The unholy alliance of The Independent and the right-wing anti-modernisers
In a leading article The Independent argues that "Conservative messages have become increasingly contradictory".
The Independent thinks the party cannot modernise and also talk about more familiar Tory issues: "What made Mr Cameron initially seem radically different from his predecessors William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard was his decision to stop talking about those old Tory obsessions of crime, Europe, immigration and tax cuts. Instead, he set reform of the public services at the heart of his agenda."
The idea that there is a contradiction between these things is a nonsense and it's a view that is shared by many anti-modernisers on the diehard Right (but far from every 'Rightie'*). These anti-modernisers blindly interpret every effort to talk about global poverty or gay equality as a sell-out.
I've long argued for 'a politics of and'. A politics that twins entirely compatible propositions. A Conservativism that is broader than in 1997 rather than fundamentally changed. The ConHome shields attempt to represent pictorially the breadth of our ambitions and potential coalition.
Here are a few examples:
- It's politically harder for example to adopt a very tough approach on immigration if voters think you don't care about the poor overseas.
- It's harder to back marriage and all the benefits it brings children if some think Tories are homophobic.
- It's harder to trim the size of the state if voters think politicians are still feathering their nests.
Ensuring that we get this balance right and are very serious about the broader conservatism is essential to the future of the Conservative Party. Talking only about crime, tax, Europe and immigration won't be enough to realign British politics. Fusing a concern for the poor, the environment and civil liberties with the issues more associated with the Conservative Party gives us the opportunity to become the natural party of government again.
At the heart of 'the politics of and' is one simple and very British idea: Fairness. Fairness to those who create the wealth and fairness to those who need help. If David Cameron is still looking for a title for the draft manifesto he's launching on 4th January I would suggest fairness as a uniting theme.
* Some seen as on the Right have done more to 'modernise' the party than those on the Left. Think, for example, of what IDS has achieved on social justice and David Davis on civil libertarianism.