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Donal Blaney: You can't beat a plan with no plan

Blaney_donal_2 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.

Churchill once remarked to a colleague that history would judge him kindly. His colleague asked Churchill how he could be so sure. "Simple", replied the great man. "I will write the history".

Revisionism is very much the order of the day. Even this week we have seen that there are attempts by naval historians to rewrite the accepted history of the Battle of Britain so that the Royal Navy gets a greater share of the credit for the efforts of "the Few".

There has also been an increasing amount of revisionism in the Conservative Party since the Party's 2005 election defeat. It seems as though the Party leadership - or rather its more militant and unforgiving cheerleaders - are doing their best to rewrite history at every opportunity so as to justify "the Project" and to show how it is succeeding on its own terms.

For example, David Cameron (in his exclusive article for ConservativeHome this week) repeated the assertion that those who voted for him in the leadership election knew exactly what they were voting for and therefore that he has a ringing mandate to change the Party from top to bottom. I know many people who voted for David Cameron in preference to David Davis on the back of Cameron's pledge to leave the EPP - a cast iron commitment in an otherwise vague manifesto. That pledge has of course been broken and the lack of an open revolt should not be seen as acquiescence by those who feel betrayed by Cameron's decision to remain in the EPP for a further three years. In contrast while there were general hints as to what Cameron's "modernising" agenda might mean for the Party, it was not clearly spelled out. The perceived subjugation of local associations, the introduction of quotas and affirmative action and the apparent denigration of long-serving activists (many of whom had been active in the Party long before David Cameron went to Eton) were not uppermost in the minds of those who voted overwhelmingly for Cameron in the leadership election. And yet revisionism justifies repeating the assertion that the leadership has a mandate to change the Party hook, line and sinker.

Another example of revisionism (akin to that which occurred in 1997 when Cool Britannia was being sold to the public as a concept) is the way in which it is asserted, wholly incorrectly, that the Party lost the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections because it was too right wing and, therefore, anyone who opposes "the Project" is some kind of swivel-eyed lunatic who wants to fight those elections again on the same platforms adopted in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Ask any conservative who believes in lower taxes, a smaller state, repatriation of powers from Europe, strict immigration and aggressive law and order policies and they will respond to this straw man argument by proclaiming "if only"!

The Conservative Party did not campaign in the last three elections with any conviction whatsoever on the issues mentioned above, in particular in relation to lowering taxes. Following Lynton Crosby's maxim that "you cannot fatten a pig on market day", any genuine attempt to campaign on a radical tax-cutting agenda requires that that campaign occurs over a number of years, not a handful of weeks. 

We should not forget that Labour has had a clear plan since the days that Mandelson, Clarke, Blair, Brown and Campbell took control in the mid-1990s. They have positioned themselves in the centre, readily stealing the best ideas of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. To their core, however, they have been committed to advancing a cultural revolution by stealth that will prove far harder to undo than the nationalisations pioneered by Attlee after World War II.

Labour has had - and continues to have - a plan. Can the same really be said of the Conservative Party? In terms of rebranding it seems apparent that there very much is a plan and it has been succeeding brilliantly. David Cameron has managed to be portayed favourably in the mainstream media (in part by accepting and advancing their agenda, notwithstanding that that agenda is at variance with the wishes of those who support and potentially could support the Tories). He is beginning to convince the electorate that the Party is changing and that he is a mild-mannered, regular guy who they can trust and who they might be able to see in Downing Street. But that "success" is only a success because it is judged on the leadership's own terms.

What distinguished Thatcherism from the paternalist tradition of Heath, Home, Eden and Macmillan was the fact that under Margaret Thatcher the Tory Party spoke for the silent majority and stood up to the Establishment. In the past twenty years the nature of that Establishment has moved even more against the interests of the Party, its supporters and - most importantly - the electorate as a whole. We are now governed by an elite whose lives seem immune from the everyday stresses of mortgages, rising utility and council tax bills, transport gridlock, a health service in meltdown, rampant crime, social decay and worries about old age. This elite - a collection of public sector managers, human right lawyers and political hangers on - govern our country. Their values are not our values. They are not the values of the overwhelming majority of the population.

The Conservative Party should be on THEIR side, not seeking to appease the so-called progressive agenda of the BBC and the Guardian. The plan to beat the left should focus on targetting the genuinely unrepresented and alienated majority in the country. It should be focussed and consistent. It should be unrelenting. Without it, the plan to win the next election (which seems to consist of waiting for the electoral pendulum to swing back in the Tories' favour) will find itself inadequate to the challenges of a Brown premiership.

Previous entry in this series: Remember it's a long ball game


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