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The wrong and right kinds of Tory modernisation

By Tim Montgomerie
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According to Evan Davis and Matthew d'Ancona on the Today programme there's a big debate in the Conservative Party. Some want to take the party back to an old-style Toryism while others - who understand Cameron's failure at the last election - know that modernisation didn't go far enough.

This way of describing the debate inside the Conservative Party is worse than useless. There are some unreconstructed right-wingers who do want to turn the clock back but to imply that they are numerous, influential or representative of the Class of 2010 is plain wrong.

The debate isn't whether we modernise or not but how we modernise.

In Wednesday's Evening Standard Matthew d'Ancona positioned himself as a Cameroonian moderniser. We shouldn't forget that there were some big flaws with that approach to modernisation. According to Lord Ashcroft's polling a key barrier for people voting Conservative is that we are still seen as the party of the rich. D'Ancona highlights Cameron's climate change campaigning as the basis of modernisation. Few things are going to cause this Government more trouble in coming months and years than the rising cost of household energy bills imposed by futile efforts to unilaterally combat global warming. Few things underline the gap between rich, green Tories and families who are struggling to make ends meet than the policies being pursued by Chris Huhne with Cameron's consent.

Stopping talking about the economy and saying we were now a "sociocentric" party, focusing on General Well Being. Neglecting issues like immigration and crime. The Big Society message rather than a gritty welfare reform message. Focusing on the gender and ethnicity of candidates rather than their class, profession and localness. Much of the modernisation of recent years was either unhelpful or half-baked.

In just over a week ConHome launches its own manifesto for party renewal. It will be emphasising social justice, conservation, reform of the arms trade, rebalancing of the tax system, policies for the North and overhaul of the party machine. But this 'modernisation' message will be blended with Euroscepticism, patriotism, a tough penal policy, job creation and a belief in a smaller and more focused state. It's this balance - rather than the idea that the right and modernisation are in conflict - that we want to strike. After a recent readers' vote we'll be calling it


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