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The need for civility on the Right

By Matthew Barrett
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This is the final offering in our six-part week-long series looking at 'The Wrong Right'. In three of its parts, Tim Montgomerie looked at the malign influence of a right-wing entertainment complexthe need to update centre right thinking on blue collar Britain and why Conservatives need (more than occasionally) to say positive things about the State. In a fourth, Pete Hoskin focused on the failure of Thatcher and Reagan to constrain the state, and in a fifth, Paul Goodman asked "Why does so much of the Right treat cutting spending as light entertainment?"

BARRIE_ FORKED TONGUEOne of most disheartening things for Conservatives who stayed loyally supportive of the party during the wilderness years (which, still not having attained a parliamentary majority, we have not yet entirely left) is the disparity between the popularity of our messages and the unpopularity of our messengers. It seems illogical that so much of the public will be fully behind many of our policies, but will recoil in horror upon being told whose policies they are. But much of the fault lies with the lack of civility too often shown by those on the right.

Two of the best messengers can be found across the pond: Barack Obama and former Governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee famously said in 2007: "I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad at anyone about it". He holds very conservative positions on abortion and religion, but was liked by many voters regardless of religion, because of his appeal to national unity and civility. In this respect, he was much like Barack Obama. Whatever you think of his track record, his initial message of "Yes We Can" appealed to many people, as did his statement: "there are no red states or blue states, just the United States". He was not angry, and he appealed to the whole nation for support.

I would suggest that amongst the best messengers in the Coalition today are Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith. While their die-hard opponents in the education and welfare fields might attempt to demonise them, the average, independent-minded person can see that these two Secretaries of State care deeply about the people whose lives they affect. They do not come across as angry. They listen, and they sound reasonable. We on the right can often appear to be angry in defending our beliefs, arrogant in proclaiming how correct we were about something, and exclusive in our tone, when we should be inclusive. We would do well to adopt a more civil tone and appeal to all Britons, not look like we enjoy inflicting our opinions upon the rest of the country. We would do well to remember "men and not measures", because so often we see how moderation in tone and personality can be as important in appealing to the public as moderation in policy.


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