30 September 2011 10:50 AM

Revealed: The Tory conference slogan (and more)

We can reveal that David Cameron's confernce will open under the slogan .... drum roll ....

"Leadership For A Better Future."

It's a phrase that acknowledges tough times but contains that classic Cameron optimism, pointing to a rturn of the good times if people stick with a tough leader.

In today's Standard there's a lively interview with the charming Tory chairman Sayeeda Warsi, who reveals the slogan and explains why leadership is the prime focus of the conference - and why families will "instinctively" swallow the tough medicine prescribed by Dr Cameron.

 "It would be so easy for us to get the [government’s] chequebook out and not make the tough calls. But ask people if they would prefer to have it easy now or, by taking tough decisions, create a better future for their children, most will instinctively choose to put their children first.”

Warsi is on her usual bubbly form. Shge reveals that she, Cameron and other ministers will be recroding audiobooks for blind chuildren during the conference (it's their latest social action project and us Press boys are invited to do the same).

The first considered Tory attack on Ed Miliband's speech is also there. She says Labour created the something-for-nothing society and asks how Ed's speech squares with Labour's opposition to removing legal aid from cheeky squatters.

There's lots more ... a return to old fashioned conference debates, some amazing techie innovations etc.

But my favourite line is a cracking joke about when Chris Huhne compared to the evil Dr Geobbels. “When I was young my mum wanted me to be a doctor and I never lived up to her expectations [Warsi became a lawyer]. What I always say is, the Conservatives might have made me a Lady - but it took the Liberal Democrats to make me a doctor.”



Joe Murphy

follow me on twitter  @JoeMurphyLondon



04 August 2011 3:29 PM

Curtains for Clegg?

When a Lib Dem as fearless and well connected as Lord Oakeshott warns it will be "Curtains for the Coalition" if the big banks are let off the hook again (see our fascinating interview here) then you can be sure that the PM and Chancellor will be reading every word closely.

But is the curtain falling for Nick Clegg?  Just read his utterly riveting reply to my question whether Nick Clegg will still be leader at the next election and beyond.

"What matters for Liberal Democrats and our future as an independent party is that we fight the next election as a completely independent party, at least equidistant between the Conservatives and Labour."

He then pointed out that 38 of 57 seats were won against the Tories, with Labour tactical votes. "The only way we can retain those seats is by persuading those voters it is still worth supporting us. That is the real strategic imperative and we have not long to do it.

"How do we get from here to a credibly independent Liberal Democrat Party in 2015? I think it will be difficult to persuade people we are a completely independent force if, on the eve of the poll, Liberal Democrat ministers are still having to defend what many would see as Tory policies."

Interpret this as you will but several points are obvious.  He did not say, "Of course Nick will be leader!".  He did say that the party needs to dramatically change people's perceptions in a short space of time. He suggested the Coalition will end before the election, leaving Britain with a short period of minority Conservative rule with the Lib Dems crossing the floor to the Opposition benches. In such a situation, appointing a new leader might be logical.

And just who might that be? Lord O is not saying, but read his mischievous response when I asked if he thinks his old pal Vince Cable will retire at the 2015 election. "I've never seen him more full of beans. I'm sure Vince's best years are yet to come."



Joe Murphy

follow me on twitter  @JoeMurphyLondon





06 June 2011 4:32 PM

Those boundary changes

Several of the big name London MPs are in danger of being unseated by the boundary changes, according to think tank Democratic Audit.

Here's some of the bad news.

Tom Brake’s constituency of Carshalton and Wallington will be abolished while Sarah Teather’s seat at Brent Central would “flip to Labour”, according to Democractic Audit's research and rather clever guesswork.

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind may see his safe berth in Kensington turn into a Labour marginal. Which might make a percect home for Labour's Karen Buck, who would be in danger of losing marginal Westminster North after changes.

Glenda Jackson would be another loser on paper - but given the collapse of Lib Dem support recently anything is possible in her three-way battle.

DA's analysis is the first really detailed assessment of the changes. I won't list all the London seats that they reckon will become more or less marginal but you can see the detail on their website.

Most people I talked to today agree with DA that the Conservatives will be disappointed if they hope that the shake up will hand them extra seats.  But I struggled to find any sign of the Lib Dems backing away from their side of the deal.

Anxiety about the shake up is only just warming up. Draft seat boundaries will be out in September, just in time for a heated debate at the party conferences.

Joe Murphy


13 May 2011 3:30 PM

An unpopular suggestion

A week on from the AV referendum result (remember that?), campaign organisers are looking around for their next big project.

Musing over what they might do next, it struck me that with Government proposals on House of Lords reform due in the next week or so they might be best to sit tight. Any change to the upper chamber would be far more constitutionally significant and would need a referendum, surely? And the camps would be roughly split along the same lines as AV - Tories and some Labour staunchly opposed (despite what manifestos said), Lib-Dems and some Labour wildly in favour. So why not keep the AV machinery in place like a sleeper cell, ready to spring into action when the starting gun is fired?

Armed with my suggestion, I approached key figures from either side of the AV divide. And in a sign of just how mentally-scarring the bitter referendum campaign was, they weren't exactly supportive.

"There is no effing chance of that happening," said a No campaigner whose language I have moderated for a family audience.

"The only thing the public are less up for than AV is another referendum at this stage - unless it is on the EU.

"It was a horrible contest. Neither side covered themselves in glory, and the British public won't stomach another referendum - particularly over Lords reform."

Noises from the defeated Yes team were no more promising.

"Would I have to work with Liberal Democrats again," asked my weary Yes man.

"Are there even any left? I think I'll wait for the UK referendum on trainspotting."

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse

09 May 2011 2:36 PM

Lunchtime List

Welcome to the Lunchtime List, ESP's round-up of the political stories in today's Evening Standard first edition.

Boris in slanging match over Tube
Boris Johnson was today involved in a furious row with government ministers over his handling of the union that is threatening the longest series of Tube strikes ever.

Culture minister 'lined up for health job'
Jeremy Hunt could be made Health Secretary if Andrew Lansley refuses to make major concessions to his NHS reforms, the Standard has learned.

Now British taxpayers face call to bail out the Greek economy
European Commission officials are holding talks this week that could lead to British taxpayers helping to bail out the Greek economy.

Defiance of 'chattering classes' as London gave a resounding No to AV
Londoners defied predictions of a dismal turnout in the AV referendum to reject overwhelmingly changing the Westminster voting system, analysis showed today.

MPs demand debate on shake-up of their expenses
David Cameron is facing fresh demands to overhaul the new MPs' expenses system.

Today's Evening Standard leaders

John Redwood v Norman Lamb
Ground: Westminster
Kick off: 8am
Coalition tensions were growing today as the Liberal Democrats slug it out with the Tories over coalition policy. Thatcherite Redwood urged David Cameron not to hand goodies to the Lib Dems as a consolation prize for the election drubbing and losing the AV vote. with his forensic brain, he pointed out that the Libs had themselves proposed many of the NHS reforms being championed by Andrew Lansley. Mr Lamb, Nick Clegg’s righthand man, was less confrontational but made clear major concessions on the health reforms would be needed if it is not all to end in a car crash.
Score: Redwood 1 Lamb 1

06 May 2011 1:18 PM

Instead of the rose garden

After today's Lib Dem traumas, another "love-in" by David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the Downing Street rose garden is being firmly ruled out.

However, I hear the two leaders will make a joint appearance towards the end of next week, to promote the Coalition's policies to promote employment.

"There's not going to by any renewing the vows," sighs an insider, clearly wearied by wedding analogies about the not-so-civil partnership.

This is the first sign of how they will handle their future relationship in public - unity but not chumminess. Helping the jobless is the sort of issue that aids the image problem that Clegg referred to when he spoke of northern and Scottish voters being afraid of "Thatcherism" coming back.

Lib Dem sources say Clegg is not so much trying to change the direction of the Coalition as change the perception that it is a Tory-led government with Thatchernomics at its core.

But that's not aggressive enough for some of his colleagues.

There is now a clear divide between Lib Dem ministers in the Cabinet. Some, like Chris Huhne, aim to revive activist support by distancing themselves from the Conservatives. Others, like Danny Alexander, appear to see long-term success in showing resolution and sharing the credit when the economy improves.

What do their Tory colleagues think?  Ministers say the Huhne faction is making a big mistake in distancing themselves from George Osborne's economic policies. (And I'm aware some of you may be reminded of the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies: "They would say that, wouldn't they.") One senior Tory says: "There is no point in taking all this pain without at least being seen as a successful partner in turning around the British economy."

Of course, now that polling day is over, the hostilities are diminishing. Paddy Ashdown very slightly ameliorated his eye-watering attack on Cameron by saying he had respected the PM before the AV campaign. Huhne, Cable and Farron have kept their swords sheathed.

I'm sceptical that the Lib Dems can benefit by publicly breaking ranks with Tories in Cabinet. It smacks of a core vote strategy and an abandonment of Clegg's attempts to reach out to new supporters now that he leads a party of government rather than one of protest. And voters hate disunity.

Anyway, there is already a perfectly good anti-Tory outlet for the votes of those who still seethe about 1980s Thatcherism: It's called the Labour Party.

Joe Murphy

05 May 2011 9:30 AM

Labour lick their lips

All the talk about today’s “Super Thursday” polls bonanza has focused on the fallout for the Coalition.

A rejection of the alternative vote coupled with a council wipeout for the Liberal Democrats, so the narrative goes, will be followed by some policy goodies to keep the yellow faithful happy.

But there could yet be another spanner in the works. Amid all the sound and fury of the bitter AV campaign, Labour have been quietly working on how best to exploit the post-election landscape.

A specific strategy for dealing with the Lib-Dems has been drawn up, though Ed Miliband’s aides are tight-lipped about exactly what it entails.

I understand from other sources that Labour are looking for issues, such as the reform of disability living allowance (DLA) and crime and justice, where they can split Nick Clegg’s party from their Tory bedfellows.

It isn’t proving easy, though. “It’s very hard working out exactly what they stand for and are prepared to stand up for,” I’m told. “They’ve also proven to be much more united than we were expecting.”

Another option, according to one frontbencher, could be a “lovebombing” campaign to try and attract disgruntled Lib-Dems over to Labour.

But that again isn’t straightforward. “We want to reach out but we just can’t help ourselves. It’s so easy to attack them for breaking their promises,”  I hear.

Some in Ed Miliband’s party are also smarting at their experience working together with Simon Hughes. After drawing up a joint motion on cuts to education maintenance allowance, they claim the Lib-Dem deputy leader broke cover to reveal the talks and then vote against what he had helped draft.

Either way, expect a marked change of tactics designed to test Coalition strength.

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse

04 May 2011 2:36 PM

The real father of the "Sick Baby" posters

Everyone is wondering what Chris Huhne will do next after his explosive intervention in Cabinet.

But there's an intriguing twist to yesterday's extraordinary scene.  Huhne brandished posters put out by the No campaign -- showing a crying newborn baby under the slogan: "She needs a maternity unit, not an alternative voting system" -- and challenged David Cameron and George Osborne to defend the posters.
The posters were not the brainchild of a Conservative attack dog, however. In fact they were dreamed up by a leading Labour Party campaigner.

Dan Hodges was the creator.  He's got a well-earned reputation as a hard-as-nails political operator for Labour, specialising in attack and particularly gifted in finding ways to make complicated issues - like AV - seem relevant, or threatening, to ordinary people's lives. By the way, Glenda Jackson is his mum.

It's no secret at Westminster that Hodges coined the sick baby idea and that he was also one of the No campaign team who argued in favour of targeting "President Clegg".  Read Hodges' own acerbic views here for a sense of his no-prisoners approach.

Why did Huhne airbrush out the part played by Labour in the No campaign "war crimes"?  There's a lot of speculation among MPs that Huhne is plotting for the leadership and wished to establish himself in dramatic style as Tory-basher-in-chief in order to appeal to Lib Dem grass roots.  On the other hand, it suits all the Lib Dems to be seen to be falling out with the Tories right now.

A Lib Dem source says Huhne is right to blame the Tories as 80 per cent of No campaign funds are from Conservative donors. "Who had the idea is irrelevant when the money is almost all from Tory sources," he argues.

We won't have to wait long to hear some clues about what Huhne's intentions are: He's booked into the broadcasters' studios in the early hours of Friday morning as the council results come in . . .

Joe Murphy