The 1922 Committee should give the leadership an ultimatum over the next manifesto
by Paul Goodman
Earlier this year, I asked how Party policy was to be developed for the next election - since the Government's official machinery, such as the Downing Street Policy Unit, works for the Coalition, not the Party.
I identified three non-mutually exclusive options, as follows -
- The voluntary party leadership should quietly approach David Cameron, tell him that it intends to set up a policy development process, ask for backing - and go ahead if it doesn't get it.
- As Tim suggested, the 1922 Executive should raise some money, and use it to support its backbench committees as policy-developing bodies.
- David Cameron should ensure that a Policy Unit is re-established in CCHQ. Greg Clark headed up such a unit between 2001-5, and it laid the ground for much of the social justice drive in present Party policy.
I also wrote: "I may be wrong, but I can't see the voluntary party leadership taking a predominant interest in policy development."
What's happened since?
- There's been no move that I know of to set up a Policy Unit at CCHQ. Greg Clark, who I mentioned in my first piece, is the prime mover behind a Conservative-Liberal Democrat discussion group called Coalition 2.0, which aims to explore Coalition policy for the remainder of the Parliament. Tim's a member of the group and has written about it.
- The voluntary party has proved me wrong - up to a point, anyway. Natalie Elphicke is to lead a revived Conservative Policy Forum. However, its workings will apparently be less structured than the Board originally envisaged. For example, the Board suggested that there could be an automatic link between CPC groups examining a particular policy area and the Conservative Minister responsible. I gather that this will now happen on a case-by-case basis.
- The 1922 Committee has set up five policy-based committees, covering the economy, home and constitutional affairs, foreign affairs, the public services and the environment. Some have already done some policy work. The economy committee, for instance, has produced a paper on banking, under the leadership of John Redwood.
The 1922 Committee has the opportunity to build on the start that Redwood and his committee have made. Tim suggested during the summer that the Committee should raise some money, model campaign excellence, champion the voluntary party - and develop policy.
Some MPs and Party members fear that David Cameron doesn't really want progress on this front at all, because he's hoping for a joint Coalition front at the next election, and therefore a joint manifesto with the Liberal Democrats. Nick Boles wants the Coalition to last beyond the next election. This week, he was joined by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
There's no great rush, but if obfuscatory noises are coming out of Downing Street at, say, this time next year, the Chairman of the '22 should quietly have a word with the Prime Minister, and tell him that the Committee will begin its own policy development process the following summer, if there's no movement from Number Ten in the meantime.