Onward to PX2

Invitations are going out this week for the launch party of Onward, the new Tory think tank promising to come up with ‘retail’ policies to win back under-45 voters. Onward was the brainchild of Tory MP and former Osborne SpAd and Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, with Nick Faith, the former PX comms chief who now runs WPI Strategy with Sean Worth. So is it just Policy Exchange Mark II?

Onward’s main aim seems to be to bring the Cameroon and May brands of Tory party politics together. Last summer O’Brien and Faith organised a dinner at the home of Tory donor David Meller (don’t mention the President’s Club), who hosted Nick Timothy and JoJo Penn from May’s inner circle, top Cameroon Nick Boles (a former PX director) and a number of younger ambitious MPs. Onward’s director will be former May adviser Will Tanner, its chair is Osborne confidant Danny Finkelstein (former PX chairman), and its board members include former Cameron advisers Kate Rock and Kate Fall, ex-Osborne aide Eleanor Wolfson, and Craig Elder, who co-ran Cameron’s digital campaigns in 2015 and the referendum. Their main financial backer is Martyn Rose, who ran Cameron’s National Citizens Service.

The plan is to create a party-oriented think tank for MPs rather than wonks, which combines Timothy’s statist agenda with the more liberal politics of the Cameroons, and has both Remainers and Brexiters on board. They have signed up MPs from the left and centre-right of the party, from Ruth Davidson and Tom Tugendhat to Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch. It will have some external authors but most of the reports will be written by MPs.

The danger for Onward is it goes down the road of expensive, interventionist, big-state policies which mean higher taxes, more spending and more borrowing – social democracy with a blue-wash. A May-Osborne fusion could mean more cumbersome policies like the energy price cap, HS2 and ever-creeping vice taxes. Guido also fears the instinctively more liberal, small-state, low tax MPs may fail to resist the temptation to drift leftwards as they seek wider support ahead of the next leadership contest. Number 10’s hopeless lack of a domestic agenda means the Tories are crying out for post-Brexit polices, or, perish the thought, policies that could actually be implemented while Brexit is taking place. They won’t beat Corbyn with lite versions of his policies…

Jolyon Maugham v Danny Finkelstein

Twitter’s most irritating lawyer Jolyon Maugham outdid himself on pomposity this morning during a spat with the Times‘ genial Danny Finkelstein. Jolyon began by sending Fink a link to his blog claiming the UK can still revoke Article 50 and Remain in the EU. When Danny pointed out the weakness of his argument, Jolyon responded with a level of arrogant sneering impressive even by his standards of hubris.

Non or very junior lawyers think as you do. That the law is an intellectual creature existing only in the abstract… you are not a lawyer.” 

Eeesh.

The even-tempered Fink calmly won the day, tweeting:

“He argues in an intolerable way and I can’t stick it for long. I end up thinking life is too short to be talked to like that. So  I go away but always come back later because he has arguments you need to grasp and consider. Only then he does it again and off I go. It’s quite dispiriting because it is so unnecessary.”

Even by the stuffed-shirt standards of the English Bar Jolyon is an über-arse. Danny speaks for everyone – including judges and fellow barristers – who has had the misfortune of engaging with Jolyon on Twitter or in court…

Quote of the Day

Danny Finkelstein calls for an inquiry into the Miners’ Strike:

“…let’s have an inquiry into the way thousands of people were trying to stop lorry drivers going about their business in a free country. And about the barrage of bottles, stones and broken fencing thrown at the drivers.
Let’s inquire into the intimidation of working miners in their homes and as they made their way to their jobs, choosing to work rather than obey a strike called without a ballot.

Let’s inquire into the death of David Wilkie and try to find out what was in all those maps and papers Kim Howells felt he urgently needed to dispose of. Let’s find out what the hundreds of miners in Merthyr Vale were thinking when they decided that the appropriate reaction to the guilty verdict on the men who orphaned Wilkie’s young children was to walk out in support of the killers rather than the dead man.
Let’s have an inquiry into the way that Arthur Scargill brought the dispute about and the role of his union and its supporters in the encouragement of what became major incidents of public disorder. Let’s look at the role of left-wing fringe organisations and outsiders in mobilising menacing groups designed to frighten others into complying with their political demands.

And maybe we could call someone from the KGB and the former Soviet government before the inquiry. We could try to find out about more about how they funnelled money to the NUM.”

Tory Obamacons Should Look and Learn

The Cameroons who lean towards Obama are the same Tories who shy away from advocating reducing the tax burden. Look however what their hero says on the issue:

Danny Finkelstein says repeatedly that voters don’t believe politicians who promise tax cuts – so why make the promise? One thing for sure is that the next President of the USA will have run on a tax cutting platform and both candidates think that is what the voters want. Danny will no doubt argue that America is different, perhaps, or maybe he is re-fighting the 2005 UK campaign. Voters are now feeling the pinch, they would rather they took home more in their pay-packets. The Tories should join the LibDems in giving a straight-forward promise to substantially raise tax thresholds to help 95% of hard-working families. If it is good enough for Obama…

UPDATE : Danny defends himself this morning. He nuances it a little, he is in favour of tax cuts, but not the promising of them and questions whether they would be responsible. Is it it really responsible to depress the economy with this high level of taxation?



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Quote of the Day

Dominic Cummings tells Damian Collins:

“You talk of ‘contempt of Parliament’. You seem unaware that most of the country feels contempt for Parliament and this contempt is growing.”

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