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Syed Kamall MEP: We must take the Conservative message to traditional Labour voters

KAMALL SYEDSyed Kamall is Conservative MEP for London and sits on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Follow Syed on Twitter.

While it is better to be part of a coalition government than not in government at all, we could achieve so much more if Conservatives occupied all the offices of state. For that to happen, we have to win a majority at the next General Election.

The Conservative Party is right to try to reach out to disaffected Lib Dems and former Blair voters, but it is easy to fall into the trap of imagining voters only sit on a left-right political swingometer and to think that all we have to do is tack a little to the left to bring another swathe of voters on side. Policies that are more left wing than the last Labour government will endear us to nobody.

We should instead be appealing to voters by aligning policies with the values that most voters share. I grew up in a working class area of North London where the default position of ethnic minorities and working people was to vote Labour. Margaret Thatcher found a way of connecting with these communities by appealing to our aspirations and our desire for self-improvement as well as our ambition for our families, our communities and our country.

Lots of traditional Labour voters believe in hard work, keeping more of what you earn, rewarding those who save for a rainy day, having a home and car of their own, traditional teaching methods in schools, punishing criminals severely, and standing up for Britain in Europe and the world. In everything that we do and say, we need to persuade them that the values of the modern Conservative Party are in line with these beliefs.

I have seen it argued that David Cameron cannot reach out to these voters because of his privileged background, and that he would be better off trying to court middle class left-liberals. If having a privileged background really counted against people standing for public office, we would not now be celebrating the re-election of Boris Johnson, also from a privileged background, as Mayor of London. As David Cameron himself has said, it does not matter where you came from; what counts is where you are going to. In politics the message matters, and we need to do more to articulate our message in the language of aspiration.

I joined the Conservative Party because I wanted to live in a society where ambition and hard work was rewarded. If this remains a goal for our party, then we should be putting our decisions in government in the context of these shared values with the British people. If we can first lay out a clear vision of the kind of society we are trying to create, it should make it easier to come up with the right policies on welfare reform, the budget and other legislative issues. The art of government is not easy, but if we make a habit of reminding ourselves and the electorate that we want to create a society in which it doesn't matter where you come from, but if you work hard and believe in yourself there is no limit to what we can achieve, then not only will voters understand what we stand for, but hopefully they will once again see us the party of aspiration and ambition.

To be ambitious for our party and our country is not enough. We have to tap into and release the ambitions of individuals and families. It is this sentiment that contributed to our winning outright general elections in the past. It is time for the Conservatives to re-stake its claim to be the party of aspiration and ambition.


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