William Atkinson is ConservativeHome’s new Assistant Editor

15 Mar

We recently gazetted Henry Hill’s appointment as Deputy Editor.  Today, we can announce William Atkinson’s appointment as Assistant Editor.  You can follow him on Twitter at @WTMAtkinson.

William will already be familiar to some readers through his writing for the Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, Cap X.

He debuts today with a ToryDiary arguing that in relation to the Government’s Coronavirus policy “the trouble of following public opinion has been a problem of these last two years”

As ever, we will bring you, our readers, the very best Conservative news, analysis, insight and opinion.

ConHome will publish each Saturday a selection of our best pieces of the week

25 Feb

During 2019, ConservativeHome at one point paused publication of our daily newslinks on Saturdays, for reasons previously set out, only a few months later to resume them again “for the moment“.

This brief ToryDiary is to give notice to readers that once again and for the same reasons we shall be pausing our daily newslinks on Saturdays until further notice.

We will be publishing a selection of our best pieces of the week on that day instead, but will return each Sunday with our usual daily newslinks and other items, which will then continue as usual Monday – Friday.

 

Andrew Griffith: It is ultimately outputs that matter. My priorities as the Prime Minister’s new Director of Policy.

7 Feb

Andrew Griffith is the Prime Minister’s Director of Policy, and is MP for Arundel.

With the benefit of the strong mandate that the Prime Minister obtained at the last general election, and building on the Government’s leadership during the Covid pandemic, the Number Ten Policy Unit has a vital mission to deliver policies that reflect the priorities of people across the UK.

You would not know it from the media headlines, but families want to hear about our plans to grow employment, tackle the NHS backlog, control our borders, make their streets safer, bring down the cost of living and return rapidly to the point when we can cut taxes to let everyone keep more of their own money – all policies that are rooted in strong Conservative values.

As the Prime Minister’s Director of Policy, these are my top priorities together with delivering the tangible opportunities from Brexit that will allow our economy to be more competitive and the reform of government to deliver better public services. Whilst the Policy Unit’s remit is to advise the Prime Minister across the widest breadth of government policy, we will be unafraid to ruthlessly focus on the key issues. It is ultimately outputs that matter.

I bring to the role my personal experience of growing up in the early 1980s, when an unconventional Conservative Prime Minister built an unusually broad coalition of support, secured successive large election majorities, confounded pessimists and radically improved the way that the world and its own citizens perceived Britain. From a comprehensive school in south-east London, I was the first in my family to go to university, where campaigning to keep the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism turned me into a lifelong Conservative.

I stood for election in both the 2001 and 2005 general elections, reducing an initial 12,000 Labour majority. Corby, after the closure of its steelworks, was very much a target ‘red wall’ constituency of its time. It taught me the vital importance of policies being clear, relevant and simple to communicate on the doorstep.

More recently, having entered Parliament from business, I know first-hand that prosperity is created not by government but by the ‘fly wheel’ of enterprise and entrepreneurship creating jobs and providing the tax revenue to finance high quality public services. A competitively regulated, low tax and high skills economy trading globally has always been the right combination for economic success.

As we formulate and deliver policy it is vital that we harness the energy, experience, and insight from Members of Parliament, Parliamentary candidates and supporters, including the readers of ConservativeHome. Our Party represents voters across the whole of the UK and every generation, gender and religion. We have the opportunity to be a ‘hive mind’ of centre-right policy development.

It is important that we do so. In the battle of ideas, we remain an insurgent force: outgunned by the hegemony of left-wing orthodoxy that often lurks without challenge within swathes of the cultural and education establishment and in the state supported media.

One way we will do this is through Sir Graham Brady and the 1922 Executive’s ambition to re-establish backbench policy committees. The Prime Minister and I warmly support this, and we are committed to make them work. Covid has suppressed proper policy discussion for too long – indeed, for the majority of the time that I and my 2019 colleagues have sat in Parliament.

A large majority is a poor substitute for proper engagement between Ministers, Number Ten and backbench colleagues who in many cases possess decades of relevant experience. The 1922 backbench policy committees – one covering each major government department – will form just one part of changes in how a sleeker Number Ten operation engages with Members of Parliament.

Ministers, too, will notice a difference. In today’s complex, competitive and dynamic environment it’s a fallacy to control everything too tightly from the centre. Decisions are usually taken best close to where their impact is felt, and high-performing departments should expect a light touch approach, freeing up bandwidth for deeper interventions elsewhere.

Just as the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire, constructive engagement makes for good policies that last the test of time and that colleagues can unite around. The things that make the largest differences to the most people tend, by definition, to be challenging. It is not simple to reverse 40 years of EU ‘muscle memory’ overnight as we move to more competitive regulations. We will have to make brave and bold choices as we reform an asylum system that pre-dates the existence of mobile phones and the global internet. Getting Brexit done was not easy. But this is a Government that consistently takes tough decisions. In bringing forward plans to reform social care we have shown the courage to grasp a nettle that our predecessors had long shirked.

This Government has much in its favour. Clear leadership, an ambitious programme and political fuel in the tank in the form of our largest majority since Margaret Thatcher. But the yardstick of long-term political success is real action making a difference to the real experience of electors across the UK.

The British people understand that results take time, particularly as we emerge from an unprecedented global pandemic. So long as they see that we are focussing on them and their needs rather than fighting amongst ourselves, I believe that they will continue to place their trust in us. As I start my role as Policy Director today, it is time for we Conservatives to unite, to support the Prime Minister and to get on with the job.

YouGov, ConHome, polls, surveys – and who Tory activists think should succeed Johnson

10 Jan

In general terms, I would place greater trust in a weighted opinion poll than in a self-selecting survey.

In more specific ones, what do YouGov’s weighted polls of Conservative members tell us compared to this site’s self-selected surveys?

Both we and YouGov asked more or less the same question at more or less the same time during the last Conservative leadership contest – namely, which candidate party members would vote for.

Ballot papers were issued to Party members during early July 2019.

Our survey published just after the ballot opened on July 5 scored Boris Johnson on 67 per cent and Jeremy Hunt on 28 per cent.

A YouGov poll published a day later found Johnson on 74 per cent and Hunt on 26 per cent.

Our second survey on July 11 had Johnson on 72 per cent and Hunt on 28 per cent.

Our third and final survey on July 21 put Johnson on 73 per cent and Hunt on 27 per cent.

The actual ballot percentages were: Johnson 66 per cent, Hunt 34 per cent.

So the closest finding to the result was our survey of July 5, and my presumption is that many Party activists voted early.

Nonetheless, our proprietor’s words apply, as ever – that a poll is a snapshot, not a prediction.

Our subsequent surveys were as close to the YouGov poll as makes no difference – and you will see that both our survey and the YouGov poll underestimated Hunt’s score by between six and eight points.

Next, to a question that neither we nor YouGov can measure against a real event – namely, who will be the next Conservative leader.

We asked in our last survey: who should be the next leader of the Conservative Party after Boris Johnson?

YouGov has asked in a poll for Sky News: if Boris Johnson stood down, who would you like to replace him?

Those seem roughly comparable questions.

We published on December 27, and our top two were Liz Truss on 23 per cent and Rishi Sunak on 20 per cent.

YouGov published yesterday evening, and its top two are Rishi Sunak on 33 per cent and Liz Truss on 25 per cent.

Part of the reason for the difference is likely to be the “others”.

YouGov tried putting Jeremy Hunt (eight per cent), Michael Gove (six per cent), Sajid Javid (five per cent), Priti Patel (four per cent) and Dominic Raab (four per cent) into the mix.

For each of those, we had Hunt on eight per cent, Javid on five per cent, Gove on four per cent, and Raab and Patel on two per cent each.

We also put in eight other potential candidates: of these, Penny Mordaunt got nine per cent and Steve Baker eight per cent – marginally higher ratings than the Cabinet Ministers that both we and YouGov listed.

At any rate, Sunak and Truss are clearly the front runners, as far as both YouGov and ConHome are concerned…in an election that may not take place in this Parliament.

Next, our last survey’s Cabinet League Table found Boris Johnson in negative ratings for the third time, for the second time in successive months, and on his lowest ever score (-34).

YouGov asks the party members it polled whether they believe that he is doing well or badly as Conservative leader. Sixty one per cent say well, 38 per cent badly.

These findings point in different directions, and not even a shift in the Prime Minister’s favour, which our survey picked up in its later returns as it became clear that there would be no new restrictions post-Christmas, appears to explain the difference.

According to the YouGov poll in a question that we have not asked (at least yet), “Do you think Boris Johnson should stand down as Conservative leader?”, 59 per cent say he should remain, 34 per cent say he should stand down and seven per cent don’t know.

YouGov polled 1,005 Conservative members for Sky News between 30 December and 6 January.  Here is the full write-up.

Our last survey went out on December 23, we got just under 800 replies, and we wrote the first result up on December 27.

As far as I know, YouGov is the only pollster to poll Tory members, although it doesn’t so regularly.  There’s a history of our panel sometimes turning up results in the same ball park.

Job Opportunity: ConservativeHome is hiring an Assistant Editor

17 Dec

ConservativeHome is recruiting an Assistant Editor. This is a rare chance to join an editorial team producing expert news and analysis from the front line of British politics.

The ideal candidate will be keen to develop their knowledge, writing, editing skills and profile in Westminster and nationally. You don’t have to have worked as a journalist to apply – first and foremost, we’re seeking someone with a sharp mind, great knowledge of and interest in politics and the Conservative Party, and the ability to learn and adapt quickly.

The role is open to journalists, of course, but we would also invite applications from candidates currently in other fields who are looking to break into the industry – including but not limited to those with experience as Parliamentary researchers, advisers, speechwriters, campaigners, policy specialists and beyond. The ability to write well is key – if your previous work has been writing someone else’s articles or speeches, rather than under your own byline, that’s all welcome experience too.

As well as providing a front-row seat at a fascinating time in political events, and the chance to learn from our experienced editorial team, the position also offers the opportunity to develop your profile (and freelance income) as a commentator in the wider press and broadcast media. ConservativeHome journalists regularly appear in national newspapers and magazines, and on Sky News, BBC channels, GB News, Times Radio and others, which we encourage.

Salary: £35,000-£38,000 dependent upon experience.

Responsibilities of the role include, but are not limited to:

  • Writing daily news, opinion and analysis articles on the subject of UK politics;
  • Editing articles from outside contributors;
  • Supporting the Editor and Deputy Editor in producing ConservativeHome content, and maintaining quality and consistency in output;
  • Fulfilling Duty Editor shifts – these include the production of a comprehensive round-up of the morning’s newspapers and our morning newsletter for 9am, and require an early start. The Assistant Editor would normally do around three such shifts a week;
  • Chairing ConservativeHome events and providing expert analysis at ConservativeHome events, in-person and online;
  • Representing ConservativeHome in the broadcast media;
  • Managing social media channels.

Key skills, experience and qualities

  • Excellent written English.
  • The ability to prioritise and work under pressure.
  • Political knowledge/experience. You are excited by political events, have a good understanding of the dynamics of Westminster and the Conservative Party, and are keen to develop further. Perhaps you have already worked in a newsroom, campaigning organisation, Parliamentary office, think tank, public affairs team or similar.
  • Writing experience. You’ve written about politics either in your own name or as ghost-writer/researcher/speechwriter for someone else. This might be for established print or online outlets, a personal or organisation’s blog, or similar. You know how to develop an argument in an engaging way, and what is and is not a story.
  • Drive and initiative. You are able to generate ideas for articles, are confident working in a fast-changing environment, and are comfortable following editorial instructions. We mostly work remotely.
  • Keen to develop. You are enthusiastic for a new opportunity which you can grasp and make the most of, and are open to learning new skills.
  • Understanding and experience of social media, particularly Twitter.
  • Sympathy with the values and aims of ConservativeHome.

Desirable skills, experience and qualities

  • Experience of using WordPress.
  • Event chairing/hosting experience, in-person or online.
  • Broadcast media and/or podcasting experience.

Start date and interviews

The role would start as soon as feasibly possible, dependent upon the successful candidate’s availability. Applications close at 6pm on Thursday 6th January, with interviews to take place in London very shortly afterwards.

Applications

To apply, please send a one-page cover letter and a CV to development@conservativehome.com

Links to examples of writing, social media output and broadcast experience are very welcome.

Henry Hill will be the new Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome

17 Dec

Henry Hill will become the new Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome early next year.  He is well known to our readers for his prolific and versatile writing, his expertise on constitutional matters, and his weekly Red, White and Blue column on Thursdays.

The quality of his work is attested to by the demand for his work elsewhere – including the Daily Telegraph, Times Red Box, The Spectator, UnHerd, CapX and The Critic.  Henry has also been active at the back of the ConHome shop as a frequent compiler of our daily newslinks, as well as a prominent feature in our front window.

Henry has been with us as an Assistant Editor and then as News Editor since 2013. As ever, we will bring you, our readers, the very best Conservative news, analysis, insight and opinion.  We look forward to the New Year and  whatever it holds.

Mark Wallace, Chief Executive

Paul Goodman, Editor

David Gauke: Truss rises – and Sunak runs towards early tax cuts in order to head her off

6 Dec

David Gauke is a former Justice Secretary, and was an independent candidate in South-West Hertfordshire at the recent general election.

Tax cuts are back in fashion. Having announced tax increases in his March Budget, and having agreed to the Prime Minister announcing further tax increases to fund higher health and social care expenditure in September, the Chancellor is taking every opportunity to let everyone know that he is in favour of lower taxes and plans to cut taxes before the next general election. All of this before any of the announced tax increases takes effect. What is going on?

Before examining what this tells us about what will happen next with fiscal policy, it is worth recalling how we got here.

At the time of the March Budget this year, it was evident that a fiscal tightening of some description was going to be necessary. Nothing needed to be done straight away, but it is politically easier to announce deficit-reducing measures earlier in a Parliament rather than later.

As for whether the tightening should be tax increases or spending cuts, tax increases were always the likely outcome. Years of spending restraint, pledges of high spending at the last general election and a change in the nature of Conservative support all suggested that the political reality was that taxes would go up. And so they did, with a freeze in thresholds for personal taxes and a substantial increase in corporation tax rates.

In September, the Prime Minister wanted to announce that he had solved the social care issue, the Health Secretary wanted more money for the NHS to cope with post-Covid pressures and the Chancellor – as a good fiscal conservative – wanted to ensure that any additional spending is paid for by higher taxes rather than letting borrowing take the strain.

A deal was done. The Prime Minister got his announcement, the Health Secretary got his money and the Chancellor not only got the tax increase necessary to pay for it, but he also got the Prime Minister to announce the increase in National Insurance Contributions.

We then come to the October Budget. The Chancellor had a bit more money to play with because the economy had grown faster in 2021 than had been expected ,and the damage done to the long term health of the economy by Covid had been downgraded. He had a choice between increasing spending, borrowing less and cutting taxes.

Cutting taxes was always the least likely option, because it would have been very strange to announce tax increases one month and then tax cuts the next. The real choice was between either spending the windfall or reducing borrowing, perhaps with an eye on tax cuts later in the Parliament. When it came down to it, more of the windfall went on spending than many expected.

With little tucked away for a rainy day, the possibility of future tax cuts became heavily dependent on the OBR once again downgrading their COVID scarring estimate (they remain relatively pessimistic on that compared to other forecasters).

There are, however, also significant downside risks for the economy. We do not yet know what will happen with the Omicron variant and there may be other variants in future. Triggering Article 16 in January (still possible although less likely than it was) would likely provoke a trade war and damage business confidence.

But even if there is an improved forecast from the OBR in 2022, it will be a forecast made in a period of uncertainty. The prudent course would not be to use any upside sum to either cut taxes or increase spending.

This suggests that the plan earlier this autumn was that 2022 should be a fiscally boring year. There might be some revenue neutral tax reforms but, in terms of the balance between tax and spend, the big decisions were made in 2021. The plan was to implement the announced tax increases, hold the line on additional spending bids and hope for some good news that will permit some tax cuts in 2023.

Politics has, however, intervened.

The response to the increases in NICs announced in September was relatively muted, but the October Budget landed remarkably badly with the Daily Telegraph and Spectator and a fair few Conservative MPs. Belatedly, there is a recognition that this was not a small state government. Shortly afterwards, in a separate development, Boris Johnson blundered over the Owen Paterson case and the Peppa Pig speech, and his personal ratings tumbled.

All of this has left the Prime Minister with a bigger party management issue than a public opinion issue. The Conservatives remain, at worst, level-pegging with Labour, and the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election result was reassuringly dull. The public has not reacted strongly against the tax rises, but it looks as if the wider Conservative movement has.

To gauge the mood amongst Conservative activists, it is always instructive to look at the ConservativeHome ratings. The Prime Minister is struggling, and the Paterson affair has contributed to that (as the unfortunate Mark Spencer’s rating demonstrates), but the fall in the Chancellor’s rating suggestions a reaction against the tax increases. He is no longer the heir-apparent.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss – associated with lower taxes – continues to ride high and is on (tank) manoeuvres. It was also striking how Lord Frost – previously seen as something of a political creature of the Prime Minister’s – has asserted his independence by declaring his enthusiasm for lower taxes. He sits in second place in the league table.

Let us fast-forward to some point next year when the Budget is about to be delivered. Imagine the circumstances where Conservative MPs and activists are feeling a bit despondent because “this isn’t a proper Conservative government”; voters are feeling the pinch as living standards fall and theTelegraph (Boris Johnson’s “real boss” according to Dominic Cummings) is campaigning for tax cuts; and the Foreign Secretary lets it be known that she thinks lower taxes would unleash this country’s entrepreneurial spirits. How do we think the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will react?

I am going to hazard a guess, and suggest that they will both want tax cuts. Fiscal conservatives will point out that having decided to spend a lot of money (not to mention pursuing a growth-damaging European policy), the country might not be able to afford tax cuts, that there is the small matter of complying with the fiscal rules and that demographic pressures in the 2030s suggest that the long-term trajectory is higher taxes.

I think one could always have been confident that this is the sort of defeatist doom-mongering up with which the Prime Minister would not put. These are certainly not persuasive arguments if they imperil his position in Number 10.

The Chancellor might have been more torn. He is a fiscal conservative, and knows that Chancellors are often judged on how responsibly they act. But he is also naturally sympathetic to lower taxes and conscious of his own place (current and future) in the party, with a Prime Minister willing to be ruthless to get his own way. On the basis of the briefings currently coming out of Number 11, the Chancellor looks like he will be a tax cutter.

Tax cuts as early as 2022 might not be affordable, coherent or wise but there is definitely a scenario in which they happen regardless. If Number 10 and 11 are united in panic, political expediency will trump fiscal responsibility at the next Budget.

Job vacancy: ConservativeHome seeks a Commercial Director

24 Jun

ConservativeHome, publisher of the UK’s most influential Conservative-supporting news and analysis website, seeks a Commercial Director to play a key part in the company’s growth. This is a rare opportunity to take on a senior role at an exciting point in the development of a unique company close to the heart of the political world.

The ideal candidate will be politically engaged and business-minded, pairing the ability to create innovative strategies for commercial growth with the willingness to get hands-on to make them a reality. Those with experience in public affairs and/or media partnerships would be particularly well-suited.

Responsibilities of the role include, but are not limited to:

  • Working with the Chief Executive to design and deliver a strategy for the growth of ConservativeHome’s commercial activity;
  • Creating and capitalising on new commercial opportunities for the business;
  • Managing relationships with existing commercial partners, and identifying and developing new partnerships;
  • Leading on sales for sponsorship of our popular Party Conference events programme and other event sponsorships year-round;
  • Managing the Head of Events and other commercial team members in delivering the ConservativeHome events programme;
  • Developing and growing our ConservativeIntelligence Dining Club, including via the retention and recruitment of members;
  • Liaising with suppliers and agencies who support ConservativeHome’s work, including our advertising agency.

Key skills, experience and qualities

  • Extensive experience and knowledge of politics. You are excited by political events, have excellent contacts and wish to develop further.
  • Public affairs insight and experience. You have a strong understanding of the interests, priorities and business needs of public affairs professionals, both in-house and agency, and great relationships in the sector.
  • Sales and client relationship management. Your track record shows an ability to identify potential business prospects, sell services successfully to them, and subsequently manage client relationships to maintain satisfaction, secure renewals and further sales.
  • Drive and initiative. You are imaginative, creative and ambitious – able to spot and capitalise on new commercial opportunities.
  • Ability to prioritise and work under pressure.
  • Excellent presentation and communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Sympathy with the values and aims of ConservativeHome.

Desirable skills, experience and qualities

  • Experience of line-managing and supporting colleagues.
  • Marketing experience, through traditional and social media.
  • Experience of developing and running partnerships with or for a media organisation.

Salary

Very competitive, with potential for performance-related rewards. Dependent on experience and ability.

Deadline, interviews and start date

The role would start as soon as possible, dependent upon the successful candidate’s availability. Applications close at 5pm on 6th July 2021, with interviews to take place in London shortly afterwards.

Applications

To apply, please send a one-page cover letter and a CV to development@conservativehome.com

Comments are back online – with a new system

24 Feb

As per our note earlier in the week, the provider of our old comments system suffered a serious technical failure which was beyond our control, leading to the comments on ConservativeHome going offline. Our apologies for the disruption, and thank you to readers for your patience as we’ve worked to find a solution to the problem.

We’re pleased to say that comments are now working again, as you will be able to see below this post.

To ensure a permanent and sustainable solution we have switched from the old system to a new comment system: Vuukle.

To comment, you you can log in using a Twitter, Facebook or Google account, or you can register for a (free) Vuukle account – which you can do directly in our comments section underneath each article, or on the Vuukle site.

This is the same system used by Guido Fawkes and various other blogs, so your account will also work on other sites that use the same comment system.

We are working to transfer the extensive archive of ConservativeHome comments from the old system to the new, but it’s not yet clear when that will be possible. When that does happen, it’ll be in archive format, so comments posted under the old system won’t be linked to accounts on the new system.

As ever, our house Comment Rules apply, and we’ll be moderating the comment section accordingly.

NB: when registering for a Vuukle account, some users initially had an issue with the link in the verification email that the system sends out. This has now been resolved – should it recur, please notify the editors.