Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gordon Lives – CCHQ Celebrates Prematurely

Guido has been telling anyone who would listen over lunch that the media are ready for a change in the Westminster narrative. Guido would point to the Tatler photo-shoot and the Andy Coulson midwifed Cameron on Cameron hagiography by Dylan Jones as the spin tops. The pendulum of the Lobby is ready, eager even, to turn against the too smooth, too cool Cameroons.

CCHQ will be pleased that Gordon has shored up his position, other fresher faces would knock 10 points off their poll lead, Brown is at least that much of a drag on the polls for Labour. The Conservatives are heading to Brum confident that they are on their way to government. The media, in particular the BBC, will be more than willing to throw a spanner in the works. As Dave said, “the deal is far from sealed”. The narrative is ready to shift. One thing Guido noticed about Gordon’s speech was that it borrowed more from McCain-Palin than from Obama. Experience versus change is the only viable line of attack for Gordon, they will use it. Will the media buy in to it?

UPDATE : Dave has just delivered a speech at the Carlton Political Dinner. According to a seasoned co-conspirator it was a good one and went down well with a friendly business crowd.

He started off by mocking Brown – said he was surprised that Sam Cameron hadn’t introduced him, then said she was “my wife, not a prop”. Dave joked about how the shadow cabinet were great because “they come up with loads of ideas and I take all the credit”. He also pushed the ‘no complacency’ ‘mountain to climb’ line quite hard. Last year’s Carlton speech was effectively a rehearsal for Dave’s conference speech. According to Guido’s source, the business crowd were in love with him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tories Give Bloggers Parity with Big Media

The Tory press office is, quite rightly, treating bloggers at their conference the same as the rest of the media (including charging us £150 for an internet connection and £95 for a power socket). Guido however will be unplugged and wirelessly blogging from his shiny new iPhone-killing, Blackberry-beating, all-singing, all-dancing, sat-naving, “beam me up Scotty” Sony Ericsson Xperia X1* phone, saving himself a couple of hundred quid.

Nice of CCHQ to offer bloggers a dedicated base to work from… the bar works best for Guido…

*Muchos gracias to Sony-Ericsson for the pre-launch model.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pravda 2.0

Dale is excited that the Tories are going to launch – wait for it – a blog. Anyone will be able to leave comments, and according to Dale there will be “no Stalinist approach to moderation”.

Platform 10 was the last dire CCHQ encouraged Cameroon attempt to take on the more grassroots and independent ConservativeHome. Platform 10 is a flop, whereas ConservativeHome is an influential success. Now they are going to try again and launch a Conservative Party blog. It will probably flop as well. People don’t want to read anodyne, antiseptic, party-line stuff, turgid and insulting to the intelligence.
The Tories don’t need a party blog, in fact arguably the party has been strengthened by the open and honest critical discussion on the ConservativeHome pages over the last few years.
An official and lightly moderated blog just won’t happen – it is guaranteed to not happen because it is impossible. The comments will be over-run by agent provocateurs, nutters and political opponents. The contents scanned by hostile journalists for anything that can be used against the party. The LibDems use private discussion forums behind password-protected walls for members. (Passwords are not that hard to obtain, nothing interesting to report.)
Speaking to Tim Montgomerie in the U.S. last night, he pointed out that if the Tories are, as some suggest, trying to undercut the influence of ConservativeHome, it won’t work. Blogs are not the same as newspapers – a new blog does not take away traffic from a rival, it just grows the blogosphere.
Guido has oft said that group blogs are difficult to make work. Readers like to know what they are getting, multiple contributors of different hues and quality just take too much time to sift. A blog needs a strong personality – witness the dozens of good contributors to the Telegraph’s political blogs – with a combined traffic less than Guido.
They are asking you to email suggestions for a name for the blog. Well there was a famous party information source last seen around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Click here to ask CCHQ to call the new blog “Pravda”.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CCHQ Admits Cawte Declaration Errors Blames "Administrative Oversight"

When you are Chief-of-Staff to the Conservative Party chairman and she is under investigation for expense fiddling to pay for her nanny constituency secretary there is bound to be some scrutiny of your status. Simon Cawte has not yet satisfactorily explained how when she was in charge of the Tory local election campaigns he, as her Chief-of-Staff, was performing a non-partisan role paid out of her Parliamentary Staffing Allowance by the taxpayers.

Off the record and in the comments here CCHQ insiders say “everyone does it”. That is not a defence, that is an admission of guilt.

The Centre for Open Politics has been digging into Spelman’s expenses and discovered that, according to the register, Cawte was not being paid by CCHQ even though he was working at Millbank in the Party Chairman’s office (shaded in blue on the timeline graphic above). After two days of stonewalling by Cawte, CCHQ gave Guido an official response to his questions:

“Simon Cawte has previously declared to the House of Commons Registrar that he is paid for by Conservative Party funds. Whilst this declaration was made in January 2008 it has come to our attention that the declaration should have been made by August 2007. This was an administrative oversight and the registrar has been informed accordingly.”

CCHQ insist, despite the evidence of the register, that Cawte was actually paid by them since July 2007 for doing clearly partisan work. He was also paid by them in 2005 for doing partisan work. In 2006 he wasn’t paid by them, even though he was doing the same job, because it suddenly became a non-partisan job. Guido suspects that it is more likely that CCHQ was only willing to pay for one CCHQ staffer when Spelman was Local Government Shadow – Sheridan Westlake was seconded to her staff as the Local Government portfolio expert. Given that Spelman is about as popular as rabies with activists and donors she was, unlike other members of the Shadow Cabinet, unable to get private funding for her Chief-of-Staff so, in breach of the rules, she slipped him back onto the Parliamentary Staffing Allowance temporarily. She does after all have previous for expediently getting the taxpayer to pay for her private staff…

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trouble and Strife, Holiday Plans

Mrs Fawkes has put up with Guido for five years today, so you will have to cope without me for a couple of days during a romantic intermission. She not unreasonably feels that a little disconnection from the internet would be a good idea.

Guido will be back later next week for a few days, than he is off to the West of Ireland for a week. Not sure what to do that week – shall we have a blog holiday or shall we try having guest bloggers? Should the inmates be allowed to take over the asylum? Can you entertain yourselves? Do you feel you can entertain 10,000 to 20,000+ political junkies every day for a week?

Guido will be back full of vim for September and is planning on making it to the Conservative Party conference at the end of the month, where he is due to be speaking on the fringe, subverting the conference media centre* and drinking the bar dry. No reasonable invitation refused.

*The Tory press office ASBO’d Guido for that hacking of the press list lark. Guido had to promise to behave (in writing) before they would only now allow him back on the Lobby list (no haven’t actually joined the Lobby, am better than that). So fear and loathing in Birmingham it is…

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tory Expense List Released

Thursday, July 3, 2008

That Helicopter Doesn’t Look Very Green

Guido isn’t very good at ‘green’ issues. Dave on the other hand is a bit of an expert. So is it greener to take a helicopter to Haltemprice and Howden rather than a train? PMQs ended yesterday at 12.30, leaving plenty of time to catch a direct train leaving Kings Cross at 13.33. Yet Dave and a couple of CCHQ lackies instead took a chopper to East Yorks to see Basher Davis yesterday. So Battersea to Howden, then Howden to Selby (12 miles). Guido’s spy in the sky lost track of him at this point.

The chopper in question was G-ELTE (pictured). Dave apparently went to stay with his father-in-law for the night. Plenty of room to land a chopper on the estate…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Coulson Does Gordon Over Guido-Style

CCHQ have released a very entertaining annual report to coincide with Gordon’s first anniversary as PM next week. Some of it will be very familiar to fans of the “Twat Watch” and the “Jonah Brown” memes from this blog as well as Fraser Nelson’s “Brownies”* meme from the Spectator. It is sort of a “worst of Gordon” annual compilation. 

This is undoubtedly the work of Andy Coulson, when he moved in to CCHQ in May 2007 Guido welcomed it, predicting he would “bowl bodyline. Coulson is a player, not a gentlemen, he could be their Larwood, they have far too many Jardines already.”

Guido suspects this will signal a much needed change in the tone of Tory propaganda. Trying, as Osborne recently did, to frame Gordon Brown as a leftie won’t work. The approach to Gordon has to chime in with the truth that people instinctively sense. He is an unpleasant, difficult to work with, psychologically flawed, malevolent, grudge-bearing control freak. These aspects of his character are even more of a negative than his tax and spend, big government, micro-managing policies. Going with this grain of truth will resonate popularly. 

In January this year Guido advocated (Finishing the Project : Making 2008 Dangerous for Brown) this full-frontal personal assault on Brown because

policy detail was irrelevant, what mattered was character, because Gordon Brown is a deeply flawed personality. Those flaws inform his tactics and political outlook. To defeat Gordon Brown his opponents should focus on him personally, something that Steve Hilton and CCHQ (prior to the arrival of Andy Coulson) were reluctant to do. Now, with the election put off for two years, 2008 should be about irreversibly breaking Brown’s reputation once and for all. 

The Letwin / Gove / Willets policy based approach of 2006-07 was all very well for winning over columnists on the broadsheets, but the Coulson effect reaches the voters. Destroying the reputation of Gordon was easy once they tried – because he had a false reputation. Now the public knows him and his flaws they hate him, as the polls now show.

UPDATE : Labour are whinging that it is character assassination“.

*Brownies as in “he is telling a Brownie” are a form of words which is a statistical or legalistic misrepresentation of the truth involving selectivity or occasionally outright mendacity. It was Fraser Nelson who coined the phrase “Brownie”. It was Andy Coulson who hired Fraser to write a column for the News of the Screws.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

+++ Spelman’s Nanny Story Unravelling +++

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CCHQ Conspiracy or Cock-Up?

A few weeks ago Guido noticed that he was not receiving any press releases from CCHQ. Guido emailed asking if he was persona non grata. No reply. Oh well. Carry on as normal, it won’t matter much if Guido doesn’t know Peter Ainsworth’s latest green thoughts or Andrew Mitchell’s travel arrangements. That was until Guido missed an official comment from Dave on the MEPs, so Guido called the Tory press office, was assured that there had been some changes to the distribution list and keeping Guido in the dark was an error that would be rectified. Another phone call emphasised that it was now fixed.

No press releases followed. Weeks go by. Is it a conspiracy of silence, has Caroline Spelman exacted revenge? Is it a competence issue? This kind of thing never happens to Iain Dale…

UPDATE : Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome says he has been cut out as well. We’re not talking about the guff sent to supporters, we’re talking about the media releases. If it is deliberate, it is pretty short-sighted.


Seen Elsewhere

Milburn Levelling Down | Kathy Gyngell
Crosby and Carswell Make Friends at Guido’s Dinner | Mail
Mrs Danczuk Beats Mensch to Win Guido | Telegaph
PM Congratulates Blogger Who Destroyed Minister | Mail
UKIP’s Promise to Defectors | Alex Wickham
Juncker: No Compromise on EU Immigration | Telegraph
Labour’s Numbers Don’t Add Up | Left Foot Forward
LibDems’ Loss is UKIP’s Gain | Telegraph
Fiona Woolf, Leon Brittan and the Establishment Cover Up | Mail
£8 Billion NHS Black Hole | Times
5 Things We Learned From Guido’s Party | GQ


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