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Cameron likely to appoint über-moderniser as his head of strategy

Monday 14th February, 8.45am, update: Further to my post below about Andrew Cooper I was told yesterday by an impeccable source that Andrew Cooper argued, in 2000, that the ultimate modernisation would be for the Conservative Party to become pro-€uro. Not because it was morally right, not because it was economically sensible, not because the €uro was popular with voters but because it would show that the Conservative Party had changed. The search for a Clause IV moment has long preoccupied the modernisers but advocating €uro membership is one of the more radical options I've ever heard.


Tim Montgomerie

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Yesterday's Times (£) suggested that David Cameron was about to appoint a head of strategy and that Andrew Cooper is the frontrunner for the job.

Andrew Cooper is not so much an über-moderniser (© George Osborne, 2007) but an über-über-moderniser. The best guide we have to Mr Cooper's views comes in an essay he contriibuted to A Blue Tomorrow, New Visions for Modern Conservatives, published in 2001. Mr Cooper's essay was called A party in a foreign land and made the case that the Conservatives were "the nasty party"; a phrase later used by Theresa May when she was party chairman.

In the essay he attacked William Hague's policies on the family as "outdated, exclusive and wrong". Unfortunately for Mr Cooper those policies - or very like them - were readopted by David Cameron as official Tory policy from 2005 onwards. Mr Hague's views on immigration were elided with accusations of prejudice. Cooper accepted the idea that the Tory view of ethnic minorities was somewhere between indifference and endemic racism, arguing that it was a party that showed "no respect for minorities". He argued for "whatever it takes" to get more women and ethnic minority candidates.

The essay is also notable for what it didn't include. At the time I described it as "Soho modernisation" and contrasted it with "Easterhouse modernisation". Mr Cooper's essay was all about race, gender and sexuality. It said nothing about poverty (at home and abroad), nothing about the striving classes, nothing about candidate diversity that touched on class and social background. The Conservative Party certainly needed to address the "Soho" issues but there was a serious imbalance to the Cooper prescription. Every reference to traditional Tory positions on Europe, tax and immigration was negative.

It is possible that some of Mr Cooper's views have changed since 2001 but he has certainly repeated the same principal themes at various events since. He has been an important influence on the Cameron project for a number of years. Founder of Populus he has been the party's pollster and a leading advocate of relentless brand decontamination. If Mr Cooper's appointment is confirmed it will be an important 'reveal moment', giving a big clue as to the direction of Cameronism.


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