Not Saussure

October 3, 2006

Anything they can cock up, we can cock up better…

Filed under: hubris, nemesis, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 10:48 am

Despite my pleasure that, for the first time in years, the Conservatives have a fighting chance of winning the next election, not least because they at last have a leader the mention of whose name doesn’t generally cause hilarity, shudders of horror, or blank incomprehension, The Conservative Party conference in Brighton seems pretty underwhelming so far, and I don’t just mean their demonstration that anything Labour can screw up, they can screw up just as badly (Beau Bo D’Or has rather a good graphic on this).

Nor do I particularly mean their joke debate gimmick of having people sound off about issues of the day by electronic means and promptly have them ignored, sorry, fed in to the party review process. That’s what blogs are for, for heaven’s sake. Though, I must say I liked the coincidence of a call for ‘a ban on the marketing of products to children’ apparently necessary because ‘necessary because children were getting fatter and Britain was the “fat man” of Europe’ — causing me to wonder whether they really don’t also market products to children in the rest of Europe — and this report of how ‘most people lack the discipline to change their eating habits and are brilliant at making excuses’.

As a way of diverting attention from real arguments, I fear it’s a non-starter.

No, I have in mind, their problems over party funding, though I must say it makes them sound pretty naive when they say they

suspect a “dirty tricks operation” over the timing of the news. They stressed that all of the interviews with the lenders were conducted between May and July. Since then, no one had been re-interviewed.

One source close to Mr Cameron said it was “intriguing” that the details had come out now. “We also feel that the entire focus of the investigation has shifted to Labour.”

They suspect Labour of using dirty tricks and media spin to divert attention from the Conservatives’ conference and Labour’s problems? Never!

And there was certainly no need to make such a pig’s ear of explaining what I’m perfectly prepared to believe is a proper arrangement between Constituency Campaigning Services and the Party, by having Central Office say it’s a separate organisation, David Cameron say it’s effectively part of the Party (and thus breaking the Electoral Commission’s reporting rules) and now having William Hague helpfully tell Andrew Neil it is or it isn’t or it’s both.

In a way I’m grateful to the people concerned for proving my point for me that Cameron’s promise to clean up politics would come back and haunt him, but I hadn’t expected nemesis to follow hubris quite so rapidly. I’m sure that between them, Robert Edmiston and Central Office have got enough decent accountants to put together a scheme that allows Constituency Campaigning Services to avoid the need for tight Electoral Commission control, and that they’ve done this precisely so wealthy Conservative supporters can give the party money without having the press wrongly suspect that, because some wrong ‘uns have given Labour money, anyone who gives money to any party must have ulterior motives.

But this sort of arrangement is bound to look bad when your opponents get hold of it, and I really wish Cameron would take the bull by the horns and say, in effect, both Labour and the Conservatives have been forced into ploys like this by Labour’s short-sighted point-scoring in introducing all these reporting rules in the first place and that he proposes getting rid of the reporting requirements altogether.

At first sight this might seem counter-productive, since it apparently offers Labour a free kick at Tory funding, but I suspect that if the Conservatives follow up the point by stressing that the only alternative, if this goes on, is state funding — your and my taxes — of political parties, which Labour appear to favour, the merits of the case will rapidly become more apparent.


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