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Well Cameron is clearly setting out to do what he said he would do, good to see IDS back in an important role, but 18 months does seem like a long time. Only time will tell whether these policy groups signal the start of an intellectual revival in the party and the creation of radical and well thought out new policies or whether they become useless talking shops wasting time and energy. I think we all hope it works.

Fascinating - I will be interested to see the exact make up of these groups. Hopefully not all London-centric.

I hear on the BBC that Redwood is keeping a place in the Shadow Cabinet. That is good news for party unity....bad news for the image change.

This does seem like a bit of a throwback to Blair creating a number of Royal Commissions to look at contentious policy decisions after 1997.They bought Blair time but with the possible exception of Wanless they have all been in practice binned.
The potential downsides of this approach as Tim mentions are real and I hope will have been thought through by Cameron and his advisors.
Having said that we do need more clearly thoughtout policies than we had in the last election campaign and if this is the price to be paid,so be it.

Lets take the environment. this is an area that our party shoudl lead on - and frankly we haven't. I have said many times - that our only well publicised policy on this area was no to windfarms. Now I actually am not convinced about how effective on shore windfarms are - but we as a party should have had more ammunition - and more positive policies in this area in the run up to a General Election.

The issue of energy its provision - be it gas/nuclear/re-newables will dominate this parliament - and our party needs to lead the way.

This will be a very good thing if it leads to fresh thinking. If it's a way of deferring any tough questions on policy until a year before the next election, not so good.

Eugenides is right. I hadn't picked up on the framework that Tim has set out above when I listened to the web-cast. 18 months is a long time, & if that period is to be justified, it will need some credible outcomes at the end of it. The terms of reference listed above ("understanding solutions...informing policy development") are pretty broad - let's hope they are applied robustly.

The issue is whether these commissions will be used pro-actively to produce serious policy, or protectively to ward off difficult questions.

I am reassured that Oliver Letwin is in charge of this. He made a good Shadow Home Secretary (although he never seemed comfortable as Shadow Chancellor, to my surprise), and he is genuinely interested in policy ideas.

I hope some of the young MPs will be given a chance on policy groups. People like Ellwood, Greening and Afriye who have a lot of potential and need fast experience.

This sounds quite encouraging. A long way to go but a good start.

I'm not sure about Afyrie. He comes across quite arrogant but lacks the intellectual bite of some of the other MP's eg. Nick Herbert. I would certainly keep him from the front bench, although I doubt he will be.

I have to say that I share the concerns that Tim outlines above. This approach runs the risk of divorcing Shadow Cabinet members and the membership from the business of policy generation. Certainly I would like to see more active membership involvement in polcy formulation, so we never again find ourselves having to defend policies we've had no say over, which are announced in the weeks before an elction.

I'm also concerned that these commissions could potentially defer the devlopment of policies until too late in the parliamentary cycle. I have no doubt that we will have some policies that require time to sell, and I'm not convinced we'll have that time. 18 months seems a long, long time to wait.

Then other issue, of course, is the composition of these bodies. Who else will be on them?

How are these policy groups being paid for?

"Others fear that the policy groups will enfeeble shadow ministers. Shadow ministers will be left with the routine parliamentary work whilst the policy committees undertake the sexier, fresher work of policy review."

Very few shadow ministers actually do any policy work in the first two years of a Parliament. When they do it is restricted to their department briefs with the result that the cross-cutting themes are never properly developed. We don't know if the new system will work, but we do know that the old system doesn't.

Congratulations to IDS, by the way. Social justice is a theme that desperately needs releasing from departmental constraints, and deserves much more than the distracted and disjointed attention of shadow ministers.

It's extremely important for the Conservative Party to reach outside the parliamentary party. This is a smart way of going about it, although I think 18 months is too long, 12 would have been better.

But anyway, we just lost a General Election. The British people didn't want US to make policy, they wanted Labour to do so. Our job is to keep them on their toes and follow them critically (while working in the background on new peoples for presentation a few years hence at the next election, which is far away). Let the spot light be on Labour's policies and their success or lack thereof.

Agree Tim. There might well be a good reason for 18 months. If not my concern would be that as they are not setting party policy one presumes the Parliamentary Party and Shadow Secs of State will then take another year to turn it into policy.

Is this not as much about the signalled direction of the party as it is about what these commissions will do?

Ian Sider's point about shadow ministers not having much time to develop really new policy is a good one.
DC is hitting the ground running, as the cliche has it, and I for one am impressed.
I would have preferred twelve months, but perhaps eighteen should be regarded as the upper limit, and some of these groups will report before then.

I would hazard a guess that in order to prevent the appearance of there being a policy vacuum, these groups will give progress reports and that some details and ideas will leak out. 18 months is indeed a long time, but many people said 7 months was far too long for a leadership election.

There will still be at least two and a half years to sell the policies to the public - if we can't do it in that time, then I don't think an extra few months will make a difference. The coming months should perhaps be more about style than substance - building a relationship and dialogue with the British people. Once they have got to know more about the party's values and attitudes, they will be far more ready to listen to our policies. After 18 months the party should focus emphatically on substance, showing people exactly what we will do for them and the country.

Focus groups!

So whats the use of the CPF then? How would that play in the creation of policy?

This seems interesting. I will congratulate David Cameron on his election as leader of the Conservative Party. I think the Party made the best choice.

I am a former politician for the Conservatives in Norway, and we did the same thing after our disaster election in 1997. We set up several policy groups with members both from and outside the Party and they made valuable contribution to the Party.

We had a election win in 2001 after looking at our approach, it is important that political parties look for advice from professionals.

This is trying to learn from the success of the Republicans in the US. The power of new ideas that inform new programmes should not be underestimated.

Fantastic to see IDS back in the limelight....a lot of the new ideas as to Direct Democracy came out of thinktanks in his tenure - a great innovator - a creative mnind open to new ideas.

Whilst I don't doubt that IDS and Tim's group have a lot to contribute to the debate on 'Social Justice', it would be a grave error if our policy in this area was hijacked by the religious right who, afterall, have there own very distinctive agenda to pedal.

It's interesting that frontbenchers are not going to be involved - is this a way of disassociating the party from any controversial proposals that these groups may come up with?

Are they being asked to "think the unthinkable"?

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like what IDS was doing a couple of years ago when he was leader, and there were plenty of fine ideas generated at that time.

Why did David Cameron waste a question in the house regarding Aids, if he wants votes a question regarding lack of eye care in the NHS would have been more pleasing

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