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Donal Blaney: "The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure"

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 is often said that the Right won the battle of ideas in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to the groundwork done by the Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs and Adam Smith Institute, among others.

The excellent first two episodes of the BBC's series "Tory! Tory! Tory!" shows how the fusion of philosophical underpinning, funding, research and promotion of ideas helped embolden the Conservatives for almost two decades. Episode One of "Tory! Tory! Tory!" was broadcast on Monday evening on BBC2 and, World Cup schedules permitting, Episode Two will be broadcast this Monday evening. It is such a good programme that you have to pinch yourself that it was made by the BBC (although Episode Three falls back into the usual trap of BBC journalism of whining leftism and blaming Thatcher for all of society's ills).

This three-part series highlights the importance of not only coming up with the right ideas, but promoting and acting upon them effectively. There remains a considerable body of research being published by a number of think-tanks in Britain today but much of that research is either pie-in-the-sky and politically unattainable or written in such cerebral tones that even David Willetts would need to develop a third brain to understand it.

In the United States, there are a number of groups that translate philosophically pure theses written by academics in their ivory-clad towers into a format that is capable of being understood and digested by civil servants, politicians, advisors, activists and - most importantly - electors.

There is little doubt that the work done by the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute is philosophically sound and that its fellows, staff and researchers are ideologically pure and intelligent individuals. Nonetheless their publications - while underpinned by the purists' research - are presented clearly, logically and with a laid out pathway from A to B  so as to achieve the aims of the researchers.

This makes considerable sense. Heritage and the CEI recognise that legislators, civil servants and their advisors have considerable demands on their time. For them to "do the right thing", the "right thing" needs to be explained as simply as possible. Getting from where we are to where we want to be is set out step by step. Often draft legislation is provided. Voter-friendly poster and viral email campaigns are devised. Unreliable legislators are fax-blasted and pressured in other ways to ensure they do not scupper the passage of the reforms in question. Philosophically complex notions are translated into every day policies with a professionalism that we can only admire.

But why should we only admire that professionalism? Surely we can emulate it?

For people to endure sitting through a political meeting, the chairman and speaker(s) must make that meeting as interesting as possible otherwise the listener's mind switches off. My Latin teacher at prep school, affectionately known as Bod, didn't manage this very well and instead we became proficient at pencil cricket. My A-level History teacher, Anthony Seldon, on the other hand, inspired my interest in history and was instrumental in helping me achieve an A grade.

Even though the conservative movement in the UK is not as strong or financially well-resourced as the movement in the US, that does not mean that we should not try harder to replicate this particular approach from across the Pond. Some groups are already very good at turning impenetrable dissertations from policy wonks into understandable English that can be digested intellectually in bite size chunks. Reform and the Taxpayers' Alliance deserve particular credit.

Where there is a yawning gap is in translating outstanding, necessary and worthy research produced by the likes of the European Foundation, IEA or CPS into policies understandable by politicians, activists or voters. Those executive summaries then need to be turned into campaigns by activist groups such as the Taxpayers' Alliance, Young Britons' Foundation and party pressure groups such as Conservative Way Forward. Groups such as the Society of Conservative Lawyers ought to be producing draft legislation so that once the Conservative Party takes power, not only will it have won the argument and know what to do, it will know how to do it.

If we don't do this, I am confident we can still win power. My concern, however, is that we will not know what to do when we win power because even our political elites have given too little thought to what to do, how to sell it and how to enact it. It is therefore up to us, the activists and movement leaders, to help them do what needs be to done so we do not throw away the chance we are given if and when we return to power.

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