Tag Archives: grant-shapps

Grant Shapps is no potty mouth – official

The Conservative Party’s campaigning guru Grant Shapps has had another setback, almost losing a council seat in his Welwyn Hatfield constituency on a 22% swing. Apparently it was all a cunning stunt to undermine Nick Clegg, just as his Ealing Southall Lits-up was a ploy to get rid of Ming.

So much for the partisan willy-waving. What ticked me the most is this follow up comment from Sal Brinton:

I’ve just had an email from Grant, who says he doesn’t swear, and given that it was an amicable (albeit exciting!) count, shall we just say that he certainly made his surprise known.

No, Shapps doesn’t swear. Whenever he feels the urge, he always counts “1234” first.

I promise to start writing about something other than Grant Shapps soon – the stories just keep coming!

Cunning stunt? Buy a calculator

A few days late on this one, but I have been meaning to follow up on this article about Grant Shapp’s cunning stunt over the Christmas holidays:

“Our plan would build more houses than the Government. But the way to do it is not to do it in a centrally planned way. That has always failed.

“The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school.’ The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there.

“If people knew that council tax receipts were kept for five or 10 years if they took houses and therefore council tax was lower, they would often be in favour. This way you are building up an array of benefits from being a Yimby, not a Nimby.”

No-one is disputing that if communities had incentives to develop, all things being equal they probably would. But perhaps Mr Shapps ought to buy himself a calculator if he intends to make this incentive reliant on council tax receipts. Because while only a fraction (a quarter to be precise) of local authority revenue is raised from council tax, new developments will continue to have net costs associated with them, not net benefits.

If the Tory policy is for council tax to shoulder a bigger burden of local tax revenue, it’s news to me, and I’m sure it will be news to the millions of people who are unlikely to welcome a massive tax hike to the tune of thousands of pounds. And it must be news to Caroline Spelman and Eric Pickles who have spent the past two-plus years denouncing any attempt of government to even contemplate revaluation by coming up with scare stories about taxing “nice views“.

If Shapps truly wants his dream of creating incentives for new build to become a reality, he’s going to have to be a bit more radical than that. It won’t happen without a significant tax shift onto land values. That isn’t something that David Cameron, Gideon Osborne and the other members of the Tufty Club behind the New Model Tories are likely to contemplate, no matter how many times Grant sleeps in a cardboard box.

Shapps of course must know this; he’s seen how Osborne has been inflated to the point of being hailed the new messiah by the Right for suggesting (modest) cuts in wealth taxes after all, which makes his stunt seem all the more hollow. Almost as hollow, in fact, as this claim:

Mr Shapps points out that the real losers were the Lib Dems whose second place was a foretaste of the disarray that eventually claimed their leader.

W-O-W – this is amazing stuff coming from the man who claimed he had proof that the Lib Dems were running a “poster lottery” (which has subsequently earned Iain Dale the immortal nickname Pravdale) and whose hands appeared to be caught stuck in the YouTube cookie jar. Cunning stunts indeed. Without wanting to revisit old battles, let’s just make one thing clear: just as the Lib Dem’s victory in Dunfermline and West Fife in 2006 had nothing to do with our lack of a leader at the time, winning Ealing Southall would have done nothing to save Menzies Campbell’s job. He would still have quit this autumn. For Shapps to claim that one of the greatest Tory fuckups of 2007 was in fact a bold act of regicide on his part is immodest even by his standards.

It’s nice to see him begin his political rehabilitation however. It is clear he has learned nothing, which suggests that we will have a second chance to have some more fun at the expense of this legend in his own lunchtime before too long.

Cardboard Conservative

Coming in late I know, but I’m amazed no-one has referred to Grant Shapps’ homelessness escapade the other day in the context of being a cunning stunt. “Cunning stunt” is a collection of letters I have repeatedly associated with the brains behind the Tory’s Ealing Southall campaign this year, and it’s nice to have a reminder in this period of goodwill to all men.

Humbug.

London politics in primary colours?

I find it fascinating that Tories appear to have leapt on this speculation that Labour might be attempting to rig the Conservative primary for London Mayor.

If it is true, then Labour is full of even more morons than I thought. You would have thought they learnt from their attempts to stitch up the Today programme Christmas poll in 1996. There is simply no way they could organise a mass entryist campaign without having to show their hand. There’d have to be a paper trail, an email trail… you know the drill.

And they’d have to be pretty sure they were able to get tens and tens of thousands of people to do it, each one willing to cough up £1.50. Ten thousand Labour supporters registering would make the Conservative Party £15k, and Labour would probably need more than that to assail Boris. Just how much cash is Labour planning to plough into the Tories’ coffers in the name of a dodgy stitch up that might not even work anyway?

In fact, Labour would have to be beyond stupid to try such a thing, notwithstanding the actions of a few mavericks (I note that this particular maverick is one “John Harris” – presumably the journalist who is at best semi-detached from the Labour Party). I simply can’t believe it.

Scratch beneath the surface though, and what are the underlying messages of this story? Firstly, Labour is terrified of Boris Johnson and want to avoid a fair fight at all costs. Secondly, the Conservatives are running a primary that any Londoner can take part in. Thirdly, all the other candidates in the primary are no hopers. In short, all the messages in this story are unequivocally good news for the Tories, and Boris Johnson in particular.

And of course, accusations about grand conspiracies of which there is no evidence whatsoever for is something that at least one Conservative MP seems to specialise in (I could of course mention Lord Rothermere and the Elder Protocols of Zion at this point and talk about ignoble Tory traditions, but I suspect that would upset some sensitive souls).

Two final points: I’m glad to see that the primary is being run by the Electoral Reform Society, so either way the reform movement makes a buck out of this. Secondly, if you have a vote, Vote Ewok. You know it makes sense.

Return to Ealing Southall

I’ve sure everyone is heartily sick of the Ealing Southall by-election by now, but I thought I’d add a few final thoughts.

The Tories made a big play about how they were, to paraphrase one Iain Dale commenter, “parking their tank on the Lib Dems’ lawn”. Many of their leaflets did indeed ape our style (although as I said earlier, they were appallingly amateurish – in particular their version of “Talk of the Town” OK Magazine style literature), but they were still infused with Toryish notions about the candidate standing stiffly and self-importantly in every picture. I don’t think I saw a single photo of Tony Lit actually listening to someone talking in any of their literature. Of course such photos are always posed, but they send important subliminal messages about your candidate. Of course, if you come from a Conservative standpoint and see politics as a thing done by important men in suits rather than for ordinary people (it’s interesting to compare and contrast the photos posted on the Facebook groups for Conservative Future and Lib Dem Youth & Students: the former has portraits of Cameron, Hague, Osborne et all, the latter is full of pictures of LDYS campaigning, partying and doing lewd things to one another. Same age group, different planet), you will struggle desperately to get your head around such a concept.

That leads me onto the choice of Tony Lit himself. Why would you even consider a non-local candidate who wasn’t a party member, let alone impose him on the local party (I heard Caroline Spelman on Today yesterday saying that the ES campaign showed that Cameron was committed to localism – ha!)? But Tony Lit does rather conform to the ideal Cameroon candidate, not because he is minority ethnic, but because he is a dilletante. To be sure, he isn’t a top hatted toff like Boris Johnson or Zac Goldsmith, but he screamed money. Far from seeing this as a problem in an economically under-performing place like Southall (I should be careful here because I actually loved the place and have added it to my list of places I might consider moving to), the Tories tried selling him as a ‘local success story’. In doing so they blithely ignored the fact that his ‘success’ is rooted in his father’s money; but when have ‘meritocrats’ ever let the truth get in the way of a good story? Again, it boils down to a Toryish concept of the candidate as ‘hero’ as opposed to ‘public servant’ and one that I’m not convinced has much traction outside of the sort of cosy suburban areas that the Tories have retreated to over the past couple of decades. Far from modernisation and reaching outside of the Tory supporter base, Cameroonism is looking distinctly old fashioned and inward looking from where I’m sitting this morning.

Then there was the bad tempered nature of their campaign. I for one was taken by surprise by the sheer intensity of it. It started with Grant Shapps bizarre claims about ‘poster lotteries’ which he still hasn’t offered any evidence of and continued with a stream of threats to either sue their opponents or sic the police on them. In the event, only one campaign team are being investigated by the police: the Conservatives, for allegedly leaking the result of the postal vote count. The Grant Shapps/YouTube incident will live on forever as an example of quite how mad, bad and plain stupid the Conservatives can be.

But there was another, more subtle but in some ways even more lamentable aspect of this. In by-elections, tensions among party activists run high. There are regrettable incidents such as the Watson/Kemp addiction to using rentamobs to intimidate their rival candidates. But as a general rule you make a point of being polite to one another when you cross each other in the street or tell at a polling station. There is simply no need to make it personal.

The Tories I encountered in Ealing Southall however were something else. Without fail, if I crossed one of them in the street, they would sneer, mutter something rude under their breath or otherwise make it clear that I was wasting my time and the Lib Dems were about to be victorious. One Conservative woman was polite when she drove up to me on the eve of poll, but that was simply because she was trying to plug me for information (having just carefully taken the Lit posters off her window ten metres down the road).

In fact – confession time! – it was one particularly unpleasant incident outside the Conservative HQ in West Ealing that lead me to blogging about that Billy Taylor post on their Facebook group.

What is clear from these incidents, and from a cursory glance at the blogosphere is that the Conservative campaign team committed the ultimate sin of convincing their own activist base that they were on the cusp of victory. You don’t piss in your own backyard. The innocent little CF monkeys who were so arrogantly sneering at rival party activists in the street two weeks ago will have had their hearts broken. It was clear from the outset that the Tories weren’t getting activists in sufficient numbers, despite the hype. Next time, they’ll have to rely on Paul Seery to do everything (if he hasn’t defected to Labour by then). And that’s not to mention all the political journalists, such as Jonathan Isaby and Michael Crick who they were quite clearly telling fibs to. Campaign teams in backwater, moribund seats get this sort of electionitis all the time, but when your senior by-election task force gets carried away like this, you have a crisis on your hands. Just how badly do you think they’d have screwed up if it had been a General Election?

Finally, you have to ask serious questions about David Cameron’s judgement. I’m not just talking about his decision to put his personal credibility on the line, to the point of having his name on the ballot paper, but of his decision to dedicate so much party resources to a campaign that went nowhere. Let’s be quite clear about something: the Conservatives did play a decisive role in denying the Lib Dems another by-election win. The Tory campaign was effectively a spoiler, muddying the waters, confusing the media and enabling Labour to present it as a straight Labour-Tory fight. If they hadn’t gone for it in the same way, perhaps concentrated their resources in Sedgefield where they were second, the Lib Dems might just have been able to take the seat.

Of course, for people like the aforementioned Paul Seery, that is mission accomplished. But if Cameron thinks that, he should resign. Coming a poor third in Ealing would not have got them worse headlines than they received yesterday and today – indeed without the over hype, they wouldn’t now be getting spanked. But it would have damaged Brown and brought his honeymoon period to a crashing end. Instead, Brown’s bounce has been consolidated. From a strategic point of view, it has to be one of the worst political miscalculations ever.

It could be that the Tories genuinely believed they had a real chance of winning, but who managed to convince them of that? Nothing is certain in politics, but if you can’t guarantee with 100% certainty that you are going to come at least second, you should never campaign to win. I think I learnt that in Primary School. What do they teach those crazy kids at Eton?

There is a comparable pre-1997 example. In 1995, Labour took a strategic decision to challenge the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election, a Tory held seat where the Lib Dems were second. They ran a hard, even nasty campaign, that many Lib Dems still feel sore about. The Lib Dems won, but Labour significantly came second and went on to take the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat in 1997 (which they hold to this day). Peter Mandelson knew exactly what he was doing. Did Grant Shapps?

All this suggests that, for all the froth, Cameron doesn’t really have a clue what his anti-Brown strategy should be. He’s done a good job at making people sit up and pay attention to the Tories again, but he’s done a lousy job as changing hearts and minds within the Conservative Party itself. He surrounds himself with top hatted toffs and dilletantes, and calls it ‘diversity’. At the height of his popularity he nearly lost the Bromley by-election, while at the height of Gordon Brown’s popularity, he ends up humiliating himself when he didn’t need to. The money continues to flow in, some of it not from the clinically insane, but money can’t buy you activists in the North and other areas they need to win. And now we have a return to back to basics and posturing over Grammar Schools (sorry, ‘Grammar streaming‘), entirely at the behest of the very swivel eyed loons who have been keeping them in the political wilderness for the best part of two decades now. It isn’t looking good.

(and after all that, I failed to blog about my favourite Tory election leaflet of all time! Maybe later).

What a complete Lits up!

Fuck up Ealing SouthallNo time to blog at the mo, but in a rare act of cross-partisanship, I thought I’d make my new Ealing Southall button available to all. Subtlety is my middle name!

UPDATE: here’s the code if you want to add it to your page:

Pravdale calms the storm

Pravdale has intervened in Shappgate:

This all seemd a bit odd to me so I went to the horse’s mouth and have got a categoric denial that Grant did anything of the sort. It appears that he had a very easily guessable password on his Youtube account (it was 1234 !!!) and someone hacked into it.

Phew! That’s a relief! And – ha ha ha! – “1234”? Who’dathunkit? More sinisterly, a CCO spokesperson states:

We will be monitoring the account carefully and can’t rule out the activities of our opponents.

You see? It’s all a plot by the Lib Dems. That’s right – we’ve got a mole out there who is going around typing comments on blogs and YouTube (I would refer you again to the resemblance of GrantShapps’ comment and “Des Gray“) claiming we can’t win.*

In any case, it can’t be true that Pravdale and Tim Ireland have been in contact with Grant Shapps today as he is clearly too busy. I emailed him more than 24 hours ago about his activists admitting to stealing out of Ealing residents’ letterboxes and he hasn’t replied yet.

Simple question dear readers: does this explanation sound remotely credible?

Just assuming it is true though, would you trust a man who uses “1234” as his password with running an election campaign? For that matter, would you trust a man who uses “1234” as his password to tie his own shoelaces?

* Seriously, don’t you think the Tories would have got tired of making unfounded allegations by now?

Shappy happy videos on YouTube shocker

Strangely, Grant Shapps hasn’t replied to my email yesterday. Possibly this is because he is busy posting fake messages up on YouTube.

Spot the difference:

Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time. (GrantShapps)

And they didn’t switch to us? Let’s admit it, guys, we’re not going to win this one (Sedgefield maybe?). This contest is, sadly, between Labour and Tony Lit (the Tory chap). It’s certainly put me off from going there. Who’s running our campaign? (“Des Gray“)

I thought Grant Shapps took a hard line against “dirty tricks”?

Meanwhile, and at the risk of sounding like a Childrens’ TV presenter, one of our viewers sent us this picture:
Mastercard advert

EXCLUSIVE (really this time!): Tories brag about dirty tricks

Leading Romford Conservative activist Billy Taylor and personal friend of Greg Hands MP has been bragging about stealing (sic) election literature:

6 Romford Tories were out delivering leaflets today (Sunday 8th) in Ealing and managed not just to deliver a whole polling district, but we managed to steal over 150 Lib Dem leaflets and 20 Labour out of letterboxes!!! (my emphasis)

Surely theft is illegal? Where do the Tories dig up these criminals?

The comment has now been taken down from the Facebook group “Ealing Southall by-election Broughton Road Sector office” (an admission of guilt?) but – funnily enough – I did have the wit to make a screen grab at the time. Evidence of his posting can also still be seen on Billy’s profile.

Tories steal leaflets

Billy Taylor

Conservative campaign organiser Grant Shapps has taken a high minded view against ‘dirty tricks’ on this campaign so far. I will be writing to him to see what action he will be taking in light of this evidence.

EXCLUSIVE: Splitting and spinning

The ongoing farces within the Labour and Tory camps about their respective Ealing Southall candidate selections are quite eye-watering.

First we hear allegations (still undenied, as far as I’ve been able to see) that Tony Lit only approached the Tories to be their candidate after the Lib Dems rejected him. Shortly after that, a disgruntled Conservative Vice Chair defects. Then we hear that not only is Labour abandoning its all-women shortlist (as I’ve blogged before, Labour uses the option of all-women shortlists as a tool to get cronies selected and non-cronies blocked) but has blocked a viable local female candidate. And now it turns out that their selected candidate is being accused of running a dirty tricks campaign. And that’s just in four days!

The other interesting thing to emerge is that Grant Shapps appears to think that the way to win elections is not to get on with the hard work of campaigning (their FIRST campaign day is still in three days time, remember!), but to embark on some kind of dirty protest, smearing his opponents left, right and centre. One small flaw in his plan: very few Ealing Southall residents actually read Iain Dale’s blog. It is notable that his allegations don’t appear to be attracting any wider attention. The one thing he appears to have achieved is to make me think of Tom Watson as less of a shit in comparison. Significant though that may be, it is hardly much of a boost to the Tory campaign.

As a side point, it is notable at how worried the Tories clearly are about the Lib Dems at the moment. A good example yesterday was Iain Dale’s attack on Ming’s performance on PMQs. A blatant attempt to unspin what was generally considered to be a good performance, it has left him looking quite silly. It’s notable, for example, at how relatively unconcerned he was about Cameron’s performance. His obsession is trying to put Ming in as bad a light as possible gets the better of him too often. It’s just such a shame that so many people within the Lib Dems seem to think it is objective analysis.

On a slightly more serious note, one thing I’ve begun to notice is that the political blogosphere is starting to get more shrill, just as it was in the run up to the 2005 General Election campaign. I admit to being partially responsible for this – I have a party to defend like anyone else (and things like that poster lottery smear really warrant rebuttal). But it does leave me wondering whether this blog is sustainable and whether discretion will force me eventually to stop, just as I did in 2004-5. Hmmm…

…oh, and yes, the “EXCLUSIVE” is satirical again. Sorry.