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« Bush's growth and tech-based alternative to Kyoto | Main | The fight to protect Conservative Party members' voting rights »


Mark O'Brien

There's a lot to digest here, and I hope I'm forgiven for seeking to pick and choose between all the different remedies which are on offer!

One point gets to me though, as it often does. How can tax cuts really be considered as part of the rememdy which believes in 'more core' messages. Our spending plans would have increased public expenditure, only slightly less markedly than the other parties. We haven't been bold about tax relief since the massive top-rate level was cut in the eighties, and even then we didn't do enough to alleviate the tax burden for poor earners (by 'alleviate', of course, I mean wipe it out!).

I think that all of these remedies are worthwhile in themselves, and some have to be handed more credence than others. What I believe we need to do is this:

1) Develop a platform of radical policy ideas to reform every aspect of society, from health and education to policing to welfare to local democracy. Perhaps I've had my head stuck in too many policy papers in recent months, but the right-wing is full of ideas which, if implemented, could breed a great era of free enterprise and the development of a civil society.

2) Use compassionate words. I am a compassionate conservative in the sense that I want tax cuts first and foremost for the poor, not the rich (although the rich wouldn't be made to pay billions, as that has a devastating impact on the economy too). We should not seek to be thought of as a nice party, but as a party which stands up for the poorest, not let them fend for themselves. "I believe that people should work for themselves and look after their own lives and their families without help for the government." That is the first and last statement for the Bible of libertarian conservatives like me, and anyone else who believes in free enterprise. A party which developed a more compassionate spirit would not put it like that, but would say, "I believe that people should be free to keep their own hard-earned money, without let or hindrance from the State, and that the affluent should seek to protect the vulnerable themselves, as philanthropy will always triumph over the will of the State." Perhaps changing words like that is simply Blairesque spin or semantics. But the right-wing has always had a problem with communication. That needs to change, and with the right words it should be very easy.

3) To fulfill these goals and ultimately to bring our party to power, we need to have what is known as a strong 'grassroots army' to support the campaign. Every day should be treated like a campaigning day for senior Conservatives in a new Shadow Cabinet. The new leader should draw up a rota for his team so that each weekday of the parliamentary year, one or two shadow ministers are out in a particular consituency putting the case for our radical vision, canvassing along the main street, speaking to the local press, and making sure people see their faces! We also can't be scared of making our faces seen and our voices heard in those parts of the country where the masses would spit on you if they knew you were a Conservative. Whilst we should privately develop a carefully choreographed and targeted strategy for winning an election, in public we should be bold and declare that we are fighting for the rights and freedoms of all people, most of all the poor in the inner cities of the old industrial heartlands: the places we have a moral duty to act, not just a political one. I read a piece in The Times today which showed how parents desperate to get their children into decent schools are in uproar against the Labour-led council in Reading. I would have my Shadow Education Secretary in the town tomorrow, stating the case to any and all who will listen about the virtues of school vouchers, how the Conservatives want to liberate parents and how the Labour Party has a proud history of treating the wishes of the citizenry as secondary to its ideological dogma. What's more, I am convinced that when he comes back from the town, the Shadow Education Secretary would declare that he had Reading's two Parliamentary seats in the bag! We have to put forward our message every day of every week of every month of every year between now and the next general election, because I am convinced that the greatest election victories are won well before the Prime Minister drives up the Mall to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament.

For me personally, that's the combination: a radical vision, fighting for the betterment of the poor, and getting our message out each and every day until we're fed up ourselves of the soundbites. That, with a lot of self-confidence, and just a bit of good luck, should win us an election which will be remembered in many years as far more momentous in significance than 1997, 1979 or 1945.

James Hellyer

There really is nothing new here. The problems are obvious. For instance, it's hardly surprising that peiople think we are "out-of-touch and opportunistic" when we've jumped on every bandwagon that's passed by.

The solution is equally obvious. You don't pick one remedy, you pick the three where you can be proactive: speak more confidently to your base, prove you are more compassionate in the eyes of the wider world, and start campaigning now.

But then some people seem determined to ignore the obvious. Unfortunately they sit on green benches.

Sally Rideout Baker

Iain was elected leader on almost exactly the same day as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in the USA.

After all this time the shadow cabinet is almost exactly the same!

Most successful companies have turnover at the top to keep all on their toes and something for the keen to aspire to.

Iain also have a majority of 155,933 votes, only to get this overturned by just 4 voters (as this was a for or against vote).

He had actually managed to get on at least equal terms to Labour when he was brought down! With some not very helpful characters in the cabinet it may be added.

I would not like to see any of those characters gain from the current situation.

So there are 155,933 grass root Tories out here not very happy indeed.

The whole cabinet needs a clean sweep and the grass root people could probably select the best person to do it.

Sean Fear

Anthony Wells posted about this report in detail on his site. He doesn't contradict it, but he does qualify it, in several respects. It's as important not to overdo the doom and gloom as it is not to be complacent.

Taking the paragraphs in turn:-

1. Anti-Conservative tactical voting reduced a bit at the last election, as some voters were prepared to vote Lib Dem or for minor parties, rather than to vote Labour to keep the Tories out. That is something to be modestly optimistic about, rather than to worry about. In seats like Southgate and St. Alban's, the Lib Dem vote began to drift back towards the sort of level it was at in the 1980s, and 1992, rather than remaining at the abnormally low levels of 1997, and 2001.

FPTP is all about getting more votes than your nearest opponent, rather than worrying about your vote in the abstract.

2. The loss of support among AB voters since 1992, has hit us hard. However, they aren't a monolithic group. Conservative support rose strongly in London and the South East among the most middle class constituencies on May 5th - who are perhaps starting to feel the pinch in terms of tax, slightly rising unemployment, and stagnant house prices.

Our support rose among groups C,D and E (72% of voters) on May 5th.

3. Our vote share rose by 0.7% on average in Labour-held marginal seats, according to Anthony Wells. The Labour-held seats where it fell were principally safe Labour seats. Even in safe Labour seats, our vote held in absolute terms, but increased support for minor parties caused a fall in percentage terms.

4. Polling non-voters about their preference is pointless. Almost invariably, they tend to say they would have backed the winning party. WRT younger voters, Anthony Wells points out that our support rose slightly among that group, and also points out that the younger voters of October 1974, among whom we came third, are the middle aged voters of May 5th who incline towards the Conservatives - people shift allegiance as they get older.

5. and 8. That one is a problem. We need a Reagan figure - right wing in terms of policy, centrist and upbeat in terms of rhetoric.

6 and 7. Fortunately, the four seats mentioned are quite atypical. The majority of Labour-held marginal seats have the Conservatives very clearly in second place. There are a handful of equally atypical seats where our support has actually risen since 1992 (one, Forest of Dean was a notional Labour seat in that year).

8 and 9. We return to the need for a Reagan-like figure. Self-flagellation (viz Rifkind, Bercow etc) won't help.
FWIW, my view is that our relatively strong performance in London and the South East was a reaction on the part of people who are starting to feel the pinch economically. They did not consider they were better off sticking with Labour. *If* the economy drifts downwards, that can only hurt Labour's support, even if it's not enough on its own to win.


We need to distance ourselves from Labour and Lib dems. The electorate will not change if they see that Conservative policies are nearly the same as the others. Blair stole our middle ground by making it part of labour manefesto. The only thing that happened was he didn't deliver it. Brown was the biggest thief since Ali Baba. Look what he did to Pensions. How often did we, the Conservatives, make the electorate aware of what he was doing. Not frequently enough.
If we are to win again, we must appeal to the electorate in Scotland, Wales and the urban areas. We, therefore, need radical policies which clearly differentiate us from the other parties and appeal to those people who left us. TAX, Public Sector waste, Better Education, Better Health Care, Better care for the elderly and sick poor. Use of the private sector to assist the public sector. In other words GOOD GOVERNMENTAL MANAGEMENT. The opportunity is there and it is up to the Conservative Party to take it. If they don't, soon we won't even be the Opposition Party.


The Conservative Party's election of its leader should be carried out in accordance with the rules produced by William Haigh. All revisions of the Constitution should be postponed until a new leader has been properly elected. He can then propose what ammendments he thinks fit.
As far as policy is concerned, it is essential that Conservative policy should be cearly definable as different to Labour or Lib-dem policies. It should centre around tax reduction, better Health Service, Education,Crime Prevention and care for the elderly and poor. It can be done by reducing Government and Local Authority's waste of tax money. It should show how the country would benefit by the closer association of the public and private sector.

Jack Stone

The solution to the party`s plight lies largely in language.
It needs to speak with compassion, it needs to convince people it cares and it needs to talk to the whole country not just itself.
There should be talk of simplifying the tax system not tax cuts, there should be talk about reforming the public services not privatising them and we should talk of tolerance and respect as much as we talk about crime and punishment.
The party as got to sound like it as energy not just for the fight to win but to govern and it needs to convince that it is about tommorrow not yesteryear.
I believe David Cameron with his youth, his authority, his courage and plain speaking is the only leadership contender capable of convincing the electorate the party as the answers and as changed. All the other contenders frankly seem like there stuck in the past.

Michael McGowan

I agree with Jack Stone's general comments but I am far from convinced that David Cameron is the man to make these things happen. Too many weasel words and evasive ambiguities. Vintage Tony Blair circa 1995 in other a number of left-wing commentators have noted.


I am so thankful. Finally we are having passionate intelligent arguements about policy and what we stand foir and need to do to win. As grassroot supporters I feel it is our duty to make our MPs aware of grassroot feeling. If this kind of passion is held by grassroot supporters there is hope. Canvas your constituency or nearest Conservative MP IN ANY WAY YOU CAN. (I AM GOING TO COPY POSTS AND EMAIL THEM OFF, AS WELL AS PROMOTING THIS WEBSITE).

David Sergeant

This is a big subject so can I focus on just a few issues.

1. The fundemental problem has been demonstrated by the changes in approval ratings when it is learned that a policy is a Tory policy. The statistics are devastating, if voters took us at face value Blair certainly wouldn't have majority.

2. So we have to ask why, and you only have to look at Labour's election strategy to see why. The Tory party has been painted all types of "nasty" because of what it is perceived to have done during the 18 years and, therefore, would do again. As vilification has mounted the party just looked shamefaced. Party leaders confronted with Labour propaganda in interviews just smiled wanly.

3. A reason why the problem has arrisen is that some wings of the party were only too happy to go along with the critisisms. "Wets" were happy to hear Margart Thatcher critisised, "drys" were happy to hear John Major critisised. Even to-day many on the "dry" half of the party are prepared to be missleading about Cameron's statements in order to have an excuse to rant at him far more than they rant at Labour. These people leave a nasty taste in the mouth, voters see this and think that if the Tories get in they will revert to the attitudes of these people and Labour are happy to assist in this thinking!

4. So you get voters sure the Tories would cut hospitals when they substantailly increased them. They think the Tories would cut schools when they, again, substatially increased them. There seems to be an impression, even among Tories, that the increased public spending during the 18 years is really not something to be enthusiasic about. No wonder voters think we are "out of touch".

5. There is no space in a blog to cover all aspects of this disaster. But I would suggest we think back to the 1960s when socialism was on the march and the Tories stuck together to beat it and Labour split all ways on how to do socialism. We are like that now, we won the argument so Labour sticks together as the way to continue existing and Tories bitch at each other rather than stick together to get Labour out.

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