Coffee House

Exclusive: Nick Boles to get roasting from No 10 over ‘rotten campaign’ comments

13 March 2013

Nick Boles is getting a roasting in Number 10 tonight for his comments in The Times about the Eastleigh by-election, I understand.

There was considerable disquiet about the interview, in which the Planning Minister said his party had run a ‘truly rotten campaign’ and failed to convey the modernisation message.

“Where was the hope? It was as if modernisation had never happened. We screwed it up. We didn’t even screw up in a new way. We screwed it up in an old way that we have been doing for a decade. It’s so frustrating.”


This was apparently Boles doing his own thing rather than a decision from the top that someone needed to go out to the media and be clear that no-one blamed Maria Hutchings for the Conservatives coming third in the by-election.

In the interview, Boles said he had been banned from joining the campaign because the appearance of the Planning Minister might upset voters, given the battle was on ‘protecting green spaces’. But this criticism surprised backbenchers who had been to Eastleigh, as they felt he might not have grasped the full nature of the campaign. Boles has declined to comment.

Tonight’s meeting is part of the overall drive for message discipline in the party. Last night Lynton Crosby told MPs they were participants, not commentators, and the leadership is aiming for the same restraint all the way up through the ranks.

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  • Engage with Ralph.

    The IRA bombing of Baltic Exchange EC3 and Canary Wharf E15 was assisted and enabled through the American Intelligence services. Who really controls the British Security services? Ready to engage?

  • tomwhuxley

    Boles is, for a change, right. The Tories should have run a moderniser, Liberal voter friendly campaign in Eastleigh. The sort of campaign that attracted them so many votes there in 2010, the sort of thing that appealed to the Lib Dem voters that had previously sent Chris Huhne to Westminster – a campaign that, at worst, might have persuaded those people to stay at home instead of voting Lib Dem. Not a strategy that would work in most constituencies, but one that could have worked in Eastleigh.

    Instead they chose to experiment with a UKIP friendly strategy, exposing the voters of Eastleigh to viewpoints the likes of which they’d never before seen on the doorstep, and effectively creating a Trojan horse for UKIP activists to comfortably climb out of and sell their apparently more authentic take on the same policies.

    This is probably not something that would be replicated across many constituencies in a general election. Eastleigh is a very unusual constituency in its steadfast support of the Lib Dems – particularly given its universal returning of Lib Dem councillors, in spite of their presence in the unpopular coalition government, in spite of their former MP’s troubles, in spite of the rest of the country turning on them, in spite of them not being very popular to begin with.

    The Conservative Party should have spearheaded a bespoke campaign, tailor made for the constituency of Eastleigh. They didn’t, and they lost. If they don’t understand this then they might as well get out of the business of trying to win by-elections.

    • Ringstone

      You shouldn’t be giving the Tories [sound] advice like that unless you’re getting paid! Crosby gets paid an absolute fortune for rubbing their noses in reality.

      • tomwhuxley

        Nobody is paying me for anything at the moment, and I can’t imagine a finer repository for my hindsight-driven advice than a Coffee House comments thread.

  • Allectus

    So Nick Boles, the arch-moderniser, thinks that everything was going swimmingly for the Tories before the Eastleigh campaign, and that their trouncing was solely attributable to the selection of a traditional Tory candidate?

    He seems oblivious to the fact that the modernisers’ agenda has signally failed to attract additional support to the Party, while the Party’s membership has been decimated and traditional Tory voters have defected en masse to UKIP.

    The rise of UKIP since 2010 is largely attributable to the failure of Cameron and the Tory modernisers to address the values and concerns of traditional conservative voters. They hate UKIP, not just because they threaten to attract large sections of grass-roots Tory support, but because UKIP are the living proof that there is nothing “toxic” about traditional conservative policies, and that it is rather the willingness of the Conservative Party hierarchy to act as the secret fixer and public mouthpiece for wealthy and powerful vested interests – an activity at which Cameron ad his allies have excelled – that’s the real reason why the Tory brand is tarnished.

    No wonder Boles and the modernisers are so desperate to shift the blame for their failings.

    • David Simpson

      We shouldn’t worry too much about Nick Boles, although he is in a safe seat he has upset so many local people that he is on a knife edge

  • Smithersjones2013

    Despite all the spin by the likes of Boles surely by now he must have realised that the ‘modernisation’ (aka Blairite posturing) that the Cameroons embarked on has hardly captured the imagination of the electorate and in case he hadn’t noticed 53% of the voting electorate in Eastleigh voted for quasi Thatcherite candidates (James and Hutchings and not forgetting Farage is an overt Thatcherite). In reality the progressives (Lab and Libdem) slumped to 43% in Eastleigh losing their previous majority of the vote.

    There was a 14% swing from progressive to Thatcherite in the Eastleigh election. The problem for the Tories was that Cameron and the ‘modernists put so many people off the Tories that it let UKIP in to beat them.

  • James Strong

    Lynton Crosby can tell MPs anything he likes; the correct response is to remind him that they don’t work for him and he can ‘go away.’
    And if he says he speaks for the PM they can say that they are willing to speak to the PM, they don’t accept bollockings from an underling.
    Backbenchers don’t work for Cameron either, although ministers do have the PM as their boss.
    The whole political scene would be different, and better, if MPs remembered who they worked for.

    • HookesLaw

      The correct response would be to listen to good advice rather than take it from dipsticks like you.
      We have a labour party lying their teeth off to appear sane enough to win the next election; meantime the nutjob tendency in the tory party want to make presents of election slogans to them.

      • James Strong

        Really? Do you think you strengthen your argument or weaken it by calling me a dpstick?
        Let me help you with that one, and guide you to the correct answer; you weaken it.

      • petermorris

        The Labour Party lying its teeth off???? Have you heard Camoron and Osborne recently? They hardly know how to tell the truth. Paying down the debt? Food banks?? NHS spending?? Even the OBR is complaining that Camoron is lying about what they say. Blimey!

      • The Red Bladder

        Surely this should apply to politicians of all parties? I would offer that MPs owe a greater duty to their constituents than any inky-fingered pen pusher appointed by the hierarchy of the party which they happen to represent.

      • David Simpson

        what a stupid comment, obviously you are a deranged tory who has a brown nose

  • Mr Creosote

    Boles is about the only reason left to still vote Tory – he speaks his mind and is not afraid to take on wizened luddites like Sir Simon “three homes” Jenkins on planning. His contribution in this regard at Eastleigh would have been most refreshing.

  • NeilMc1

    Most Tories that went to Eastleigh tell the same tale, of a dreadful campaign. Just like the 2010 General Election.

    It’s almost as though they deliberately try to lose. It would be easier to do a decent job than this 100% failure.

    • petermorris

      The Tory candidate was absent from at least 2 public forums where all the other candidates attended. What kind of message does that send to the electorate?

  • Austin Barry

    The ‘loyalty’ message of Cameron’s thuggish Praetorian guard is evidently not getting through to his recalcitrant MPs.

    But Cameron seems to be mistaking dissent for disloyalty. Surely, an Eton and Oxford education should’ve taught him the difference?

    • Smithersjones2013

      The idea that Cameron has any sort of thuggish guard let alone a ‘thuggish Praetorian Guard’ is risible. Now if you were talking about a dysfunctional and incompetent scout troop (or half cut University drinking club perhaps) then you might have a point.

      The reality is the Roons are about as intimidating (and impressive) as a bunch of bunnies caught in the headlights…..

      • telemachus

        Agree he is too nice
        He needs a lesson or two from Ed Balls

    • Rollo10

      You mean the same as the difference between LAWFUL and LEGAL?

  • In2minds

    “In the interview, Boles said he had been banned from joining the campaign
    because the appearance of the Planning Minister might upset voters” –

    That’s right, Boles is a liability but too stupid to know this!

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