Conservative Home

« Donal Blaney: Lessons for Britain from the American conservative movement | Main | 'A farmer': Margaret Beckett's contribution to the countryside »

Donal Blaney: Never miss a political meeting if you think there's the slightest chance you'll wish you'd been there

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’s often said that life is a series of regrets. For those who are truly interested in politics, one of the most frequent regrets is missing a meeting that others wax lyrical about for weeks (or even years) on end.

I was privileged to hear Enoch Powell speak on two occasions, neither of which was televised or recorded for posterity. Regardless of one’s views of Powell, it cannot be disputed that he was one of the most influential and important political figures of the past fifty years.

I also had the privilege of hearing then Labour leader, John Smith, when I was at university a few weeks before his death. Many of us discussed earnestly whether or not we should attend what was essentially a Labour Students event. We feared being a focal point of abuse and invective and also thought that by boycotting this speaker meeting, we would be making some kind of (still unclear even to this day) statement. Thankfully common sense prevailed, we attended, we entered into banter with John Smith during his remarks and I have a memory that will last a lifetime of attending a speech given by a principled, if misguided, statesman.

By contrast I was unable to attend the 2005 Conservative Party Conference as I was working in the Caribbean. I therefore missed out on seeing in person the leadership hustings that were pivotal in propelling David Cameron into the pole position. Despite seeing Cameron and Davis’ speeches on tape since then, I missed out not only on hearing the speeches given live at the time but also perhaps more importantly I missed out on seeing first hand the fascinating manoeuvring of the rival candidates’ lieutenants and supporters. 

Sometimes what is said at these meetings is recorded for posterity. Margaret Thatcher’s “Not for Turning” speech, her famous Bruges speech, Kinnock’s performance at Sheffield, Howard Flight’s remarks during the last general election campaign – all of these were recorded and made available for journalists, historians and political analysts. With the advent of C-SPAN (and, most recently, 18 Doughty Street Talk TV) those of us who are self-confessed political nerds are able to watch political meetings on television. 18 Doughty Street has already broadcast the recent Battle of Ideas conference organized by Claire Fox (who has her own programme on 18 Doughty Street called “Claire Fox News”) and the channel will also be broadcasting from conferences or speaker meetings organized by other organisations within the broader conservative movement.

It is the enabling of so many activists to have access to meetings they might otherwise miss that is at the heart of 18 Doughty Street. The more that conservative activists see what other parts of the movement are doing, the better we will all understand how the conservative movement operates and how we can work together to advance our shared agenda.

The Conservative Home Awards that took place last Monday (and which were broadcast on 18 Doughty Street on Tuesday) saw the first gathering of the British conservative movement, from its leaders to its foot soldiers. And yet while there were shadow cabinet members, MPs, think-tank leaders and prominent bloggers and journalists present, there was none of the feeling of “them and us” that has so often permeated Party Conferences over the years. The sheer level of access voluntarily and willingly offered by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith, George Osborne and Richard Bacon, to name but three, is not only a credit to them personally but to Conservative Home for recognizing the importance in democratizing both the public policy process and the internal communication channels of the Conservative Party itself.

Those of who missed the Conservative Home Awards missed out on the start of something truly innovative and remarkable. Watching the Awards on 18 Doughty Street is all very worthwhile and I would encourage you to do so if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so. Nonetheless attending the Awards and talking to so many committed and passionate conservatives before and after the ceremony itself – of all levels of experience and influence – made the evening so thoroughly worthwhile. Roll on next year’s Awards!

Donal Blaney's short address to the CH Awards was posted here yesterday.  You can also read Donal's previous 'Law' in this series - Actions and consequences.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.