Monday, April 23, 2012

Peter Oborne on Conservative Home - the continuity IDS

Something else I was too busy to blog about last week was the attack on Conservative Home that Peter Oborne wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
The growth of the internet has encouraged the development of a monocultural community of young men (very few women) who are devoted users of Twitter, serial attenders of think-tank breakfasts and keen analysers of each and every political event. 
Conservative Home insists that it speaks for mainstream Conservatives, a claim that I used to be sympathetic to, but which is surely now only believed by BBC television and radio producers, and which needs to be exploded. 
The lives of most Tory supporters are too interesting, enjoyable and civically engaged for them to read it. The website, as its recent interventions demonstrate, represents a narrow, Right-wing faction. 
It is given to issuing “alternative manifestos”. It has just concluded a disloyal survey of 1,500 Tory party members in an attempt to find out which Conservative politician is favoured to succeed Mr Cameron. It wages a poorly judged campaign against the Tory chairman, Sayeeda Warsi. It was a supporter of the Downing Street director of communications, Andy Coulson, who has since been arrested.
I think there is a lot in this - and not just because I once exposed the campaign against Warsi myself. Certainly, when Oborne appeared on Newsnight with Conservative Home's editor Tim Montgomerie, Montgomerie did not defend his views so much as point out that Oborne had said similar things himself on many occasions.

The need to write frequently and to be controversial often leads columnists to contradict themselves - it is known in the professional literature as Simon Jenkins Syndrome. But that does not show that Oborne is wrong here.

Montgomerie, as Oborne points out, was Iain Duncan Smith's chief of staff while he was leader of the Conservative Party. And what Conservative Home is essentially trying to do is to persuade the Tories to return to the policies it put forward during the Hague and Duncan Smith years. It is for this reason that the website is known to some as the 'Continuity IDS'.

Yet these policies were surely one of the reasons that Tony Blair led such a charmed for so long as prime minister. For a while it looked as though the rule that governments become unpopular in the middle of their terms had been overturned.

At the heart of Conservative Home's self-confidence is the strange truth that the more extreme a person's views, the more certain he or she will be that the majority of voters share them. You could even call this Calder's Fourth Law of Politics - the first three are here.

Oborne is right, and I suspect that David Cameron shares his analysis. Which is why he takes little notice of Conservative Home's views.

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