Posts Tagged ‘Mark Stockwell’

Forget the chatter, George Osborne’s power in the Conservative party is as strong as ever

16/11/2012, 07:00:01 AM

by Mark Stockwell

There has been a tendency lately in some circles – no doubt including many Labour Uncut readers – to scoff somewhat at George Osborne. Since the chancellor’s questionable (politically if not economically) decision to cut the top rate of income tax, there has been a sense that his influence is on the wane. In particular, there has been a lot of chatter to the effect that he can’t combine his position as chancellor of the exchequer with his role as the Conservative party’s principal electoral strategist.

This week’s op ed in The Times – “”Obama proves you can win in tough times’(£) – shows that both his opponents and his enemies underestimate Osborne at their peril: he remains the key strategic force behind Conservative modernisation. In conjunction with David Cameron’s well-received party conference speech – admittedly a rather short-lived success – the Times piece gives a clear indication that while the occupants of Nos. 10 and 11 Downing Street remain in situ, that agenda is still very much alive.

It was gratifying, of course, that the central thrust of the chancellor’s argument was to endorse that of my own piece on the US elections a couple of weeks back – namely that the Tories would be heartened by an Obama victory. As Osborne puts it, “People agree with the message ‘we’re on the right track, don’t turn back’ because it is correct.”

I hesitate to say ‘you heard it here first’ but…

While that central message confirmed the Conservatives’ strategy for the next election, there were two other particularly notable points about Osborne’s piece. These suggest that the chancellor is intent on continuing to lift his eyes from the red book and the latest economic projections, and take a rather longer-term view of the political landscape.


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Last week’s commons defeat will force the government to address its EU strategy void

06/11/2012, 07:00:19 AM

by Mark Stockwell

The Labour leadership has no doubt spent much of the past week slapping each other heartily on the back. Bliss is it to defeat the government on the floor of the house; to do so by outflanking them on the EU budget is very heaven.

They should enjoy this tactical victory while they can. They were aided by a lackadaisical Conservative whipping operation, and abetted by a worryingly large group of chronic malcontents on the Tory backbenches. Labour will have to work harder in the long term to persuade voters that Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander’s new-found Eurosceptic fervour would not evaporate the moment the ministerial Eurostar pulled out of St Pancras international.

Clearly, though, it is the government which faces the more pressing strategic issues.

David Cameron’s political instinct (not necessarily the same as his personal inclination) is to try as far as possible to avoid talking about Europe for fear of the “toxic” effect on the Conservative brand. This is understandable. Cameron and George Osborne cut their political teeth in the Maastricht era and that thoroughly miserable experience can’t have failed to be formative.

(I suspect this also partly explains why Labour’s own coterie of former special advisers had so little hesitation in siding with the Tory rebels. There is something of Pavlov’s dog in the way in which both sides have behaved.)

One of the benefits of coalition from Cameron’s point of view was, as Andrew Lilico has suggested at ConservativeHome, that this evasion could be sustained by a block of Lib Dem votes, acting as a counter-weight to backbench rebellions from the Tory right. Wednesday’s vote has shown that this cannot be relied on.


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Why the Tories are rooting for Obama

29/10/2012, 10:28:36 AM

by Mark Stockwell

Each year, as autumn descends, nature-lovers’ thoughts turn to the russet and auburn vistas of New England. Every four years, an altogether different breed joins them in gazing longingly across the Atlantic as the leaves crispen and fall at home. But the only colours they care about are primary colours – red and blue.

With the end of the party conferences and the return to a dank, dreary Westminster, Britain’s political classes huddle round to bask in the reflected glow of a US presidential election.

The states of New England, for the most part solid blue Democrat territory, are but a passing concern. These peculiar beasts garner what warmth they can from the battleground states of the mid-West and the sunshine state of Florida.

With the axis of US politics tilted so far to the right, there are quite a few UK Conservatives who back the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. It is, on the other hand, vanishingly unlikely you will come across anyone on the British left cheering for a Republican.

There are all sorts of good policy reasons why both left and right in the UK should welcome the Obama victory which seems the likely outcome of next Tuesday’s poll. But if Labour is looking to Obama to win vicarious battles on deficit reduction, the size of government, or the role of the state in the provision of public services, they are missing an important point.

As a guide to its own electoral prospects, Labour should be cautious about celebrating Obama’s re-election.


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