Tag Archives: james forsyth

Your essential weekend reader — 12 must-read articles you may have missed

It’s Saturday evening, so here are twelve thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices…

Britain and Europe: Making the break – The Economist‘s verdict on many Europhobes’ éjaculation nocturne: ‘The most likely outcome would be that Britain would find itself as a scratchy outsider with somewhat limited access to the single market, almost no influence and few friends. And one certainty: that having once departed, it would be all but impossible to get back in again.’

Boris shows that Eurosceptics are in a mess

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How the Westminster Village media is still struggling with concept of coalition

It can be surprisingly easy to excite some journalists. Today is a case in point. Nick Clegg stood in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. During his exchanges with Jack Straw (who was standing in for Labour’s Harriet Harman), the Deputy Prime Minister referred to the invasion of Iraq as “illegal”.

To most people watching this is not a surprise. The Lib Dems’ opposition to the Iraq war, which was supported by both Labour and the Tories, is pretty well-documented, I think it’s fair to say. The fact that the Lib Dems and Conservatives have reached a coalition agreement does not alter the past, nor does it alter politicians’ individual views. Why should it?

And yet the response from some journalists has been to label this a “gaffe” – a term otherwise known as a politician saying something he believes which a journalist hopes to be able to spin into a story.

Indeed, it’s interesting to see how a story like this can develop.

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Lord Ashcroft and the Conservative Party: the financial controversies

Cross-posted from The Wardman Wire:

With Michael Ashcroft back in the news over his financial support for the Conservative Party, this post provides a quick recap of the past controversies over Michael Ashcroft, the Conservative Party and political funding.

Ashcroft’s sequence of senior Conservative posts

Under William Hague, Ashcroft was Treasurer of the Conservative Party (1998-2001), becoming a peer and member of the House of Lords in 2000. He was involved in a protracted dispute with The Times, which had been investigating some of the sources of his wealth. A libel action was settled out of court, with both sides paying their own legal costs.

After Hague’s departure, there was a gap of several years before Ashcroft once again held senior office in the Conservative Party, coming back as Deputy Chairman after the 2005 general election. This role, combined with his financial contributions, have given him huge influence over the Conservative Party’s target seats operation.

Ashcroft’s influence on the Conservative Party’s direction

He paid privately for an extensive polling operation during the 2005 campaign, the results of which – along with his book, Smell the coffee: A wake-up call for the Conservative Party – played a significant part in the modernising debates in the Conservative Party.

Tim Montgomerie has commented on ConservativeHome that, “I think his polling operation and Smell The Coffee report did too much to send the Cameron project in an über-modernising direction.”

Ashcroft and the House of Lords

Prior to being made a peer in 2000, Michael Ashcroft promised that he would return to the UK and pay income tax:

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Putting private interests before national interest: the three Tory shadow cabinet members who faced down their leader

Tory leader David Cameron has been forced to abandon plans to make all members of his shadow cabinet drop their lucrative outside retainers after three of his team vowed to quit if he did so. The FT broke the story this morning, noting:

Conservative strategists remain concerned about the potential political damage the “part-time” nature of the shadow cabinet could cause. The onset of recession will add weight to Labour jibes that Mr Cameron’s “two-jobs team” is not devoting its full attention to mitigating the impact of the downturn.

The party leader’s efforts to portray his party as in touch with

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Because even a stopped clock is right twice a day

I’ll be honest: The Spectator’s Coffee House blog is not one of my favourites reads. Despite or because of its prolific output – eight posts today, and counting – too much of it reads as unthinkingly pro-Tory, while its visceral contempt for Labour too often blinkers it to serious analysis. Coffee House may speak with many voices but they all sound the same. And yet, and yet… There have been two articles this week which have partially broken the mould and seem worth highlighting.

First up, is James Forsyth’s verdict on Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle, All tactics, no strategy:

When you

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Lord Ashcroft under fire over his tax status

There’s been a double-dose of criticism from the Spectator today for Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft and his refusal to come clean on whether he has kept the promise he made at the time he was made a peer.

As I’ve blogged before (such as here), on being appointed to the House of Lords, Lord Ashcroft promised he would become a UK resident and start paying tax here.

Since getting the peerage (which of course can’t now be removed if he didn’t keep his promise), he has refused to state whether he’s kept his word, journalists who have dug into the story …

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Is Nick Clegg right to back the Speaker?

The House of Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, has found himself in the full glare of unwelcome publicity this weekend, following allegations that he has misused his Parliamentary allowances:

In the past two weeks it has emerged that some black cab trips made by Mr Martin’s wife to buy food were claimed on expenses, that allowances were claimed for a home he owns outright in Scotland, and that he used air miles earned on official business to buy first-class tickets for some relatives to fly to London over the New Year.”

As none of this is outside the rules it might not …

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