BUCF welcomes it’s new members

 

 

 

On Friday, BUCF held a stall at the Societies Fair and signed up lots of new members!

We look forward to meeting everyone properly at our Welcome Drinks on Monday and there will be an opportunity for anyone who missed us at the Fair to sign up then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Onwards and Upwards

I cannot even attempt to outline here the achievements, the records, the breakthroughs and the commitment that has prevailed in the society, in the past year.

The first term was very exciting for us all with a lot of activity within the society and the past two terms have been no different, if not even better!

In February, David Cameron came to visit the Edgbaston constituency with a Cameron Direct event in the ward of Bartley Green. Members were given the opportunity to meet with the now Prime Minister as well as question his views on various issues including tuition fees.

I then organised a campaign workshop to give members the opportunity to learn more about how to run a campaign, both offline and online.

In March, we had a special visit from Andrew Mitchell, now International Development Secretary, for lunch. Members were given the opportunity to learn more about the Conservative Party policy on aid to developing countries and so on.

Members of BUCF joined City Leader, Mike Whitby for lunch at the Council House in April where we learnt about lots of the great work that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition do here.

Campaigning and political activity has been at its optimum this year and to prove their dedication BUCF members woke up at an ungodly hour for the dawn raid on election day:

Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible. Thank you to the members as I’ve always emphasised that without you this society would have lost its purpose. Thank you to the committee who have dedicated long and hard hours to contribute to the cause and serve the membership. Thank you to the patrons and supporters of BUCF from across the city and country who have never held back in praising the work that has been done in the past year.

I will be standing down this evening and I hope that a new, fresh and energized committee will take over and continue to take the society from strength to strength. I would like to wish them the best in doing that! Events of the past few weeks have proven that a young activist presence is essential if we want to win back Birmingham so lets not be complacent. Thank you all for your confidence. Onwards and upwards!

Honesty and Policy

Thanks to the final leader’s debate being held on our campus BUCF has been enjoying local, national and even international coverage for the past two days! All members being interviewed by various radio stations and television networks used the opportunity to get the Conservative message out.

As I made clear in an interview with Nick Owen, this election will be won on honesty and policy. We only need to remember the events of the past three days to be reminded of the dishonesty of the Labour leadership (RE: BigotGate). On the other hand, we only need to remember Nick Cleggs waffle in the final debate when attempting to outline his party’s policy on immigration. It appears that they do not have a policy on immigration (or anything else).

David Cameron came out very well in the final debate. As Benedict Brogan in The Daily Telegraph said, Cameron had saved his best for last. He dominated the debate by outlining coherent and concrete policy; this was the backdrop of his success. In response to Nick Owen’s question of what I expected from Cameron in the debate I said a clear outline of how the Conservative Government would deal with the country’s financial mess had to be made as this is crucial for voters. He did exactly that! Onwards and upwards.

Circles Of Influence

On Friday night I was invited to the launch of the Circles of Influence campaign at the House of Lords. The Circles of Influence is our university’s £60 million fundraising campaign to introduce a host of new projects to the university including “student scholarships, a new music building and innovative research in areas as diverse as healthy ageing, brain injury rehabilitation and personal financial management.” This programme is not just good news for students, staff and alumni but will have a great impact on our city as it brings “life-changing developments both on our historic campus and far beyond.” It was a fantastic evening where the vision for the University of Birmingham was outlined by the Vice- Chancellor.

DE and SR

David Eastwood, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and I.

Time for some pragmatic support for freedom?

Richard Waite is currently reading Law at the University and has previously completeted a degree in Philosophy and Political Economy at the University of Exeter. As one of our veteran members, he has made an ongoing contribution to the society and continues to do so. In his most recent contribution, Richard takes us through some of the issues surrounding liberty in speech and publications.

Expression that we find offensive must be permitted for our society to be called free. Such a statement should be self-evident. This freedom isn’t necessarily an absolute, an inflammatory speech made in front of an angry mob may be a very different thing to the same speech made in more considered circumstances.  Context as much as content matters when it comes to conveying ideas, however we should be supremely sceptical about any attempt to try to prohibit the content itself.

A lot of the debate is currently around hate speech and the extent to which it should be prohibited. I’d argue that prohibition is not only ideologically wrong but also unnecessary and worse, entirely counter productive. However that’s not what this posts really about. There are two just as serious ways in which our ability to express ourselves is limited that have been highlighted recently.

First in this short list of shame are our libel laws. Individuals, professions and companies should all have recourse to the law to protect themselves from defamation.  Whether its libel or slander the freedom to make speech doesn’t excuse oneself from the results of what is said.  This protection can also have undesirable consequences. The so-called chilling effect whereby fear of being taken to court stifles speech before it is made, the cost both personal and financial of defending oneself can be enough to silence all but the most determined commentator.

To some extent this is as unfortunate as it is unavoidable; justice oughtn’t be sidelined because it costs time and money. Instead we should do all we can to minimise or ameliorate the impact upon speech that isn’t defamatory. At the moment the opposite appears to be the case; the chilling effect is more akin to permafrost.

Guardian Journalist Ben Goldacre recounts in one chapter of his rather excellent book “Bad Science” how he was brought before the courts for questioning the efficacy of vitamins as a treatment for aids (the chapter is available online for those that are interested). Defending this case cost in excess of £500,000 before it was dropped. Journalist Simon Singh MBE is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for questioning the treatment its members provide. I’ve no expertise or insight into the truth of these claims and this isn’t a critique of alternative medicine. Rather I suggest that neither of these men should have had the accusations against them entertained as a matter of principle.

Both of these men have respected backgrounds in science and whilst this doesn’t make them infallible we should appreciate their contributions and their right to speak freely on the subjects about which they are experts just as we would respect the rights of their detractors to do likewise. Are we to tolerate a position where those advocating science and reason are to be pursued through the courts rather than through the journals that exist to debate answer such issues? The burden of proof should be upon the accuser not the accused and only where advice being given is demonstrably wrong should a legal issue arise.

Equally shameful are the outmoded regulations requiring impartiality in broadcasting. Impartiality is more of a conceptual than practical possibility. There may be degrees of partiality but all programming is developed within a particular cultural framework and it is inevitable that this will reflect certain preferences and assumptions over others. Even if all news were to consist of nothing more than the presentation of facts there would be a debate over which facts should be presented and how, and that still wouldn’t address partiality found in drama’s or other programming. Even the relevant section of the broadcasting code speaks of ‘due’ impartiality, ‘due’ being used to modify the meaning of impartiality to include notions of appropriateness.

The fact that impartiality is difficult isn’t in itself a reason to abandon it any more than we abandon the NHS on learning that over time mortality will always reach 100% (although it is something that some of the ‘spend ever more’ brigade might ponder).  Instead I say this to show that in embracing a plurality of competing views we wouldn’t be foregoing anything we currently have. Nor would we be loosing journalistic integrity or ethics; many news sources on-line and in print have editorial slants and it is entirely to the benefit of our society. In the same way that I can choose to read the Guardian or the Telegraph so I should be able to choose to watch Fox News or the BBC.

In a world where there were only 4 television stations means to moderate their ability to support a partisan position were not only justified but also quite necessary. That world is now consigned to history. There are 999 channels on my Sky Box including those devoted to all manner of niche and trivial interests, more than enough to support channels targeted at people with specific political preferences.  People in the UK are incredibly savvy and intelligent and it is to our shame that we are not trusted to freely choose what we watch and it infantilises us as individuals.

Disintegration

Aaron Hugh Ellis is reading History at the University of Bristol and is the former VP of the Bristol University branch of Conservative Future. In this generous guest post Aaron outlines his concerns for the future of British politics and captures the contemporary issues facing our modern democracy.

‘The dangers we have to fear may roughly be summed up in the single word – disintegration’, Lord Salisbury wrote in 1883. ‘It menaces us in the most subtle and the most glaring forms.’

Uneasiness permeates our society, a vague feeling of dislocation and insecurity, which can roughly be summed up in the single word ‘disintegration’. It is the end to which we sense being driven by the defective working of our political machinery, the public temper of our time, as well as our deteriorating environment. The process of disintegration has occurred in the last twelve years but its pace quickened over the last twelve months. It has been accelerated through the potent combination of an inept government with an irresponsible leadership, the dreary expenses scandal and an unintelligent partisanship that forthcoming elections encourage. A society where all interests are equal is mutating into one where all interests are selfishly pursued, and the institutions which sustain the balance-of-interests in our society decay as their cultures are undermined both from within and without. We sense the power of the dreary, the pedestrian, the pompous, the respectable and the unimaginative and see the triumph of its adherents.

Salisbury

The disintegration of the last twelve years has resulted from a poor understanding by politicians and their opinion-makers of the British political system. A millennium of perpetual conflict between vying groups and factions produced a settlement where all interests in society are equal, not people. The physical manifestation of this settlement is Parliament, which condensed as fighting between the factions moved from the battlefield to the ballot-box in the 18th Century. Its virtue lies not only in the communal ‘inclusiveness’ but also the guarantee of mutual security. All interests within society are represented and each group has an influence on the country’s laws. By limiting our aims and moderating our actions, we not only preserve our opponents but also ourselves. We are a ‘commonwealth’, and the cohesion of society is sustained through each of us taking two steps forward and one step back – a handy philosophy if approaching a precipice.

Since 1997, however, the settlement has gradually disintegrated as the institutions which sustain society have been undermined both from within and without. The cause is best termed as ‘totalism’: factions pursuing total aims rather than limited ones at the expense of their opponents whom they try to destroy, disguising their dislike with a moral or legalistic gloss. It begun with the New Labour Government attempting to reform institutions it saw as antiquated but upsetting the balance-of-interests. ‘The most fundamental problem in politics,’ Kissinger has written, ‘…is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.’ A result of the righteous totalism of New Labour was other interest groups adopting similarly total aims, motivated by the righteous hatred which fights for survival produce. Things fell apart; our institutions could not hold.

Disintegrating institutions led to the decay in their cultures, most notably Parliament. As the purpose of institutions became unclear, and politics characterized by factionalism and hate, there has been an influx of ‘professionals’ who identify public good with personal advancement. Those ‘professionals’ in active politics resemble the character of Widmerpool from Anthony Powell’s ‘Dance to the Music of Time’, pursuing power at any cost but disarming suspicion by being incredibly dull. They are staffed by cherubic aides and interns who soil their dalmatics trying to climb up the greasy pole. This decay in the cultures of our institutions was blindingly encouraged by a mixture of uninformed or ill-experienced pedagogues, prophets and newspaper columnists (for there is no one more stupid and more opinionated than teachers, preachers or journalists…) As a result, the best lacked all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity.

The expenses scandal to some extent exposed this decayed culture, but the restive Puritanism that it roused and the fear it created in politicians led not to the rehabilitation of our institutions but their further destruction. People saw them as the problem and not the cultures that had grown up with their gradual disintegration. The ‘professional’ culture was strengthened, not weakened by measures such as punishing second-jobs. Yet this doesn’t matter to the dreary, the pedestrian, the pompous, the respectable and the unimaginative whose power has grew bit by bit over the last twelve years but now dominate since the scandal. So our sustaining institutions continue to disintegrate, and those who oppose this process fearfully wonder what rough beast slouches towards Westminster to be born?

One would think this is the time for Conservatism, but the Tory Party is as affected by the decay as any other institution. The current Leadership are arguably the best educated and most cerebral since 1945. ‘Cameronism’, if it exists, embodies this idea of ‘equality of interests’ added with the intellectual and humanitarian traditions which extends far back through our history. But like their postwar forebears, they seem intellectually timid; committed enough to defend Conservatism, too afraid to put it on the offensive. They are anxious about appearing the smartest kid in the class, which gives our opponents the opportunity to fill the vacuum in ideas and use our timidity to strong-arm us into conniving in the decay of society’s institutions.

‘The idea that the convictions of politicians are never stable,’ continued Salisbury, ‘that under adequate pressure every resistance will give way, every political profession will be obsequiously recast, is fatal to the existence of either confidence or respect. Neither trust nor fear will, in the long run, be inspired by a school of statesman who, whatever else they may sacrifice, never sacrifice themselves.’

Misjudged Campaigns From Labour Youth

Labour upside down


Yesterday I spoke to a high-flying school-leaver who has some time on his hands before he begins Birmingham University. Like his friends, he is having no luck securing a summer job. Over the last year, the rate of unemployment for youngest adults has rocketed from 11.9% to 17.3%.The Economist notes that the spike in youth unemployment may be aggravated by the national minimum wage.


Meanwhile, Birmingham University Labour Students are campaigning to equalise the national minimum wage for people in the 18-22 age bracket. How will their campaign help somebody who wants to work so he can save for university but can’t even find a job? It would appear that the next generation of Labourites are as out of touch as the current lot.


Dominic Fisher – Local Officer

A chance to meet two European Parliamentary Candidates

Tomorrow afternoon we are fortunate enough to be joined by two candidates for the European elections to be held next Thursday.

As the first political event of the new committee it will be a great opportunity to come and meet us and give your opinions on how you would like the society to progress.

I would furthermore like to extend an invitation to any non-members of any political leaning to come along and learn more about those taking the Conservative cause to Brussels.

All those interested in coming should come to Joe’s bar for 1.30pm. The end time is purely speculative. I have no doubt that the meeting would be over before then. But I am sure a contingent of us will return to Joes bar afterwards for some drinks.

Your event officer,
Adam Jenner

Rubbish litter

I thought it about time to raise an issue that some seem happy to leave by the wayside, (forgive the pun) that of the litter problem. This, I’m sure is a cross party issue, and one that, although often forgotten is close to many other citizens’ hearts.

Walking around Selly Oak, Greater Birmingham, London and even great swathes of the British countryside, you cannot help to glance upon the ugly sight of rubbish; strewn or blown all over the nation. What a shame it is, that the parks and roads of our cities, parts of which are beautifully designed are covered in this debris. For those of us who live in Selly Oak, this problem seems to be ever increasing.

Straight away, can I say that the council have and are trying to clean up. A number of times I’ve spotted road cleaners marching up and down with brooms; picking, sweeping and scrapping away the gaudy rubbish but every time it reappears.

As part of a social experiment, and as part of an attempt to make a very small difference, I turned to our friend Facebook, and set up an event; just one day, where the slogan read “On the 1st of May, let’s aim to pick up just 3 pieces of litter and bin them! If you want to do more, fab.” How surprised I was when of the more than 1000 invitees first invited, more than two thirds turned it down.  I’m very pleased to know that a minority of us are happy to make a small difference, but where have the ideas of individual and social responsibility disappeared to for the majority?

Environment minister Lord Rooker described the amount of litter dropped on roads and around towns as “a disgrace.” Why are people so adverse to the idea of binning the odd piece of litter or to not dropping litter in the first place? I know that this is starting to sound more and more like a rant but I truly think that if we were to change our attitudes to litter, our Nation could be that little bit more beautiful.

I’ll conclude, with one last point; if we were to take just a little pride in our environment, the difference could be enormous. With small changes to our surroundings, maybe people will develop an attitude to take more care and pride in their neighbourhoods.

BUCF Attend Dinner With Lord Trimble

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Last night the great and the good of Conservative Birmingham and beyond gathered at the exquisite Botanical Gardens for the Edgbaston Gala Dinner with Lord David Trimble. The event marked the official committee handover from Dan O’Doherty to Sahar Rezazadeh and despite the exam period we were able to get a full table of BUCF’ers to mark the occasion. Lord Trimble spoke passionately about his experience of the troubles in Northern Ireland and how they were overcome. His words had special meaning given the current situation in regard to international terrorism. Following the speeches BUCF was able to pose for a photo with Lord Trimble and some of the main political leaders of Birmingham: (from left to right:) Cllr Dierdre Alden (PPC Edgbaston) Alex Yaffe (Blog Editor) Sophie Shrubsole (BUCF member) Helen Smyth (BUCF member) Vice President Dan Cole, Former President Dan O’Doherty, David Fazakerley (Former Chair of Edgbaston Assosciation) The Rt Hon Lord David Trimble, Joel Faulkner (BUCF member) President Sahar Rezazadeh, Max Genoni (BUCF member) Joseph Hollywood (Guild Liason Officer) Daniel Joplin (BUCF member) Cllr Mike Whitby (Leader of Birmingham City Council) Malcolm Harbour MEP.

Are young people disengaged from politics?

If there was an election tomorrow morning who would you vote for? A question I would love to ask many students at this University and many more across this country. I have always held that everyone should have some form of opinion when it comes to politics, whether you are involved in something like the BUCF, BULS or Lib Dems, a party activist or just the ‘Joe Bloggs’ student/young person. The quote of ‘I don’t really care, politics bores and doesn’t affect me’ I feel is the most immature and narrow minded response someone can say.
Let’s think about it, the computer you are looking at this on now will have been subject to UK and EU laws regarding health and safety, the money you paid for it, taxes will have been taken, those lovely clothes your wearing are imports which can be subject to tariffs. The University you attend and the debt you’re in, all of above are affected by Politics. So are young people disengaged from Politics? On a national level I fear yes, however I feel that a change is coming. We will soon get into general election fever where the young population actually will be able to make a difference.

The recent outrage of MP expenses, the economy, Student Top-up fees has sparked debate across all departments of study among young people which in my eyes will mean that young people will get an opinion and with the right tools and information will create a mood for those people to go out there, vote and make a real difference. The challenge now is to give these people the tools. Obviously I am Conservative and would never join another movement, however I feel that come election time all political parties and young people movements such as the BUCF and BULS will need to put aside any past problems and have a combined strategy in order to give all parties a platform in which to reach young people. I hope that come election time my job as Campaigns and Representation officer I will be able to work with all parties across this great university in order to create a real buzz about campus, get people informed, get people to get an opinion and go to the polling station and vote, only then will I feel that my job has been fulfilled. Why did I randomly write this blog, you tell me? It is a campaign I want to start now, get in there early, get the questions flying, after all equality of opportunity is a main Conservative trait isn’t it? Quite rightly so!

End the Gutter Politics

Many of you will be aware that former BULS Chair Tom Guise posted a factually inaccurate and unbelievably childish post on the BULS website which contained unjust abuse directed at BUCF and its members. Having discussed with the committee elect and my own former committee we have decided that we will refrain from responding in kind. Thus we will not waste our time picking apart the inaccuracies and highlighting the contradictions within Mr Guises post, we’ll leave you to do that yourself. Our attitude is if Labour want to play politics in the gutter, let them. This is increasingly the difference between Labour and the Conservatives today. We are looking to the future, they are stuck in the past. People are sick and tired of the bitching and backbiting that occurs between the two major parties and its about time we didn’t sink to their level. The public are not fools. They can see quite clearly what Labour have done to this country and its faith in politics. We need to focus on the future and leave them and their dirty politics in the past. So our official response to Chairman Guise’s post is: we respectfully disagree.

Labour afraid of debate?

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As this is my first official blog as a fully fledged committee member of the BUCF let me take a small amount of time to say what I am about. I have been a Conservative for many years as my mind matured and coming from a family of Labour supporters this was no small step for Mark Harrop! I have worked with Nigel Evans, Ribble Valley and Fulwood MP who is Conservative and the theory itself as well as economic and foreign policies agree with me. (See my biography for all that!) Next to my blogs which I will be doing very often as I like to have my say on matters, first and foremost my blogs mean not to offend anyone from any background, the blogs are through my eyes and not necessarily those of the BUCF. I mean every word I say and will back them till the bitter end and hope to raise questions of what our great nation is and how it can be improved; you’re only as good as your last game!

As of 00:02 on Tuesday 12th of May 2009, one day before my first exam I have been a BUCF committee member for eight days and already I have been riled. For those who do not know, Jacqui Smith MP our fearless and resilient home secretary visited the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students on Friday which would have been a great opportunity for political societies and the student body as a whole to question one of the most influential, and some may argue and others deny, potential leaders of this country. Now I for one believe that professionalism must be upheld in these situations so before I go on, No I would not condemn any throwing of bath plugholes or adult entertainment movies however amusing some reading this would find it. I was first told about the visit by Carnival VPI James Williams who, like myself was very excited about the prospect of meeting Ms Smith and asking burning questions any student keeping up to date with current affairs. I even made my question up on the spot and would have gone like:

“Gordon Brown and your party backed the commitment of the Government of no more boom and bust Britain, Labour oozed confidence and poll leads in the boom times and now shriek and stumble in the bust times leading to a budget that long after your honourable self and colleagues have left parliament , we will still be paying off and handicapping this country and future politicians, what would the honourable lady say is the proper way out and how would she have done differently”

Or something along those lines. However I and neither did anyone else get that chance, apart from those members of the Labour Party Society who were in the end the only people allowed into the Guild Council Chambers to see and ask Ms Smith questions.
I personally was riled at this fact that such as stint on democracy and freedom of speech and expression could have taken place anywhere, let alone the Guild of Students which prides itself on all students being equal in a safe and comfortable environment to express their views and of their peers. The previous BUCF administration have had speakers such as George Osborne , David Cameron, Michael Gove and other influential speakers come to visit and have always left the door open for anyone wishing to attend as that is exactly what politics is about, debate and opinion. However in the Labour societies view it is about hiding what they know could be an embarrassment to them, just like their government has been.

I have no qualms about saying this as I feel it is an utter shambles that firstly the Guild agreed to this (and why?!) and that the labour society let it proceed. An investigation has been launched into the matter and I will be bringing this point up at Guild Council on Thursday to see what can be found out, however eight days in and my confidence in the labour society to show respect to another party society is severely shaken. The results of my investigation shall be posted on my next blog. However already I see light at the end of the tunnel as apparently the first opening words from Ms Smith were along the lines of:

“I am so glad to see supporters of our party here and would like to extend my invite to all you members to come down to my constituency next May for even a few hours to help flyer post and overall campaign, you will be welcomed with open arms for whatever you can do –hint of desperation in the voice im told- “

400 majority, a failed government, no wonder Ms Smith, No Wonder!

The Sassy Vision

BUCF has grown so much in the past year and has become as The Young Conservative described it ‘one of CF’s brightest stars’. This has not least been due to my dashing predecessors hard work and commitment. I can assure you that my engagement with BUCF was, for the most part, thanks to Mr O’Doherty’s ‘outgoing’ policy. What is more, Britain has not needed Conservatism as much as it needs it today! This country is suffering at the hands of a government that has lost touch and knows little about the needs of the individuals that make this nation. So on both of these notes, I feel honoured to be given the role of leading a society that has the potential of making concrete impact at student level, locally and even nationally!

So what do I have planned for BUCF? My vision rests on 3 key objectives:

1) To engage members because you are the most important aspect of the society. Without you, the society will have lost its purpose. 

2) To make a positive impact locally (so by supporting our candidates and the local conservatives), as well as at student level (to promote conservative principles on campus). Again, membership engagement is crucial to this objective. 

3) Ultimately, all of this will raise the profile of BUCF further.

I would like to give my thanks to all those who have been supportive, enthusiastic and eager about my leading this society. I look forward to working with all of you and I can assure you that the committee, and I, will do our utmost to fulfill our aims!

To the future

...and the plotting begins!

****************4th May 2009***************

bucf-electionsAt long last we’ve come to the end of a remarkable year for the society under President Dan O’Doherty. Today at the prestigious Hotel Du Vin in central Birmingham, BUCF members and supporters will elect a new committee to serve the academic year 2009/10. We’re expecting a record turnout which is a testament to a record year. All BUCF members and supporters are welcome to come and join us at the Hotel Du Vin and for those that wish to come the itinerary is as follows:

5pm – 5.30pm > Drinks in the Hotel Bar

5.30pm – 7pm > AGM

7pm – late> Margaret Thatcher 30th Anniversary Drinks

The Margaret Thatcher 30th Anniversary Drinks which will follow the AGM will be held in the Cellar Bar of the Hotel Du Vin. So if you can’t make it along to the AGM do come along to that. Hope to see you there!

The Lady Still Lords It

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As we approach the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power there is a huge swell in the National Press about her legacy which will delight many Conservatives across the country. A new poll published by YouGov has yielded some suprising results which I thought I’d share with you. A crude analysis would argue that this poll confirms that which we already suspected: Margaret Thatcher remains Britains most influential but divisive post war Prime Minister.

What suprises me however is the fact that this enduring division over Thatcher’s legacy does not neccessarily translate into unpopularity. Indeed Lady T is still regarded as Britains most popular post war Prime Minister trumping every contemporary politician. Even now in the face of the recession (bearing in mind the Tory record in regard to boom and bust is hardly squeaky clean) Mrs Thatcher is still the choice of the public as 47% of voters would prefer her to lead us through the crash as opposed to 37% for Brown.

Interestingly however Baroness Thatcher dominates when it comes to the ‘Tory popularity stakes’ as 49 per cent prefer her to David Cameron, compared to only 24 per cent backing the current Tory leader. So what does this poll tell us? Well it continues a trend that has been going on for years; Mrs Thatcher remains unsuprisingly by far our most divisive Prime Minister yet interestingly she is also our most respected. There is also continued consensus that no-one who has followed her holds a candle to her and given the choice a clear majority of those polled would prefer her as Prime Minister today than Brown or indeed Cameron. Therefore in terms of public approval the Lady still lords it…

Who Do You Trust?

Public faith in politicians has hit record lows with both Gordon Brown and David Cameron trailing behind other public figures including the Queen. When 2000 British people were asked who they trust over half chose Her Majesty while David Cameron scored 21% faring better than Gordon Brown who trailed with just 12%. Perhaps Dan’s dream of a return to absolute Monarchy is not as far fetched as one might assume! ;) On a political note its good to see that EVERY poll now confirms that Cameron and the Conservatives are leagues ahead of Brown and Labour.

President’s Thoughts on the Guild Elections…

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As many of you will be aware BUCF’s relations with the Guild have never been easy. Weve had our ups and downs (mainly downs!) but in the last year there has been a real effort on both parts to find some form of common ground. However there remains a great many difficulties and political/ideological divisions which I can’t see being entirely overcome anytime soon. Having said this may I on behalf of the committee and I’m sure all members of BUCF, congratulate the newly elected Guild Executive following the results of the Guild Elections which were announced over the weekend. Any elected official is all too aware of the burden of responsibility placed upon them, responsibility not neccessarily to themselves but to those who elected them. They have all recieved a valuable vote of confidence from the student body and I’m sure that this will not be something they undertake lightly.

In that light it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the success of the BULS contingent in these elections who conducted their campaigns professionally and with great enthusiasm. I congratulate all the BULS candidates and sincerely hope that they use their new roles to positive effect. However I particularly want to congratulate the incoming President Fabian Neuner and VP Housing and Community Ed Sparkes whom I know many members of BUCF will be farmiliar with. Although there remains certain political differences between us I know first hand that both Fabian and Ed are decent, approachable guys and both understand that their official role requires a degree of impartiality. Their election (amongst others) in particular gives me great hope for the future relations between BUCF and the Guild and Guild politics in general.

I would also like to pay tribute to all those who stood in the elections who were unsuccessful in their efforts. Its an old cliche but elections such as this really aren’t just about the winning, indeed it is the taking part that is of paramount importance. In this day and age it is becoming increasingly rare to see young, passionate, aspiring politicians and I was truly impressed to see the competence, committment and skill of certain ‘unsuccesful’ campaigns particularly BUCF’s Timm Smith. I know first hand how much effort Timm and his team put in to the ‘Tim’ll fix it’ campaign and the sheer closeness of the actual result (less than 50 votes!) was testament to his and his teams dedication and enthusiasm in which they should take great pride.

I have every faith that the new Guild Executive and the current and incoming BUCF committee (to be elected in May) will be able to find even greater common ground in the coming months. I know from personal dealings with certain members of the new Guild Executive that there is a real hunger for change in the Guild corridors and the BUCF committee, both present and future, will be more than willing to support any and all members of the new Guild Executive in bringing about the change that Guild politics sorely needs. So finally on behalf of everyone at BUCF congratulations to all who stood in these elections, we wish you the best of luck…. oh… and… WE’LL BE WATCHING YOU ;)

BUCF Appear in Redbrick

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This weeks edition of Redbrick, the University of Birmingham’s main newspaper, contains an article regarding BUCF’s recent event with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne. The article can be found here and it is pleasing to see BUCF’s ever increasing profile on campus being raised in this way.

Are you a feminist?

 Feminism, like most ideologies, is a broad school of thought. From Radical Feminism to Liberal Feminism, there are different approaches to gender-related issues and it has a different meaning for different people.

What does feminism mean to you? What is its purpose? Do you find it does any good? Is it a fascist ideology? Do we need it to ensure the fair and equal treatment of women? So tell me, are YOU a feminist?

Shaping Birmingham’s Transport

Gregory Yates, Sahar Rezazadeh, Pav Dhande and Mohammad Bilal. Members of the steering group.

From top left: Gregory Yates, Sahar Rezazadeh, Pav Dhande and Mohammad Bilal. Members of the steering group. Photography by David Warren.

Young people use public transport most frequently which means that they rely on the city’s transport system on a daily basis, either to get to school, university or even work. ‘Shaping Birmingham’s Transport’ is a project that aims to get the voices of young people in the city heard by decision-makers and heads of transport. In doing so, we hope to improve public transport services in our city particularly so that they better cater for young people. Initiated in February 2008 by Pav Dhande and Mohammad Bilal, students and local activists, our motivation to improve one of the most important structures of a city has only escalated. Our personal concerns for our world class city and its transport system led us to become deeply encouraged to lead on this with support from Birmingham City Council.

This month, I formally launched the project’s competition which aims to engage other young people from across the city in the project as well as gather ideas and inspiration from them for the future of Birmingham. So I’d like to encourage you all to take part in this competition and have your voice heard about the future of transport in your city by important decision-makers! The Winning Entry will win free bus passes and bicycles for each member of the group!!!

As well as the opportunity to get involved with our project through the competition, you can also join us this April at the Council House where you will have the chance to speak to those in charge of Birmingham’s transport system. The summit promises to be a fantastic day for us to make our mark and have our voices heard. There will be some BIG decision makers present including Councilors most notably Cllr Len Gregory (Cabinet Member for Transportation, Birmingham City Council) , Stephen Rhodes (Director of Bus and Highways, CENTRO) and Martin Hancock (Commercial Director – Bus and Coach, National Express).

So what do the steering group have to say?

“The project really has been a superb experience so far; in our group alone, we have: someone who relies on trains daily to get to school; both on-road and off-road cyclists; someone who categorically refuses to use public transport and someone who was completely oblivious to Birmingham’s Metro system! These are just six individuals though, serving as just a snapshot of how Birmingham’s transport network is utilised.”– Pav Dhande.

“If we want to compete in the tourism industry we must ensure that our transport system is top notch and that means that image is as important as efficiency. Our public transport needs to be appealing too so cleanliness, design, safety should all be on the agenda.”– Sahar Rezazadeh.

Thankfully, it’s not just our views that matter, yours do too so we want to hear from you!

For more information I urge you to visit our website and you can join our Facebook group too.

Will They Ever Learn?

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It will be hard for you to have missed the events that have been going on in the Middle East for the last few weeks, and it came to now surprise to me that Israelis and Palestinians are at loggerheads again. And despite a huge International call for peace, things just don’t seem to get any better, but that is no surprise either, they simply will not so long as things remain the way they are.

Officially, Israel has no problem with the Palestinian people; its focus of this conflict is against Hamas and terrorists who make the repeated attacks on Israeli targets. Understandably, this would annoy the Israeli Government but what they don’t understand that it’s their own behaviour that has let this problem get out of control. The Palestinians have been reduced to the level of second class citizens within their own country, and are in many ways being persecuted by the Israeli Government’s blatant discrimination. Examples of this are the re-housing of Palestinians, the numerous checkpoints and the construction of walls which, in essence, segregate the Palestinians. Ironically, you would have thought that the Israelis would be the last to behaviour in this manner, but unfortunately not. Palestinians are in many ways prisoners in their own country, and Israel’s attitude to them is paramount to ethnic cleansing. And this attitude is not limited to the Government, but many Israelis hold them too, echoing claims that it is their country and that the Palestinians shouldn’t be there.

 

Much of this was brought to light by various Channel 4 programmes, but many still turn a blind eye to this. Israel’s behaviour to Lebanon is very similar, and the lack of consideration is explicit in this conflict too, in both cases Red Cross and UN buildings have been destroyed by Israel. Yet this bullying attitude of Israel continues with only mild criticism, and ineffective UN action is due to, in my view anyway, Israel being an ally of the US. The ‘model’ democracy is utterly hypocritical when it enforces democracy on the people of Iraq, yet refuses to acknowledge the Palestinian’s choice to support Hamas. The fact they do is because of their treatment by Israel. The moderate voices are being drowned out because the only party that seems to be of any help to the Palestinians is Hamas.

 

Israel’s actions in Gaza will be doing nothing to change that either. Even if Hamas was wiped out, the Palestinians would just turn to another: Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda, for example. What is significant is that the Palestinian people, or at least some of them, believe that violence is the only way to change their situation. If Israel or even the rest of the world wants peace in the Middle East then its treatment of the Palestinians has to change, and for the better. Persecution is only making things worse. It is driving young men to violence, to Hamas, just as the War on Terror is pushing young Muslims to extremism. Things will not change until Israel realises this, until then more will die as the rest of the world simply just watches. Will they ever learn?

CF Branch Of The Month

It gives me great pleasure to announce that BUCF has been chosen as the ‘CF Branch of the Month’! What a fantabulous start to the New Year. I hope that we can, together, continue to do some great work throughout 2009 that will be of benefit to our communities regardless of political affiliations. Additionally, this blog has been a great success and has only grown since it was created, I hope that 2009 will be a year of discussions, understanding and informed judgements thanks to this blog!  

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BUCF Social Action Update- The Christmas Hamper Project

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Since my appointment to the BUCF committee as the Social Action Officer I have been immediately very keen to get the ball rolling and engage in social work for our community. This festive season BUCF re-introduced the Christmas Hamper Project. Last year it was launched for the first time and led my Jimmy McLoughlin whereby the hampers were donated to The Salvation Army. However, this year I took the decision to donate the hampers to St Basils, a Birmingham-based charity that works with homeless young people. I’ve worked with this charity before and also took part in the sleep-out last year. Below is a film about St Basil’s and the important work that they do for Birmingham:

Although there are still some donations pending, I was able to raise funds through generous contributions from fellow Conservatives, family and friendship circles as well as through a carol singing evening. I then got in contact with St Basil’s to find out what the young people would benefit from this season and drew up a shopping list including toiletries for males and females as well as baby necessities. There were three types of hampers for the mothers and their babies, for the young boys and for the young girls. I spent an evening putting the hampers together and with a bit of creativity making them look festive.

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On Christmas Eve, I felt like Father Christmas without the white beard as I went delivering the hampers to 4 different hostels spread across the city. Meeting with the staff and young people of this charity was a great opportunity to hear more about their work and the experiences of the young people.

Dominic Fisher and I at the Gillott Road hostel delivering their hampers.

Dominic Fisher and I at the Gillott Road hostel delivering their hamper to staff.

Mother and baby with hamper.

Mother and baby with hamper.

Young boys at Milner Court receive their hamper!

Young boys at Milner Court receive their hampers!

Alex, Bernadette and myself holding the hampers for the young people that Bernadette manages.

From left: Alex, Bernadette and myself holding the hampers for the young people that Bernadette manages.

Giving is a core element of this festive season and I’m glad that BUCF have fulfilled this obligation but, for my part, charitable contributions are not just for Christmas so I thoroughly look forward to working with St Basils and other charities in the New Year 2009! 

Have a Happy New Year All and Best Wishes for 2009!


Brown Tory Shock…

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Anyone who takes any interest in politics will be aware that for years Tony Blair was accused of being a closet Tory. The fact that his father was a Conservative, he had a very privellaged upbringing, his point blank refusal to deny his admiration for Lady Thatcher and his savaging of Labours precious Clause IV upon becoming leader all added to the ‘Tory Blair’ tag.

However what may suprises readers to know is that Gordon Brown, a man seen as ‘more Labour’ than Blair, is in fact from Tory stock too. Gordon Brown’s godmother and relative has revealed that  she is a committed Tory, just like virtually everyone else on Gordon Brown’s beloved mother’s side of the family. In fact they have been staunch Tories for generations.

Indeed, Brown’s late uncle, Gordon Souter, was chairman of the local Conservative association and provost (mayor) of the 1,600-population village for 10 years. He ran the family building and general goods business – John Souter Ltd – which was founded by his father in 1898 and employed up to 70 people, the biggest employer in the village. And with delicious irony, Gordon Brown was even named after him.

As Mrs Riddel, daughter of Gordon Souter and for many years a working director of the family firm, says: “My father was a staunch Tory – oh my goodness yes, a really staunch Tory. We were all brought up to be Tory and we still are – my husband’s family is also Tory. Jessie [Gordon Brown’s mother] was a Tory too.”

Therefore perhaps Gordon Browns political Tory traits are not all that suprising….

Guild Council: A Review

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Last night myself and Dan went to the Guild of Students to try to defend the society and halt any de-recognition procedures. A week ago Dan was informed that BUCF faced de-recognition again. As you will understand we were furious about this as we had little if any indication from the Guild that derecognition procedures were imminent. We were therefore determined to put our case forward and defend the society from being booted out of the Guild.

Despite Dan’s personal beliefs regarding Guild Politics he delivered a passionate defence of the societys role within the Guild and defended what he termed ‘its natural right’ to be a part of the Guild. His speech was incredibly well recieved prompting a prolonged, spontanious round of applause. However the real task he had to face down occured when he agreed to take questions from the floor. The questions were harsh, direct and often unjust reminding us all too clearly that there is a great deal of hostility to the Tories within Guild Council.

Reagrdless Dan kept his cool and for every question that was thrown at him he responded clearly and confidently. He empahsised his commitment to the society playing an active role in the Guild in coming months and appealed to their better nature by explaining just what  a difficult task he has had since becoming President in trying to turn the society around from its long slope in to terminal decline. This was again warmly recieved.

Finally it was time for the vote and after the attempted mauling he had recieved during the questions from the floor part of the debate it is fair to say he was not confident of victory. However when the results came forward, 66%-34%, it showed clear support for the society and the President who again recieved a round of applause.

I know I speak for Dan and the whole committee when I say we are delighted that this potentially lethal situation for the society has been dealt with so efficiently. I also want to thank, on behalf of the whole committee, the Labour society for the support that they have shown in recent days and their efforts to ensure BUCF remain a part of the Guild.

Relations between the two socieites are stronger than they have been in many years.  Although there remains vast ideological gaps between the two, gaps which will encourage healthy debate, we are confident that both chairs, both committees and both socieites as a whole are determined to ensure these cordial relations continue. We will be updating you all regarding our ‘joint events’ which will occur in the New Year. All of which promise to be exciting. 

The moment just after the results came in and the applause it recieved was caught on ‘candid camera’…

Carol singing for charity!

Holly, myself and our rosy cheeks and noses after our door-to-door carol singing fundraiser.

Myself and Holly Ferrari- a fellow BUCF member and student of European Studies- got back tonight from a carol singing evening to raise funds for our social action project this season. I want to thank Holly for joining me this evening in a fantastically interesting experience since both of us were new to door-to-door carol singing. Despite our sore throats, unwell feelings and the cold weather, I think we performed very well and raised great funds from generous Harborne residents as well as making our personal contribution too!

Pre Budget Report Buzzword Bingo!

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BUCF Bingo!… Something for readers to do during the PBR…

1.      Global problems

2.      Stimulate growth / provide a boost

3.      Strengthen regulations

4.      Over the economic cycle

5.      Efficiency/Gershon savings

6.      The banks need to…

7.      National insurance contributions

8.      Payment holiday

9.      Start lending again

10.  Save/protect jobs

CFSAN Christmas Hamper Project!

cf-hampers2This season the Conservative Future Social Action Network has re-introduced the Christmas Hamper Project, which was successfully launched for the first time last year. The project looks closer to home and gives those people who are less fortunate a special Christmas. This is our way of making a charitable contribution to our local community as well as keeping the needy in our thoughts and prayers during this holy season. So how does it work? Well it’s simple yet highly effective, Anastasia Beaumont-Bott (the CFSAN National Coordinator) would like us to fill up hampers with all sorts of goodies and donate them either to the Salvation Army or to an organisation of our choice.

I want to bring the project to Birmingham again this year so that as well as showing our commitment to the community, we can begin to make long-lasting relationships with local charities who carry a great burden, especially during this festive season and the difficult economic times. Last year Jimmy McLoughlin led the project in Birmingham successfully and donated the hampers to the Salvation Army, as did the other CF branches, however this year we will personally donate the hampers to a local charity.

I’ve chosen to donate the hampers to St Basils, which is a local charity that works with young people who have been forced to leave home because of various pressures. These young people become homeless and in many ways lifeless. St Basils helps to give the young people hope in order to find their ways in life by taking them off the streets and changing their lives forever. It is so heart-rending that these young people have to face such hard times when they should be enjoying their childhood or teenage years and spending Christmas alongside their families. But we can be their families this Christmas by giving them a special gift and with it love and hope for the future ahead of them. For more information about St Basils I would urge you to visit their website on http://www.stbasils.org.uk.

There are a host of decisions that we need to make before we undergo this project but if we plan our time efficiently we can certainly get the project completed within a week. This means that I am asking for dedication and commitment from the BUCF members who will choose to be on the team.

So…now it is over to you! If you are keen to be involved in this project please contact me as soon as you can so that I can finalise names and numbers, and then we shall proceed. I am really looking forward to working on this project and I hope to hear from you soon!

British Banking Nationalisation?

RIP or get well soon? Let me give you a personal perspective.At the age of 26 in 2001, I arrived in the Czech Republic for a two year secondment with Deloitte. On my first day there, an American boss pulled me into his office to tell me the lay of the land. Amongst other things, he informed me that, in his opinion, the Czech government’s woeful/criminal (?) management of the banking sector had cost every taxpayer the equivalent of a year’s salary.

During the 1990s the Czech government had ‘liberalised’ the banking sector without actually privatising it, therein blocking necessary modernisation of the bloated banks and resulting in (ahem) leniency for politically favoured customers. Naturally, this situation eventually led to a pretty nasty banking/currency crisis in 97/8 followed by several “Austerity” budgets.

Fortunately, the Czech Republic did take firm action to restore confidence in the banking sector – ringfencing distressed assets and selling off the large state-owned banks to reputable foreign banks. On a personal level, it was a great opportunity for me as I worked closely with some of these banks attempting to change the organisational culture and develop the skill set to compete in the free market. At the micro level, here are some of the measures the newly private banks took to improve their efficiency.

– Zero-based budgets (i.e. budgets that are based on what needs to be done rather than what was spent last year)
– Staff training on credit management to improve credit decisions, credit valuation and Workout effectiveness.
– Removed time-servers/blockers
– Encouraged entrepreneurial thinking and customer focus
– Changed back office functions from cost centres to profit centres.
– Improved financial reporting
– Enhanced management information (e.g. KPI suites etc)

Look at the Czech Republic’s economic growth data series

1997 0.3%
1998 -2.3%
1999 0.5%
2000 3.6%
2001 2.5%
2002 1.9%
2003 3.6%
2004 4.5%
2005 6.4%
2006 6.4%
2007 6.5%

One of the main lessons I learnt from my first work experience in Czech was that a properly functioning capital market/banking sector is a pre-requisite for a strong economy – almost more important than anything else. This is why when our government takes major stakes in the four major UK banks (apart from the worrying implications/unintended consequences for the rest of the UK banking sector), immediately I want to hear about the states’ exit/re-privatisation strategy. I haven’t heard a thing. People may like to read and learn from this report. If there is an appetite to get the UK back on its feet it may become very relevant in the nearish future.

Drinks Event – Sunday 5th Oct

BUCF Held its first post conference event of the term last Sunday at the Bristol Pear in Selly Oak. We estimate that at the peak there were between 20-30 members and supporters in attendance which we were pleased with. Despite an initial hitch with the booking arrangements which saw the President temporarily lose his mind, the event was a success. We were delighted to welcome Deirdre Alden, PPC for Edgbaston, Dave Fazakerley of Edbaston Conservative Assosciation and Councillor Fergus Robinson. All in all a good time was had by all, the drinks flowed feely with many games of pool being played which saw DO’D beat off Liverpool Pool Champion Dave Fazakerley (despite Mr Fazakerleys claims he ‘threw the game’ so as not to discredit the President :P) BUCF would like to thank Dave, Gareth and the assosciation for kindly funding the event and hope that they had as good a time as we did.

To Vote or Not to Vote, That is the Question

One thing that struck me most at the Conservative Party Conference was the apparent lack of any real policy towards the European Union. Don’t get me wrong, this is my first Conference as so I should probably wait before I should make such a judgement, but considering its importance it did strike me as odd. Not that it was completely ignored, with William Hague reaffirming the support for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but I still feel it was somewhat lacking. And I am not the only one on this train of thought; it was raised at both the Bruges Group event on Monday and at a dinner I attended with Martin Callanan MEP. Both times it was that the Conservative Party does not have a robust policy with regard Britain’s future with the EU.

Like all good Tories, I am Euro-sceptic and I am very much inclined towards a withdrawal from the EU and setting up a free trade agreement with them instead. I understand the need for a close relationship with Europe and the necessary trade-related issues plus other agreements but I despise the entire EU Constitution project and the protectionist policies it enforces, much to the detriment to us and other parts of the world. A withdrawal from the EU can achieve this aim, where renegotiation cannot, and it is futile to believe so. There are too many within Europe that are committed to the federal Europe project, and that is fine but Britain should not be a part of that Europe. That is also why all attempts at renegotiation will fail.

Of course, this is not encouraged by the Conservative Party, or rather David Cameron. I’m no admirer of the man, but I do see his potential to bring the Conservatives back into government after so long in exile.  But Tory policy is whimpish at best, trying to please all sides and, as with all policies and ideas that try to appease both, it does not. The Euro-sceptics are unhappy, the Europhiles are unhappy, only David Cameron is happy. And it is important that the problem of Europe is addressed, for the current balance will not last forever.

And grumblings are already underfoot, as at the Bruges Group fringe. Euro-sceptic Tory voters are being encouraged to not back the Party at the European elections next year, and Nigel Farage MEP seemed eager to canvass them for UKIP instead. This ‘protest’ vote I feel would only damage the Party, splitting it along its old lines and bogging down the Party leadership once more. This ‘protest’ is aimed at forcing the Party leadership to adopt more radical policies towards Europe, and though I do agree with that, it is neither the time nor the place to act in this way. But it will be tempting to many Euro-sceptics who feel that the Party deserves no loyalty for its failure for a tough stance on Europe.

I, though not through loyalty to Cameron, will back the Party at the elections cause it is important that we stand united for the next General Election, whenever that may be. And we must not let the Europe question destroy us once more when we are so close to Number 10. And hopefully Cameron realises this, and that he will back his commitments on Europe so far, and ideally go further. It is necessary to appease the grassroots and prevent a possible pre-2010 upset. Let us just hope that this is unnecessary worry and the Party will remained strong, and stand behind Cameron, whether we like him or not with regards Europe. It is important not to let disagreements on policy destroy our chances of election success.

The Politics of Hate

Call me naive, but I believe that most people join political parties to serve the greater good. So imagine joining a party and then to be told or have it implied that membership of that group involves hatred of another group – some of whom you count amongst your friends. A former Labour councillor – who happens to be a friend of mine – is struggling with this conundrum – she doesn’t think that being a Labour supporter means you have to hate the evil Tories.

It doesn’t take much digging around to illuminate the fact that the “All Tories are evil” mantra is more than an isolated position from the governing party. Even if you can ignore the fact that Labour has enacted legislation that means that asserting similar generalisations about other groups could land you in prison or that the observation that stoking pathologies is ethically despicable, I think that in the UK this Mugabe-esque strategy is political suicide.

Even if a substantial number of ‘natural’ supporters sign up to the philosophy of hate and all it implies (and given that people tend to base their opinions on their own, this is a big if) to the floating voter this strategy smacks of an organisation that has given up trying to win the intellectual argument. The effectiveness of Labour’s Crewe & Nantwich campaign was a case in point.

From the Tory point of view, Labour’s strategy has plenty of spin-off benefits. Paranoid Labourites attacking each other for not displaying sufficient loyalty or engaging in pointless witch-hunts must be helping the wider Conservative cause. For the record, I hate what Labour have done to this country and am astonished at the residual support for Labour, but Tories won’t succeed by sinking to Labour’s level and allowing ‘hate campaigns’ to be part of mainstream political discourse. Please join me on the unite against hate campaigns group on facebook.

Daily Bite

“Sixty years of totalitarianism and the secret police have left the Czechs scarred. The longer I lived in the country, the more firmly I renounced any leftist idealism I may have had lingering from my university days. Communism is a shocking thing. The more control the state has over your life, the more miserable and frightened your life will be.”

Australian born and Prague-based author Rachael Weiss. Her debut book – ME, MYSELF AND PRAGUE An unreliable guide to Bohemia (of which I have a copy) is reviewed here including contributions from the author.

Daily Bite

Conservatives across the country will be elated today to discover that our poll ratings have breached the 50% mark! The Ipsos MORI survey put the Tories on 52 per cent among those certain to vote, with Labour unchanged on 24 per cent and the Liberal Democrats down 5 to 12 per cent (despite Cleggs assurance the Lib Dems were heading for government!) The 28 point lead if produced in a General Election would give the Tories a landslide victory bigger than that of 1997 and plunge the Labour party in to obllivion.

The last time the Tories hit the halfway mark in any poll was in August 1988, a year after Lady Thatcher’s third general election win at the height of her popularity. The poll also found that the Conservative party was rated ahead of Labour on a range of key issues, with respondents saying the Tories have the best leadership and best understand the economic problems facing Britain.

What was interesting to note about the poll is the fact respondents suggested they are sympathetic to Gordon Brown’s plight, with over half saying they thought he was doing a reasonable job in difficult circumstances. This suggests Brown is not entirely to blame for the surge in Tory support. It seems that people have more confidence in the Conservatives to sort the country out… AGAIN!

The Republic of Australia?

The prospect of the Republic of Australia is looking ever more likely after it was announced yesterday that Republicans now head both of Australia’s main political parties. Multimillionaire former merchant banker Malcolm Turnbull was named leader of the opposition defeating his opponent by 4 votes. This election comes after Former Prime Minister, Royalist and conservative John Howard, who led the country for over 10 years, was defeated in the General Election earlier this year by avid Labour Republican Kevin Rudd.

It is a well known fact that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s centre-left Labour government supports Australia becoming a republic by replacing the Queen’s representative in Australia, the governor-general, with a President. However by becoming a republic in all intents and purposes the formation of the Australian political structure would not change all that much. The President would be entirely symbolic in the same sense as the Queen is now however the only distinction is he or she would be Austrailian by birth.

Despite being a Republican, the new leader of the opposition Malcom Turnbull has stated that he would not push the republican issue until the Queen, who is more popular in Australia than the monarchy itself, had died. He states that to push for a referendum now would be pointless because the Queen remains personaly popular in Australia which resulted in the previous referendum, held in 1999, being decisively defeated.

However one cannot ignore the fact that Australia is one monarch away from becoming a Republic. I believe it is highly symbolic that for the first time republicans now head both the main conservative opposition and the government. As the Queen herself has said on many occasions: Australias future is for Australians to decide. We must respect that however much we may disagree.

US Update

The McCain campaign has released a video congratulating Senator Obama on his nomination success which I believe is a true example of the decency and strength of character that McCain would bring to the White House. John McCain is a man of great grace and great conviction. Indeed within the last few minutes it has been announced that he has chosen Governor Sarah Palin, a relative unkown, as his running mate for the fall election.

This choice is a stroke of genius by McCain. Too many people, including our own Chairman, predicted quite understandibly that Mitt Romney would be the Arizona Senators choice, he was wrong, we were wrong. This goes to show one thing we should have already known: don’t second guess McCain. John has many tricks up his sleeve and I am sure we have yet to see his true worth. Selecting a woman means that McCain is highlighting that he has the ability to encroach on the ‘change’ camp as much as Obama. He has the experience whilst his younger more vibrant VP has the appeal.

If you ask me that makes a formidible team. Whatever the outcome of the election in November this will be a record breaking race. Should Obama succeed, America will have its first black President, should McCain succeed then the country would have its first woman Vice President. I personally feel that the tightness of the current polls makes this race increasingly impossible to predict. However if I were to take a gamble my money would be behind McCain. He is playing like a pro.

London 2012 Update

Boris Johnson has introduced good old fashioned Conservative thrift in to the London Olympics with his latest comments on London’s plans for the 2012 games. He insists that British ingenuity and resourcefulness will make the London event equally as impressive as the one in China’s capital, which cost over £20bn. Currently the inflated budget for the London 2012 Olympics stands at £9.3bn which is under half that of the budget allocated by the Chinese authorities and Boris has vowed not to go a penny over.

Boris’ comments come at a time when the Olympic flag is to be handed over to the capital on Sunday as a symbol of the beginning of the countdown to London 2012. For anyone who watched the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing the spectacle was a sight to behold. However one can only hope that Britain’s opening ceremony is equally spectacular but that the difference between our Olympics and Beijing is that our show will hopefully reflect a reality and not a government imposed pantomime.

A Personal View on UK Houseprices

 About a year ago, I recall being cornered at a party by friends of my wife urging me to buy a property. It’s cheaper than renting, you’re bound to make money etc etc. All had bought property recently and I tried to argue as gently as possible with these people who, as far as I was concerned, were displaying classic post-decision reinforcement activity. They were never going to convince someone who is a fan of the phrase that if you see a bandwagon, you’ve already missed it, but that’s just to set the scene. 

In respect of the UK property market I should declare a further interest. I’m a recently married Tory with a fair amount of cash and no debt who doesn’t own property in the UK, but would like to. A fall in house prices would be a good thing for me.

Is this why most people I know have dismissed my predictions of falls in house prices? Do they think that I have been engaged in wishful thinking or have they done their own analysis? Further prodding reveals that these people do not seem to have a full appreciation of the economics. For some time, there has been a recognition that houses have been overpriced.  A correction involving gentle falls or plateauing in house has been parrotted by industry professionals – maybe the alternatives are too horrendous for them to contemplate! It sounds persuasive, too. It is in fact a fallacy of the middle ground. Actual evidence is that asset prices are volatile. Unlike consumable goods, the most important factor determining asset demand is expectations of future price. Seen in the context of the housing market, this manifests itself in the 2000s with people taking the most extraordinary financial gambles on property in the belief that ‘if they don’t get on the property ladder now, they will never be able to’.

In short, house prices are unlikely to move back to equilibrium levels. Just as prices overshot the fundamentals on the upside, they tend to overshoot on the downside as they did in the mid-90s. There are two other factors that are likely to lead to even more volatility this time around.

Housing As An Investment

The housing market used to be just that. Over the years it has become more like an investment market. An encouraging regulatory and tax environment has encouraged buy-to-let landlords. Predictably, derisory returns on equity over the life of the Labour government have acted as a further catalyst. Just as herd-like property speculation drove the housing market up, furious selling from property investors are driving and will drive prices down.  

Banking

Banks don’t want to lend to each other, never mind consumers who hold as collateral an asset with a falling value. I recall some years ago talking to a friend of mine, who is a senior finance guy, in the leading sub-prime lender in the UK about the risks facing the business. His view was that they could afford to be sanguine. Due to the rising housing market they had NEVER made a loss on a mortgage. Now that house prices are on the downward spiral, lenders are falling over each other not to be caught holding the baby. Bye bye 100% mortgages hello 20 % deposits.

And this is before interest rates rise or widespread job cuts and business failure really kicks in. Mark my words, house price falls have a very long way to go

BUCF Guild Referendum Results

The Results for the BUCF Referendum were as follows:

SHOULD BUCF DISAFFILIATE FROM THE BIRMINGHAM UNIVERSITY GUILD OF STUDENTS?

YES: 77%

NO: 23%

The committee are delighted we have been given the mandate of the members to push for further reform of the society. The Chairman has expressed his delight from amsterdam and is greatly looking forward to planning our next move. We will be in contact in the coming weeks with local organisations and examining the best possible direction for BUCF to take. We have been inundated with support from both members and local activists and we are delighted that finally BUCF can enact the neccessary reforms to ensure the longevity and prosperity of the society. The society has said a decisive no to Guild politics and a resounding yes to modernisation.

Damage Control

The government appears to be in blatant damage control mode after weeks of horrendous headlines and disgruntled Labour voters by attempting to distance themselves from the left’s arch nemisis Margaret Thatcher. Harriet Harman today attempted to dispell rumour of a state funeral for the former PM by saying ‘there are no plans, those stories are not accurate,” This shows just how desperate this government have become. They are aware that their core supporters are vhermently opposed to a state funeral for the greatest peacetime Prime Minister this country has ever seen and in these desperate times they are doing all they can to reassure their core vote that ‘they are on their side’.

However the very fact that they have taken this long to quash these rumours tells us all we need to know. New Labour has done all it can to court Margaret Thatcher from the time of its conception. The vast majority of top New Labour stooges have never hidden their admiration for the Iron Lady, nor have they attempted to distance themselves from her legacy. Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were at pains to stress their respect for Lady Thatcher, both inviting her to tea in Downing Street and refusing to condemn her premiership. Indeed, Blair’s programme for the 1997 election confirmed all Mrs Thatcher’s free-market reforms of a deregulated, non-planned, largely privatised economy with a flexible labour market, marginalising the trade unions and local authorities, while publicly disowning Left-wing shibboleths such as redistribution.

The fact that the country are even considering the possibility of a state funeral for Thatcher directs us to the type of Prime Minister she was. She was no ordinary PM, she was extraordinary. Most PM’s, like Callaghan and Heath, are bade farewell in private however it is widely accepted that the Iron Lady could never go out in private and is deemed by many to be worthy of the same honours bestowed upon Churchill, Nelson, Wellington, Darwin and Gladstone. Having said this the debate over whether Margaret Thatcher merits a state funeral will rage for some time to come but ultimately the result will be the same: Margaret Thatcher will be given a state funeral because it is what she deserves however inconvenient that fact may be for the government and its core vote. New Labour owe almost everything they are as a party and we owe almost everything we are as a country to Margaret Thatcher and a state funeral is the least she deserves.

Hook off!

Abu Hamza the radical muslim cleric who has warped the minds of countless young muslims has lost his appeal to fight his extradition in the House of Lords. The Egypt-born preacher is currently serving a seven-year jail term in the UK for inciting murder and race hate. His extradition to the United States was approved earlier this year by the Home Secretary.

The man besides being a nutter is clearly a threat to others and should not remain in the UK. Besides preaching race hate for years and encouraging young muslims to kill ordinary Britons, in January 2006 while on trial, he accused the jewish people of being “blasphemous, treacherous and dirty” and explained that this was “why Hitler was sent into the world”. I believe that people like this shouldn’t be allowed to remain in the UK and I am glad that his extradition has been held up.

Incidently I find it funny that Hamza preaches and encourages other young muslims to martyr themselves… well why hasn’t he done it yet! The man is wicked and he deserves everything he gets in America.

100,000!!!

BUCF has passed the 100,000 hit milestone. I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to everyone who has contributed to the success of the BUCF blog. In particular I would Like to pay tribute to Dan Cowdrill, Jimmy McLoughlin, Theo Lomas, Ryan Castle, Dan O’Doherty, Jack Gilliland and all those of the previous and current committees who have played such a vital role in the development of BUCF. Here at BUCF we have set the trend. BULS, the Lib Dems and the Debating Society have all followed our example. We are trend setters and we need to continue this record. I know the new committee are looking forward to holding on to our award for the ‘Best Young Conservative Blog’ and we will do all we can to ensure that we keep up the very high standard our readership have come to expect from BUCF.   

Are we all Thatcher’s children?

The BBC has been on Thatcher overdrive lately with play after drama after documentary on the Iron Lady. What struck me most about each of them was that the somewhat negative content they contained stood in stark contrast to the suprisingly positive conclusions they came to about her and her legacy. It almost felt like they were acknowledging that what she did was painful at the time but history has proved her right in doing it. It seems that the BBC and the country in general, as one commentator put it, has come to ‘love’ or at the least ‘admire’ Margaret Thatcher. 

It is no secret that poll after poll places the Tory titan as the best PM by a mile which reinforces Marr’s idea that Britain has ‘come to terms with Margaret Thatcher’. Her impact on the British political landscape is evident by the fact that politicians, of all parties, deem her important enough to invite to tea and pose like schoolboys for a photo-op. Even the great moderniser of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, fawned at her feet praising her for the things she did in the 80’s and claiming to the chagrin of his own party that much of it was ‘neccessary’, his party’s unease was exaccerbated by the fact that the first invite to Downing Street was extended to Margaret Thatcher before any Labour grandees.

Another remarkable thing about Thatcher is he way she dominates the news like no former PM ever has or ever will. She left office 20 years ago yet she is in almost every news paper on a daily basis, some commentary is positive whilst some, predictibly from the left wing rags such as the Guardian, is negative. The re-evaluation of the Thatcher legacy continues in earnest and as it does, the full fruits become apparent and the old misconceptions of her and her legacy are finally being understood. One of the documentaries on Thatcher that I found most compelling was a repeat of Andrew Marr’s ‘History of Britain: Thatcher Revolution’ which was frank and objective rather than subjective or over emotive which has characterized previous attempts at evaulating the Thatcher legacy.

All previous attempts to document the Thatcher years have come out as either lovey-dovey Thatcherite propaganda which fail to explicitly acknowledge the pain that some of her policies caused or a left wing witch hunt which focuses solely on that hurt. As the Chairman has said on many occasions ‘The left cling to their demonisation of Thatcher like a child to a security blanket and ignore the country we are today because of her.’ Marr’ s analysis was refreshingly objective and impartial and focused explicitly on both the positive and negative aspects of the Thatcher years, giving precedence to neither but coming to a rounded conclusion of their impact.

I think he summed up the Thatcher years, and Thatcher herself, perfectly when he claimed that she was a woman who made many mistakes but did remarkable things. She could be harsh, she bullied people close to her and indeed people she never met to secure her position. However in 1979 she took a country which had lost faith in itself, a country so bad that the then sitting Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan famously said that were he a younger man he would emmigrate, and gave it what it thoroughly needed; a long and repeated handbagging. Because of this she left it stronger richer and more self confident.

Marr concluded to say that In many ways Thatcher still defines the country we live in today, New Labour is in all intents and purposes ‘Blue Labour’ and the Labour leadership openly acknowledge what she did was neccessary and follow her economic policies rigorously. We are none of us whatever our ages Harold Wilson’s ‘children’ or Heaths ‘children’ or John Majors or Tony Blairs. Ultimately we are all of us like it or not, rebel or not, the children of Margaret Thatcher and it is refreshing to see that old horror stories are being put to bed and the paradoxes of the Thatcher revolution are finally being understood.

I encourage as many people as possible to watch Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, tonight BBC4 10pm, which has recived rave reviews from all sides of the political spectrum. Even veteran actor Sam West said “I’m a socialist and, like Ted Heath, no fan of Margaret Thatcher’s, but I was fascinated by this script because for the first time it made it possible for me to admire her. This drama crystallises her struggle and unites her friends and foes. In the end, much to my surprise, I found myself rooting for her!”

Queen Elizabeth II, Decomissioned.

No the Queen has not gone in to retirement but the luxurious ship that bears her name has sailed in to history. Her Majesty was on hand to bid a final farewell to the ship she launched in 1969, as were many other notable names. The Queen Elizabeth 2 has had an interesting life, it served as a luxury liner to the rich and famous and it also served in a war. In 1982 Britain, under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, took on the Argentines in order to liberate the Falkland Islands. The QE2 was sent to the Falklands carrying more than 3000 troops to help with the war effort. Baroness Thatcher was also on hand at the ceremony that marked the ships final departure from Britain. She now sails to Dubai where she will serve as a floating hotel.