Members of the new ConservativeHome Jury offer their thoughts. These thoughts were first submitted a week ago and appeared in the ConservativeHome Party Conference newspaper.
ANGIE BRAY MP: We need a robust response on prisoner votes and, more topically, the rights of trade unions as they persuade the European Court of Human Rights to re-examine issues like rights to secondary picketing. We need action, not just words, on repatriating a swathe of regulatory powers.
LOUISE MENSCH: Not an in-out referendum - the Europhile's dream. Proposed by ex Euro MEP, this question almost demands a 'Yes' vote. We should have a referendum on new terms of membership - a semi-detached relationship. Cameron and Osborne should define the terms. Then the referendum should offer three choices. (Can you see UKIP's fox cowering in the corner? We're about to shoot it.) 1. Leave the EU altogether. 2. Demand new membership terms (as listed) and leave if we don't get them. 3. Remain as we are. Can anybody doubt a massive victory for point two?
This referendum should only be announced before the election, as the LibDems, knowing people will go for option 2, will leave government before they will allow it to be brought. They are radical Europhiles. Therefore, this is a game-changing, election winning strategy that George Osborne, master tactician, should keep in his locker for 2014. Enough Lab and Lib rebels will vote for it to get it through. Cameron knows the ecstatic reception this would get - and his enormous polling boost. He would, however, have to agree that we would leave the EU rather than not get our terms in option two if the Eurocrats revolt. It's an old fashioned game of chicken - but Europe, as we've seen in the Greek crisis, won't kick anyone out no matter what they do. With guts and firmness, Britain will be safe. And UKIP will be a florid-cheeked, tight-collared memory.
MAX WIND-COWIE: It’s a modern myth that the Conservative Party is ‘divided over Europe’. Divided how? Aside from Ken Clarke – and perhaps a few in the House of Lords – who are these pro-Euro or pro-federalism Tories? That being said, we still behave as though we’re divided over Europe. Cameron’s indecision on when, how and if a referendum might happen being a case in point. The truth is that UKIP – with its wildly opposed conservative and libertarian instincts – is only united by Europe. We can deal with UKIP by offering an in-out referendum in the first year of the next Parliament. We should make that promise now.
DOMINIC SCHOFIELD: The key to dealing with the UKIP threat is how we respond to the changing face of the EU. As the Euro Zone faces the chaos of a choice between fracture or federation, we must clearly stand for the comprehensive renegotiation of our relationship within this changing Union. This, plus a clear determination to fight UKIP on the ground (rather than conduct backroom deals), will stem the flow of ex-Tory voters to UKIP and win back voters we have lost. Our messaging needs to get tougher: Tory voters who vote UKIP will get Miliband pure and simple: Vote Purple, Get Red.
LUKE BOZIER: A referendum on Britain's place in the European Union is a distraction and should be, although tempting, avoided. UKIP's appeal is among a group of people who Thatcher won and kept for the Tories for a long time. They no longer feel that the Tory Party is the party of the hard-working man; that has to change in order to neutralise UKIP. That means reducing the high cost of hard work - tax, in all its guises.
ANDREW BOFF: Giving attention to self-harmers merely gives them justification for their abuse. We should offer a referendum (tomorrow, preferably) because it's the right thing to do, not because we want to deal with attention seekers.
RYAN BOURNE: “Conservatives continue to dither on our future EU relationship. The Eurozone crisis rumbles on. UKIP win the popular vote in 2014, and Nigel Farage hails the British people have 'sent a clear message'. As leader of the best supported party, he demands a platform on the 2015 Leaders debates. Fantasy? It could well happen. The Conservatives therefore must have their desired new relationship with Europe, based on an opt-in model, mapped out by 2014. The 2015 manifesto should include it with an in-out referendum pledge if the EU fails to agree. It's what the public really want, and it's what we all want to.”
DAVID NUTTALL MP: By guaranteeing an ‘In/Out’ referendum on our membership of the European Union. This could be done by legislating in this Parliament for a referendum to be held early in the next Parliament. As Chairman of the ‘Better Off Out’ Group of MP’s and Peers I know many will take the view ‘well he would say that wouldn’t he’. But if the polls are right the majority of the British People who have never had a vote on our relationship with the European Union want a referendum. I think the silent majority deserve the right to be heard.
SYED KAMALL MEP: We have to show how UKIP never engage seriously in the European Parliament. This tells the electorate all they need to know about how badly they would conduct negotiations for the UK to have a new settlement with the European continent. They often behave in a childish fashion and they have little respect. Of course those of us who believe in free trade and national democracy can get frustrated with the EU but you don't get the best outcome for your country simply by cocking a snook at the others; we have to command respect to negotiate the best possible terms of trade for the UK.
PAUL ABBOTT: Only a referendum will do it. However, if a referendum is not yet possible, the Conservative Party can and should pick fights with Brussels on symbolic issues. This would show character. The excellent EU Act 2011 is very clear that European law only applies to Britain, if Parliament wants it to. So why not be more muscular about areas like crime and justice? The Lord Chief Justice has said that he is "furious" about the delay in Abu Hamza's extradition. So are most of the public. So are most MPs. Why not change the law for these extreme cases, and speed up our deportation process?
PAUL ABBOTT: Patrick O'Flynn said it best last week. I paraphrase: "You can't trust Labour with your money... You can't trust Labour on immigration." This should be expressed as a relentless focus on the cost of living. Ed Miliband is still the candidate of higher fuel duty at the pumps; carbon taxes on your electricity bills; higher interest rates on your mortgage; and uncapped benefits paid to millionaires. Under him, Labour is still the party of the poverty trap. But, by contrast, the Conservative Party is about aspiration: Free childcare for working mothers. A revamped Right-To-Buy. Cheaper petrol. Cheaper mortgages. A tough cap on welfare. A cap on immigration. The biggest ever expansion in apprenticeships, and academy schools. The highest rise in the state pension since the 1940s. These are all things that Labour voted against and we should remind them of it.
LUKE BOZIER: Say it, and say it again, Labour will say anything it can in the run up to the election. Are the public really to think that the party which took British debt over a trillion pounds can be trusted on the economy again? Are we to think that Ed Miliband is as 'normal' as he suggests? He's as beltway as it gets.
MAX WIND-COWIE: Labour is at an interesting, dangerous crossroads. In Lord Glasman and Jon Cruddas they have thinkers determined to sweep the knee-jerk ultra-liberalism and fabianism of modern Labour awayand to replace it with a more grounded, small-c conservative message. That should be sending shivers down all our partisan spines. Simply attacking Ed as ‘red’ won’t work in such circumstances – we need a more nuanced strategy. We should be hugging the socially conservative instincts of the 'Blue-few' close and looking to steal their clothes where appropriate while constantly reminding voters that the bulk of Ed’s party would never let him deliver on 'One Nation' Labour in Government.
SAMUEL KASUMU: To coin the phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’. If there is one issue that every person in the country is conscious of, it’s the current financial challenges caused by Labour’s inability to manage the public purse. Whilst most are now bored of simply being reminded that it is Labour’s fault for the current mess, they will respond to the idea that we are as competent as ever when it comes to ensuring an economic recovery. We must breathe life into the economic debate and demonstrate that there is a clear path that includes support for the most vulnerable, and appreciation for hard work.
ANGIE BRAY MP: We should start attacking Labour off the back of Ed Miliband’s new adoption of the one-nation slogan and use it to point out that his speech – far from encapsulating one-nationism – was actually about dividing the Country into us and them: sectional interests, class warfare, public vs private, and government vs business (if don’t run your business our way, watch out.)
DAVID NUTTALL MP: Despite promising to end ‘Boom and Bust’ Labour are the Party who when trusted with the nations finances wrecked the British economy. They sold off our nations gold reserves. They spent billions of pounds we did not have increasing the national debt which future generations will have to pay back. They are essentially a pro-EU party in favour of more government spending and therefore higher taxes and more borrowing. Voters at the next election will face a simple choice; Return to the road to ruin under Labour, or Continue on the road to recovery with the Conservatives.
DOMINIC SCHOFIELD: Firstly we must reject the impulse to dismiss Ed Miliband as unelectable: his Blue Labour/One Nation narrative has the potential to resonate with millions of voters, particularly those who perceive themselves to be in the ‘squeezed middle’. Our attack should be two-pronged: first, focus hard on Labour’s economic record. Remind voters that every Labour Government starts with promises of fiscal responsibility and ends with a deficit, empty coffers and higher tax. Second, develop a genuine One Nation vision and programme for the economic renewal of the North, South West and Wales to counter Labour’s ‘The Tories are an uncaring party of the South East’ narrative.
ANDREW BOFF: Expose their policies for what they are: the world's longest running Ponzi scheme.
DAVID SKELTON: The first priority facing Cameron in Birmingham is to reclaim the ‘one nation’ banner from Ed Miliband and set out why the Tory Party is the party of one nation values. Ed Miliband’s speech still leaves his party vulnerable on economic competence. In our Northern Lights research, 54% of voters believe that “Labour waste your money... and can’t be trusted to run the economy.” Miliband’s speech still leaves his party vulnerable on the issue. Cameron’s other major challenge is to relentlessly focus on blue collar concerns and cost of living issues. Emphasising job creation and how the Tories can help voters struggling with squeezing living standards will help Cameron reach out to the voters he needs to win over in 2015.
RYAN BOURNE: “So far Conservative attacks have focused on competence: particularly the economic mess Labour bequeathed the Coalition. It's effective, but becomes less credible over time when the public want solutions. Attacks on Labour must now be made on a new front: that it is devoid of the ideas necessary for the problems we face. Policy initiatives should be attacked as insignificant or damaging, and Labour's flip-flopping on popular reforms exposed for a lack of conviction. The Conservatives should use the vacuum of proposals in Miliband's 'One Nation' vision to define him in the public consciousness. Linking to the tax and spend of France's Hollande could be a good starting point.”
LORD BATES: Ed Miliband and Ed balls led us into the worst recession since the 1930s. Labour's recession resulted in the loss of over 1 million jobs. Labour simply can't be trusted to face up to tough choices necessary to govern Britain. Britain is now on the long hard road to recovery don't let Labour wreck it again.
JULIAN BRAZIER MP: We should stop ad hominem attacks on Miliband and his team. We should remind people that Labour got the nation hopelessly into debt and cost out every Labour proposal. We must build third party support for our structural reform programmes and avoid reforms where we lack the public support of at least some respected practitioners. Labour find it much harder to fight our benefit and education reforms than changes in the NHS, where there is a paucity of doctors and nurses speaking out for change. Be careful on the Police. Where our partnership with the Lib Dems prevents implementation of popular reforms which Labour cannot support (eg Human Rights reform, tougher measures on immigration), make manifesto pledges they cannot match.
JOHN BALD: Ed "Bankruptcy" Balls is a major liability, as shown on Question Time on Thursday, and he had much the same effect on the school system, rebuilding everything in sight whether it was necessary or not. Over generous benefits and destructive immigration remain weaknesses for which Labour has not yet been forgiven, though the coalition has prevented us from taking the necessary action. The return of Scargillism in modern unions might help a little, though they seem to have worked out that it would be sensible to lie low till after the election. However, Scargill is an increasingly distant memory for the modern electorate, and I have some concern that we may be moving into territory where Labour can start to attack us.
The Jury will be coming soon...