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Ten big questions for the Conservatives

Picture 5I spent half of yesterday locked in the bunker of Portland PR’s HQ playing a ‘political war game’ (it looked nothing like the image above!).

The game had been put together by Portland’s James Frayne and my other gamers included journalists, business men, advisers to Tory frontbenchers, a leading former adviser to Tony Blair, defence experts, a pollster and a few big-brained wonks.

Lots of issues were raised during our five hour session and I thought I’d share ten of the big questions that an aspiring/ incoming Conservative government will need to consider:
  1. Will candour from the Conservatives now hurt the Tories’ chances at the next election or actually convince voters that David Cameron is more than a PR man?  More significantly will a clear mandate be a vital protection for a Tory government from voter anger at pain caused by fiscal tightening?
  2. Will the economy be faltering again by the middle of 2010 or will it be robust enough to absorb a big fiscal contraction?
  3. Should the government concentrate fiscal pain in a three or four year window (cutting spending AND raising taxes) – offering release at the following election – or spread the pain over a longer period?
  4. Should the Conservatives abandon the commitment to make offsetting cuts in other taxes in return for increases in green taxation?  The commitment to offset green taxes was, after all, made in happier economic times.
  5. Will the need to raise taxes be used as an opportunity to reform and simplify the tax system or will taxes like VAT go up crudely?
  6. Should Cameron appoint Lord Adonis, Frank Field, David Laws and other moderates from Labour and the Liberal Democrats to his government?  This would potentially strengthen his own team and diminish his opposition.
  7. Will the possibility of ‘brownouts’ mean more burning of coal and less worrying about climate change?
  8. What can a new Conservative government do to keep his core voters happy without spending money?  [I took the opportunity to talk about ConHome’s Shoestring Manifesto].
  9. If there are terrorist incidents under a Conservative government will David Cameron regret agreeing to the Davis/Grieve agenda on civil liberties?
  10. Are we all resigned to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons or is the possibility of Israel striking Iran and/or a nuclear arms race across the Middle East too horrific to contemplate?

We all agreed that our five hours together were hardly long enough to get to grips with these and many other issues and so I’m inviting Coffee House’s James Forsyth (who was also at the war game) to respond to this post (and any comments that readers make) so that the conversation begun in the bunker yesterday can continue online.

Tim Montgomerie

PS When I Tweeted yesterday morning that I was playing war games, The Observer’s gabyhinsliff responded: “@timmontgomerie is playing "political war game". wot this? do u push millions of tiny model alan duncans around in a sandpit? i wanna play..” Sadly there were no sand pits. No Alan Duncans. No Harriet Harmans!  Worse still for a war room there was no Coca Cola!

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