Can't believe it's over a month since the last post. Must become a bit more disciplined about this...
Although this blog is nominally about Opposition, we in the Conservative Party are of course in the age of 'new politics' under David Cameron, ending opposition for its own sake and taking a more constructive approach. Whilst there is some cynicism about this in some quarters, I must say I'm a fully signed-up supporter. The first test was the Education Bill, where Mr Blair's timid proposals to extend school freedom divided his own party. In the past we would have looked through the Bill, found the aspects we disagreed with, and voted against the Bill in its entirety.
Instead, we have looked at the Bill and its overall effects, and judged that whilst not perfect, it does increase the freedom of schools to a degree, and provides the framework for greater diversity of different types of school. These are all things which Conservatives have always believed in, so it is right for us to back it. Some have accused David Cameron of 'opportunism' - but in reality it is when we pretend to disagree when we do not that we are truly opportunistic.
I had cause to think about this again last night at the Council meeting in Greenwich. Given it was the last meeting before the Council elections on 4 May when all of us will be fighting for our seats, you might have expected it to be a nakedly party-political brawl. But in fact there was a oddly consensual feeling in the air. First of all the Mayor paid tribute to the members on all sides who are standing down (or at least to those who know that they are!), and generous tributes were paid across the party divide.
Next up was a debate on a planning decision involving whether permission would be given for a playing field to be built on. The public gallery was absolutely packed with local residents who had formed a campaign group to fight the proposal. So many of them had descended on the Town Hall that they couldn't all fit into the galleries, and a large crowd spilt over into the corridors and adjoining committee rooms.
The Conservative Group had prepared an amendment to meet the residents' concerns and protect the land, and we were ready to table it when the Labour administration announced they too had thought again and prepared their own amendment to do the same. This was met by huge cheers, as was every speech from every party welcoming the victory of the campaigners. Several speakers welcomed the fact that for once the parties had united to make a real positive difference to people. The decision was then passed unanimously, and the Chamber echoed with rapturous applause which spread out into the crowd outside. It was quite a feeling, and one I won't quickly forget.