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Donal Blaney: Hire at least as many to the right of you as to the left of you

Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons' Foundation, Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell's Laws of the Public Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

It has often been remarked that the Conservative Party is a broad church. Over the years the Party has managed to bring together under its wing those who believe in protectionism alongside free-marketeers, wets and dries, and in more recent years Eurosceptics and federalists.
The advice from Morton Blackwell under this week's Law is that any campaign, administration, committee or indeed government should comprise as many people who are to the right of the candidate or elected official as there are to his left.
Balancedcabinet_1There is little doubt that Margaret Thatcher was the clearest example of a conviction politician in the last century. She advanced the careers of those who were "true believers" and referred to them as "One of Us". Nonetheless she was not overtly factional in her appointments. While it may be the case that the likes of Norman Tebbit, Nicholas Ridley and Cecil Parkinson might not have held as high positions under other leaders as they did under Thatcher, the fact is that Thatcher also worked to include a number of people in her team who did not instinctively share her beliefs - Pym, Prior, Heseltine, Gilmour and, of course, Whitelaw.

Thatcher only began to encounter difficulties within the Party when she ceased to operate a "balanced ticket".

Major too was afflicted by such difficulties given that his cabinet was dominated by one particular wing of the Party (Hurd, Clarke, Heseltine and Rifkind) to the detriment of the Thatcherite Eurosceptic right. This imbalance left Major open to attack from his right flank and helped undermine his premiership.
The position of Tony Blair is particularly interesting. His cabinet has included a number of people who are "true believers" (it is hard to conceive of anyone who would be able to be to HIS right!) but it has been light on those whose views are radically to his left (with the exception, perhaps, of Prescott and Hain). Blair's strategy since 1994 has been to fight the left in his Party so as to show that he is a quasi-presidential figure who is able to sit above the fray.
This is a strategy that David Cameron seems to be wanting to duplicate. Whereas Blair took on the Labour left, Cameron's move to the centre is also being presented as an attack on the Tory right. There is an important difference for Cameron to bear in mind, however.
While the Labour left was rightly blamed for Labour's years in the electoral wilderness (which arose directly as a result of the failures of left-wing post-war Labour governments and the creed of Butskellism), the attempts of certain of Cameron's cheerleaders to denigrate the achievements of the Tory right is misguided.
The Tory governments of 1979-1997 (and in particular between 1979 and 1990) were successful: they were so successful that much of Thatcher's legacy is beyond the realms of political debate. It is also revisionism of the worst kind to say that the Party's defeats in 1997, 2001 and 2005 were because the Party ran on too right-wing a platform.
In 1997, the Party lost because of Party in-fighting, a weak message on Europe and (most importantly) because Blair had convinced the electorate that Labour had changed.
In 2001, the Party lost because the country wanted to give Blair another chance (and because the Party's main message - "Keep the Pound" - was made irrelevant by Blair's promise of a referendum).
In 2005, despite a sleazy government and an unpopular war, the Party lost because its message was weak, bordering in the eyes of some on the vacuous. It is therefore sloppy thinking to argue that the Party lost three elections because it was too right-wing and that therefore the Party needs to ditch anything that smacks of Thatcherism in favour of being more Blairite than Blair.
And before any unthinking Cameron-loyalists fire off posts haranguing me for advocating a "dog whistle" or "core vote" agenda, I am not. I am simply saying that modernisation (which I support insofar as I am able to understand what it means) does not have to mean the wholesale abandonment of long-held and electorally successful principles.
For "Project Cameron" to succeed, he needs to ensure that his team - and policy programme - are balanced. Wets need to be balanced by dries. Thatcherites need to be balanced with centrists. Moves to the political centre need to be balanced by offering reassurance to traditional Conservative supporters that the Party still has a place for them.
If the passengers on a boat all stand on one side of the boat at the same time, it will flip over and sink; likewise the Conservative Party. To win the Party needs to have a programme that excites and reassures. It needs to be a balanced ticket.


Previous entry in this series: You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends


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