Today is ConservativeHome's eighth birthday
By Tim Montgomerie
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Clockwise from top left, some of our key images from the last eight years: A man trapped in a closed room only able to talk about tax, crime, Europe and immigration; a warning that Labour governments raise debt, taxes and unemployment; the huge challenge at the next election; painting Britain blue; British Conservatism has many heroes; the great economic challenges of today; build from grassroot values; build conservatism around the ideas of work, family and education; the 2010 generation; poverty-fighting needs more than money; the little guy can beat the Goliaths.
Like the Queen, ConHome has two birthdays. We launched on 28th March 2005 - which was also the Easter Monday of that year. So today is one of our two eighth birthdays. We've lasted just a little bit longer than David Cameron's leadership and like him, we're still going.
Our basic product is the daily comprehensive coverage of the Conservative Party. Someone who visits ConHome each day won't miss much about what is happening in this great party. By 8.30am each weekday morning (and by a more leisurely 9am on weekends) we aim to provide a better service than any of our growing number of competitors. I know many people who don't agree with our editorial line still appreciate this 'cuttings' service.
Service two is our championing of party members. Our first campaign was to resist the attempt to roll back internal party democracy and put MPs back in sole charge of the election of party leader. That was a successful campaign. Ever since we've fought against the current Tory leadership's attempts to centralise power - not least through candidate selection, All Women short-lists (defeated) and the A-list. On a monthly basis we poll Tory members and ensure their voices cannot be ignored. The battle to ensure transparency of party operations has, sadly, some way to go.
ConHome's third characteristic has been to argue that both of the leaders we've existed under lacked a breadth of mission. Michael Howard was a bit too much immigration, tax and crime. David Cameron was a bit too much uber-modernisation. Our recipe is summarised in the eleven shields that crown the site. We need to be a party that doesn't sit narrowly on the so-called centre ground or the so-called Right. We must be a party of the common ground, adopting 'the politics of and'. Tough on crime AND committed to rehabilitation of offenders. Committed to strict border control AND generous anti-poverty programmes in the developing world. Investors in our armed forces AND opposed to the sale of arms to despotic regimes. Eurosceptic AND global traders. Generous to the genuinely needy AND demanding of people who should be standing on their own two feet.
Fourth we are independent of the party leadership. When we think the party is wrong we say so. We haven't got every call right but we said George Osborne was wrong to match Gordon Brown's unaffordable spending plans. We opposed the climate change agenda from the very beginning, warning that energy prices were the streetwise issue. We opposed the election debates, fearing they would give our opponents a dangerous electoral advantage. We opposed the NHS reforms because we felt they broke a manifesto understanding. We know we annoy a lot of very loyal Tories but we're not conservatives.com and, outside of election campaigns, we don't intend to ever become anything like it.
Finally I hope we've provided a civilised forum. We aim to be substantial in our commentary - always playing the ball rather than the man. We've never closed the door to any mainstream Tory voice. We hope we've been a home to all Conservatives, not least through the Comment pages which have given a platform to hundreds of MPs and previously unknown grassroots Tories and councillors.
Yesterday was my last day as full-time editor although I'll still be blogging every week. It's been enormous fun. Special thanks to Samuel Coates and Paul Goodman for being such intellectual influences on the site and to Stephan Shakespeare and Michael Ashcroft for being such generous backers. And, most of all, thank you for reading. Year nine is underway...