Monthly Archives: July 2009

A good man fallen among …

Not all Tories are vermin.

Yet. But they’re working on it.

Anyone who questions that should read Edward McMillan-Scott’s apologia in today’s Yorkshire Post.

It is a critique of Cameron’s and the Tories’ new-found friends among the fringes of Eastern Europe. McMillian-Scott states his case concisely, and without whinging:

After the European elections, complying with a manifesto commitment, I left the mainstream centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and joined the ECR group.

It was formed because, during his leadership campaign, David Cameron had promised that his MEPs would leave the EPP, largely continental Christian Democrats and conservatives but seen by many as too “federalist”.

I have always been a Conservative internationalist, believing that Britain should be leading in Europe – not leaving it. The EPP is the party of Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy and Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish conservative who currently chairs all EU meetings.

He points out, pungently, that his expulsion from the Tory Party puts him in an exclusive club:

When I was elected leader of the Conservative MEPs in 1997, The Times described me as “a moderate pro-European, with a general loyalty to the party line”.

I am to this day, and I have asked for the Conservative whip to be restored. Is it not telling that, after a three-month onslaught on MPs’ expenses, the whip was removed from no Conservative MP except Derek Conway?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the mainstream of the Tory Party was also:

“moderate pro-European, with a general loyalty to the party line”

What changed?

If there is a “save Edward McMillan-Scott for the nation” campaign, it has Malcolm’s support.

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., Edward McMillan-Scott, Fascists, Racists, Tories.

Meanwhile, on the other channel …

Malcolm Redfellow’s World Service has an extended piece prompted by David Cameron’s expletives of yesterday:

A twattish twit or a twittish twat?

Concerning a great poet, two politicians — one noble, progressive and thoughtful, the other low, devious and conniving — and a worthy local benefactor.

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Filed under Conservative family values, David Cameron, Lawrence. Browning, reading, Tories.

A profit-making oxymoron

ConservativeIntelligence.com

Well, that raised a general laugh.

It’s another not-so-little money-spinner from the Tim Montgomerie outfit. It was outed overnight by Sam Coates on his The Red Box blog for the Times.

Coates seems to have taken his cue from Bob Roberts’s piece, last Thursday, in the Daily Mirror. Roberts had apparently seen one of the briefing pieces from ConservativeIntelligence.com, which included such gems as:

The Tories are planning to make hospital patients pay for meals …

Patients might also have to pay to stay in hospital or even visit a GP. In the leaked letter, the head of Conservative Intelligence Tim Mont-gomerie said the Party “is talking of real terms cuts” but “at the moment” intends to protect the health service.

… patients should be charged £20 to see a GP.

Education spending will be cut by £100 million after the next election as a part of £3 billion Government savings

All of which, as sure as night follows day, was — natch — instantly denied:

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said last night: “This is complete rubbish.”

Ahem!

There are a couple of points to be extracted here.

Either Montgomerie and his weirdos have a hot-line to Tory thinking (and Coates and others believe they do) or they are selling old rope.

Coates helpfully reproduces in facsimile the NHS briefing and now a second one which says:

The Tories would increase VAT to 20%.

80% of the deficit reduction would come from spending cuts rather than tax increases.

Last autumn, the Tories regarded a VAT hike rather differently:

CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron today said the Government would hit the country with a “VAT bombshell”.

Cameron’s attack came as it was revealed Chancellor Alistair Darling drew up secret plans to hike VAT to 18.5 per cent.

As George Orwell didn’t say: 18½ bad, 20% good.

Now, the temporary reduction of VAT to 15% “cost” the Treasury £12 billion. So a back-of-the-envelope calculation implies that, if the increase to 20% VAT is the only Tory tax rise (you bet?), and Montgomerie is correct with the other 4/5ths coming from cuts, then the total cuts package could be going on £50 billion a year!

Deliciously, Coates then produced a telling homophone error (since corrected): “setting hairs running”. Those Tory numbers, if ever the buggers got us by the short-and-curlies, are enough to set any hairs on end.

The other point to be made is that Montgomerie has pulled the old trick of finding covert ways for Big Business to filter under-the-counter subsidies to Tory causes:

I recently took the decision to try and make money by establishing ConservativeIntelligence.com.  The conference we held on 30th June (photo gallery) was the launch event for CI and more than 150 companies, each paying £100 to £250 came along.  CI will be having more events over the next year.  CI does not offer lobbying or access – only intelligence for the many businesses and charities wanting more information about what is likely to be the next government of this country.  One of CI’s products to our £1,000pa subscribers is a weekly ‘Intelligence Letter’ that aims to provide an overview of the big issues facing the Conservative Party and the decisions that it is taking.

Coates ups the ante there:

Tim Montgomerie … has launched Conservative Intelligence, which offers insight (though emphatically not introductions or lobbying) for £1000-£2,500pa.

So “more than 150 companies” are giving bungs to Montgomerie’s propaganda machine at a grand or two a year, plus fees for attending dodgy “conferences”. We are talking numbers well into millions here.

And that’s “Intelligence” that even a dim Tory can understand.

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., crime, economy, education, health, Times, Tories.

The view from the Hill

Redfellow Hovel is conveniently situate (as the estate agents always say) in a desirable area of Muswell Hill, and in the catchment area of a favoured school.

So, naturally, Malcolm’s parochial loyalties extend to dubiety about the inhabitants of Tottenham. After several hairy moments, over years of experience, he has concluded that those inhabiting the east of the fine Borough of Haringey regard a red traffic light as optional.

So, today’s Times provided a moment of jollity and mirth.

Ashling O’Connor (“Olymics Correspondent”, no less) had a brilliant opening sentence about the Javelin Class 395s which will operate the commuter service out of St Pancras to Ebbsfleet (17 minutes travel time) and Ashford (37 minutes), including a stop at Stratford for the Olympic complex (all of 7 minutes).

The print headline:

After an Olympic effort, the next train is three years early

beat the on-line version, hands down:

High-speed Olympic ‘Javelin’ train service launched

Either way, the first eleven of Ms O’Connor’s twelve word sentence read:

Few things in Hackney reach speeds of up to 125 mph ….

Now, pause a moment. Provide the wittiest, most pointed final word. Meanwhile, enjoy the BBC coverage of that journey:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8170846.stm

So, what’s Ashling O’Connor’s missing final, deliciously-barbed word? —

… legitimately.

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Filed under London, prejudice, Times

A sense of priorities

The Pink ‘Un has a Westminster Blog. It has some very fine sources, and can often set the pace.

Today Jim Pickard posted something somewhere between a scoop and a squib:

There has been low-level speculation for ages that George Osborne may not necessarily end up as chancellor of the exchequer, an idea rubbished by senior Tory officials.

Yet, Pickard has been leaked a copy of the Tory Conference agenda. It includes, on the fringe,

A Tuesday session on the economy features an appearance by “Hammond and Osborne“. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Of course it should.

Yet, Philip Hammond (presently Shadow Chief Secretary) is no shrinking violet. There he was, last Saturday, grabbing headlines:


I’ll be nation’s hate figure, says top Tory Philip Hammond


Prepare for rapid post-election budget and deep spending cuts – Hammond

Clearly, there is a game going on among those “top Tories”, each outbidding the others for Macho status. The aim is to depict oneself as flagellator-in-chief. Black kinky leather for him; sackcloth-and-ashes for us.

At the moment, Hammond is several stripes ahead.

Back on planet Earth, the Speccie‘s Coffee House blog has James Forsyth wisely advising:

Calm down, calm down

And adding:

I suspect that the explanation is actually rather more mundane: Hammond will deliver remarks early in the session before Osborne winds it up with the keynote speech on the economy.

And, remember — Heaven help us! —  there’s another five or six weeks (or more) of this before the kids are back to school; and hostilities properly recommence.

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Filed under blogging, Conservative Party policy., Financial Times, George Osborne, Tories.

Apathy wins again

The Tories won Norwich North. Well, what a surprise that … wasn’t.

In doing so, the Tories engaged the attention of 18 per cent of the electorate.

Now there’s a real mandate … not!

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Filed under Britain, broken society, Norfolk, Tories.

An inconsiderate reading list

OK:  Iain Dale has a hard life.

Today he hit the pits. He was reduced to regurgitating:

Conservative MP Keith Simpson [who] produces a list of books that his parliamentary colleagues might consider reading.

Well, either Dale or Simpson has probs. Let Malcolm list a few from the early part of this turgid recital:

  • The outstanding read for the summer is Patrick Hennessey The Junior Officer’s Reading Club Killing Time and Fighting Wars.

Properly that’s: The Junior Officer’s Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.

Funnily enough, the colon in the original title changes the meaning and tone considerably. Who didn’t recognise that: the Tory junior shadow minister (B.A. Hull)  or the B.A. in TEFL (U.E.A.)?

According to Simpson (let’s assume that Dale has done his usual cut-and-paste):

his right of passage as a soldier was in Afghanistan and he graphically describes what it is like to serve there at the front as an infantry soldier.

Normally  that’s “rite of passage”.

Then we are told:

This book is really “Siegfried Sassoon meets Mad Max” and Hennessey is shrewd enough to recognise that like Sassoon all that he has written is not necessarily fact.

Well, ignoring the sheer banality of the lack of punctuation, that begs a number of questions. To which version of Siegfried Sassoon does Simpson refer? Does  he assume that the author of the poems and “George Sherston” (Sassoon’s semi-autobiographical “friend”, written up a decade and more later) are one and the same? How many Tories, who swallowed those Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928) and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) as their essential right-to-rule ancestral heritage bothered with Sherston’s Progress (1936)?

The last part of the trilogy isn’t fed to the public-school tradition because it expands on Owen:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori
.

And that’s not good for recruitment.

In some ways, that third part of the trilogy, which locates Sherston in Palestine and Ireland before returning him to the last months of the Western Front, with episodes in Craiglockhart Hospital, anticipates George Orwell as a revelation of the sharp and shitty end of Empire. It is probably the most autobiographical, and personally revealing book of the three (the Palestine section is substantially diary entries).

Anyway, why does Simpson assume it  is an unsurmountable leap from “Mad Jack” (the nickname his troops gave Sassoon) to “Mad Max”?

Quote frankly, anyone who describes Sandhurst (as Hennessey, according to Simpson, according to Dale, says) as “Hogwarts with guns” tells us all we need to know about our military élite. Fortunately each has a bat-man or a valet or whatever to change his officer’s socks while telling him what to think.

We are then asked to admire Chris Mullin’s A View from the Foothills. Of course, Simpson sees that as:

Self-deprecating, amusing, insightful and indiscreet, these are Alan Clark’s diaries without the sex and malice.

So, no ideology there. Unsurprisingly, that’s not the usual lefty reading of the People’s Chris (may his shadow never grow shorter), or of his book. However, that gives Simpson a hot-link to:

Ian Trewin who edited Alan Clark’s diaries has now written Alan Clark: The Biography, which will be published in mid September.

Curiously, that’s usually Ion Trewin, with or without some more semi-literate punctuation. Publication of Alan Clark: The Biography (Orion) is already announced for 14th September (and Amazon are taking discounted pre-orders). Yeah: that’s mid-September. Yawn…

Next, we are asked mix sand and salivation:

John Campbell is a prolific political biographer – Lloyd George and Margaret Thatcher – and we await with interest his authorised biography of Roy Jenkins. In Pistols at Dawn Two Hundred years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown, he has covered some familiar ground but with fresh insights and a sure feel for the historical context.

Campbell churned out a biography of Roy Jenkins, as far back as 1983. The puff for Pistols at Dawn (currently languishing at number 295,067 in the Amazon sales rank) merely suggests that Campbell “is currently writing” the Jenkins piece. Jenkins has been dead these last six years, so the word “authorised” jars a trifle. Equally, there is the “retrospective” edited by Andrew Adonis and Keith Thomas, which Alan Watkins (Campbell’s stablemate at the Indy) rated as “excellent. Campbell’s efforts, then, may be unnecessary, except, in due course, to add another pile to the remainder counter.

Malcolm, working from a hard-copy print-out, found that nearly gets off the first page: there are at least two more. There is, alas, a limit to what flesh-and-blood can stand.

Simpson (think Alan Whicker gone podgy and without the charm) is currently MP for Mid Norfolk (and, it is to be hoped, given a hard time by the LibDims in the future Broadland constituency). He is straight-down-the-middle Tory lobby fodder, another of those types who bore for Britain. His wikipedia entry, with his penchant for second-hand bookshops and taking his son to the cinema, can only be self-composed. This list adds nothing to his “intellectual” reputation, or his literary pretensions.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Iain Dale, reading, Tories.