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Nick Robinson | 13:01 UK time, Monday, 2 October 2006

Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth: I'm watching a fringe meeting in which the Chingford Skinhead (Norman Tebbit to you) has wowed his audience with a plea for tax cuts paid for - in part - by leaving the EU. The crowd loved it but so too will David Cameron - he wants an argument to prove that he's on the centre ground.


  • 1.
  • At 01:52 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Ed Clarke wrote:

I don't believe this theory that Cameron needs to fall out with the "Right" before he can gain credibility with the "Middle England". Cameron does not need to prove he is a centrist, the Conservatives have always been centrist - it was Labour who had to move to the centre to become electable.

  • 2.
  • At 02:09 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Why do people like you, Nick, always present anyone who suggests that our being in the EU may not be in our best national interest as somehow extreme? The cost of our membership (in purely financial terms) is staggering, and even worse now that Tony Blair has surrendered some of our rebate. The cost in other ways, like having to accept absurd legislation dreamt up by some bored EU bureauocrat in a "directive", is even worse. What exactly do we get for all this? Those now supporting British withdrawal cross the party divide, or indeed support no party at all. It is not, as so often presented by those in the media, a view held only by those on the extreme fringes.

If being in the EU is such a good idea, those in favour should not be afraid of publicly debating the matter with those of us who are not. Isn't that what politics is supposed to be about? I suspect they are afraid because they truly fear the outcome of a public voice on the subject. If only a mainstream party would promise such an open debate, and a binding referendum on the issue of our continued membership, they would storm home at a general election. I am amazed that none of them can see that. If the "pro" camp win then we stay in, if they lose then we come out. Now that really would be democracy. And just think what we could do with all the savings if we left!

I often wonder how historians will view this period in our national tale in the next century. A nation so proud of its democracy and liberty that it fought a world war, lost an empire and endured a blitz to preserve it, only for it to be given away within a generation by politicians without consent being sought from or given by the people, who were too feeble to protest. This maybe an issue which David Cameron would like to go away, but it really is the elephant in the room, and he will have to face up to it one day.

  • 3.
  • At 03:41 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Bill Potter wrote:

Mr Tebbit seems to want to leave the EU. How about leaving the rest of the world as well? This is the sign of old man, wanting to retract into a corner before dying. Mr Tebbit, please note, we wish to live a few more decades yet.
If you (Mr Tebbit)wish to leave Europe you may emigrate, but please leave the rest of Britain to prosper within Europe.

  • 4.
  • At 04:03 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • David Evans wrote:

Tebbit is Cameron's secret weapon. The more he can get that lunatic relic to argue with him, the better he looks to the electorate. He is to Cameron what Tony Benn was to Blair - proof of a change of ways.

Having said that, I'm an enormous fan of Benn - a great conscience politician. I don't intend to slur him by comparing Tebbit to him.

By the way, I'm enjoying this a great deal. Oddly, it always seems 'ishoos' go into the background during the conference season. Pershonalities do count for something. Just as long as the website has policy stories too...which it does.

How do you know that leaving the EU isn't the centre ground? Have you, Nick Robinson, decided it isn't? Has David Cameron, a professional politician who at some stage in the future might decide to jump on the EU gravy train, decided it isn't? Are you telling us how we should think now Nick?

  • 6.
  • At 04:58 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Gary Elsby Stoke-on-Trent wrote:

Ah..I see!

So that's what they mean by lower taxes. Leave the EU and we'll give you lower taxes....and in turn we'll promise to improve services.

What this really means, is that they want out of the people's social charter.

The charter that guarantees the working man and his family, basic human rights.

The Tories hate the social charter because it gives the Great British people, equal rights to that of the landed Gentry.

They hate it because it is dispensed by the European Courts of which they have very little control through the 'old boy'network.

They want our rights handed out in the gruel bowl of which Thatcher was the Master.

If the fight for higher or lower taxes is to be fought out on the battlefield of the European Union, then so be it.
It was no mistake that Thatcher and co refused to sign up to it for the Tories, but it was most definitely a deliberate act of Tony Blair and Labour to gift it to our people.


  • 7.
  • At 05:25 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Anthony Jaynes wrote:

What about all the other party members who want out of the EU (see better off out canpain) do they also get the sharp end of your pen for upsetting your beloved David.

  • 8.
  • At 07:06 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Anon. wrote:

I am a Conservative and a conservative and feel as though the party has become totally misguided as to what politics is and where the great glory of the party lies. The conservatism that made the party the greatest election winning machine of the 20th century in Europe was values, paternalistic and intellectual politics. Tony Blair was succesful only because forces beyond the governments control led to the ERM fiasco that would have happened whoever was in power! This is not the time for the party to think that cheesy photo ops and speeches about the environment by young enthusiatic reformists will really mobilise the public. Now is the time for traditional values and safe hands to clear up the mess with good government and politics that focusses on what people really care about. Whilst people care about the environment it is proven not to be a mobilising issue. We need to sort out the disgusting spiral of decline in society through family values, low taxes and paternalism. Only this attitude will really counter balance New Labour and make things better for everyone.

  • 9.
  • At 07:38 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • a wrote:

it's certainly true that labour moved to the centre to get elected.

only problem is that the right seems to think that the tories have to lurch to the right and call that the centre ground to get elected. what nonsense. didn't worked when the right split the party under major, and hasn't worked since.

  • 10.
  • At 10:50 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Mike Kaye wrote:

The whole demeanour of David Cameron is childish; childish in his lack of policy options, childish in his approach to tax issues and childish in his endeavours on the the elections front; witness his "I'm a liberal conservative" fiasco in the January by-election. He is childish in assuming there wont be a general election for 3 more years. How forward looking is that? I am a strong believer in conservatism, but I predict that by the end of this conservative conference there will be nothing but ashes in the mouths of the so called tory leaders.

  • 11.
  • At 11:53 PM on 02 Oct 2006,
  • Paul wrote:


Someone should count how many times morgages are mentioned by the conservatives. It seems they have finally realised that people have long memories when they are hurt financially.

It is amazing, you can start a war and people will still trust you, but hike the interest rates by a big margin and it is much harder to regain that trust.

Whether the Tories promise tax cuts or not is rather irrelevant. Whether they are green or not is unimportant. In my view Labour are safe until either they hurt the British public in the pocket or there is no one left who remembers the ERM debacle. Once you get your fingers burnt you become reluctant to put your fingers back in the fire.

Norman Tebbit? Is he still alive? Oh he is? Good Lord! Yes Nick, I saw him briefly on Newsnight, it was a shock to hear him after such a long time. And still saying all the old blah, blah, without a shred of evidence to support his argument. A relic, of the blue rinse years, his roots have no purchase on the new tree of life in Cameron's hydroponic world, where no roots are necessary.
Good job old dead wood is merely kindling for fireside chats of old Tory Tall stories, as the new safer pair of hands cultivates new voters in Cameron's squeaky clean Kingdom ( no arrests this week so far, oh yes they don't make the rules, they merely bend them with anonymity?)where Brylcreem is King for the new Tory Slicker, who on earth does his hair? He looks like a hippy!

Now I have heard some of Letwin's argument, its absolutley convincing and simple. They won't do anything till they have checked out the books. And they won't rock our boat. Blimey, anyone want to start a do nothing party and hug a tree with no roots and smile at the sunshine in our hearts? Damn too late we have one...

  • 13.
  • At 01:48 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Tom wrote:

It was worth noting that following Tebbit's loonie argument that cutting taxes was to benefit poor people, the first Tory delegate interviewed afterwards called for "Inheritance Tax" to be cut!

Only the logo changes with the Tories. ....

I couldn't agree more Nick! More coverage of this disagreement please! This is just what we moderates in the Conservative party need. By stamping his authority, Cameron can show the British public that not only is the party changing; but he is not the 'lame' duck that many suggest. I find it rather amusing and pathetic in all honesty. Tebbit banging on about Thatcher and Europe. He really is a man of the dark ages. Time please!

  • 15.
  • At 08:42 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

Nick you've written that David Cameron probably won't be upset that right-wingers will be calling for tax cuts since an argument serves his purpose of looking like he is changing the Tory party. Is it *too* cynical to wonder if, in a desire for a Kinnock v Militant showdown, the *whole disagreement* might have been stage-managed? It certainly gives Cameron a narrative he would approve of.

  • 16.
  • At 09:02 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Russell Long wrote:

"At 04:58 PM on 02 Oct 2006, Gary Elsby Stoke-on-Trent wrote:

Ah..I see!

So that's what they mean by lower taxes. Leave the EU and we'll give you lower taxes....and in turn we'll promise to improve services.

What this really means, is that they want out of the people's social charter.

The charter that guarantees the working man and his family, basic human rights.

The Tories hate the social charter because it gives the Great British people, equal rights to that of the landed Gentry.

They hate it because it is dispensed by the European Courts of which they have very little control through the 'old boy'network.

They want our rights handed out in the gruel bowl of which Thatcher was the Master.

If the fight for higher or lower taxes is to be fought out on the battlefield of the European Union, then so be it.
It was no mistake that Thatcher and co refused to sign up to it for the Tories, but it was most definitely a deliberate act of Tony Blair and Labour to gift it to our people.


I don't know what century you're living in, Gary, but it doesn't look as though it's the same one as me. 'Landed Gentry'? 'Bowl of Gruel'? Save that emotionally charged rhetoric for the TUC where it belongs.

  • 17.
  • At 09:58 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Elwyn Jones wrote:

OOhhh Nick!! Do I detect an anti-LibDem bias in your comments on tax?
You say "the Lib Dems promise tax cuts, and, you've guessed it, and to cut waste too" Wrong! The Lib Dems promise to cut income tax for the low and middle income groups but increase it for the wealthy and for environmental polluters. The total tax burden would remain about the same. It is a very easy trick to omit words or phrases to discredit an argument or give a false impression. The BBC is meant to be poitcally neutral.

  • 18.
  • At 10:55 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

Speaking of crowd pleasing, Nick, I noticed how uncomfortable some people can be when you’re not praising or damning in line with their prejudices. I’m going to try and avoid being judgemental or prescriptive, here, and just say it’s looking interesting from the gallery. The Tao says we all swim in the same pond but its wise to navigate your own path. It’s the oldest treatise on power in the world and, I think, a superior item to Machiavelli’s mischief.

Perhaps, you're beginning to find your own voice? If you can balance maturity, insight, and fun, maybe we have a Robin Day in the making, eh? Your own lecture on the media implied that the media have an important leadership role to play. If you’re beginning to find a firmer footing it will be interesting to see how things play out. We need a kinder country. Now isn’t a bad time to switch surfboards.

  • 19.
  • At 11:10 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Gary Elsby stoke-on-trent wrote:

I'm amazed at the political dinosaurs such as Malcolm, still hanging on to the Haugefailed (one word)theory that we've 'been done' over Europe.

They still play the tired old card of 'British victim' when it comes to the EU.

heath signed up to the ECC, yes. But Thatcher read the LARGE PRINT and signed us into the EU. Just for good luck, Major re-read the LARGE PRINT and signed us up even further.Major even had his glasses on. Tony read the small print and realised they forgot to sign the British people into it, ammended it and then signed it again.

The Tebbit clash is esily read. Tebbit the old guard fighting a right wing corner over Europe and the nice Mr. middle road Cameron (call me Dave)who only wants to be a bit out of Europe.

The Tories bore me with their infantile behavour in the political sphere.

They are a neccessary irrelevance to a modern Britain in a modern Europe in a modern world.


David Cameron is walking on a tight-rope: a deft balancing act where he is trying to woo voters by showing that he is realistic with regard to the European Union and wants to confront economic realities headlong. He wants to stay on the centre ground and not bow to the pressures from the right. In a way he is trying to borrow Blair's ideas and garb to appeal to the electorate. But is the British electorate so gullible to swallow the bait hook, line and sinker?

  • 21.
  • At 12:42 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • James Litchfield wrote:

The problem is that no-one is allowed to have a debate these days. The medias need for a new story each day is insatiable and no-one picks up the thread. Therefore Cameron is 'accused' of lacking substance on issues such as tax because the media and the party spin doctors are always jumping around from one story to the next.

As an example I am finding it darkly amusing that no-one is picking up on Tony Blair appearing Blue Peter, just as that leaked memo of his 'farewell tour' said he would but was denied by No.10 and other ministers as being a joke!

The Tories need to keep to a message, Chinese Water Torture can be very effective!

  • 22.
  • At 01:16 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

And I always thought he was known as the "Chingford Strangler".

  • 23.
  • At 01:19 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Good Samaritan wrote:

Can i have some of the chip that appears to have deposited itself on Gary Elsby's shoulder (post no. 6). My caring sharing Tory heart would dearly love to help him share his burden! Naturally I would get my servants to carry it for me!!

  • 24.
  • At 01:39 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • John wrote:

Switzerland has pushed the US out of top place in the World Economic Forum’s annual ranking of competitive economies. Switzerland is outside the EU. EU member the UK came 10th. Perhaps Mr Cameron should be listening to Lord Tebbit. Could Mr Cameron offer us the prospect of direct democracy like the Swiss ? It would seem to have served them better than the UK's own democratic model has served us.

  • 25.
  • At 01:41 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • David Hannah wrote:

Nick, I seem to remember that Adam Boulton and yourself were discussing how opprobrious and sclerotic the EU was on New Zealand television’s Breakfast programme not so many months ago. While I understand that your employer’s love affair with all things EU will prevent you from displaying similar honesty in front of a domestic audience, I wish you too would not indulge in the corruption of the political discourse that seeks to paint those opposed to the EU as being extreme.

I for one to not believe that restoring democracy to my country is extreme. Unlike the vapid and vacuous outpourings of the party conference season, Norman Tebbit at least has the courage to discuss a real issue.

As a Westminster correspondent, I would have thought that you would share my concerns that 60% of the legislation imposed on us uses the wormhole in our democratic process known as the European Communities Act 1972. Ergo, this act (that constitutes our EU membership) allows every legislative whim of the European Union (in the form of Directives) to be implemented by the use of Statutory Instruments, without so much as Parliamentary debate or scrutiny, let alone a vote.

I’m sure that your viewers would be as concerned as I am (if indeed you had the decency to report it) if they were to be informed that the recent rule changes on child seat belts; Royal Mail postal pricing; recycling bins; the vertical separation of railway infrastructure, and this week’s anti-ageism laws that will cost our economy billions, are all the result of this legislative faits accomplis, whereby our elected representatives are not even consulted, and where there is no recourse nor accountability.

There is a reason that David Cameron has no policies; his future Government will not have any power. It’s no wonder the current Government wasted 700 hours of Parliamentary time banning fox-hunting; they have nothing else to do.

Westminster will remain a democratic façade; a monument serving only as a carcass of what remains of British democracy for as long as we are members of this ghastly post-war anachronism. Thus, it will be a long time before you will you have anything interesting to report from the Chamber.

  • 26.
  • At 02:26 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • David Whelbourn wrote:

Norman Tebbit speaks lots of sense and always has done. There is no need to withdraw from the EU completely whats wrong with moving to the EFTA membership like Normay and Switzerland (European Free Trade Area). We can have the benefits of a free trade area without the baggage of the EU political centralising state. This sounds like what the UK was promised in the original referendum....

  • 27.
  • At 02:48 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Ollie wrote:

Thatcher's greatest move was to secure the rebate. Blair's worst move, and greatest treachery, was to throw it away in return for absolutely nothing.
Cameron should pull out of Europe, and save us 10 billion.

  • 28.
  • At 03:19 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Daniel Graham wrote:

not strictly on topic but i was interested in what Andrew Neil said to Ed Vasey about the tories trying to get Frank Field to defect. Any news on this? what's the general protocol for swapping sides?

  • 29.
  • At 03:56 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • GRAHAM COATES wrote:


  • 30.
  • At 07:31 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Dave wrote:

You can take a smoothie to a Tory, but you can't make them drink. Visited the local "Con" club last night,Margaret and Winnie still prevail.No Conservative gay/lesbian section here, no brown faces, no women in the snug bar, no eco- warriors, no posters worrying about Darfor.Dave really wants to be PM so he will do what it takes,but his troops did not join the Conservative party to condone single parenting,environmental responsibility or hoody hugging.I do not believe sad Norm's intervention to be stage managed, Captain Cameron should worry that one day he may turn round and find his dads army platoon have joined the Independence party.

  • 31.
  • At 08:09 PM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • Steve Wilson wrote:

As much as Blair and his cronies have many downsides, you have to look at your own personal situation.

Are you better off than ten years ago?

Do you have more luxuries at home or more money in your pocket than ten years ago?

Do you have a better job than ten years ago?

If you answered yes to any of these three questions than next election it's simple - vote Labour.

Why change and risk getting LESS under the Tories?

The UK's a great country to live, no need to rock the boat when it's not sinking.

After listening to David Cameron I have no doubt that he is sincere and makes a good role model... well he did stop smoking about 9 months ago!

I do get the impression, however, that his best portrayal is that of a leader of a brigade of boy scouts and girl guides. Although I have much respect and admiration for the work done by those groups... the community spirit they show, the bob a job and other work they do, I don't think their leader could form a credible government, deal with local,regional, national and international problems.

For instance, would hugging a hoody solve their tendency toward laziness?
Perhaps David should start the hugging to prove that at least one policy worked.

  • 33.
  • At 12:59 AM on 04 Oct 2006,
  • Adam Taylor-Smith wrote:

I have just come back from the Conference. The BBC reporting including Nick "intersting glasses" Robinson's reprting has been extremely biased and does not reflect the reality.

For example, the BBC has in numerous reports over the past few days shown picture of a near empty Conference venue with an elderly audience whereas in my experince the venue has been mostly very well arrended and a significant proportion of the audience is under 40. Why do the BBC reporters only try to show the Conservatives in a bad light? I am reaching the conclusion that the BBC has lost sight of its role as an impartial public service.

  • 34.
  • At 11:07 AM on 04 Oct 2006,
  • George Dutton wrote:

Norman Tebbit so he`s still going, of course he was part of the last tory government that came up with the idea that when an elderly couple`s savings run out and they couldn`t pay for the keep in the care home they were in and had to go to a council care home they were to be forcibly separated and sent to two different care homes hundreds of miles away from each other thus they pined for one another and didn`t last long to be a drain on the economy.Yes I remember Norman Tebbit.

  • 35.
  • At 06:07 PM on 04 Oct 2006,
  • Benjamin Pennington wrote:

As a floating voter who leaned Lib Dem at the last election Cameron is a tempting prospect. Maybe he his a little policy 'light' at the moment but he is saying the right things on key issues for lots of floaters like me - no to id cards - yes to the environment - no to fiscal irresponsibility. Policy details go over much of the electorates heads but strong messages such as this do have an impact. Also in response to those on this board and elsewhere say that Labour hasn't hurt the British public financially unlike the conservatives of old - consider this: some of us (earning above the national average) have five figure student loans and are utterly unable to afford our own property now or in the foreseeable future - and face the prospect of being taxed into destitution to pay for a pension black hole that has been mercilessly exacerbated by the 'future prime minister' - although not if my vote has anything to do with it.

  • 36.
  • At 11:37 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

These parties keep changing their policies to get into power although operating under the same description. Conservative, Labour, Liberal and so on.
Isn't there a law such as the Trade Descriptions Act, or whatever, to protect the public against this sort of thing? Perhaps not, because once in office the policies do not change?

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