Fight over for Flight's successor
I am delighted that Nick Herbert has been selected as the Tory candidate for Arundel. I have met him on a number of occasions and been hugely impressed. In fact, I was most impressed when he appeared in a debate on the motion "This House would Pay More Tax to Improve Public Services" at the Cambridge Union in 2003 - alongside both Michael Howard and John Redwood. I would hate to suggest any sort of conspiracy theory, but I do find it amusing that Mr Howard's leadership has seen Mr Redwood return to the front bench and now a way made for Mr Herbert to stand! I find it intriguing how prescient that debate was for the important issue which will resolve this election.
At the debate itself the three were consummate and hugely impressive - they really took the proposition apart. Key were two ideas though. Reform was vital before more spending; you do not "buy" improvements you make them. Second, that not throwing more money at a problem didn't necessarily involve slashing spending or taxation or having regressive standards in public service. I am hoping that we can see such engaging rhetoric and such a convincing performance in the next few weeks.
As I said below, the key will be how assertive the Tories can be about their economic plans. They have to confront and defeat the leftist assertion that more money alone = better public services = higher tax being intrinsically more desirable. Too often, however, those on the right bring a smaller state and lower tax to the table as a pre-requisite, before identifying how public services can be made better with less cash. Fortunately, Mr Howard has offered the leadership required on preventing this happening. Indeed, prior to the debate at the Cambridge Union he was loathe to agree to the motion due to the fears he could be misrepresented as opposing any extra expenditure - what was needed, of course, was reform first. To help achieve the change in perception which the Conservatives have to bring about having people like the Director of Reform in Parliament can only help.