touch with working class life, although she has dabbled in it. Her opinions are formed around an implicit sense of superiority, a belief, albeit not one openly admitted, that her and people like her know best; that they alone can deliver the poor wretched masses from a life they are too stupid to save themselves from. If we choose to adopt her proposals on social policy then we should do so in the full knowledge that we would no longer be a conservative party, we would simply be the old Labour Party known by a different name.

Toynbee believes in addressing relative poverty; which, if you distill her latest article, essentially means raising taxes so that welfare will be able to pay for people have mobile phones, computers, and yearly holidays etc. Not only that though, it also means “giving everyone as a right their own home, once they have money to pay for the upkeep.” Who pray tell will pay for these homes? The taxpayer, who incidentally is most likely already paying for their own home in the form of a mortgage.

Of course what’s most interesting about relative poverty is that it never goes away, it is after all relative to the prevailing living standards etc in the country at any given time. So if the possession of a blackberry, laptop and golden monkey were to become a standard feature of middle class life, then all those without said items would be, you guessed it, impoverished. Woe is me, I have no golden monkey!

As conservatives we believe fundamentally in the need to raise the standard of living for everyone. We believe that every child should have the opportunity to be all they can be. We believe in equal opportunity, indeed equality of opportunity, for all. But most importantly of all we do not believe that government is entity to provide these things. As Barry Goldwater so rightly said, there is a difference between believing something should be done, and that it should be done by the government. Instead we champion the ability of individuals to improve their own lives. If, in an effort to get elected, we turn our backs on this most basic of our beliefs, then what have we to offer but philosophical mediocrity and political uncertainty (for who knows what we are if we are driven by what is popular at any given moment).

We must do all we can to ensure that Greg Clark’s absurd vision of a Conservative Party that is big on taxes and big on government spending does not come to fruition.

Edit: the Devil has an interesting piece on this whole affair

Business community uncertain about the Conservative Party

In an interview with the Independent, Richard Lambert, the head of CBI’s employers’ group has indicated that “company bosses are “uncertain” about the Conservative Party’s attitude toward business.” We should, but probably won’t be, deeply concerned by this. The very idea that the business community would be concerned, in any way, by the possibility of a Conservative government, should give us pause for thought.

Lord Saatchi has rightly warned of the fallacy of our gravitation toward the centre ground. The further we move toward this seemingly fertile electoral soil, the more we are forced to abandon that which makes us who we are. This warning from CBI places in plain sight how close we are to the abyss; an abyss we seem certain to fall into.

If we do fall in, if we win the control of Parliament on the basis of a centrist manifesto, what can we achieve as a conservative government? The answer I fear is all too obvious.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shock horror: Brown good for Tories

In a shocking article, utterly surprising in its content, the Guardian draws our collective attention to the startling revelation that the Conservative Party would benefit from Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister.

In other news, apparently mice would benefit from cats not eating them! Astonishing stuff.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Welcome to Tory in the Wilderness

Welcome to all you ConservativeHome readers who have linked here from my article in the CF Diary. I hope you enjoy the blog, and if you do I would be delighted if you subscribed to my RSS feed (which you can access through the link on the sidebar). To be honest though, I’d be delighted if you subscribed to the feed even if you don’t like the blog. I’m not sure how likely you would be to do that though.

Anyway, enjoy...

Who's really out of touch?

Hazel Blears, in a blatant attempt to raise her profile, has attacked David Cameron and the Conservative Party for being, surprise surprise, out of touch with the ordinary man. What’s amazing about of course is that it is the Labour party who are philosophically committed to the perpetuation of the welfare trap; the system which imprisons previously working class areas in a cycle of economic dependence, removes any incentive for enterprise and hard work, and dampens the spirit.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shouldn't the market dictate?

If Cardiff really needs a new national art gallery, wouldn’t the free market ensure that one is built? Not in the view of Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne, who apparently believes in increased public spending.

BA to force Muslim women to remove headscarves?

I wholeheartedly agree with Iain Dale that we should boycott British Airways. The decision to ban Nadia Eweida from wearing her crucifix is yet another example of the current PC trend towards the persecution of Christians.

I wonder whether BA will extend the action (reductio ad adsurdum), and ban all religious symbols. Will we see them, for example, banning female Muslim employees from wearing headscarves? I think not. After all it’s only legitimate to discriminate against Christians. Everyone else is protected (some through fear).

Labour recognises the threat Cameron poses

I may not be the biggest fan of the Conservative Party’s current move towards the centre ground, but one thing is for sure: Labour is scared of the threat Cameron poses. One look at the news section of the Labour Party website will confirm this; 50% of the articles currently listed attack the Conservative Party in one way or another. Hardly surprising you may think, but then again you know what they say; when your opponent starts acknowledging you it means…

Lord Saatchi – the “myth” of the centre ground

I have to concur with Lord Saatchi in his attack on the Conservative Party’s attempts to move the party to the centre ground in an effort to secure electoral victory. I don’t doubt this strategy may pay off, but at what cost? A victory achieved at the loss of one’s principles is after all no victory at all.

Furthermore it is worth bearing in mind that the closer the Labour and Conservative Parties are to the centre ground, the less there is to distinguish them in the eyes of the electorate. How very sad it is that we as a party have strayed so far from our principles, that the day is in sight when the electorate may not be able to distinguish us from Labour.

If it aint broke, don't fix it

Apparently 80% of the House of Lords should be elected, with that 80% being referred to as Senators. Why? What is so wrong with the House of Lords that we have to so radically alter it? I may be wrong, but it has always been my opinion that being a conservative was, at least to a small degree, about conserving things (in particular, things that work perfectly well, and have worked perfectly well for centuries).

Perhaps I am wrong though. Maybe we should ditch the titles ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ and replace them with ‘The Peoples’ Champion’. In fact, perhaps The Peoples’ Champion should be elected through a Pop Idol style process.

I think I may be on to something.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christians = bad

I absolutely couldn’t believe it when I read on Cranmer that certain British universities are attempting to ban their Christian Union societies. These groups it would seem hold views which are so abhorrent, so bigoted, as to necessitate the freezing of their bank accounts, and the negation of their rights to express their opinions on campus. Of course it will come as no surprise that certain other religious groups are unaffected by this persecution. These groups are after all untouchable, protected as they are by the politically correct who are only interested in taking action against people and groups who are in no way ideologically opposed to our way of life. David Lister has perhaps captured the absurdity of this persecution best of all:

“At a time when Islamic militants are accused of recruiting activists at universities across Britain, at least four Christian unions are threatening legal action against their university student unions after being banned or denied access to facilities.”

Whatever happened to free speech?

The party of over-regulation

When the Guardian complements a Conservative Party proposal something must be terribly wrong. Either a right-leaning journalist has sneaked into Guardian HQ and slipped some of his own musings into the final draft of the morning’s paper, or the Conservative Party is on the wrong track. No prizes for guessing which is more likely.

It will come as no surprise therefore that Jill Insley’s praise for Conservative Party proposals to deal with personal debt, financial illiteracy, and financial exclusion were immediately met with warning bells on my part. Sadly, rather than promoting individual responsibility the Conservative Party wants an increase in regulation (a ‘cooling-off period’ for credit cards for example). In the words of George Osborne the proposals are "...about achieving the right balance between giving people freedom to manage their money while at the same time having a check against irresponsible borrowing. " Aside from anything else, I would point out that freedom has never been something you can give, only something you can take away from. With that said we should ponder the following questions. When did we become the party of interference? When did we become the party that doesn’t trust people to make their own decisions, and to take responsibility for their own actions?

When we start receiving praise from someone who believes in the forcible redistribution of wealth, we should start to question whether what we are proposing is really in keeping with our philosophy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

At least the Chancellor gets body armour

Iain Dale has made an interesting point about the Chancellor's visit to Iraq and the shortage of body armour for British troops; how much responsibility does he share for that shortage? Regardless of the answer this question at least we know one thing, there was more than enough money available to make sure the Chancellor didn’t go without.

What is the end-game in Iraq?

Frederik Kagan has argued that the proposal, by some members of the Democratic Party, to withdraw coalition troops to the borders of Iraq would be a mistake. This raises an interesting question; if staying embroiled in the conflict in Iraq is the right thing to do, indeed the best thing to do, what is it that we hope to achieve by staying in? What is the end-game we have in mind? If, to borrow from the Americans, we should “stay the course”, where exactly is it we expect that course to lead us?

I’m not so sure any definitive victory may be had in Iraq. A free and stable democracy is, I fear, too much to hope for (at least in the near future). That being so, in deciding what course of action to take, our deliberations should be guided not by lofty, but unrealistic aspirations, but instead by which outcome would be the least detrimental to our long-term ambitions.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Taxpayer's poetry

Burning Our Money has an interesting post about a poet who has been given £7,000, by Arts Council England, so that he can fly to Australia to… watch cricket! It brought to mind my recent entry regarding legal plunder, and the abuse of tax-payers’ money to support ventures that should, by all rights, be self-supporting.

What possible justification is there for this? What possible benefit does the average tax-payer derive this Australian odyssey?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Legislation, legislation, legislation

The BBC has highlighted the focus in the Queen’s speech on security. I however would describe the governments focus in the coming year as ‘legislation, legislation, legislation’. Seriously, do we really need another criminal justice bill?

Osborne's bill a waste of taxpayers money?

George Osborne deserves unadulterated praise for his bill which, if enacted, would require the Treasury set up a website detailing all public spending over ₤25,000. For too long the taxpayer has been denied the ability to find out exactly how their hard-earned money is being wasted by public bodies, which have never had to account for their mismanaging of public funds.

Wouldn’t it be ironic though if Labour opposed the bill for being a waste of taxpayers’ money?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Education over legislation

Lord Goldsmith is currently investigating an apparent ‘gap’ in race hate laws following the acquittal of Nick Griffin. However I am not convinced a knee-jerk legislative reaction is what is called for. Responding with legislation provides us with the reassuring feeling that we have taken appropriate and effective action against something we perceive to be wrong. But in this situation it is far from effective. It does not address the root causes of the BNP’s success.

I submit that if we are to defeat the BNP we must engage with the communities which have succumbed to their message of hate. It is quite simply a case of education over legislation.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army
Published by Punch 8 December 1915

Friday, November 10, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion

For those who are interested you can listen to an interview I did on Radio 5 on election night by clicking here. I should add that when I was talking about the 1982 midterms I meant to say that control of the Senate changed hands, not the House.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In politics you're always one 'macaca' away from disaster

Sadly I did not get the opportunity to live-blog as I was busy watching the results flow in, whilst also feeding information to Leslie Sanchez who was taking part in a live 5-hour debate. Suffice to say though a nerve-wracking night was had by all.

We knew from the start the Republicans were going to lose the House, but felt there was a reasonable chance of them retaining the Senate. Of course as we now await the final numbers from Virginia (which we knew Allen was going to lose from about 10pm last night) it has become abundantly clear the Democrats will seize control of the Senate as well. As one of the Crystal Ball pollsters put it, Allen’s was the worst managed campaign of 2006. In politics it is important to remember you are always one ‘macaca’ away from disaster.

The next two years are going to be very interesting in US politics.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

US Mid-Terms

I will be at BBC HQ in DC this evening as the results come in. Hopefully I should get to do some live blogging. We’ll see.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Legal Plunder

As Iain Dale highlighted earlier today, David Cameron has unveiled a new Sustainable Communities Bill. Essentially the bill proposes to grant local government the power to determine how central government funds are allocated in their area (I oversimplify of course). I must admit to having no problem with the underlying premise of the bill, i.e. that a determination must be made as to whether tax-payers money is being utilised in the most appropriate manner. However I submit our action as conservatives, based on this premise, should extend much further than simply granting local government the power to redistribute spending.

As conservatives we would do well to remind ourselves of the concept of legal plunder as expounded by Frédéric Bastiat, and Barry Goldwater’s warning against viewing the raising of taxes as anything other than an issue of individual liberty.

Perhaps we should consider devolving power over spending to the taxpayer. Obviously certain things should and must be publicly funded; the military for example. Accordingly there should be no possibility of opting out of the part of one’s taxes which go towards national defence etc. However there are a great many things which tax-payers’ money currently goes towards, which may or may not be viewed by the taxpayer as something that taxes should pay for. In this regard it is worth bearing in mind that believing that something should be done, is different to believing it should be done by government.

If we believe that the government which governs least is the government that governs best, and that individuals are much better at spending their own money than the state, then surely individuals should as a matter of principle have much more control over how their income is spent. Bastiat would certainly agree with that.

If therefore person X does not wish to support the arts (and so-called art) why should that individual be forced to foot the bill, through legal plunder, for artist productions? I submit they should not be so forced.

I offer the preceding merely as food for thought. Sadly at 1am I have no desire to write a comprehensive proposal on the subject (although perhaps I should).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When did we lose our way?

In recent months it has struck me how far the Conservative Party has moved from its natural place in the political spectrum. We have become preoccupied with simply rebutting Labour Party policies and actions. Of course there is nothing wrong with this in and of itself; indeed it is the natural function of the opposition. However before we posit an alternative course of action to one proposed by Labour, we should ask ourselves whether what we are proposing is philosophically conservative.

In a political world increasingly preoccupied with polls and focus groups it is of course incredibly tempting to sacrifice our values at the alter of perceived public opinion. But our job as conservatives is not simply to react to polls; it is to persuade the public that conservative principles are best for the country. Rather than telling us what to do, polls should help us determine where our efforts of persuasion should be focused, and how effective those efforts have been.

If my line of reasoning appears unrealistic given the prevailing political climate, then I would ask you to consider the alternative. If polls and focus groups become our masters, then the political game will cease to be about competing philosophies vying for popular support, and the function of political parties will be reduced to that of analysis. The question will cease to be about who is right in the sense of being correct (I should add the caveat however that being right in this sense is not, independently, enough to win) and will become a question of which party commissions the best polls and interprets the results most effectively.

The application of reductio ad absurdum to this argument suggests the Conservative Party would become an organisation of number crunchers and statisticians. Gone would be the bold thinking which under Thatcher delivered us from the all consuming grasp of socialism. In its place we would have reactionary politics, or more accurately reactionary policy making, bereft of philosophical identity. Conservatism, socialism etc would cease to have any independent meaning. We would find ourselves trapped in a philosophical vacuum; a quagmire of our own making, and from which we would find it increasingly difficult to escape.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I am back (and so is Charlie)

I will admit my break from blogging has been slightly longer than expected but it could not be helped. Not long after my last post I found out, somewhat unexpectedly, I had been offered an internship at the Leadership Institute in the US. But now I have settled in I intend to get back to the business of blogging.

Given that my return has coincided with Mr. Kennedy’s it seems only fitting to discuss his come back. There is very little I have to say that has not already been said by somebody else. However I will add this to the mix, you have to wonder about Ming the Meaningless’ effectiveness as leader of the LibDems when we Conservative party members, and Labour as well, would gladly choose his continued leadership over that of an alcoholic with a propensity for lying.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A short break

With my dissertation deadline coming up I have decided to cease blogging until early September. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blog (and there have been a lot of you).

See you in a month.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Support the Israel Defence Force

Guido highlighted the pizzaidf service earlier today. I am proud to say that I have purchased pizza and soft drinks for the brave soldiers of the IDF. I believe it is the least we can do to support our friends in Israel at this time.

Show your support now:

Al-Qaeda: the new friend of the British media

Everyone is familiar with the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. It will come as no surprise therefore to hear that the new darling of the British media is Al-Qaeda. Since the very start of Israel’s action against Hizbullah the papers (and the BBC) have lined up to take shots at our great ally in their struggle against Islamofacism. As one would expect very little is said about the hundreds of rockets that fly from southern Lebanon into the very heart of the Middle-East’s only liberal democracy. Now that Al-Qaeda has waded into the conflict we can be in no doubt who the liberal media will champion (albeit subtly).

We cannot just watch these shells as they pour wrath on our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon and sit back in submission”; one could be forgiven for wondering whether these words came from the Independent or Al Qaeda. They were in fact uttered yesterday by al-Zawahiri, right-hand man to Bin Laden, in a video released on al-Jazeera. However we can be sure it will not be long before the liberal media repeats similar phrases of its own creation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Will Labour join weight watchers?

If Labour is so desperate to cut obesity levels in the UK why don’t they lead by example and dethrone the Fat Fella? Something tells me though, given their recent track record, that they are much more likely to appoint him as the country’s ‘chief fat-fighter’ than they are to trim their waistline.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mark Oaten free to pursue ‘interests’

The Lib Dem’s greatest embarrassment (greater even that Ming the Meaningless), Mark Oaten, has decided to stand down at the next election. He apparently intends to “focus on human rights and third world development issues”; although I am sure he will manage to fit in some of his ‘other’ interests as well. Indeed one can only imagine the vigour with which he will pursue said ‘interests’ now that the glare of the media is off him.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ming the Meaningless

Ever ready to jump on the bandwagon Ming the Meaningless has called on Tony Blair to “suspend any further arms exports to Israel”. Just as one of our greatest friends is under attack from Islamic extremism Ming the Meaningless seeks to take his sword away from him. His reason for this is the so-called disproportionate force being used by Israel against Hizbullah (although the liberal media would have us believe the action is against Lebanon). As I have said before I question the ability of anyone to judge the proportionality of Israel’s action against Hizbullah given the nature of Hizbullah’s tactics and the manner in which they hide themselves. The utilisation of civilians as human shields should not provide blanket protection to Islamic extremists and allow them to attack innocent civilians with impunity.

Israel is acting, legitimately, in defence of its citizens. We should be standing shoulder to shoulder with them, not seeking to undermine them.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The unanswered asylum question

The ever failing John Reid in a blatant attempt to deflect attention from his consistent ineptitude has announce plans for a uniformed border control force. Not satisfied with wreaking destruction on things already in existence in would seem our ever eager Home Secretary wants something new to mess-up. That said I am not opposed to the idea of an effective border control force, well equipped and with the mandate to do the job. However something tells me John Reid’s border force will fall someway short of this noble target.

That said, John Reid’s proposal raises an age-old question that is never addressed in public. Given the UK’s geographic location the number of asylum seekers who arrive directly on our doorstep from whatever state they are fleeing is minimal. The vast majority of asylum seekers have to pass through several other highly developed liberal democracies (eg France, Germany) before they arrive in the UK. Why then is it that rather than seeking asylum in the first safe state they arrive in do they pass through several more before asking for our help? This surely raises questions about the validity of their asylum claim, and more importantly the extent to which the UK, under the Labour government, is seen as a soft touch.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Anti-Israel Liberals

Liberals never cease to amaze with their anti-Israel rhetoric. Numerous marches are taking place across the UK today protesting against Israel’s use of force against Hizbullah. There is of course no mention of the Hizbullah attacks against innocent Israelis, or indeed about Hizbullah’s use of Lebanese civilians as human shields.

Israel’s use of armed force is branded by our liberal media as disproportionate; but how can one judge proportionality when the threat comes from a force of unknown size, with no regard for innocent civilians and who, as mentioned above, use civilians to shield themselves?

Perhaps though taking a stand against Islamic extremism is politically incorrect; we wouldn’t after all want to offend Hizbullah’s civil liberties.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Nuclear Solution?

In my first article for Conservative Home's platform I argued that we conservatives need to ensure that the possibility of military action being utilised to resolve the current Iranian crisis remain in play. If we accept this charge then I submit there is a further question that we must resolve ourselves to answer: if we believe that the use of armed force may be necessary, are we prepared to countenance the possibility that the level of force so required may extend to nuclear action?

We are after all facing a potential nuclear threat; that being so surely the possibility of nuclear action on our part, or our allies part, would not prima facie seem de facto disproportionate. Accordingly I contend that a case may be made for the use of nuclear force against Iran.
However one hard truth must be faced about such action. Any nuclear strike(s) against Iran would have to take place before nuclear weapons, developed by Iran, were handed over to terrorists, and accordingly may even have to take place before any such weapons have been manufactured. This being so we must be mindful that the basis for our use of nuclear force would be intelligence indicating the possibility that Iran is developing nuclear weapons of its own that may in turn be handed over to said terrorists.

Just as I argued in my previous article that we must not let the failures with regard to Iraq preclude our advocacy for the use of force against Iran so too do I submit that we must not allow past intelligence failures in general to prevent us ab initio from advocating the potential need to use nuclear force. Our action in the future must not be dictated by mistakes in the past; we must learn from those mistakes but not be subjugated by them. Instead we must be driven by our overriding desire to protect our nation and its allies.

The US has already indicated that nuclear force would provide the only 100% guarantee that Iran would be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, and by extension prevented from handing over such weapons to terrorists for use against the West. Of course just because nuclear weapons provide such a guarantee does not mean we should use them. To draw an analogy if Mr X believes Mr Y is planning to assault him he could, by murdering Mr Y, guarantee that that assault never takes place. Obviously any reasonable person would point out that such an extreme response should not be used given that Mr X can also prevent the assault through the use of any number of other less excessive means. Likewise it goes without saying that if less destructive measures can resolve the situation in Iran then they must be used. My point is simply that given the high stakes game being played by Iran we should not dismiss any military option out of hand. The nuclear option may not be palatable, but its effects are certain and if we face a situation where nothing else can ensure our complete protection then it should be used.

On a related note it is of fundamental importance that we do not allow the current crisis in the Middle East, which has prompted Israel to defend itself, to distract us from the potential nuclear threat posed by Iran, indeed as Israel has pointed out that is exactly what Iran wants. Moreover the Hizbullah attacks against Israel should serve to reinforce our understanding of the potential threat Iran poses. The rocket attacks (well over 1000 of them) serve as a constant reminder of Iran’s willingness to supply terrorists with weapons to attack the West and its allies. It is precisely this possibility, in the nuclear theatre, that we wish to prevent.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Nuking Iran

In my recent article for Conservative Home I argued that it is our duty as conservatives to ensure that the possible use of armed force against Iran remain on the cards in dealing with the current situation.Armed force however encompasses a wide range of action and for that reason I pose the following question:

Should we consider the use of nuclear weapons against Iran?



Not sure

Current results

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tory Scum!

If we have a lot of work to do in the North of England then we have a great deal more to do in Scotland. I am of course talking about changing people’s perceptions of the Conservative Party. David Cameron has done a lot in this regard but sadly that effect has not been felt in Scotland.

As my profile points out I currently live in Clydebank (somewhere that is anything but prime Conservative territory). However it was not until I attended the Dumbarton West by-election last Thursday that I realised the extent to which we are still reviled by many. I was standing outside one of the polling stations, about 30 minutes before the polls closed, chatting with three other Conservatives and a member of the SNP when a woman approached with her daughter. It was evident that she had spoken with the SNP campaigner earlier in the day and assured him that they had her vote; she then looked directly at me and said “don’t worry, I won’t be voting for scum like that”. Her voice was filled with venom and her expression one of hatred.

She I fear is representative of many people across Scotland. Accordingly we face an incredible challenge, but it is one we must face with stout resolve and a willingness to listen to peoples concerns.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Time to talk tough on Iran

Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s remark with regard to Iran that “military intervention might have to be considered…” should serve as a rallying call to Conservatives everywhere. The time has come to talk tough, and more importantly mean it. Being a Conservative is about being proud of British values, being a fierce exponent of democracy and liberty and, moreover, being unflinching in one’s determination to defend those values. That is not to say that we should be war mongers, far from it. Rather we should approach conflict (or potential conflict) with an olive branch in one hand and a claymore in the other. Determined to use the former, but unquestionably prepared to deploy the latter should the need arise.

It is unfortunate indeed that Blair’s illegal incursion into Iraq has cast a dark shadow over the potential use of our armed forces. However we absolutely must distinguish the Iraq situation from the Iranian one. With regard to the latter our ability to use armed force, if necessary, lies not in a dubious legal argument about the so-called revival of Security Council authorisation to use said force, but rather resides in that most ‘inherent’ of rights belonging to all states; namely self defence. Article 51 of the UN Charter states that:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…”

It is true of course that an ‘armed attack’ has not occurred, but, just as it is clear that an individual may pre-emptively defend him/herself against an aggressor, so too is it clear that a state may act pre-emptively to defend itself from an imminent attack. However does this mean we must wait until nuclear weapons are developed and handed over, or perhaps are about to be handed over, to terrorists before we may act? Surely not. Limiting imminence to a purely temporal understanding of the term is dangerous enough when considering conventional weaponry, but when considering nuclear weapons surely it is madness. When dealing with a leader who has publicly stated his desire to see an ally of the west “wiped off the map” alarm bells must start ringing. It is to those alarm bells that we must respond, at first with diplomacy and other methods of pacifically settling disputes; but always with the unwavering reminder to those we engage peaceably with of our resolve to use armed force if necessary.

I submit that it is incumbent upon us, as Conservatives, to hold the government to account when they fail to wave the claymore in front of the eyes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Moreover we should be vocal in our support of armed force when and if necessary to defend the United Kingdom, its values and its allies. We must ensure that the potential use of military action remains on the table and is not simply dismissed. Such a stance does not make us war mongers any more than the person who finds themselves confronted with a would-be attacker is made a thug by their reminding that would-be attacker of their determination to use force to defend themselves if the dispute cannot be resolved peacefully.

As for a nuclear response to Iran we should not shirk the possibility, nor should we retreat when faced with cries that such a response would be madness, rather we should constantly remind ourselves that true madness would instead be a failure to use nuclear weapons if such a response was indeed both necessary and proportionate to the threat we, and our allies, face.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A short break

Unfortunately the demands of coursework and looming exams have conspired to prevent me from blogging again until mid-May. On the upside, when I do return I hope to have a new piece ready on the need to Americanise our political base (more on that later).

Friday, April 07, 2006

St. Anselm and the perpetuation of lex talionis

When it comes to dealing with crime no party wants to appear soft, least of all perhaps the Conservative Party. he Times has highlighted the dangers of staying too far from the path of traditional retributive principles of justice. Labour will be quick to seize on any shift in traditional Tory policy, which Sieghart characterises as “prison works”. But is there away of dealing with the causes of reoffending (and crime generally) without being branded soft? I would submit that there is. But first, to the branding. Sieghart senses a new slogan, but perhaps not the theft of “tough on the causes of crime” as she jokingly suggests. Rather the Conservative Party needs to indicate its tough approach to crime whilst highlighting the party’s ‘social conscience’. By rehashing Labour’s (technically Brown’s) “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” the Conservative Party could get its point across whilst indicating to the public that Labour is stuck in the past whereas the Conservative Party is progressive. I suggest the following:

“Tough on crime, proactive on the causes of crime”

As to dealing with the problem without appearing ‘soft’ the Conservative Party needs to take a mixed bag approach; it needs to appear tough but fair, rather than tough and uncaring. I suggest the following as an outline of such an approach (I do not pretend to be able to give a comprehensive solution in one blog entry). Take a zero-tolerance approach to the commission of crime, at any level. Reduction of red-tape for stop and search. Increased use of sniffer dogs (especially in prisons). At the same time principles of restorative justice need to be utilised at all levels of society. In prisons there needs to be a focus on prisoners coming face-to-face with the effects of their actions on their victims and victims of crime in general. At the same time there needs to be greater focus on education; obtaining trades, academic qualifications, perhaps even some form of partnership with the Open University. On top of this we need to comprehensively deal with drug use in prison. All prisoners should be helped to come off drugs. But at the same time we need to take a zero-tolerance approach to its use; as I have highlighted above sniffer-dogs should play a role, indeed the key role, in this. With the universal use of sniffer dogs on all visitors, along with random inspections of the prisons and a tough response to those found in possession of drugs (i.e. an increase in sentence) drug use in prisons can be eradicated. At the same time we need to deal with ‘aftercare’; what happens to the prisoner when they re-enters society. Prisoners should not be released homeless; halfway houses would be a start. On top of this there is a need to assist the former prisoner in finding a job, or further training etc. We need to provide post-release assistance through the use something similar to the probation service, whereby the former-prisoner meets periodically with someone with whom they can discuss their progress, problems they are facing and of course obtain advice and assistance. The vital stage where restorative principles should be applied has been left to last; in the communities across the UK where crime flourishes. Prevention is after all better than cure. We need to engage with communities to address the issues that not only allow crime to thrive but indeed promote it. To do this we need to engage with local community organisations and projects; help them to help the people they serve. We need to promote traditional family values and community spirit.

What I have suggested is merely the vaguest outline of what we need to do. We need to do much more than what I have recommended, and what we do put into practice we must implement comprehensively. However whatever we do we must agree that it is time to turn our back on St. Anselm.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

As pledged to Guido

As promised to Guido, a picture of the Mr Mahmood. I must admit however that my real reason for supporting Guido in this is more to do with my disdain for tabloids than anything else. Long live the broadsheet.

The UKIP furore

It would seem that everyone and their dog is taking issue with David Cameron’s remarks with regard to UKIP. I can understand it when such opinions are expressed by our liberal left-wing media; but by Tory MPs? It strikes me that an aggressive stance with regard to UKIP is exactly what is called for given the effect they are having on the Tory vote. Lets be honest, when Mr and Mrs Smith (who in our scenario live in a nice leafy suburb, have a garage, a dog, and 2.4 children (who incidentally went to university and now work in ‘the city’)) who believe in very traditional Tory values, switch to supporting a party, UKIP, which they believe to be representative of those values, surely it is time to act and return them to the fold. How better to do this than vilify UKIP? Through effective negative campaigning, which essentially is what David Cameron’s remarks were, the UKIP brand can be repositioned in the political marketplace. Rather than being seen as a party slightly to the right of the modern Conservative Party they would be viewed as a slightly diluted version of the BNP. What would Mr and Mrs Smith’s neighbours think of the Smith’s party affiliation then?

As Conservatives we should want UKIP to be seen as “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”. We need to drive them out of the marketplace and retake that section of our target demographic that they have invaded. Bob Spink may consider UKIP to be “good people” but that is beside the point; I don’t doubt that Labour are ‘good people’ (inasmuch that they are not inherently bad people), but given the opportunity we should attempt to capture some of their consumers by weakening their brand. Politics is a competitive market; we need to start treating it like one.

Published Articles

  1. Our Duty to Keep the Military Option in Play – ConservativeHome, Platform - 30th May 2006

  2. The Challenge for Young Conservatives – ConservativeHome, CF Diary - 21st November 2006

  3. The Battle for Student Government – ConservativeHome, CF Diary - 29th November 2006

  4. The Battle for Student Media – ConservativeHome, CF Diary - 8th December 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


As is traditional in the world of blogging the first post will be used to introduce the blog. As my profile points out I am a student of law and am currently completing my LLM in International Law at the University of Glasgow. I originally hail from Northern Ireland, although consider England to be my home.

I joined the Conservative Party in 2004 whilst living in Liverpool and discovered that my local association comprised an answering machine. Not surprisingly I found it rather difficult to take an active role at that time. Upon moving to Clydebank I made contact with the local association in West Dunbartonshire and was delighted to find an enthusiastic, albeit small, committed group of conservatives. In 2006 I was selected to run in the 2007 local government elections in Clydebank Waterfront.

With this blog I hope to offer opinion on and critique of current issues in UK politics and, more specifically, issues relating to conservativism.