Moving to Conservative Home

Posted on April 15, 2013

I’m very excited to announce that I have accepted the role of Executive Editor of Conservative Home.

As Paul Goodman, the new Editor, writes today, I will be joining the site in a few weeks as part of the new team following Tim Montgomerie’s departure to The Times.

ConHome has always been a huge influence on my political campaigning and blogging, as I know it has for many others on the centre right around the country, so I’m very much looking forward to making my own contribution to its future at an important time in British politics. Over the last eight years, Tim has had a huge impact on many people, me included, and we have a big job on our hands to live up to his example.

All of you as readers of CrashBangWallace have made this possible through your support, your feedback and your (constructive) criticism, so I would like to thank you. When I started this blog I did so to communicate libertarian ideas and to have some fun – both of which I hope I’ve achieved.

I never anticipated the reach and readership this site would secure, and I certainly never imagined political blogging might one day become my job. Now that it is going to, I hope you will continue to read my writing over at ConHome whether you’re a capital-C Conservative, a small-c conservative, a libertarian or just interested in politics and ideas. I’ll still be writing on fundamental issues of freedom and the political topics of the day, as well as exploring new, wider topics.

I will maintain this site as an occasional outlet for non-ConHome political writing, a resource linking to my work elsewhere and an archive of CrashBangWallace blogposts. I will of course still be tweeting at @WallaceME, too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the last two and half years of blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them – and that you’ll continue to follow my work at its new home.

Thank you again – keep on fighting.

Heseltine gets handbagged – one last time

Posted on April 11, 2013

An email arrives. Even after her death, it seems the Iron Lady still has an acute political aim:

 

APPG MEETING 17 APRIL  CANCELLED

Rebalancing: A discussion with Michael Heseltine

THE DISCUSSION WITH MICHAEL HESELTINE ON WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL HAS UNFORTUNATELY BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO BARONESS THATCHER’S FUNERAL. PORTCULLIS HOUSE WILL BE DIFFICULT TO ACCESS ON THE DAY BECAUSE THE FUNERAL PROCESSION IS SET TO START FROM WESTMINSTER AND THERE WILL BE SUBSTANTIAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS. WE WILL ANNOUNCE THE RESCHEDULED DATE IN DUE COURSE.

 All Party Parliamentary Group on Rebalancing the British Economy

Reasons for a referendum

Posted on December 05, 2011

One thing was always clear about the Government’s EU “referendum lock” – the EU’s defenders were always going to claim it didn’t actually justify a referendum. Whether they did it outright in the wording, or later in a tortured limbo around what that wording meant, is irrelevant.

So it has come to pass now that the first proposed treaty changes since the lock was passed into law have hoved into view. Nick Clegg has rushed straight out, his face painted blue with a delightful ring of yellow stars scattered across his cheeks, chin and forehead, to announce that proposals for fiscal union among the Eurozone countries are not eligible for a referendum as they don’t constitute a transfer of sovereignty from Britain to Brussels.

Underlying this is the argument being pushed by the Conservative leadership that, as Tim Montgomerie reported it, an EU referendum would “plunge Britain’s economy into chaos”.

But it is this latter argument which undermines the former.

As we can now see from the crisis hanging over us – a crisis that has emerged as a direct result of the Euro’s disastrous creation and the ongoing, eternal grind of ever closer union – losing sovereignty is not just about Brussels being able to directly overrule Britain. It is also about whether we are losing the ability to build a successful, sustainable economy on our own terms.

EU integration has made Britain more economically vulnerable to crises on the Continent, a problem which is compounded by the fact that it has also made such crises far more likely. At the same time as our exposure to EU risk has increased, the Single Market’s aggressive protectionism has forbidden us from diversifying by trading freely and fully with other economies around the world – particularly with the BRICs.

In effect, they have tied a weight to our feet, dragging us down into the ocean depths, and bound our hands, stopping us trying to swim upwards.

The decision by a core group of EU countries to integrate through a single currency has diluted our sovereignty by reducing the effectiveness of the measures the British Government might take to boost our economy. As we are currently seeing, you don’t have to be in the Euro to be screwed by its failure.

Can they seriously claim that fiscal union in the Eurozone – a step which is likely to bring down even worse disaster on all our heads – won’t have a similar effect?

We are tied to the Eurozone through our EU membership – as a result, their fate does affect our fate. That’s why we have a veto on these proposals for fiscal union. And that’s why the British people should get a referendum on whether that veto is used.

 

Thank you

Posted on September 14, 2011

Total Politics have started to publish the results of their annual Blog Awards, based on votes from the blog-reading public. I’m delighted to say that this blog has been voted Number 5 in the rankings for Right Wing Blogs, up there with the big beasts and full-timers of the political blogosphere. Thank you to each and every one of you who voted for CrashBangWallace, I’m really chuffed and will do my best to live up to the ranking over the next 12 months.

Here’s the Top Ten (with last year’s ranking in brackets):

1 (1) Order Order

2 (3) Conservative Home

3 (4) Spectator Coffee House

4 (26) Archbishop Cranmer

5 (81) Crash Bang Wallace

6 (5) Daniel Hannan

7 (-) The Commentator

8 (18) Talk Carswell

9 (17) EU Referendum

10 (10) James Delingpole

Even the Lib Dems have abandoned the EU

Posted on July 12, 2011

ConservativeHome has already drawn attention to the boom in anti-EU feeling among Conservative voters in the new Angus Reid survey – a poll which also shows support for leaving the EU outright is now at 49% against a mere 25% who want to stay in. It’s clear those of us who have been arguing for a long time that the EU is, in Dan Hannan’s words, making us “poorer, less democratic and less free” are making serious headway.

Looking at the tables, there’s an interesting message for the main party on the pro-EU side of the divide, too. The Lib Dems have traditionally been cheerleaders for the EU, ever closer union and Euro membership – but now those are small minority opinions among even their own voters.

Asked “If a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should adopt the euro as its currency were held tomorrow, how would you vote?”, Lib Dems voted 80% No to 10% Yes.(It was 92% to 4% among Tories and 79% to 11% among Labour, interestingly making Labour the most pro-Euro party).

The answer to the question “If a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union (EU) were held tomorrow, how would you vote?” was even more surprising. Lib Dem voters would vote in favour of leaving at a rate of 39% to 34%. (Conservatives support leaving by 66% to 16%, and Labour by a margin of 42% to 32%.)

This is another confirmation of how out of touch Westminster has become with the voters, but also of how even the Lib Dems have lost their pro-EU and pro-Euro base. Surely it’s time for them to ditch this out of touch, vote-losing article of faith?

David Campbell Bannerman Likes, er…

Posted on May 25, 2011

.. “UK Independence Party”, apparently. Possibly time for someone to do a bit of Facebook profile updating, given recent news?

Stat Prawn – breaking records in March

Posted on April 04, 2011

It’s that time again – the Stat Prawn is here to update on the ebb and flow of traffic. I’m pleased to say March has gone really well – helped by exclusive stories on the failures of various Conservative Associations and the revelation that Ed Miliband freely confessed to some pretty massive foreign policy blind spots.

Pageviews: 23,477
Visits:
19,965
Absolute Unique Visitors: 12,361

That makes March this blog’s biggest ever month in terms of Visits and Pageviews, and second biggest month ever in terms of Absolute Uniques.

Particularly interesting is the fact that Twitter has overtaken ConservativeHome to become the 3rd biggest source of traffic after Guido and Iain Dale – this shows the growing power of social media. The fact that it is closely followed in the rankings by Google shows the growing amount of word-of-mouth referral to this blog. That’s down to you lot out there, so thanks for your support, comments and Tweets.

Sam Coates heads to Afghanistan

Posted on February 14, 2011

I’d like to echo ConservativeHome’s good luck wishes to Sam Coates as he prepares for his first tour in Afghanistan. As well as being brave in his country’s cause, Sam is one of the nicest, most principled people you could hope to meet – particularly in the political world. I’m very fortunate that he’s been an ally and a friend to me for some years now.

I should declare an interest, in that Sam and I once spent the night together – not in the (alleged) sense that would get Guido excited enough to do a spoof Christmas card, but in Parliament Square as part of a protest in support of the Burma Campaign UK. In seriousness, he’s proved to be one of the most doughty an able campaigners for freedom that the centre right can boast – and I join all those who are wishing him a safe tour and a welcome return.

Sam’s news is a good example of a broader trend whose impact on the politics of defence and the military is yet to fully emerge. Due to the long-running deployments in Afghanistan (and until recently Iraq) my generation is better acquainted with our peers going to war than any since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Stop someone in their 20s in the street and ask them if they know someone who has seen active service and you’ll find that the proportion who have is remarkably high. I can think of  at least a dozen school and university contemporaries of mine who’ve done at least one tour, and there’s no reason why my experience should be untypical.

This, I suspect, is one reason why the issues of concerns over military equipment and the honouring of the Military Covenant have become so mainstream. Campaigns run by The Sun and others have undoubtedly played a part, but the practical experience of people you know and love going to fight in foreign lands sharpens the minds of even the most unpolitical people.

Ten years ago you’d have found there was a sizeable constituency who wanted decent funding and support for the Armed Forces on point of principle, allied to a relatively large but ageing constituency who had personal experience. The former group are still there, but the latter has grown hugely, particularly among the young. As on any political issue, the maxim of attracting young supporters and then keeping them for life will hold true, so this could change the landscape for a very long time.

And rightly so – it’s right and undeniable that the very least our nation should do for Sam Coates and his comrades is do our damnedest to kit them out properly, prepare them for danger to the best of our abilities and support them for as long as they may need it.

The Coalition Cold War threatens to heat up

Posted on January 17, 2011

The “Cold War” was a relative term. In reality, it was quite a hot conflict; decades of fighting-by-proxy from the mujahideen thrashing the Russians out of Afghanistan to the CIA and KGB-sponsored bush wars of sub-Saharan Africa cost hundreds of thousands of lives. But compared to thermonuclear heat that could have been unleashed, it was still considered a “cold” war.

I wonder where on the Hot or Cold scale the relationship between the wings of the Coalition would now register?

It was back in July that Conservative Home’s Paul Goodman wisely identified that this is a Coalition of three partners, not two. Those three are the left of the Lib Dems, the right of the Conservatives and the fused leadership group around Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

Some friction between those three elements is inevitable. Like a car driving a long journey, using the engine damages the parts but that can’t be helped if you want to get to your destination. This attrition can only end in one of three ways:

1) the driver decides to stop early. In this scenario, Cameron and/or Clegg choose to go their separate ways. Despite Tom Watson’s scurrilous rumour-mongering about Conservative plans for a May election, this is incredibly unlikely. There’s nothing for them to gain from giving up power after they struggled and haggled so hard to build the Coalition in the first place. If the driver chooses to stop early, then he’s left sitting on the hard shoulder halfway to his destination.

2) the car engine shakes itself apart. Either the Left of the Lib Dems or the Right of the Conservatives hits a sticking point beyond which they will not go, and the coalition shatters. Without taking great care, this looks increasingly possible. The number of rebellions from the Conservative backbenches is rising and their is more than a little justification in their complaint that their demands of proper action on the EU, strict law and order policies or the delivery of tax cuts through further spending cuts have been left unfulfilled, compared with the indulgence shown to the Lib Dem Left.

3) with care and plenty of oiling, the car makes it the whole way to its destination. This is the option the leadership clearly prefer, but it will take great care to achieve it. Every part in the Coalition machine must be cared for, reassured and well-lubricated by giving them some wins on the issues dearest to their hearts. If that can be achieved, then the Coalition should last for a full term – though I doubt it will endure beyond that.

At the moment, I fear there are signs that while the Government is nowhere near option 1, and clearly wants to go for option 3, it is creeping closer to option 2. The friction in their engine is building, some parts are starting to overheat and insufficient oil has been applied to make things run smoothly.

To an extent, this is because the Tory backbenches are feeling taking for granted. While the Lib Dems had to swallow tuition fees, that was one unpalatable gulp while the Conservatives feel they are being forced to eat mouthful after mouthful of unsatisfactory policy.

Worse, they are starting to feel actively disliked by their own side. Sayeeda Warsi’s attack on what she and the BBC termed “the Right” as supposedly being lazy when it comes to campaigning wasn’t helpful – even thought it may well have been off the cuff rather than a prepared line.

None of this is being helped by the (entirely predictable) bad grace of the Lib Dem left wingers. The Conservatives helped the Lib Dems out of  hole in Oldham East and Saddleworth by effectively lending them thousands of votes, saving the party’s face. But are they grateful? Of course not – like the French attitude to Britain after World War Two, it seems that if anything they resent the people who saved their skins.

I like many of the things the Coalition are doing, particularly on civil liberties, quangos and localism. Even on the areas where I think they should go further, such as public spending, or the areas where they haven’t done anything meaningful, like the EU, it’s clear that the alternative – a Labour or Lib/Lab Government – would be far, far worse. It won’t help anyone if this car breaks down early. Some oil and TLC are necessary to make sure that happens.

Three questions for the future of the blogosphere

Posted on December 20, 2010

It’s a measure of Iain Dale’s huge success as a blogger that his departure from the blogosphere has led people to question the very future of political blogging itself.

A blog is dead, but blogging will live on – there is no reason inherent to blogging why the medium itself should die out, unless Government sets out to destroy it. Twitter is a complementary not competing medium, offering an outlet for snap reaction, jokes and debate but not providing space for longer analysis.

The real questions over the future of blogging are about its form and freedom. To my mind there are three essential issues about what may lie ahead.

Who will blog? With the departure of Iain, Tom Harris and Will Straw it’s clear that some of the first wave of big bloggers are moving on.

There is a natural churn in any industry or hobby – but to have churn, new must come in as old departs. This blog is still a relatively new arrival on the scene, but I confess I can only think of a couple of other new political bloggers. Of course that may be because i haven’t found them yet, not because they don’t exist. Which brings us on to the second question:

How will the blogosphere function? The right wing blogosphere has developed – utterly organically – an infrastructure. Three main hubs (Iain Dale, ConservativeHome and Guido Fawkes) pull together the blogging that’s out there and transmit traffic to blogs further down the food chain.

One of those hubs has been removed, though I know Iain has expressed an interest in keeping the Daley Dozen feature going.

It’s not particularly healthy for any sector to be so reliant on so few hubs. The Big Three didn’t set out to build a monopoly – nor could they if they wished, given the way the Internet works. All three have in fact gone out of their way to provide a ladder for smaller blogs to garner extra readership through regular linking.

Really it’s down to the rest of us to work harder to build a new infrastructure in Iain’s place – either through a scrap that results in the emergence of another big beast or, more likely, through greater cooperation and linking between a number of medium-sized beasts.

The third and final question is the long-term and ultimately fundamental one. Who will control the blogs?

Iain’s departure is at least in part because his blogging has generated other work, such as his LBC show, which has ended up taking over his time. The ConHome team have long been able to work as essentially full time bloggers, while Guido seems to be taking the middle road of overseeing the blog while Harry Cole becomes News Editor. In the States, the professionalisation of blogging is best seen in the growth of the Gawker Media network.

This an understandable shift. Iain felt he had the choice between blogging and making a living in his dream job. Guido has strengthened his position enough to be able to afford to employ Harry but as a result has a business that consumes much of his time.

My concern is what this means for smaller blogs. On the plus side it means there is hope that at least some people can make a living from blogging.

On the down side, I fear this professionalisation may have unintended and perhaps inevitable consequences.

Look at the history of newspapers. When printing first became relatively cheap and widely feasible, in the 17th Century, it was an anarchic, free speaking and hugely popular industry that leant itself naturally to scepticism of power and authority.

The pamphlets produced were of varying accuracy and quality, but the public were free to decide what they liked. Ultimately, the pamphleteers’ radicalism was one of the driving factors in the English Civil War and the birth of the libertarian movement in England. The parallels with the recent history of blogging are obvious.

But the pamphlets eventually changed. Essentially, they became modern newspapers. Writers were able to become professionals, and quality improved – but regulation tightened its grip, and eventually a turgid morbidity set in. 300 years on, those weaknesses led blogs to become appealing, necessary and successful.

So maybe we’re seeing a similar shift taking place online (only faster, given the speed of modern technology). Professionalisation of the blogosphere is market-driven, so there’s little we can do about that. What we can and must do to escape the eventual fate of the pamphleteers is resist regulation. Hazel Blears has already led calls for the regulation of blogs, and I’m sure more such voices will follow – keen to stamp out a source of uncomfortable criticism and scrutiny.

There is a danger that as leading bloggers become professionals, Government will use  the shift as an excuse to regulate what they can portray as an industry. Only by nipping that in the bud will hobbyists, spare-time bloggers and potential stars of the future be able to keep going. As with any market, to ensure competition and innovation the barriers to entry must be kept low.

If some bloggers are able to become professionals, then good luck to them – but to keep the medium relevant and therefore alive it must remain open, cheap to do and above all free to speak as it wishes.