Wednesday 10 February 2010

'It's official: DC has changed the party!!!!!!!!'

So tweets Tory prospective parliamentary candidate Joanne Cash, who resigned on a Monday and un-resigned on Tuesday from the Westminster North candidacy, explaining that:

“I did resign. Assoc did not accept. CCHQ has resolved specific issue so I am not leaving. It’s official DC has changed the party!!!!!!!!”

Paul Waugh has a very full account of "the farcical scenes at the plush Commander gastropub" in a little local difficulty in which party chairman Eric Pickles, the hereditary deputy leader of the Tory peers Lord Strathclyde, David Cameron himself, Michael Gove and several other party luminaries were heavily involved.

The upshot appears to be that Cash's one-day resignation has succeeded in removing her enemy in the local party - who was constituency chair and, ever so fleetingly, elected constituency president by the members.

Which raises the question: does the episode show how "DC has changed the party!!!!!!!!"?.

Perhaps Cash is intending to say that Cameron stands up for his A-listers. She is a smart libel lawyer of liberal views. As more or less the only candidate to speak out publicly for Cameron on all women shortlists, may have a good claim to the mantle of the leading Cameron loyalist on the candidate list.

Yet many observers will think the scale of the leadership intervention not unconnected to the web of connections linking Cash to Tory high command: her husband is a close friend of the leader since they were at Eton together; Michael Gove gave the main speech at their wedding. Here, the Cameron "change" agenda might be thought to be restoring the leadership traditions of Tory patronage which stretch back to Lord "Bob's your uncle" Salisbury's penchant for including his relatives in government, while Cameron appears much more willing to challenge and overturn the strong traditions of Tory local association autonomy than any recent predecessor has been.

Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail reports:

Mrs Sayers, to the dismay of Miss Cash and her supporters, was seeking an unprecedented fourth term as chairman of the association. So Miss Cash - who it is believed decided she could not work with Mrs Sayers - mobilised the big guns and privately enlisted the support of Eric Pickles, the Conservative Party Chairman, to help ensure she was toppled.

Matthew Carrington, a former Tory MP and party apparatchik, duly announced in the meeting that it had been agreed by 'Mr Cameron, Mr Pickles, and Mr Coulson [the Tory spindoctor]' that Mrs Sayers had to go.

Party members reacted in fury to this interference from on high. Then, in an astonishing move, Mr Pickles arrived at the meeting and, admitting it was 'unprecedented' for the national chairman to be involved in such a seemingly minor dispute, reiterated the wish of the leadership for Mrs Sayers to be ousted.

With the meeting in uproar, Mrs Sayers agreed to quit - and Mr Pickles departed content that he had done his master's bidding ...

Then it all got a bit messier, before Cash, Cameron and CCHQ secured a happy ending with perhaps a little more publicity than they had envisaged.

So how has David Cameron changed the party?

The Conservative leader talks rather a lot about decentralising power, though with a characteristic vagueness as to the means. At the same time, it is surely increasingly obvious that, for good or ill, he has believed in the tightest possible centralisation within the Tory party itself.

One minor but intriguing think-tank detail in Waugh's report is the strong support for Cash from Dean Godson, research director of Policy Exchange. Godson is a proper (and proud) neo-con, who was formerly chief leader writer of the Daily Telegraph until his editor decided he was rather too right-wing to provide the editorial voice of the paper. It is difficult to think of many people who have been more critical of Ian Paisley's willingness to share power in Northern Ireland.

Waugh reports that the poor man was booed at the meeting for deploying his journalistic credentials in Cash's defence. Might that be a small sign that at least one liberal Tory has been able to construct a surprisingly broad tent of support?


Political Scrapbook said...

No one who uses that many exclamation marks should be allowed to stand for elected office!!!!!!!!!

Letters From A Tory said...

So much for localism and decentralisation.

*roll eyes*

Arnie Ryerson said...

To be fair though, if you were charge of the Conservative Party, would you trust the membership?

Sunder Katwala said...

Arnie Ryerson's comment made me laugh.

Think Political Scrapbook hits Nail on Head too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leo said...

Karen Buck cannot cannot cannot lose this seat. I can hardly think of a single MP who's been more vigilant against the prospect of the loss of secure tenancy, and planned rent hikes aimed at the 'development' and social cleansing of long-standing communities (an matter which is particularly pertinent in Westminster North, with memories of race riots and issues around housing still lurking in the memory).

The repercussions of losing someone who is as concerned and as pro-active on this local issue actually doesn't bare thinking. Most Labour MPs are to me a crushing disappointment, but if Westminster North mindlessly sweep some dinner table chum of David Cameron's into Parliament as their representative, they may well find themselves a whole lot less represented, and potentially very exposed. Ms Cash is, by all accounts, a very good lawyer. I wish in this instance she would stick to what she's good at.

Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks for the comment, and for bringing some issues into it. I've also found Karen Buck to be impressive on national poverty and inequality issues.

Would be open to a post on the substance of housing issues in Westminster, if you or somebody else might want to suggest an idea for this. The email address is in the left-hand sidebar of the Next Left frontpage.

Newmania said...

In"The Political Animal" Paxman one points out how much more dynastic the Labour Party has been than the others
Its easier for shall we say , a Toynbee ,to be keen on redistribution .Polly`s granddad, Arnold Joseph Toynbee, who said :"one-half of the land in the United Kingdom is owned by 2512 persons" forgot to mention that his own clan was one of them They have plenty to spare .
The aspiring folk , who better bred socialist do not hesitate to denigrate in class terms, are the least likely to be Labour supporters . From their ranks come the New Conservative blood whereas the Labour veers from rancid privilege to token minorities.
This was wonderfully apparent at the Crewe by election (during which you shamefully cheered on the Pole baiting Labour gutter politics )…
Timson came from a family whose origins are lost in the mists of the 1930s …ok his dad made a few quid but a Dunwoody ….well , that’s class that is , breeding , you can’t learn it .
Nonetheless Timson was followed in mock Eton garb by Oxbridge graduates hoping to become MPs when they have done their stint pretending to care about Crewe

Irony can be awfully ironic can’t it . Localism is an aspiration not the only one.This must be the 100th shrill undergraduate cry of ”Inconsistency” I have read , I do so with quiet amusement . So what ?
This incident does highlight a certain class tension , so do Grammar schools but as to the supposed “corridors of power” , well ,…. Shocked …shocked !

One trap you fall into is to imagine that the Conservative Party has the same relationship to the Conservative Voter as the Labour Party does to its own .Not so . It is not a mass movement it relies of a few ,generally , older people with the time to do a little good .Wonderful people they are to .
They enjoy their rows enormously but I would not read Labour gang warfare across to the blues .