A ten minute tribute to coincide with the launch of a Margaret Thatcher shop tomorrow. The Tories are quick to credit Craig Oliver with the idea…
On Tuesday night following a vote by his local party executive committee, Crispin Blunt, the Tory MP for the safe seat of Reigate since 1997 was asked to re-apply for selection by a vote of the Conservative Association’s membership. Re-selection for a sitting Tory MP is usually an automatic formality. When a Tory Association chairman tells you to re-apply, he is basically offering the MP a tumbler of whiskey and a loaded revolver…
In 2010 when he announced that he was leaving his wife as he was “coming to terms with his homosexuality” members of the association reportedly sympathised with Blunt’s wife, Victoria, who understandably was devastated by him coming out. The situation is being presented by CCHQ, who are in heightened pre-conference damage control mode, as local homophobic bigots are trying to unseat a liberal, gay MP making a difficult personal adjustment. That is not the complete picture. Blunt had a reputation as a particularly high-handed and arrogant MP even when he was in the closet.
The procedure now is that the issue of his candidacy goes to the membership for a simple yes/no majority vote. CCHQ are spinning that he “has the overwhelming support of the ordinary membership”. We shall find out soon enough…
As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun column, the Tories will move CCHQ in January from Millbank to Matthew Parker Street behind the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster. After the students smashed up Millbank in 2011, their insurance bill soared. All three major parties will have moved since 2010 by the next election. Their new building doesn’t have a name yet, but Guido imagines the focus groups will stop them having the balls to christen it Margaret Thatcher House. Global Race for Hard-working People House just isn’t very catchy…
The Tories have finally realised that they need to bang on about Europe now UKIP have pushed it up the political agenda. The launch of the all-party Business for Britain campaign was the starting gun for the referendum campaign Cameron is promising for 2017.
Though the LibDems will hate it, the ‘Let Britain Decide’ website will target MPs who are refusing to trust the public with a referendum. Finally we are seeing the Tories utilising their European policy as a strength, it could all have been so different for Ed Miliband…
UPDATE: Few teething problems, possibly CCHQ were a bit unwise to brief out the site before it was ready:
Last night the story broke that a senior Tory close to Cameron said of the EU Referendum and gay marriage backbench rebellions “It’s fine. There’s really no problem. The MPs just have to do it because the associations tell them to, and the associations are all mad, swivel-eyed loons.” It was reported by The Times and The Telegraph on their front pages in similar terms and also by the Mirror and Mail.
Sam Coates, James Kirkup, James Lyons and Tim Shipman are experienced journalists and will have known the likely repercussions of reporting an off the record / Lobby terms comment even without attribution. They set speculation running by describing the source of the comments as having “strong social connections” to the PM and as a “senior party” figure. For the record Guido has not spoken to any of the journalists concerned.
This morning Guido emailed Lord Feldman
Have emailed Lord Feldman, imagine he'll want to condemn this insult to his hard working party members ASAP.—
Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) May 18, 2013
Feldman has publicly denied being the source of the quote
“There is speculation on the internet and on Twitter that the senior Conservative Party figure claimed to have made derogatory comments by the Times and the Telegraph is me.
“This is completely untrue. I would like to make it quite clear that I did not nor have ever described our associations in this way or in any similar manner. Nor do these alleged comments represent my view of our activists. On the contrary in the last eight years of working for the party, I have found them to be hard working, committed and reasonable people. They are without question the backbone of the party. I am very disappointed by the behaviour of the journalists involved, who have allowed rumour and innuendo to take hold by not putting these allegations to me before publication. I am taking legal advice.”
Not sure why Lord Feldman thinks the journalists concerned should have put the allegations to him when they didn’t name him and in any event he says he didn’t say the words concerned.
The journalists concerned are abiding by the conventions of the Lobby and not confirming the source whilst standing by the story. Downing Street “supports Lord Feldman’s position” and denies that anyone in Downing Street was the source of the quote. Which of course is an allegation no one has made.
Guido has not received any legal notices…
From: Guy Fawkes <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Sat, May 18, 2013 at 10:54 AM Subject: Swivel Eyed Loons To: email@example.com Dear Andrew, Could you be so kind as to give me an on the record quote condemning those who describe your party members as "swivel eyed loons"? Thanks in advance. Editor Guido Fawkes' Blog Guido.Fawkes@Order-Order.com
Still no response…
Star guest at this morning’s 10:00 meeting for Tory special advisers at CCHQ was Lynton Crosby. It opened with a warning from party chairman Grant Shapps that they would be “fired by the Prime Minister” if any SpAd was caught leaking the details of the meeting. At which point poor old Craig Oliver – who has been at the sharp end of plenty of leaks and briefings recently – turned around and gave each of them an individual “death stare”. That worked well…
A tetchy piece on ConservativeHome this morning by their new Contributing Editor called for Grant Shapps to be replaced as Tory Chairman. Putting the boot in, former Telegraph hack Andrew Gimson, concluded: “To leave Shapps there for the next two years would be to insult a party which already feels it has been insulted enough.”Tory sources are kicking back this afternoon, suggesting that the piece makes ConHome’s new hire “look pretty out of it”:
“Shapps should have a word. He’s pretty much the only minister taking the heat for the government at the moment. That piece makes Gimson look pretty out of it.”
The cynics amongst you might think it’s an interesting time for CCHQ stalwart Nick Park to jump to the private sector.
The Tory head of research and attack crafter is off to energy giants Centrica.
The loss of the best part of decade’s experience is a blow for the Tories.
Meanwhile Labour are beefing up their attack team for the coming digital battle. Obama’s rapid rebuttal unit “backroom Brit” Matt McGregor:
“McGregor was responsible for the digital rapid response unit that attacked Mitt Romney relentlessly, ensuring that any statement by the Republican was picked over and rebutted, often within minutes or hours.”
Could get bloody…
Both Labour and the Tories have previously denied coordinating their MPs and activists use of Twitter and other forms of social media. Guido has long suspected they were bluffing; not least because Peter Hain doesn’t even bother to change the ‘Line to Take’ tweets before putting them out, and many Tories have been caught out sending mysteriously similar and very on message tweets before. Now Guido has seen an email sent via the Government Whips to Tory MPs from the Digital Team at CCHQ that lets the cat out of the bag.
The email, sent less than an hour ago, coughs:
“At CCHQ we run an internal email list to notify people when tweets have gone out from @david_cameron or if anything high priority has gone out from @conservatives, so that they are aware of our comms and can retweet to share with their followers if they wish. Please let us know if you would like to be added to this list and what email address you would like these notifications to be sent to.”
Further to that, CCHQ are still trying to get the basics across to their less technologically able MPs with Twitter training from the company itself. It also looks like their more unruly and outspoken members are being brought in for a sinister sounding session on “compliance”:
“Twitter will be running two training sessions for MPs in the next couple of months (dates tbc) at the House of Commons as part of the series we are holding commencing with one on Compliance next Monday. There will be two different sessions, designed for different levels of experience – ‘beginner setup’ and ‘improving existing accounts’. More details will follow, however please do let us know if you’d like to register an interest in one of these sessions.”
They are coming for you Mike Fabricant!
UPDATE: Phew! Fabricant says far from being silenced he is in fact organising the sessions:
This is very funny especially the tag line at end! 'Cos I am organising both sessions!! (Compliance is legal stuff). order-order.com/2013/03/07/tor…—
Michael Fabricant (@Mike_Fabricant) March 07, 2013
He didn’t deny the coordination of MPs tweets though…
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New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:
“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”
Christie Malry @fcablog
Ed Miliband does photo oops, not photo ops