Tony Devenish and Stephen Sobey are Conservative activists who attended today's re-launch of the Conservative Policy Forum, on which they report here.
The day’s highlight was a speech by Oliver Letwin MP encouraging all Conservatives to get involved in formulating ideas which may, (he stressed the word may), be included in our Party’s 2015 manifesto. He said “we won’t forget our own party when governing the country”.
In a clear and rousing speech, Oliver referred to the last Party Conference's “Issues Document” which included strategic issues which may colour the political agenda post the age of austerity, such as:
- Rising to the challenge of an ageing population
- Changes in technology and innovation
- Ensuring adequate skills in the workplace
- Supporting ‘big citizens’ and the ‘Big Society’.
He threw down a challenge to generate creative ideas. He emphasised the value of active participation by many groups and individuals over the next few years to create a winning manifesto for our Party and country. He stressed that the CPF was forward-looking and not to critique the existing government programme (though specialist input would be welcome on a particular policy’s implementation).
While some ConHome readers may (from past experiences) question whether CCHQ will listen; the consensus from the day was that if we take this process seriously and actively participate and engage, this commitment will be matched by serving Ministers and other senior Conservatives. Natalie Elphicke, the CPF director, had earlier confirmed that Ministers Mark Harper MP and Nick Hurd MP were leading the way on their AV and Big Society papers respectively.
The big question is what will the country look like in 2015 and what will be the main political and strategic challenges?
Oliver, Sayeeda Warsi, and all the speakers strongly recognised the depth of knowledge within Conservative associations, the broader party and in the wider think-tanks community.
There will be additional opportunities for members to participate both at the Cardiff Spring Forum in March and subsequently on the web and at the Party Conference.
As two hardened political hacks, even we found the day a positive step forward.