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You can be concerned about immigration without being an immigrant basher. You can support NHS reform without wanting to "slash health"...

By Tim Montgomerie
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If you think Cameron should have campaigned a bit more on immigration at the last election you actually wanted "immigrant-bashing".

If you supported the NHS reforms you apparently want to "slash health".

If you are worried at the price of climate change policies you might also support the return of sodomy laws.

If you didn't think it was a good idea to match Labour's spending plans in 2007 then you're also likely to want to cut child benefit in order to pay for a new royal yacht.

This grotesque and absurd portrait of very popular views on immigration, green taxes and other mainstream Conservative concerns wasn't painted by Polly Toynbee or some other diehard Left-winger but by Matthew Parris in the latest edition of The Spectator.

I can't link to it (it's behind a paywall) The article's here (3pm) but as well as being a pretty mean-spirited piece of journalism it's also intellectually dishonest. It's inspired by last Sunday's ConHome survey of David Cameron's biggest mistakes. Parris readily admits he is caricaturing the poll results as if that justifies then misrepresenting someone and a movement in such a grotesque way.

A fortnight ago ConHome had published a list of the policies most supported by the grassroots. The most popular policy was Iain Duncan Smith's plan to ensure that the lowest income workers were always better off in work than on benefits. Is that the policy of a selfish, "return to the stockade" party, as Parris puts it? The second most popular policy was the abolition of ID cards. Would such a grassroots also support a property-based franchise, as Parris also suggests? The list of most popular policies also included strong support for higher income tax thresholds for the poor, a more generous basic pension and Cameron's cancer drugs fund. Frightening, eh?

After some obligatory courtesies Mr Parris' article also takes particular aim at me. I'm the Ed Balls of the Tory Party apparently, believing that to win "you do not look out, you look in". I'm perfectly content for my views to be scrutinised but I'd prefer fair scrutiny. Ever since our heavy defeat in 1997 I've believed that the Conservative Party needed to be much broader in appeal. It's why from 1998 until 2003 I was visiting some of the poorest parts of Britain trying to understand how a renewed Conservative Party could mend communities unreached by state welfare or capitalism's wealth. Those visits led to the formation of the Centre for Social Justice. When I worked for IDS I supported the replacement of Section 28. Today, I support the aid budget; regarding it as one of the government's proudest policies.

The secret of every successful Conservative Party involves keeping your base happy and reaching out. The most successful leaders have always understood this. Reagan. Thatcher. Howard. Breadth is the main message of the ConservativeHome shields.

Matthew Parris is a beautiful writer but this week's Spectator column is ugly knocking copy.


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