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A fight for the right of the Party: Who will define Conservatism in 2022?
A fight for the right of the Party: Who will define Conservatism in 2022?

Posts Tagged ‘Amy Fisher’

Descent into the fire

The next in our series of insight pieces from Amy Fisher looking behind the scenes of the Conservative leadership campaigns.

As predicted this time last week, things have gotten very personal, very quickly indeed. Only Tom Tug in the debate last night really made any attempt to try to point out the circular nature of the firing squad. This was of course in the context of his own pitch as being a ‘clean start’ – which, irrespective of what happens in the next vote amongst MPs later today, already has more than a whiff of the ill-fated Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ slogan.

A large part of what has tipped this over into toxic warfare have been the televised debates themselves. Why any of the candidates agreed to do them is a bit baffling.

Whilst the public at large might rail against this, it’s a simple truth that until it is whittled down to the final two candidates (this week) and then the final winner (by 5th September), it’s only the MPs and Party members that really matter- in the sense it’s only they that have an actual vote in who becomes the next PM.

TV hustings also take an inordinate amount of time in preparation (not that Truss’ performance yesterday in reading her closing statement necessarily bore this out). Why haven’t the candidates instead spent their time more aggressively wooing Parliamentary colleagues?

These debates are also extraordinarily high risk – something Sunak and Truss have, belatedly realised: the next one (scheduled for Tuesday) has now been canned once they said they would not take part. How on earth did none of the advisers spot that each candidate being able ask another a question, as per last night, was going to going to be anything other than mutually assured carnage? The truth is that a lot of them are inexperienced and untested in either/both policy formation and/or campaigning. It did make for great TV though.

On the advisory front, I’ve been a little surprised by Penny’s lack of real detail on the fiscal/economic front. I would have expected her to have shown a bit more concrete thinking on the growth agenda. She’s being advised by Gerard Lyons, who at one stage was seen as a credible contender for Governor of Bank of England after Mark Carney.

I don’t wish the above to look as though I am jumping on the ‘get Penny bandwagon’. It’s just that having risen so spectacularly at the end of last week, the wheels seem to equally quickly be coming off the bus. I have to admit that I’m sceptical of over-hyping the use of ‘dark arts’. The problem with the furore about her views on trans’ rights and today’s story that she met the Muslim Council for Britain is that (a) she does seem to have previously held a position on self-identification that the Party just won’t wear, and (b) she did by her own tweet confirm she, well, met them.

So, the two “favourites” remain Rishi and Liz. There is no doubt at all that each camp will have been doing ‘due diligence’ on the other; the only question being when the material is deployed for maximum effect (read: damage).

Of course, there are some ‘true believers’ in each of the camps. But the reality is most of the Party are trying to game the least-worst option. In any number of Tory WhatsApp groups and exchanges over the weekend, the phrase ‘end of days’ is one appearing time and again. An ex-minister I spoke to over the weekend told me “Now we’ve gotten rid of Boris, none of it’s good. But it was a Hobson’s choice that he had to go”.

It was always going to be a Herculean task for the Conservatives to win a fifth term in 2024. To channel Boris, it’s a very real possibility the Party will make it a Sisyphean one by spending the summer tearing itself apart.

 

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Things hot up

Former Government Special Adviser and WA’s new Director Amy Fisher shares her inside track and perspective on the Conservative leadership contest so far, as well as its wider implications for the party going forwards.

 

Dubbed a ‘wacky races’ line-up of those who’ve put themselves forward for the Conservative leadership, we will at least by the end of the day (with nominations having been made) have an idea of who actually will be in the running – and so who will need to crank up the wooing of fellow MPs over the coming days. Rishi had a good turnout for his drinks last night; one assumes he’s plenty more rose on order. He’s increasingly looking like the Djokovic of this – there may be challengers to the crown, but the favourite no doubt to make it to the last two.

So now the real trouble starts.

Since the starting gun was fired last week with Boris Johnson’s ignominious departure, things have been … brutal. The amount of briefing about, against and amongst the various ‘runners and riders’ has been vicious – and we’ve got a long, hot summer of this to go. Questions have been asked over one (not known for playing ‘nicely’ shall we say) Dom Cummings’ involvements with Rishi’s campaign; it’s somewhat irrelevant as to whether there is any kind of ‘arrangement’. Dom will do what Dom does, which is to blow everything else up so long as he gets what he wants. And a Rishi premiership seems to be it.

I’m worried by what the Party looks like at the end of this, by the time the candidates have finished taking clumps out of each other. This is personal. The last two leaderships (2016 and 2019) weren’t necessarily pretty, as such. But they were about the single issue, really, of Brexit, and to coin a phrase, who was going to get it done. This just isn’t – and with all the smears and allegations of smears already flying around, it’s somewhat ironic that this whole contest was prompted by folk’s collapse of faith in the last chap’s integrity and transparency.

The Party has always had a veering towards being its own worst enemy. I hope this batch of candidates can at least bear in mind that at the end of it all, they will need to form a Cabinet and Government of some kind of unity (not easy if you’ve spent the last eight weeks taking pot shots at each other).

However, new partnerships as the field thins out will be formed. This is where things get interesting- not least in the context of the looming 2024 GE (which CCHQ is very much focused on, and therefore so very much welcomed this leadership contest being sooner, rather than in say 6 months, time). These partnerships are make-or-break, in terms of political success and longevity. Where would Blair have been, were it not for Brown? Same question of DC without George? How each of the candidates shores up their economic offering, possibly with a running mate, will be one to watch – all of these pledges and the ones to come are after all at some point going to need properly costing.

In the last twenty years of my experience, the pendulum has tended to swing from one side to the other in terms of what the Party seems to look for in its leader. Michael Howard, safe pair of hands, DC, ‘star power’, TM back again, then Boris.

Undoubtedly what the Party, and the whole country needs, is some steady-as-she-goes form of Government, which the next few weeks most certainly are not going to be – not least if Boris, as he pledged yesterday to do, really is going to try and deliver all his manifesto commitments before he goes.

Still, by 5pm tonight, we should have a candidates’ slate that’s less like an actual cartoon.

 

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WA webinar recording: Boris Goneson?

WA webinar recording: Boris Goneson? What do the resignations mean for the Prime Minister’s premiership and the Government’s policy and fiscal agenda going forwards?

 

Following the significant number of ministers – both Cabinet level and more junior – that resigned from the Government over an intense 48 hour period in early July, WA hosted a webinar with leading broadcaster and journalist Steve Richards and WA Director Amy Fisher to discuss the implications of the resignations for Boris Johnson.

During the session we heard the news that the Prime Minister had decided he intended to resign, so Steve and Amy provided insight into what Johnson’s likely next steps would be, who are the runners and riders that could replace him, and what this could mean for the Government’s policy and fiscal agenda going forwards.

 

 

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