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The Tory grassroots see education and welfare reforms as the political successes of the Cameron years

By Tim Montgomerie
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In last week's edition of the New Statesman I took a brief look at the state of Tory modernisation. I suggested that certain of the big change themes that Cameron has pursued since 2005 or more recently had not really stood the test of time - notably climate change (which he hardly mentions anymore) and the Big Society (ditto). I argued, however, that the party was succeeding in two big areas:

"The Conservative Party can emerge stronger from the ashes of the coalition in 2015 but the offering has to be consistent with the high points of Cameron’s time at No 10. Education and welfare are the two stand-out strengths. In Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith, the Prime Min­ister has two of the most outstanding social reformers of our time. It would have been far-fetched to think of the Tories as the party of social reform before Cameron, but no longer. All the ingredients are there. They just need to be knitted together.

IDS is refashioning the welfare state so that work always pays more than benefits. He is reforming pensions so that the burden that faces the next generation of workers is not so impossible that they flee to less taxed nations. He is taking giant steps towards fashioning a welfare state that is focused on caring for the most deserving – the very young, the old, the sick and the severely disabled.

Gove, meanwhile, is pursuing his reforms to education. Over recent decades, the UK has slid down the international education league tables even faster than Leeds United have fallen behind in football. Central to Gove’s purpose is the restoration of honesty and ambition to the exams system."

In the latest ConHome survey of party members there was basic agreement with this thesis. Asked to rate modernisation themes on a scale of minus to plus five where -5 equalled a very bad impact on the Tories' electoral prospects and +5 equalled a very positive impact, here are the results:
  • Reforming welfare: +2.96
  • Reforming schools: +2.83
  • Promising to protect the NHS (pre-election): +1.48
  • Opposing the third runway at Heathrow: +0.07
  • More women MPs and ministers: 0.0
  • Introducing the NHS Reform Bill (post-election): -0.86
  • The vision of a Big Society: -1.08
  • Talking less about Europe*: -1.29
  • Presenting himself as a Green Conservative, concerned about climate change: -1.35
  • Embracing Hi Speed Rail: -1.56
  • Promising to introduce gay marriage: -2.44 

* Poll was taken before Cameron's statement on an EU referendum; 1,742 Tory members took part in the poll on 28th to 30th June 2012.


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