Leading Remainer Ruth Davidson has firmly rejected the possibility of a second EU referendum, saying she would be an “enormous hypocrite” for supporting one:
“When it comes to the possibility of re-running referendums, I would be an enormous hypocrite if I said ‘just because there was one that I had lost as a Remainer we should immediately re-run it’ when I’ve spent four years in Scotland saying that Nicola Sturgeon shouldn’t get another one on independence because that’s one that I won…”
Tory Remainers agitating for a second referendum could take a lesson from Ruth on what political principles look like…
After a month of think tank launches and relaunches, op-eds and policy papers discussing the new radical policies the Tories need to win the next election, Ruth Davidson and Philip Hammond have come up with the uninspiring, unoriginal idea of high taxes, new regulations, more intervention, more borrowing and more public spending.
Ruth today says the Tories have cut taxes far enough and demands more money for the NHS, presumably funded by tax rises or extra borrowing. Her call comes the day after Tax Freedom Day, the point in the year at which the average person starts to actually keep what they earn rather than pay it to the state in taxes. That day now comes later than at any time since 1995 – even worse than under New Labour. Government spending is at £30,000 per household. There is room to solve the housing crisis and make sure the NHS is properly funded while bringing down overall spending and lowering taxes.
Hammond, meanwhile, is planning a speech arguing that Thatcherite free market capitalism is no longer fit for purpose and that greater state intervention is needed to win over young voters attracted to Corbyn. This is such a lazy analysis of the the 2017 result. The ‘youthquake’ theory has been largely debunked, polls are showing a clear trend towards young voters now preferring the Tories to Corbyn, and under 25s are more likely to think the government taxes and spends too much already. As are 25-39 year-olds and 25-49 year-olds.
Ruth and Hammond’s blunt big state approach is not new, it’s not original, it’s not radical, it is the same, tired, old ideas of more taxes, more spending and more regulation. Not only does it concede ground to Labour and play Corbyn’s game – and he can always promise more spending and regulation than the Tories – it doesn’t even correctly identify the direction in which young voters want to see the country to go. Will Tory members and voters really go for it?
Some choice quotes from the keynote speakers at the launch of the Osbornite / Mayite / centrist think tank Onward last night. Ruth Davidson left the sweaty Churchill Room in parliament in no doubt as to who she was talking about here:
“Sometimes as Tories we just look a bit dour. We look a bit joyless, to be fair. A bit authoritarian, sometimes. We don’t get to win if we start hectoring the people that we need to vote for us… We’ve got to learn to be a bit more joyful… It’s not just what you say but it’s what you can show people… when you do it with a smile, they actually get behind you.”
Bet that went down well in Number 10.
Her attack on Labour was punchy too:
“If you look at Jeremy Corbyn, actually I feel sad. I feel sad at how far a once important, integral, sensible, solid party has fallen. And I then look at John McDonnell, and the shock troops, and the troll factories, and the conspiracy theories and their envy and their fake news and their Skwawkbox and their Canary and the rest of it, and I think that this Labour Party has about the same amount of moral authority as Sepp Blatter putting a fiver on Russia getting the World Cup. I genuinely think to myself, when I look at the Nationalists or the Corbynistas, what I see is a movement that works in its own way to break up our country. That’s what they want. They want to tear it apart.”
A woke Michael Gove said of Ruth: “In the future when think tanks ask, ‘Can we get the pregnant lesbian to speak?’, they will ask: ‘Which pregnant lesbian?’”. Less woke Gove made two comparisons between himself and Ruth, first as Ike and Tina Turner, the second between Sonny and Cher. Perhaps might have thought that through.
His musical call for the Tories to pursue a Fleetwood Mac / Pharrell Williams strategy was more successful: ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy’ would certainly be a change of tone. Gove echoed Ruth in calling for optimism, though his call could have easily applied to Remainers as well:
“Sometimes in the past the Tories have been pessimistic and unhappy, uncomfortable that we seem to be living in the 21st century, when the 1950s would be far more attractive, and what a pity that the 19th century isn’t an option. Indeed when I heard today that Club 18-30 was at last closing, I thought that must be a group of Conservative modernisers looking forward to that year as some glorious future to which they can aspire.”
The evening was also notable for Neil O’Brien’s Macron style speech, which several in the audience saw as the beginnings of a leadership bid. The theme of the night certainly that the Tories should be more bold, interesting, positive and happy than what is currently on offer…
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…
“That’s kind of the difference between our two parties. You know, Labour’s still fumbling with its flies while the Tories are enjoying a post-coital cigarette after withdrawing our massive Johnson. Sorry that’s not even my speech, that’s just a text from Stephen Crabb.”
David Davis leads Boris Johnson by 24% to 18% in ConHome’s new Tory leadership survey of 1,191 readers, though the clear winner is the ‘none of the above’ option on 30%. DD’s grown-up handling of Brexit is serving him well with the Tory grassroots, as was always his plan. Boris’ recent outbreak of Torbynism won’t help him with members. Not real appetite for Hammond or Rudd at all. In terms of the “others” suggested by readers, Raab was most popular on 2%, Gove behind him. No Ruth Davidson surge…
We’re used to seeing her on manoeuvres atop a tank, now Ruth has been made an Honorary Colonel of 32 Signal Regiment. If she could just get her head around Brexit she’d be in with a decent shout you know…
At an SNP event attended by Alex Salmond a comedy rap was described by the MP for Edinburgh South West Joanna Cherry* as hilarious. Guido thinks the rap was dire and toe-curling even before they dissed Davidson. Scottish Tories say:
“The nationalists are always the first to scream offence at anything that even mildly upsets them. But when it’s a joke at the expense of pro-UK campaigners, it’s suddenly harmless and hilarious. The SNP should be lambasting this, but instead its elected representatives are praising it on social media.”
Scottish politics as calm as ever…
*Joanna Cherry is the SNP Spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs, she describes herself as a feminist and a lesbian who’s been out for over 30 years.
After the room broke up into laughter she said “Sorry that’s not even my speech, that’s just a text from Stephen Crabb….”. She did eventually take a pop at the opposition, calling Corbyn “comical Ali”:
Ruth Davidson calls Jeremy Corbyn “a national joke” + “we’ve got someone caught between a cross of Norma Desmond and comical Ali”
Some optimistic Tories hope Ruth Davidson might at some point make her way to down to Westminster via a by-election, leaving her open to run for the leadership. The Lobby consensus following her smashing conference speech last year was that it marked the beginning of a bid for the top job. Yet Ruth tells the Daily Politics it’s not going to happen:
“I will rule myself out, absolutely, I’ve got no interest in the job.”
Ruth doesn’t want to come down to fight an English seat, but if she could become an MP in Scotland…
Nicola Sturgeon was caught in a Kezia Dugdale / Ruth Davidson pincer movement during a bruising First Minister’s Questions today. Guido’s highlights of the fiery exchanges over her scandal-hit former Business spokesman Michelle Thomson are well worth a watch:
Killer final line from Sturgeon throwing Thomson under a bus…
Jim Murphy was under the cosh during last night’s Scottish Leaders’ Debate, repeatedly mansplaining to Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon and coming fourth with the Sun’s Twitter worm. This is the moment the Scottish Tory leader pummelled her Labour counterpart on the economy:
RD: “There’s a massive difference between you and me. You crashed the economy and I’m trying to rebuild the economy. That’s the difference between you and me, Jim. You’ve run from your role in the referendum and I’m proud of my role in the referendum. That’s another difference between you and me, Jim.”
JM: “…The growth big growth in the last few years hasn’t been in industries, it’s been in foodbanks.”
RD: “The big growth in the last few years has been in jobs, you had higher unemployment…”
JM: “…There are people out there tonight sitting over their phones who have got zero hours contracts…”
RD: “And 68 of your MP colleagues employ people on zero hours contracts. Have you ever worked on a zero hour contract? Have you ever worked on one? I have.”
There was no snap poll, but Ruth was the resounding winner among the pundits…
Did Samantha Cameron actually touch that bacon roll this morning? We can’t find any pictures of her consuming a mouthful of bacon roll, though we’re told “she did pick at it”. After the Miliband bacon roll debacle it looks like Sam thought it was a photogenic risk too far…
In other news usually reliable source say she was wearing Sam Cam is wearing a dress from Hobbs and High Street high heels from Zara.[…] Read the rest