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Donal Blaney: A well-run movement takes care of its own

Blaney_donalBritish Conservatives differ in many ways from our American cousins. During the 1980s, however, much store was laid on the fact that both Thatcherism and Reaganomics stressed the importance of individuals exercising as much power over their own lives as possible (particularly in the economic sphere).
A by-product of this approach, coupled with record levels of economic prosperity, was that many conservative politicians, supporters and activists exhibited character traits that were unpleasant in the eyes of the public such that the all too familiar charicature of selfish "Loadsamoney" conservatism exemplified by yuppies sticks even to this day.
The actions and views of such people allowed Thatcherism (and by extent, conservatism) to be stigmatised as being about greed and materialism. Some even took such perceived rampant individualism forward in their political dealings, putting themselves and their own career advancement ahead of the interests of the country, the cause or their constituents.
The fifth of Morton Blackwell's Laws of the Public Policy Process is that a well-run movement takes care of its own. This Rule encourages us to remember two things. First, we are all part of a wider conservative movement that, while being most prominently showcased by the Conservative Party leadership, also consists of think-tanks, pressure groups, grassroots organisations, journalists, bloggers and campaigners of every hue. Secondly, this Rule encourages members of the conservative movement to look out for each other and to help each other in times of need.
Two examples show this Rule in operation. In 1999, I was seeking re-election as National Chairman of Conservative Future, the organisation I had founded at William Hague's behest in 1998 by uniting the warring factions of the Young Conservatives, Conservative Students and the Conservative Graduates. For a variety of reasons, some admittedly of my own doing, my chairmanship had not been the success I had hoped for - I was facing an inevitable defeat. The day of the hustings coincided with a national CF conference in London. Two fellow warriors from our movement proudly stood by my side when it was clear all was lost - Liam Fox and Iain Duncan Smith. One former cabinet minister, whose ambitions I had championed publicly in the Party and the media for the previous six years, took the less comradely approach of having his staff call me an hour before he was due to arrive. I was informed that it would reflect badly on him if he allied himself with me at that time "and you know how it is". Had that individual followed the Rule that members of a well-run movement look after their own, he would have stood by me in the same way that Liam and IDS did that day. I remain grateful and loyal to them both to do this day. (As an aside I should add that that individual has since shown very publicly that he is certainly no longer a member of the conservative movement).
My second example relates to another occasion from my student days. In 1993, the Eurosceptic Conor Burns (who since has twice been PPC for Eastleigh) won the national chairmanship of the Conservative Students, defeating the pro-Maastricht Tim Kevan. The then Party Deputy Chairman, Gerald Malone, blocked Conor's appointment and instead appointed Tim as chairman. In the febrile atmosphere of the anti-Maastricht rebellion it was felt to be "too risky" to appoint a student leader who would campaign against John Major's own policy. The conservative movement swung into action on Conor's behalf, led by Lord Tebbit and Lord Parkinson. Even though the Party's decision was not changed, Conor was looked after by those who shared his views and admired his courage in taking a stand against Maastricht. Instead of being cut adrift, he was helped.
There are many people in our developing conservative movement who understand the need to look after their own - people such as Daniel Hannan MEP, Eric Forth MP, Lord Parkinson, Greg Hands MP, David Green of Civitas, our Editor, Tim Montgomerie, celebrated blogger and publisher Iain Dale and Alex Singleton of the Globalization Institute. Men such as these will fight for the interests of colleagues in the movement who need help, often without regard for the consequences for themselves. They are the mark of the true comradeship that is essential in developing a conservative movement that can help propel the Party to power.
Far too many others have either forgotten the importance of this Rule (and the need for an underlying vibrant conservative movement) or they simply don't care and only care about their own advancement.
Ronald Reagan supposedly had two slogans on his desk in the Oval Office. One said "the buck stops here" (which stood in stark contrast to the blame culture and the avoidance of responsibility of the Carter presidency). The other said "it is amazing what can be accomplished if you don't take care who takes the credit".
Many who enter the political arena, be they students or more seasoned campaigners, do so for a number of reasons. Some do so through altruism, while others do so for their own advancement. This Rule does not denounce ambition, even ambition for one's own advancement. This Rule makes it clear, however, that such ambition ought to be framed within the context of looking after the interests of others who share your views and who may have helped you along the way. Forgetting those who have helped you, denigrating old comrades in arms or pulling up the ladder after you are things that have gone on since the days of Ancient Rome.

Nonetheless the lesson is clear: for a vibrant conservative movement to flourish, its members must take care of their own.

Donal Blaney's previous 'Law' was An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.


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