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I nominate this man for a knighthood.

Coduln't have put it better myself.

Ken Stevens

"Give up trying to change us, and instead focus on producing a concept of how we would change the country"

Too right!!
Produce an interwoven grand vision, not a series of disjointed snapshots.


Mr Lillico. The analysis from the last election which Lord Ashcroft has written about summarised our situation as.

1. The voters liked our policies.
2. A significant part of the battleground voters did not find our image appealing.

The contents can be wonderful but if the customer does not like the image they will not buy it. A sad but true fact of life.

Our biggest challenge today is that the image has been (and continues to be) badly damaged by media interests that are either unfair (BBC) or have another agenda (Mail, Times, Sun, Telegraph). Turning that around is a very very difficult job.



Henry Mayhew - Ukipper

A good try at a great article. Our correspondent may be under-estimating the diversity of conservative belief. For instance, I believe in charities or businesses running all State-funded education, subject to inspection; many Conservatives don't. I believe in compulsory saving for pensions and exiting the EU; many Conservatives don't, etc.

So just what are the touchstones of belief that all conservatives share, and how similar is the weighting we apply to each belief? Basically, it might not be that easy to get back to basics - just think about the issues around marriage and taxation. Party leaders have to approve new policies and argue for them - green politics being a case in point. The fact is that David Cameron and George Osborne have made a lot of mistakes in their policy selection and have demonstrated that they just are not conservatives and aren't focused on maximising people's freedom to achieve their individual potential, which will allow them to go on and help society.

Good article though.

Lindsay Jenkins

Superb - agree with all of it - except the paragraph on Cameron. He is not the man to do it.


Thoroughly agree Andrew.

Gordon Brown's blue smokescreen of blue back drops, blue ties, and supping tea with the antithesis of all things fundamentally Labour shaped illustrates that Brown is about personal political power at all costs.

Gordon Brown is a blue rinsed, cross-dressing fraud devoid of any substance or purpose other than Gordon Brown.

Angelo Basu

I'm not sure that the 12 at Dr Lilico's supper were particularly representative of the country but they may well have been representative of the former Tory voters who voted against Major in 97. I think that many people DID vote for more expenditure on health and education in 97, not in an analytical way but more from a gut feeling that New Labour were more genuinely interested in these issues and were willing to change their spending priorities to put money into health and education without obviously raising taxes.

Dr Lilico is right about the notion that what people wanted was a "Centre-Right" government and I think that many believed that ultimately that is what they voted for and got with New Labour in 97. They might not have thought of the label "Centre-Right" - indeed, the retention of the "Labour" part of the "New Labour" name would have made the ordinary voter still think that what was being offered was in some way "of the Left" - but the overall package offered (even if not delivered) was a Centre-Right one that would not have looked out of place as a Conservative manifesto pre-Thatcher.

Obviously you have developed the thesis of what you believe Conservatism to be elsewhere, but I think that the pen portrait in your first paragraph is an accurate one of what people wanted and still want and that the real challenge is to show that actually these are not "Centre-Left" dreams at all but something that can genuinely be delivered effectively by a Conservative government.

The theories and frameworks underlying poilcy, the intellectual heart of the Party, are not necessarily things that we need to sell. They need to inform and shape the policies that are offered and to show that there is a rigour and an underlying purpose to a proposed Conservative government. But it is essential to produce a set of policies that will show that we will do the things that are necessary to improve people's lives. The solutions have to be the right ones. They should tie into the distinctive nature of Conservatism as a creed but should never appear to be driven purely by ideology.

eg The market is a strong and effective mechanism for progress, but the layman neither knows nor understands, or indeed really cares, about how and why this is. We need to be able to demonstrate persuasively that a market solution to any problem is the right one because it will work and be better than a Statist approach, not because we believe that markets are the best mechanism in what would be seen as an abstract way or because we have a distrust for Statism which is rightly or wrongly only weakly identified with by the public at large.

Arthurian Legend

Great article, Dr. Lilico. I agree with most if not all of it, though Henrey Mayhew has a point about the divergence of opinion in the party about many issues.

I think the key thing is that the libertarian agenda on tax, regulation, the EU and choice in healthcare and education unifies more people in the parrty than it separates, and that the majority of the party will never be fully behind the leader where the party feels that the leader is advocating or prepared to settle with a more statist/big government approach.

I agree that the party's problem for 15 years has been one of a poor image resulting from bad, inconsistent, uninspiring or failed policies, and also in particular from John Major's leadership, under which the number of Tory MPs halved in just over seven years. That is something that, perhaps through politeness, is rarely mentioned, but lies behind much of the failure.

Mike Christie

HF, if Lord Ashcroft's polling found that to be true (which I don't question, it was fairly widely reported).... then why did Dave ditch all our policies?

Simon Newman

Good article, and I agree strongly. I do think that as other have noted above, there may be a problem with the wide diversity of views among Conservatives. A broad church party is viable as long as there are core issues around which the party can unite - and the easiest unifiers are things that a party can unite *against*, such as opposition to Soviet expansionism and economic Marxism during the Cold War. At present issues such as the EU and immigration create fault lines within the Conservatives. Most Conservatives broadly favour economic liberalism (rather than eg a nationalist-protectionist policy), although there is variation in enthusiasm and whether this applies to eg foreign control of the British economy, or allowing unrestricted immigration.
But social issues create a major schism between social liberals and social conservatives, and from what I can see there is no longer an obvious unifying factor.

Mike Christie

This is a great article, I wrote an email to senior party figures in 2005 on much the same lines.

Democracy in this country is a sham though. Our main political parties spend their time pitching to the tiny percentage of voters who will swing a general election. They try to tell people what they think the voters want to hear rather than standing up to convince people that what they believe in is right.

When was the last time you heard a Conservative politician defend lower tax and less state involvement from basic principles? Or try to win an argument against 'cutting government spending' by arguing that they are actually reducing the cost of the service to the taxpayer.

The Tories got complacent in the mid-80s and forgot to remind people WHY they were in favour of less state spending and lower taxes and revelled in the 'nasty but efficient' caricature painted by our rivals. When 'nasty but efficient' drifted into 'nasty and incompetent' we were sunk.

tired and emotional

This piece rings true to me, for what it’s worth. I voted for Blair in ’97 because I felt the Tories were morally and intellectually bankrupt. Remember those focus groups that approved of a policy until they discovered it was a Tory policy.

Lilico sums up the hatred the party to which I have belonged since May 2005 suffered from all sides in painful detail. The job Cameron (and the earlier leaders who arguably took the brunt of the savagery) have done to get us into a position where a policy isn’t ridiculed simply because a Conservative MP put is forward is worthy of enormous respect, I feel.

The ideas and the philosophical framework will be developed in time. Cameron is the right man. Brown is the wrong man. Events, I believe, and the dichotomy between what Brown professes to believe in and his chosen methods of delivery will inexorably put us back in power, provided that conservative philosophy is in place.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Great piece except for the line about Cameron. I laughed heartily to the "greatest leader since Thatcher" line. He may prove to be the Conservative's Michael Foot thanks to idiocies like bring Zac Goldsmith into the inner circle. The bad judgement of Cameron is just mindbogling. I know quite a few potential Tory voters (ie voted for Thatcher but not for Major) and they do not like anything they see coming from the man. Such a shame.

Mrs Campbell

Absolutely right. If only the "political men" would listen to you and do it. There are some who are but they're not in the Shadow Cabinet

Simon Denis

Like all the others, I too enjoyed and agreed with the article. There is an old maxim, "Never apologise, never explain." The Tory party has spent the last ten years in apologetic explanations, if not in open self-hatred. I pause to mention that illustrious columnist, Teresa Nasty Party May. Even now, instead of refuting socialist lies, many conservatives who should know better, are parroting them. Gove, Willets and co. have been putting the lefty boot back into selection, using that tired out trope of the sheep and the goats. When will they accept the fact that selection benefits everybody? When will they realise that subjecting a non-academic mind to years of a bastardised arts curriculum simply deprives it of appropriate training? Yes, Patricia Hewitt, plumbers for the rich - English plumbers, who would earn money from an honorable trade, rather than drifting into gangs and drugs at their local dumprehensive. Of course, these tory renegades, now alas in charge of the party, are fully aware that their new found socialism is bankrupt. They have adopted it from the very defeatism which has been identified by Dr Lillico. Turning to Mr Cameron, I fear I share the doubts raised by Andrew Ian Dodge. He is not so much a giant as a pygmy among gnomes, gnomes such as George Osborne. Yes, he promised some good things, but why justify them by frightening away the big international money? Doesn't he realise that this country lives on its finance friendly reputation? Again, it is the low politics of the defeated. Instead of arguing for capitalism, he cuts a deal with the left, maintaining Brown's unwieldy clientel. True, I have said I will support them. Anything to keep out Brown, which is exactly the insulting calculation so openly made by the current conservative leadership. Never have I felt such distaste for the party. Never have I held it in such contempt. What tired language! What flat delivery! Has any political movement ever supplied such untalented orators to Parliament? I refer again to Osborne. Yes, they'll have my grudging support because I fear that this time the left means business. Observe, if you can bear it, the salami slicing tactics they have taken to the public schools, which, with the grammars constitute the last outposts of sound secondary education. The trouble is that even here I am filled with doubt. Lord Tebbit points out that once you attack selection, the private sector too is vulnerable to that crazy, rotten charge of "creaming off" the bright - as though they were merely some resource to be spread liberally over the deserving proletariat. Would Cameron have the guts to protect private institutions from state interference? Will he stand by the public schools today? I doubt it. You see my difficulty - even the cause of stopping Brown seems futile if Cameron is so unreliable and untrustworthy. He is a Maginot Line without guns.


While I would like to agree with the gist of this article, haven't opinion polls tended to show public support for higher public spending rather than tax cuts?


I have just got back from a Lodge meeting- seeing as we are formulating policy on anecdote - which consists of a lot of pro Thatcher ex-Conservatives and one Labour councillor from the London suburbs. The "Conservatives" have been cynical and vituperative about politics and politicians for a decade. I dont think any of them have voted for several elections. I brought up the changes to IHT and the political good will flowed again like a small river. The Labour councillor was very glum. One of them said "Yes.. (its going to happen and that's great) but only if we get them in again next time".

Give people what they want and they will get out and vote for it. But its taken 18mths or more strictly 10 yrs for this to sink into the grey matter of CCHQ. They are our Leaders, they must follow us; as M. Ledru-Rolin was wont to remark.

Oberon Houston

It will come as no surprise that I disagree with this analysis.

The fact is that the majority of voters are both social democratic and conservative in attitide. Radical free marketeers throwing grannies to the fire of market efficiency are not in vogue in Britain today.

Far from trying to be popular with popular policies, we are guilty of being crassly popular with vey unpopular policies. Cameron is trying to say we are not this by being unpopular with your view's, and... he has succeeded brilliantly. Well done all concerned.

William Norton

Oberon: I think the best indicator of the truth underlying Andrew's article is to look at what Blair/Brown have done in practice. Whenever they have got into trouble they've usually responded with a caricature 'right-wing' gesture - typically they've wheeled out Jack Straw to explain why he'd like to beat up beggars or something like that. Why would they do that, do you think?

You might be right in terms of the situation in Scotland (I simply don't know) but I've always thought that in England to win you have to be in the centre, and that centre is on the right (but not very far right).

For the last ten years we've seen a left-wing party pretending to be a bit right-wing in order to get elected, and being very good at fighting elections. They've been up against a right-wing party which kept flipping between pretending to be a bit left-wing and a bit very right-wing, and which wasn't very good at fighting elections. Result: left-wing party wins.

Mike Christie

While I would like to agree with the gist of this article, haven't opinion polls tended to show public support for higher public spending rather than tax cuts?

Richard, that question encapsulates exactly what is wrong with the poll-led politics of this country.

If the polls show people are in favour of higher public spending rather than tax cuts that shouldn't mean we abandon our principles and follow the herd.

It should mean that we double and treble our efforts to get our points across and explain why high-tax economies don't work and explain why private sector service provision is more efficient.

We should be talking about freedoms to choose how we live rather than relying on Socialist largesse, the freedom to keep what you earn and decide which services are most important to you as an individual.

Want to take the risk of paying into a no-frills health policy so you can afford a new HDTV or an extra holiday? Its your money and your life.

Just because something is popular doesn't make it right.

This party has been bogged down trying to play everything by the rules of our opponents for over a decade, we've even allowed them to corrupt the language of politics and to set the cultural agenda.

We should be refusing to play by the socialist agenda. Government spending should be referred to as taxpayer spending. Remind people who the money really belongs to.

Talk about spending an extra few billion of government money on something it sounds like a gift from a generous nation. Talk about spending an extra few billion of taxpayer's money on something and people start realising it all comes out of their wallet one way or another.

Mike Christie

"Radical free marketeers throwing grannies to the fire of market efficiency are not in vogue in Britain today."

Again we pander to the caricatures painted by our rivals.

How about radical free marketeers giving grown-ups freedom to live like grown-ups rather than being spoon-fed what the Nanny state deems good for us?

Simon Denis

Well said, Mr Christie. The art of politics is not shiftily agreeing with what you take to be the majority; it is to persuade a majority of the justice of your cause. This the conservative party has been too cowed and too demoralised to do. It is little wonder that most modern tory politicians make such poor speakers. They lack the conviction with which to animate their language and move the audience. They plot, they "triangulate", they compromise - and generally, they lose. If they win this time it will be because the full awfulness of Brown is becoming apparent. He's a tarnished, heavy handed has-been, an undiscovered minotaur, lurking at the heart of the Labour labyrinth. To head off his victory, the whole of the right must sink its differences, whatever our reservations over Mr Cameron and his circle. Moreover, to give credit where it is due, their man seems to have pleased the all important media this afternoon.

Andrew Lilico

As a post-script to this: I was very happy with Cameron's speech, and our pitch from Conference in general. As Cameron himself said (talking, I submit, about the whole pitch, rather than the speech per se), it may have been a bit messy in places, but it was (by and large) him. I don't expect or need to agree with every detail of our policy or our leader's views. But our debates within the Conservative Party should be about what we believe to be right, what our differing views are as to how to make the world a better place, not (in the main) about what we believe the public (or some part thereof) wants us to say.

I want to campaign for a cause - for something that I and others believe enough of to want to spend my time and energy trying to bring about. That is a much more inspiring objective to me that merely campaigning for a marketing plan - to win for winning's sake. Cameron has now delivered us something much closer to a cause.

Well done. We're not there yet, but we may at last be on our way.

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