Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Shadow Conservative Party comes second in Eastleigh by-election

Surge: UKIP leader Nigel Farage

Surge: UKIP leader Nigel Farage

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) have caused a seismic shift in British politics by pushing the Conservative Party into third place in the Eastleigh by-election yesterday with UKIP’s share of the vote surging from 3.6% to 28%.

The Liberal Democrats, despite their previous MP facing jail and their party being embroiled in a sex scandal, still managed to win the election, albeit with a reduced majority of 1771. The Yellow Peril really are a formidable machine when it comes to fighting by-elections, and for those involved in grassroots politics, local council elections too.

But today’s story is actually not the Liberal Democrats, it is the catastrophic result for the Conservative leader, David Cameron. Frankly, the chickens have come home to roost. Politcos like me have being saying since Day 1 of this useless Coalition, that David Cameron is most likely to become the first Conservative leader ever to LOSE two General Elections in a row.

Mr Cameron and his Notting Hill chums (Osborne, Gove, Hunt) have taken over the Conservative Party and convinced themselves that all they need to do to win a General Election is to suck up that bit more to the Left by banging on about wind farms and gay marriage and all will be well. Wrong!

The Left (Guardian-reading types, teachers and nurses etc) are NEVER going to vote Tory. All Cameron’s strategy has done is force the Conservative base to desert the Party in their droves. Many are now voting UKIP and many more are refusing to deliver leaflets or canvass for the Conservative Party. This toxic combination has resulted in the governing Party being pushed into third place only taking a quarter of the vote.

I truly believe this is not a protest vote scenario. The Conservative leadership does not understand its core supporters, neither their members (significantly depleted in numbers) or millions of potential Tory voters. Were they so stupid as to think by promising an In/Out referendum on the EU UKIP would be neutered? Dave and George really don’t get it – the Tory base care about much more than Europe: the economy, immigration, education, defence, crime and order etc. Where are the policies to lift the economy out of meltdown? Why is immigration still wildly out of control with most of Europe seeing Britain as a place which will roll over and pay out benefits the moment the immigrant steps off the boat? Why are we sacking our soldiers but still giving money to mad dictators to buy private jets?

And UKIP aren’t just taking disaffected Tory votes. They took votes yesterday from Labour and the Liberal Democrats too. It was uncanny timing that when I was driving home from the gym this morning, in Socialist Ipswich, I was stuck behind a car with a “Vote UKIP” sticker in the rear window.

David Cameron is now in big trouble. It is not outside the realms of possibilities he will be disposed by his MPs before the General Election in 2015. It’s not as if there is something on the horizon to bring good fortune for him. The economy will continue on a downward trajectory as you can’t fight against the laws of economics – there is NO MONEY left – and the County Elections take place in May in England and Wales, with many Conservative councillors expected to lose their seats with perhaps UKIP picking up tens of seats across the country.

This result in Eastleigh is so momentous I am now prepared to stick my neck out and explicitly state what I have been implying for the last three years: the Conservatives will lose the General Election again in 2015. Cameron will be disposed shortly afterwards (his consultancy firm is probably already on the drawing board) and we will have either a Lib/Lab Coalition or a Labour majority, which, frankly, won’t feel much different to the Government we have now. This means, locally, Ben Gummer will not win in Ipswich and in all likelihood (Labour internal squabbling aside) David Ellesmere will be the next MP for the town.

It could have been all so different but David Cameron failed the first test of political strategy: make sure you lock in your core vote before reaching out to the wider electorate. He didn’t do this either because he detests his own supporters or he is incompetent. As Nigel Farage put it overnight when asked about the Conservative Party’s woes: “Traditional Tory voters look at David Cameron and ask “Is this man a Conservative?” and they conclude no he’s not. That’s the problem they’ve got”.

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Politics really is getting boring

Great things were once done here

Great things were once done here

We may get the odd moment like David Cameron’s speech on Wednesday but most of the time politics today is as dull as dishwater. And as the dust settles even the PM’s speech was only good on paper with no certainty the EU referendum promise will see the light of day.

It was back to normal on Thursday and as I was watching Question Time last night it is true what they say: politicians really are all the same. It is very difficult to put a cigarette paper between them. The three main parties don’t have ideologies and are merely mishmashes of each other.

Condescending and highly irritating Tory Health minister Anna Soubry was espousing her wish to see the UK continue giving the EU £50 Million a day to take away our democratic rights; former Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ming Campbell told the audience how he wanted a bigger armed forces and Ben Bradshaw (with his perpetual 1980s style tie knot) for Labour said spending cuts would be necessary even if Ed Miliband was prime minister.

At least Ian Hislop told it like it was when he mentioned the Ministry of Defence lost so much money under Labour it would be enough to buy the the upgrade to the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Politicians are so scared now of offending anyone they just don’t take a position on anything and even when the economic juggernaut is heading in the current Chancellor’s direction he merely does a little bit of fiscal tweaking and hopes things will sort themselves out before the next election. They don’t want to scare the horses by actually having concrete and tangible policies such as real spending decreases to help Britain out of recession.

The media don’t help matters. Still feeding off the expenses scandal, they feel politicians can be treated anyway they choose. It does not matter that the 600 odd members of parliament hold positions of great seniority with a backbencher akin to a FTSE 100 chief executive. The sneering and debasing of anything a politician does or proposes by the print, broadcast and electronic media indoctrinates the ordinary member of the public to think MPs are fair game who are lower than paedophiles and deserve no respect whatsoever. That collective mindset is very dangerous. If we lose respect for our democratically elected representatives, we start to lose respect for democracy itself.

We need a fundamental shake-up in our political system. We need to make it easier for people from all backgrounds to stand for election at a local and national level. If the MoD can waste £39 Billion pounds on bodged procurement contracts, surely there is some money available to make it worthwhile for a man or woman in their 30s or 40s to stand as a local councillor or member of parliament?

We need people with ideas and passion for their beliefs who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade. If nothing is done to make British democracy more representative of her people, we really are heading for decades of management-speak politicians who would be more suited to the corridors of Davos rather than Downing Street.


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Will Cameron be able to deliver his EU Referendum promise?

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Finally: David Cameron delivering his long-awaited speech this morning

This morning was one of those seismic historical moments which changed Britain’s political trajectory.

Britain’s relationship with Europe changed irreversibly with Prime Minister David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on our relationship with and within the EU. That does not mean Berlin, Paris, Madrid or Rome were surprised but it does mean the semantic cartwheels and ambiguous description of where the UK’s position is in the European Union are over.

Britain’s view, through David Cameron’s big speech this morning at Bloomberg in Central London, has been made clear: we want to negotiate repatriation of a number of powers from the EU, which we will then put to the British people in an “In or Out” Referendum. If the British people like what they see after the negotiation, they’ll vote to stay in the EU; if they don’t, the United Kingdom will exit the European Union entirely – no Norway model, full exit. The choice will be made by 2017.

BUT. And it’s a big BUT.

The Conservative Party needs to win the General Election in 2015. Mr Cameron’s speech today has certainly improved their chances. But the EU is not the only issue which causes disaffected Tory activists to defect to UKIP. The Coalition Government’s continued policy of uncontrolled immigration, a lacklustre handling of the economy which may mean Britain is heading for a triple-dip recession, and still no plan from Cameron & Clegg on how to get the banks lending to small-business owners and prospective house buyers are, actually, further up the priority list for UKIP-minded people than the European Union.

There’s also another factor at play. As soon as David Cameron had finished describing his vision for the EU and offering an “In or Out” referendum, his yellow peril sidekick, Nick Clegg, was sniping at the sidelines that the PM was not “acting in the national interest” over Europe. This weight around Mr Cameron’s ankle will continue to cause immense harm to the Tories’ prospects of winning a majority at the next General Election – that and the most powerful indicator of electoral success: the economy. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has merely snipped at the Government department budgets when there should be wholesale slashing and burning of wasteful bureaucracy and pointless quangos to cut down on how much Government the taxpayer is forced to buy each month out of their decreased or stagnate wages. Above all, it is the state of an elector’s finances which will decide how they vote in May 2015. “It’s the economy, stupid”, as a former US president once said.

Credit where credit is due: David Cameron has done well today. He has grasped the nettle whilst confusing the hell out of Labour, which can only be good for Conservative prospects. I personally would like to see an “In or Out” EU Referendum before 2015 but let’s be under no false pretences: this can’t happen. The Liberal Democrats would not stand for it and would implode the Government and then there would be no majority to get the Referendum legislation through parliament. This post-2015 promise from Cameron is the only way of placating his Tory backbenchers and bringing some UKIP defectors back to the Tory fold. But will it be enough to give him the keys to No.10 in his own right. You know what? I’m not sure it is.


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The EU wants more of your money

EUSSR: You and I are being asked to give Brussels more money

I know – I am bit late to the party but I felt the need to at least say something about Wednesday’s vote on the EU budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

First off, I am not a sensationalist blogger unlike some of the mainstream newspapers who carefully forgot to mention Wednesday’s vote was not binding and was not even a vote on the EU budget at all. It was actually a “take note” vote on a report on the upcoming EU budget negotiations, with the catchy title Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020The report was tabled by the Government for the House of Commons to note the report but Conservative backbenchers took the opportunity to make a point about the profligacy of the EU and basically the corruption endemic in Brussels and Strasbourg by tabling an amendment to the report calling for a cut in the EU budget. The amendment was laid down by Tory MP Mark Reckless MP. Labour then duly backed the Conservative rebels as a text-book case of political opportunism.

In all, 53 Conseratives rebelled against the Government, and with Labour MPs voting with the amendment as well, the Government was defeated by 13 votes. Like I said, this was not a binding vote and therefore David Cameron and George Osborne can choose to ignore it but if they have the slightest political instinct they won’t.

53 rebels is a large swathe of the Tory Party and this will have worried Downing Street considerably. In fact, it would be fair to say the Government is in big trouble over it’s stance on Europe. The Prime Minister now needs to come back from the EU budget negotiations in Brussels later this month with some red meat for his restless backbenchers. He can’t veto the EU budget or the remaining 25 EU nations will just ignore the UK and instead of freezing the budget (plus 2% to keep up with inflation) they will increase it along with the UK’s contribution. This is just how corrupt and undemocratic the EU is. The sooner we leave the EU the better.

There is no way the Conservative parliamentary party, and for that matter the Labour Party, are going to allow any more money or power going over to Brussels – at least whilst this Coalition Government is in office.

Rebel: Mark Reckless MP

Let’s be sensible though. Labour haven’t suddenly become Eurosceptic – they would have abolished Britain as a sovereign state if they could have got away with it during their disastrous years in power from 1997-2010.  On Wednesday, they only backed Conservative MP Mark Reckless’ motion by traipsing through the No lobby with many Tory MPs to humiliate the Government and they will continue to do so as long as David Cameron and Nick Clegg are still in power. However, once Labour get back into power, which is likely in 2015, albeit in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, they will be back to their Europhile selves and will start the print run of cash to Brussels once again. Remember this when you come to vote in 2015.

I believe the Conservative rebels were speaking for the majority of the country. Brits are fed up with meddling from the EU. High energy prices are as a result of EU Co2 targets, 70% of our laws are made in Brussels, and dubious jurisdictions in far flung corners of Europe can have a British citizen arrested and extradited at the drop of a hat by deploying the European arrest warrant (police beatings are still part of the interview technique in some European states). To name but three.

The United Kingdom pumps £10 billion a year into EU coffers. Each MEP has the use of their own limo, they have special lanes at airports and for their cars on the roads of Brussels and Strasbourg, and the EU accounts haven’t been signed off for decades because so much money has gone missing. The EU parliament is a democratic front but our elected MEPs don’t even make the 70% of laws imposed on the UK: an unelected Commission does that – the same Commission Peter Mandelson once was a member of after he resigned from Blair’s Government for the SECOND time. A fiction writer couldn’t even make this up. Dictatorships are more democratic than the EU.

The UK economy may have its face out of the mud come the General Election in 2015 but she will still be on her knees. The best thing the Conservative Party can do is highlight the meddling and damage the EU does to our sovereign state during the election campaign, explaining how Labour gave back the rebate Margaret Thatcher won and how even more powers were ceded to Brussels by Gordon Brown sneaking into Portugal to sign the Lisbon Treaty. This campaigning strategy may be the only chance the Tories have of being returned to power.

Europhile: Ben Gummer MP

My MP, Ben Gummer, told Ipswich Spy after Wednesday night’s vote: “Very sad that the Conservative Party continues to do this to itself”. Sad, I’m delighted. At least some MPs represent the real views of the British public. Those on the Tory Far-Left, including Ben Gummer and Ken Clarke (I seriously can’t think of any more), think Europe is an unimportant topic. It is probably the most important topic there is in British politics today. Basically Britain is run by the EU – 70% of our laws are made in Brussels. In the 1990s, the Maastricht rebels were more concerned about British identity; identity politics is very important but the economy is even more important. Back in the 1990s, the European single market along with the US market WERE the economic powerhouses of the world. Not any more they aren’t. Europe and the US are very sick economies indeed. But in 2012, it is the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (the so called BRIC countries) which are booming. Can the UK form a trade treaty with any one of these nations unilaterally? No. Only the EU can form a trading agreement. We have given away our sovereign power to trade with anyone we like to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

Therefore, frankly, Europe matters. It matters to every aspect of our lives: energy prices (which are going up because of make-believe EU Co2 emission targets), the right to a fair trial and humane treatment by police (which is not guaranteed because of the EU arrest warrant), jobs (Britain is banned for signing a unilateral trade agreement), and even the weeds growing in the pavement outside your house during the spring and summer are there because the EU has banned your council from spraying weed killer on them!

Like I said, the EU is the only topic in town. It will probably decide the next General Election.

Pretty important, eh?


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Tweetgate: Ipswich Tories try to ban Twitter

If I were still a member of the Conservative Group at Ipswich Borough Council I’d be doing everything I could to raise the profile of the Conservative Party, its councillors and candidates.

Twitterphobe: Cllr Richard Pope
So it was particularly bizarre to see Tory Cllr Richard Pope at last night’s Borough Council meeting try to ban Twitter from future meetings, thereby denying councillors from communicating with Ipswich residents and I suspect also to ban bloggers from reporting council meeting live via Twitter. Another politician I can think of who tries to suppress social media is a certain President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Hardly a bedfellow of the Conservative Party I would have thought?
Dictator: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria
Cllr Pope asked Cllr Martin Cook, who is responsible for IT and democratic services at the Borough, if standing orders could be updated to include the banning of Twitter at council meetings. Whilst Cllr Pope was saying this, a flurry of tweets were being sent by Morning Ipswich Star political editor Paul Geater, Labour backbencher Cllr Alasdair Ross, a reporter from Ipswich Spy and by myself.
Cllr Cook retorted that smartphones were seen as a tool by many people, including disabled people who use specialised software to help them participate in meetings, and Twitter itself is allowed in the House of Commons where it is used by MPs to allow the public better access to debates.
I just can’t understand the Tory Group’s thinking here and for their youngest councillor to stand up to try and ban social media is perverse. All political blogs and the Morning Ipswich Star have ridiculed their attempt to ban Twitter.
The Tory Group is a shadow of its former self when it was the leading party on the Council between 2004 and 2011 with now only 12 councillors to the ruling Labour Group’s 32 councillors. With political tactics like this and being devoid of any policy they better get use to decades in the wilderness. 
Ipswich Borough Council has made it clear they are a fan of social media, with the appointment of a social media officer, and also with the removal of the dead tree press bench. Therefore, I think we can safely say Twitter will be here to stay at future Ipswich Borough Council meetings!


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Happy Birthday Margaret Thatcher

Leadership: Margaret Thatcher

The greatest peacetime Prime Minister this country has ever seen turns 87 today. Even socialists respected her during her eleven years in office from 1979 to 1990, with the Soviet Union dubbing her The Iron Lady. Why? Not because they liked her. But out of respect.

Margaret Thatcher achieved more during her time in power than any other leader in modern times, except for Winston Churchill. In the 1970s, our European friends sniggered that Great Britain was the “sick man of Europe” with union strikes on a weekly basis, rubbish piling up in the street and even the dead left unburied during the Winter of Discontent in 1978. The country that helped free our European cousins from Nazism was now being written off as a hopeless case with no economic prospects: an island of decline off the north continental coast.

Then Margaret Thatcher won the General Election for the Conservative Party in 1979 and she started the fightback against the forces of ruin. She reigned in the unions, making flying pickets illegal, she privatised whole swathes of decrepit public services, she put the humble striving family at the centre of her policies, she empowered the police, she told the Argentines where to go after they invaded our islands in the South Atlantic, she enabled London to become the greatest financial centre in the world.

Did I forget something? Oh yes, on top of her economic revolution in the UK, she worked with President Reagan to end communism in Eastern Europe through sheer leadership, a quality almost unheard of now in the western world.

When Lady Thatcher dies, I for one will be travelling to London for her funeral. We and the world owe so much to her.

Here’s a video synopsis of her achievements:


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The Conservative Party fightback against the Cameroons has begun

I am not attending the Conservative Party conference for the third year running. I foresaw disaster coming over the horizon in Manchester in 2009, which was proven correct in May 2010 when David Cameron jumped into bed with Nick Clegg and formed a Conservative-Liberal Democrats Coalition Government. Funnily enough, I have since become reluctant to part with £1000 to have to listen to vacuous Cabinet minister speeches in an expensive city like Birmingham. The fact the conference is even in Birmingham, not Bournemouth, sums up the contempt the Cameroon metropolitan-elite have for the ordinary party member.

Cameron had hoodwinked his Party in 2005 into believing he was “one of them” and he just needed to talk about hugging hoodies and spending quality time with huskies to make people like the Conservative Party again. All well and good when Blair had just won a massive third majority earlier in the year.

But then came the economic meltdown in 2008 – largely caused by Gordon Brown’s reckless public sector spending and encouragement of personal debt to prop up the economy – and all bets should have been off. Cameron should have immediately ditched the “sharing the proceeds of growth” ludicrous strategy and realised the country in 2008 was not the same country in 2005. The public had woken with the biggest hangover since the Great Depression of the 1930s and were very anxious indeed.

So, what did David Cameron and George Osborne do. They continued on with their “detoxification” of the Tory brand, banging on about non-existent anthropogenic climate change and something (which no one has ever understood) called the Big Society. Was it so much of a surprise we LOST the General Election in 2010?

The electorate were ready again for a centre-right Conservative Party on the side of strivers. On the side of the vast majority who rely on public services (i.e. they are not in Cameron’s Chipping Norton set who always go private) but still want to see efficiency in our NHS and competence in our teachers. But Cameron and his campaign “guru”, Steve Hilton, failed to spot what ordinary activists had seen years before. And the party hierarchy slept walk in to a fourth successive DEFEAT in 2010.

David Cameron could have done the decent thing and stopped, formed a Minority Government, and after a re-think of campaign strategy, gone to the country again in October 2010 with the policies the public were crying out for: economic reform (especially in the bloated public sector), a serious crackdown on unskilled immigration, welfare reform and a huge shake-up of education. I believe if Cameron had done this we would have had the working majority we needed come the Autumn of 2010.

But what did our illustrious leader do. He didn’t stop for a millisecond: Cameron could see the door of No.10, if only he dropped the rest of his principles. Which he duly did. And as dark fell on 7 May 2010, he slipped into Downing Street with his Eton schoolboy grin and met his only objective: to become Prime Minister.

Well, today the fightback begins in earnest to reclaim OUR Conservative Party. Conservative Home – backed by Lord Ashcroft’s money and his passion for a Conservative victory – launches a plan to win the first Conservative Majority since 1992. It feels like an Opposition campaign. Hmmm, perhaps it is?

There is something missing though: a real Conservative leader.

It pains me to say this but despite Conservative Home’s excellent campaign, the Conservative Party will be defeated in 2015. But then the groundwork for a successful Conservative Party will have been laid. We will just need a new Conservative Leader to take it to the electorate in 2020. That leader must come from the 2010 intake.
Who will it be?