Sister Dorries and the labour camp

Finally is it possible to work out the real agenda of David Cameron's Conservatives?

I commend to you the blog of Tory MP and friend of the Fundies (that's Christian Fundamentalists in case you didn't know) Nadine Dorries.

Have a good read and then contrast and compare the way her party leader, Lexus Dave Cameron, tries to pass himself off. You now know the form: no more laughing at the poor. No more scapegoating the single mothers. The caring wrinkling of the brow to indicate principled stands over the 42 days...

'Ok,' you cry, 'but he's a sort of walking policy vacuum. No-one knows what he might do when in power.' Well I wonder if we can infer the real agenda of the Mod Cons from Sister Dorries's blog.

But more than that it's worth reading for its pure unbridled silliness.

For example on Giles 'whoops a daisy' Chichester MEP - who quit his role as leader of the Tories in Brussels after admitting breaking expenses rules: i.e. paying thousands of pounds in staff allowances to a firm of which he is a paid director.

Here goes our Nadine: "The frenzied attack against Conservative MPs and MEPs, orchestrated by and emanating from the left wing BBC and press has equalled that of an animal in its death throes. The more terminal the position looks for Labour, the more desperate the BBC and the left wing press become."

Hmmm. Tell that to Conservative Central Office hanger on turned BBC political editor Nick Robinson.

But it gets even better.

Here she is on law and order - perhaps not so far in her thinking from David 'death penalty' Davis...

"I believe strongly that we should have County Sheriffs to replace Chief Constables, that they should be voted for and elected by the people, and therefore fully accountable to the people.

Which Sheriff of Bedfordshire would go back to the people for re-election having presided over rising crime?

One sure way to make sure your police force works is to make the top job dependent upon results: a performance related position.

A friend sent me this:

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio created the 'tent city jail' to save Arizona from spending tens of millions of dollars on another expensive prison complex.

He has jail meals down to 20 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.

He banned smoking and pornographic magazines in the jails, and took away their weightlifting equipment and cut off all but 'G' movies. He says: 'They're in jail to pay a debt to society not to build muscles so they can assault innocent people when the leave.'

He started chain gangs to use the inmates to do free work on county and city projects and save taxpayers' money.

Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.""

She goes on (and on as a matter of fact) quoting about the pink uniforms, the searing heat, the forced viewing of Newt Gingrich's history of America - cruel and unusual punishment in my book and, no doubt, in his.

Of course the soft-heared pro-lifer doesn't agree with all of it - oh no. But then she doesn't say which aspects of this American gulag she would leave out.

Must be lovely to be punctilious in your observance of the law which made me wonder if Sister Dorries has copyright permission to reproduce all those photos of inmates. Perhaps she'll let us know.

Moving on.

I was watching some TV the other day and had the misfortune of happening across my own personal version of hell. You'll be familiar with the fabulous Sartre play No Exit or Huis Clos. People lumped in a room together for eternity - hell is other people and all that.

Well this is mine. Stuck in front of an hour-long edition of Eastenders followed by the Apprentice final.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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