Conservatives, Obama advisers and membership

Whilst it is becoming abundantly clear that Labour and the Tories have certain policies in common, the following might be less well known. Today’s post looks at the Conservative side of things. Tomorrow’s will look at Labour.

Reliance on Obama’s advisers

Although Obama didn’t seem too interested in developing a friendship with Gordon Brown in 2009, David Cameron seemed to strike the right note with the then-presidential candidate on a post-Berlin visit in 2008.

Cameron, smitten, quickly adopted the new president’s ideas of community organisers, the ‘big society’ and nudging. Post-election 2010, we saw Dave press for his ‘big society’, which was to be run by community activists who would no doubt nudge us into proper moral behaviours.

Some Conservatives say this idea came from Cameron’s late father, but at least one Obama adviser, Anita Dunn, helped Cameron solidify the concept as well as other aspects of his campaign.

Community organising and the ‘big society’

Once in office, Cameron hoped to launch and expand the ‘big society’ by advertising for taxpayer-paid community organisers, straight out of the Saul Alinsky mould (read here, here and here).

Saul Alinsky invented community organisers, deeply embedded in the towns and cities where they work. Alinsky said they should have the following characteristics:

  • ego (‘reaching for the highest level which man can reach — to create, to be a “great creator”, to play God’)
  • curiosity (raising ‘questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern’)
  • irreverence (‘nothing is sacred’;  the organiser ‘detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality’)
  • imagination (‘the fuel for the force that keeps an organiser organising’)
  • sense of humour (‘the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule’)
  • confidence along with an organised personality to present the reason for his actions ‘as a moral rationalisation after the right end has been achieved’.

Obama worked as a community organiser in Chicago for many years before being elected state Senator, then US Senator and the rest is history. Dirty tricks are part of the community organiser’s arsenal every step of the way; Obama’s is no exception. Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, originally dedicated to Lucifer, tells them how.

The ‘nudge unit’

Cameron’s ‘nudge unit’ employed the idea that ordinary adults couldn’t possibly lead their own lives or make decisions without expert help.

This concept is another from the Obama administration. The book Nudge appeared in April 2008. It was written by two University of Chicago professors, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. It is worth remembering that Obama’s house in the Greenwood neighbourhood is near the university. Some faculty members were very much a part of Obama’s advisory, sometimes personal, circle.

Cass Sunstein went on to serve as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs between 2010 and 2012. Besides thinking that humans are basically idiots, in 2002, he also wrote:

a paper for Harvard University supporting 19th century animal rights pioneer Jeremy Bentham’s view that a fully grown dog is ‘more rational’ than a baby and added:

We could even grant animals a right to bring suit without insisting that animals are in some general sense ‘persons,’ or that they are not property.

One cannot help but wonder how much Cameron really knows about Sunstein’s ideas.

2013, enter another Obama adviser — campaign strategy

Most Conservatives agree that the Australian, Lynton Crosby, has done a fine job as the party’s chief political strategist. Before the Labour Party conference, he managed to bring the Tories up in the polls — gradually, but nonetheless, successfully.

Cameron seems to want more now. In August, he appointed Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina as campaign strategy adviser. This will be bad news for the Tory faithful as it means they will be deluged with weekly emails asking for money.

If that doesn’t turn off the grassroots faithful, I don’t know what will. Many Conservatives already find Cameron beyond the pale; this will put them off for good.

Conservative Party members disillusioned

Rachel Johnson — sister to Boris and Jo, daughter of Stanley — recently penned a piece on Conservative Party membership for the Mail:

Now, I don’t mind the emails – communication in any relationship is vital – though they could sometimes ask: ‘What  can we do better?’ What I do mind is the complete failure of the Tory Party to grasp that a deal cuts both ways.

Members expect something back for  their loyalty, subscription and service, and all they get is  more demands or insults (remember one of Cameron’s henchmen earlier this year calling association activists ‘swivel-eyed loons’?).

For a start, all members should be allowed to go to the party conference for free, and the top brass should roll out the red carpet for any who turn up at all.

But instead, they’re charging – and how. To attend this month’s shindy at current rates would cost a party member £520, and even a student member is gouged for £385.

This is nuts. If demand is falling off for your product, you don’t hike the price.

In November 2011, I cancelled my membership.

A Conservative Home post, which appeared two days after Johnson’s article (coincidence?), asked what people thought about membership and attending conference.

Many commenters said it was far too expensive, the cost outweighing the benefit. Others pointed out that the party conference was no longer what it used to be; they used to feel valued and listened to but no longer. Another reader said that only one in five people at the conference are actually party members. The others are increasingly lobbyists and journalists.

A few weeks prior to this, the Campaign for Conservative Democracy republished ‘The Decline and Fall of the Conservative Party’ by John E. Strafford. I’ll look at this in more detail in another post, as it would have resonated with my late in-laws, however, for now, this is Strafford’s perspective on today’s membership and vote share:

The most important factor in the next General Election will be “feet on the ground”   At the margin it is the canvassing and the knocking [on doors] that will count most.   For that you need volunteers and the most committed volunteers are members.

For some years Conservative Central Office has ignored the views of members.   It has treated them with contempt.   This year, in order to increase attendance, non-members have been invited the Party Conference, so what does Central Office do – make it cheaper for a non-member to attend the Conference than for a member.   That illustrates the mindset of the Party hierarchy.   The appointment of Jim Messina (former social media guru to President Obama) as an adviser is an indication that they believe that the way forward is to organise our campaigns as in the United States by gathering up supporters rather than relying on members.

Cameron, Grant Shapps and others at the top really must begin listening to their members if they hope to win in 2015.

4 comments for “Conservatives, Obama advisers and membership

  1. john in cheshire
    September 26, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Churchmouse, in my opinion the Conservative Party is a dead horse and it’s a waste of time flogging it. As to who or what replaces it, well I can only reiterate that all voters should go to the polling booths in both 2014 and 2015 and as a protest vote, post their ballot papers without making a selection for a candidate.

  2. Junican
    September 26, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    What! And let the activist counters vote for whomsoever they want?! Better to put an X against every candidate.

  3. September 26, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you both — the French adopted both ideas in 2012 and look what they ended up with!

    Nearly everyone in France is unhappy with Hollande. A few weeks ago, Sarkozy (!) was in the top 20 of an opinion poll of most admired Frenchmen. Hollande was far down the list.

  4. October 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    They say the devil has all the best songs; it looks like she has the best political song-sheets too.

    (Not many seem to know that the Devil had a sex change a while back. Its the Princess of Lies now)

Comments are closed.