11 Mar 2013

Tory modernisers fed up too

That interview with The Times on Saturday by Nick Boles, Planning Minister, was a cry of pain you hear quite a bit from Tory modernisers right now. When he checked with No. 10’s point man on the campaign, Stephen Gilbert, whether he was welcome in Eastleigh he was told it would be better if he stayed away given the Tories’ hard-line against a local housing development in Eastleigh.

“It made me nervous,” he tells The Times, “that they are putting something at the heart of a party campaign that directly contradicted something I had been asked to say and do.”

Who, you might ask, does this ultra-loyal proto-Cameron mean by “they”?

Well, he means the leadership team.

The leadership gave Lynton Crosby free run on the Eastleigh campaign and Mr Crosby ran what Mr Boles feels was “a truly rotten campaign” which (and here’s the clue) “hark(ed) back to Michael Howard’s campaign in 2005” (author: Lynton Crosby) and was “narrow, unappealing and backward-looking – that sounds like UKIP.”

The unease about Mr Crosby’s Eastleigh campaign extends across the arch-modernisers. I mentioned just after the result how “depressed” one minister said he was. The focus in the run up to the Budget is inevitably on the vocal demands from the Tory right for tax cuts but David Cameron shouldn’t under-estimate how fed up some of his earliest adopters are about the strident or “shrill” (Nick Boles’ word) tone of the Tory voice right now. 

As in all vanguardist movements, the true believers in Tory modernisation are greatly out-numbered by the wider membership but Nick Boles’ arguments in The Times, I’m told, closely echo some criticisms David Cameron and his team has been hearing in private from some close allies.


A couple of people have suggested Lynton Crosby had nothing to do with the Eastleigh by-election.

Lynton Crosby did focus groups and a poll which defined the campaign. It was the biggest single moment of his impact since he signed up for the Tories’ national campaign, insiders tell me.

Tweets by @garygibbonblog

6 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    I fear that the Tory leadership are close to terrified about what UKIP will do to them at the next election, so we can expect a lot more of the same. Oherwise, why employ Lynton Crosby? The fact that they are now governing in “terror of UKIP” mode makes one thankful that they are in a coalition. The LibDems have their uses after all! The thought that the Home Secretary could be suggesting that we secede from the European Conventiuon on Human Rights (following only the wonderful example of Belarus) turns my stomach!

  2. matt thompson says:

    Nick Boles’ attitude towards the irreplaceable countryside just shows what sorry state the Tory party are now in.

  3. George Lees says:

    And Communism did not fail it just was not implemented properly… Mr Bole’s tendency has been in power for 2 1/2 years and has won no new friends and lost lots of old ones. So Mr Boles wanted to go to Eastleigh to explain the need to build on their countryside, have higher fuel bills to pay for wind mills and champion gay marriage. Not sure that would win over middle England. He needs to come up with something more popular than his “I am not a Tory rightwinger” line.

  4. NMac says:

    The Tories are not known as the Nasty Party for nothing.

  5. Philip Edwards says:


    “Tory modernisers”?………Muhahahahahahaha!

    It is impossible to “modernise” a tenth rate gang of cheap hoodlums and spiv barrow boys. In a truly democratic system they would be tried openly and if found guilty would go to jail to rot for years.

    But this is Britain, home of hypocrisy and corruption.

    You should know. You live and work in the city that lives off it.

  6. Ray Turner says:

    Was it really a truly rotten campaign…?

    I don’t think so Gary.

    By spending so much time on a local issue, the Tories lived up to what they’d been promising to do for the last couple of years. It might not have been a popular campaign in London or nationally, but as a constituent I’ve got to give them credit for that. They’d have done a lot worse, in my opinion, if they’d renaged on anything they’ve said or done locally over the last couple of years, re that housing development. It was an honest campaign focussed on local issues, rather than a rotten one…

    The Tories were beaten because UKIP fielded the best candidate (by a mile) and focussed on an issue that is important to many people, not just in Eastleigh but across the whole of the UK: uncontrolled immigration from the EU.

    Its as simple as that.

    The sooner CCHQ stop contemplating their navel, accept that they were beaten fair & square and knuckle down to do something about the immigration problem, the better…

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