Lord Ashcroft’s Common Sense

26 October 2011

Good stuff from Lord Ashcroft this morning. Good because, obviously, he agrees with me that the Tory obsession with Europe and, just as importantly, the style in which that obsession is paraded before the public damages the party. As the noble lord puts it:

[W]e know that for many people, the main barrier to voting Conservative is that they do not think we share the concerns of people like them.  But which issue has the last week shown still seems to exercise our party above all others?
Some will be inclined to blame the media for the back-to-the-nineties coverage of Tory turmoil over Europe.  But the fact that we know journalists find the story irresistible makes it all the more ludicrous to hand it to them on a plate. […] There have been suggestions that some MPs rebelled as payback for various perceived slights from Number 10 which have nothing to do with European policy – which, if true, makes the rebellion more self-indulgent, not more justified. 

[…] Do not be bamboozled into thinking it is only coalition-minded Europhiles who opposed the referendum motion, and only robust Conservatives who were prepared to speak out.  Those who want to see an undiluted Conservative government after the next election should be the most committed to getting the issue of Europe into proportion.  It is futile to say we want to gain the extra support we need to win, and then act in ways that make victory less likely rather than more.

Finally, some will say principle dictates that we should spend our time debating what we believe to be important, regardless of the voters (or “the polls”, as they usually put it when making this point).  In which case, I hope they enjoy themselves.  But let’s hear no more from them about that majority.

Quite. Much the same, again, could be said of the party’s willingness to talk more about the 50p rate of income tax than any other band. It is hard to think of a subject better guaranteed to suggest the party is uninterested in the things that actually matter to the great mass of voters who actually decide elections.

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Show comments
  • Baron

    Good point, Simon, except that the core of the observation stands, not that many of the hoi polloi here are that keen to sever our ties with the Continent fully.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Baron : 10.15pm

    “much more than few want Europe of independent nations coupled through free movement of trade, labour and capital, which was after all the original idea for the grand project”

    Eh? This may have been the original idea as it was fed to the general public, but I don’t think it was the original idea that was actually formulated by Jean Monnet and his merry band of followers.

  • Baron

    Those who genuinely care about sovereignty of any EU member state should have opposed the call for an in-out referendum, only a few want to sever ties with Europe fully, much more than few want Europe of independent nations coupled through free movement of trade, labour and capital, which was after all the original idea for the grand project.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    I wonder if the reality of Lord Ashcroft’s position is that he is a Europhile, and that he’s using the potential damage to the Conservative Party as a false concern to further the cause of the pro-EU camp? Is it possible for a politician to be this devious, do you think?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    DavidDP, do YOU know what the policy is? Or are you going to give me that old ‘It’s a secret’ nonsense. What is your personal ideal relationship between the UK and the EU? What do you think the party should have as a policy? It really is no use shouting ‘splitters!’ at half the party.

  • normanc

    It’s a pity the Conservatives never had someone of Lord Ashcroft’s vision in a position of influence at the 2010 GE. With Gordon Brown at the helm and the economy tanking the election should have been a walkover but Cameron, in appealing to ‘the nutter’ vote, managed to lose it.

    If only someone like Ashcroft could have persuaded him not to be so right wing, like the hated and barren Thatcher years, but to abandon all principles and instead base the campaign around the elusive ‘floating voter’ in the middle we’d undoubtedly have a Conservative government today.

    Thank God that lessons have been learnt from that failure though and with the success of the ‘common ground’ policies shining through we should see a large Conservative majority come 2015.

    Shouldn’t we?

  • DavidDP

    No point, Alex. Most people here have their head in the sand and positively revel in not removing it, regardless of facts and evidence.

  • Chris

    So basically, Lord Ashcroft has realised that being a party that’s full of europhobic nutters is electoral suicide and says the europhobic nutters should keep quiet until they’ve won an election and then they can be as europhobic and nutty as they like.

    It’s not really a very honest approach to democracy is it?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Deos Lord Ashcroft know what the tory or the coalition policy on the EU is? Can he tell us, because nobody else can? Or is it ‘don’t talk about the EU’? What is the list of powers to be repatriated? Does he know? Or haven’t the guys in Brussels told them yey. Should he not STFU unless he can answer these questions?

    Oh, and if he is obviously touting an attempt at damage limitation, should he really have his job done for him by Alex Massie, the only person in the UK who is worried by the 50% rate?

  • commentator

    Alex, if you read the ConHome comment thread on the noble Lord’s musings, you will pretty rapidly conclude that they are nonsense.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Oh, sure. Nothing to see here folks – Camshaft and Clegg Ltd. is a perfectly sound business. They’re not going to let Europe go bankrupt, so lets just stay calm and get on with our lives. Move along, folks, move along.

  • alan scott

    Well and aptly said, Lord Ashcroft. Far too many short-sighted “conservatives” about.

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