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I think the question, in American terms, is whether the Conservative Party wants to be led by Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan. Goldwater led an intellectually sophisticated campaign, and handed power to the most liberal President the U.S has ever had. Reagan ran campaigns based on feelgood optimism, and achieved lasting economic and social reforms. Who was the smarter politician? No contest.

Antisocial behaviour - tackling the causes:
The PM said in his speech about the Respect programme on 10th January, "Today's action plan will show how we intend to develop pre-court powers further to bring about a fundamental shift to give people control of their communities so that they can begin to re-build the bonds of community for a modern age." What I don't understand - if this is really what the PM wants - is why HMG is apparently unwilling to publish the neighbourhood statistics to measure changes in social and domestic cohesion. Surely, if communities are to have control, they need the information? How many instances of family formation and dissolution, for example? The figures that should be published include - marriage, divorce, domestic violence, abortion, teenage pregnancy, STI's, out of wedlock births, single parents, truancy, ASBO's etc. When are the Conservatives going to ask HMG to publish this neighbourhood data and provide an index of social and domestic cohesion, as the ONS does for several other indicators of deprivation?

Cameron is true Prime Minister material, he plays well to the media and is overall very amiable. The question raised, however, is that whether he is Conservative material?
He has dumped policies which he helped M. Howard create and shifted the party on to the Centre ground. There is now little or no difference between Conservatives and New Labour (even to the point where the party is split by their respective leaders!)
Politics has become very boring, flash words and no conviction. Principles are lacking, as long as the leaders (Blair and Cameron) look good, upset no-one and do nothing, people seem happy.
If this carries on, I cannot see myself voting next time round.

It has been a joy to see Mr Cameron swing the Conservative party from being loathed to mildly well-regarded in a matter of weeks. Clearly post-Blair this is the way to get elected. Still, feelgood policies are not necessarily policies that work. Perhaps Mr Blair sees that as he searches under the sofa for his missing legacy.

What the changes mean is Conservative victory at the next elections. The "100 day onslaught" from Labour's big guns has been totally neutralized while David Cameron has been landing blow after blow on Labour and Lib Dems. It's a pleasure to be Conservative!

What worries me most about Mr Cameron is his membership of the media establishment. I suspect him of sharing its libertarian instincts on matters of lifestyle -- taking a relaxed view of drugs, &c. That may suit his upper-middle-class chums, but the cost of such licence to the poorest is grievous. National unity means the rich giving up some lifestyle choices for the sake of their fellow citizens. The rule of law is one rule for all.

It is still very early to be analysing his progress. However, the Conservative Party's main obstacle to electoral success is the public perception of it. It is regarded by many as a self-serving, outdated and repugnant party. Cameron is tackling this problem effectively and should be congratulated for that. Some say "where are the policies"? But he has put in train a process to develop these, drawing on a wide pool of expertise. Surely it is better to have thoroughly thought out your policies, rather than rush some out now?

Reagan was relatively unknown until his speech supporting Goldwater. Barry was opposed the left-wing Hollywood and media elites. His campaign could have been better. To compare him with Reagan misses the point.

"National unity means the rich giving up some lifestyle choices for the sake of their fellow citizens."

Socialist, altruistic nonsense. You know where to stick it Sancho.

I voted against Cameron as I did not believe his sincerity because of the drugs issue. I have objected to his reliance on what I percive to be poor advice from those MP's and party members with their own agenda's BUT, I concede that he is almost entirely right on police reform and law and order so there is hope.
I still believe however that we are aping New Labour and trying to produce a Blair lokk alike and that is totally wrong.

Scuse the spelling mistakes!!!

The real question that Mr Cameron should answer is why he has dumped so many of the policies contained in the manifesto that he wrote as policy co-ordinator. If he was so opposed to them, he should have resigned from the Shadow Cabinet before the election.

Cameron is absolutely right to take the party towards the centre ground. The critical challenge for him after this initial period of political re-positioning is to make the change in the party deep-rooted. This will only be achieved by re-inventing the Conservative Party as an organisation plugged into the networks of the modern world, focussed on local campaigns that make a real difference to lives of ordinary people and focusing on practical and concrete solutions to the problems individuals, families and communties face at the beginning of the 21st Century. So the challenge is to combine words with action and sustain it for the long term.

"The critical challenge for him after this initial period of political re-positioning is to make the change in the party deep-rooted. This will only be achieved by re-inventing the Conservative Party as an organisation plugged into the networks of the modern world, focussed on local campaigns that make a real difference to lives of ordinary people and focusing on practical and concrete solutions to the problems individuals, families and communties face at the beginning of the 21st Century. So the challenge is to combine words with action and sustain it for the long term."

This is almost totally devoid of meaning.

I'm as frustrated as anyone by DC's image-led centrism, but I'd still prefer DC's Tories to Brown's Labour, or even worse, a Lib-Lab coalition.

Newsnight and the rest of the lib media are dying to run the Tory splits story- hopefully involving a large number of swivel-eyed Vulcans. Let's not help them.

DC's done a sensational job in getting the political plates spinning. I'm going to send a strongly pro-DC email and I urge the rest of you to do the same.

Cameron has realised that there is no point in producing intelligent well thought out policies at this stage. They will merely be copied by Labour and copied to the point at which the original idea gets confused and wasted.

Or they will be misrepresented. The way to avoid misrepresntation is to produce policies which are near-rep;ica of Labour's policies.

This strategy was Blair's. Eliminate policy as a factor in winning elections, and focus on appealing to voters in the human personable way. What worked for Labour then is working for Conservatives now.

The tragedy for the country is that Blair's election winning strategy has been wasted in power by Gordon Brown. He has used the stretch of power won by Blair to squander the competitive economy that was bequeathed by the Thatcher legacy.

Cameron will win power, and he will bring in policies which are now being researched by the many groups he has set up such as IDS on Social Justice, John Redwood on economic competitiveness and Ken Clarke on democracy. He will not waste the trust of the British people as Blair/Brown have done.

James, you approach is based on the assumption that government can actually provide solutions to individual problems. That is a big government mentality, prevalent in Blairism, that is the cause of our problems. We need to offer policies based on our principles of freedom and individual responsibility, not follow Blair to the mythical centre ground.

Good post Wat,and good advice. I hope many bloggers follow it.

Selsdon Man, I am talking about at a local level. The party needs to demonstrate to ordinary people on a LOCAL level that it has changed. It is the oppostite of a big government mentality and yes it should be about getting individuals, families and communities to take more responsibility for their own lives. We have just not been in the game at all for so long thay we need to build trust at every level.

Andy, thanks for your incredibly constructive remarks. Perhaps you might want to offer some constructive comment on the challenges facing Cameron and engage in debate rather than just producing dismissive posts.

It's funny to hear people criticising Cameron for similarities to Blair, yet when Blair first came on the scene he was criticised for copying Tory policies. So if Cameron is now doing the same, surely he is returning the Conservatives to the sensible centre ground that the party has abandoned over recent years? It is inevitable that he will face some barbs from the Right; when Labour was renewing itself, Neil Kinnock faced some of his strongest attacks from the Labour Left - moving a party back to the centre always means alienating some of those who are happiest with what they see as ideological purity as opposed to electoral reality.
The Tory party has rarely been as right wing as it has been since 1997; it has rarely been out of power for as long and there is a link between the two. For Cameron to be moving the party in the way he is and at the speed with which he is doing it, is a brave and sensible thing. The opinion polls are already beginning to move in the Tories favour and that is something that will increase if he keeps this up and if Labour continue to pursue their more authoritarian instincts.
Many of those who voted New Labour in 1997 were small c conservatives. The Tory policies of 2001 and 2005 did not attract them back, though Labour's loss of 100 seats had a lot to do with their losing those converts. Cameron's compassionate conservatism could certainly see the New Labourites return to the Conservative's and it is hard to see how this would have been the case if Cameron was not doing the things he is doing. A true revolution in the approach to right of centre politics.

Selsdon,
I'm sure he will be - but does it matter? He stood for leader on the basis of change and that he would be the vehicle of that change.

I voted for him with my eyes wide open fully expecting that many of our policies would be dropped - and that some of those would be ones I thought good.

So far I'm not disappointed - he's made it clear that our health and education policies will be on the basis of improvements for all not just supporting escape methods for the few, his policing proposals show a strong strain of local accountability and decentralisation. I fully expect that philosophy will inform the creation of our new health and education policies.

He has come out against ID cards, wants to create a new non-Federalist Party in the EU Parliament. He is putting the environment, social justice and poverty up the agenda - and while I am concerned he'll go for the establishment led solutions he has included a range of advisors so hopefully will surprise us.

He has a tough job to win the next election - one where the majority of the electorate are likely to be mostly comfortable - feeling a bit of pain from tax, still concerned about quality of health care and education, transport but still feeling comparatively well off.

New Labour has effectively change the political discourse - in 1997 they had to promise not to raise income tax, to keep to Tory spending plans because we had made tax an electoral issue. Today it is about public services and the public aren't looking for radical surgery (yet). The first step has to making the public accept us as a serious government in waiting, a safe pair of hands for those services. Then we have to move towards presenting ourselves as the party of change against the exhausted Labour Party, bereft of ideas, ever more authoritarian and searching for new initiatives.

James, I could no more engage with what you posted than I could with a Snickers advert, because it was a load of sub-management consultant waffle.

Andy,

Not sure what is 'sub management consultant waffle' about urging the party to focus on local campaigns that make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people.

"he's made it clear that our health and education policies will be on the basis of improvements for all not just supporting escape methods for the few"

And in so doing he has either demonstrated that he does not understand the policies he's scrapping, or that he's willing to disingenously demonise them in order to give the impression of great change.

The school voucher scheme that Letwin cast out, wasn't an escape raft for the few, it was a mechanism to improve schooling for everyone.

All Cameron did was give credence to left wing lies, and misrepresent his own party.

I don't think that's something to admire.

"his policing proposals show a strong strain of local accountability and decentralisation. I fully expect that philosophy will inform the creation of our new health and education policies."

I fully expect that it won't, given his repeated emphasis on ministers dictating what's taught in the classroom and how it's taught, and the importance of ministerial authority thereon.

People seem to forget that Reagan was the lead supporter of Goldwater in California in 1964. The problem still is wether Cameron is going to change policies without even asking the membership. Tutiton fees are a prime example of this and shows again what we maybe facing over the next three years or more. Also we have to look at the problem if Oaten becomes the new leader of the Liberal democrats?

"People seem to forget that Reagan was the lead supporter of Goldwater in California in 1964."

And that while his own campaign was optimistic, it was also unflinchingly conservative. He didn't surrender every argument to Jimmy Carter before th campaign had begun!

Mr Cameron is using the old "Divide and rule system",isolating Blair from the rest of his back benchers this is very effective in causing civil war inside the Labour party.
Mr Cameron has a lot of good ideas including the Parliementry Candidates Womens list,However to win in the Urben,inner city areas we need to field Candidates who have local knowledge from a working class background,we need candidates who have experianced what it is like to have to juggle their income to pay the bills.
If members of the Party wish to stand as Candidates but fail to get on to the list they should be told why,their failings explained and what they can do to rectify the situation ,eg more training required on public speeking.Once the potential Candidate has recived the training he should be allowed to re apply.

It is always invigorating to spend time away from this country and its charlatan politicians. Having spent the last week in the Canadian Rockies, three thoughts come to mind:

1. The navel-gazing Tories are so obsessed with the Cameron personality cult that they have not noticed that the Conservatives in Canada seem poised to return to power after 12 years in opposition. In 1993, Canada's Tories suffered a far far worse defeat than the British Tories did in 1997; and they face the added complication of the Bloc Quebecois. Yet a relatively untelegenic leader with discernibly centre-right policies and a distaste for evasive ambiguity may soon be leading Canada.....and Canada is certainly not Texas. Contrast Britain where even Cameron's greatest cheerleader, the embittered Portillo, has effectively conceded that his idol cannot win the next General Election. By my arithmetic, that means that the Tory Party will have been in opposition for 18 years.....and every one of them richly deserved.

2. I gather that Cameron has effectively condemned bright but poorer children to the lower tier of a two-tier education system. This is not really a surprise: patrician "One Nation" Tories have always disliked social mobility because it threatens their vested interests.

3. On a light-hearted note, when I was away, I skied one (pale) blue run which was called Cameron's Way. It was icy and ran steeply downhill.

Portillo has retired from party politics and will not even attend events - time to forget him.

Goldwater's campaign wasn't doomed to failure because it was focused on intellectual sophistication while Reagan had the 'feel good' factor. Despite Goldwater having many strong qualities and being able to successfully articulate Conservative ideas, anit-establishment rhetoric and liberal economics to millions, he was a flawed candidate from day one. He would begin speeches saying who he didnt want to vote for him and had a knack of getting on the wrong side of almost every state. Despite his smart slogans, 'A choice, not and echo' and 'extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice'. The self proclaimed 'right wing extremist' was seen as far too keen on low yield nuclear weapons and America simply refused to trust him have his finger on the nuclear button. Leading to the now legendary 'daisy' advert. His constant nudge and a wink that he supported segregation turned him into an international pariah. His only international support came from apartheid South Africa, Spanish monarchists and neo-fascist Germans. Only a handful of newspapers endorsed poor old Barry. Barry Goldwater was indeed a great and important man, and deserves his place in Conservative history, indeed Goldwater did eventually win his election in 1980. However as even William F Buckley was forced to admit when asked what will happen if Goldwater was actually elected, "That might be a problem."

"The self proclaimed 'right wing extremist' was seen as far too keen on low yield nuclear weapons"

Indeed. His advocacy of clearing the Vietnamese jungles with low yield nuclear bombs probably did more to damage his credibility than anything else.

Curiously enough, one of the young girls who's head was turned by Goldwater was one Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Barry Goldwater was indeed a great and important man"

Rob, I don't know much about American political history but, from what you've written here, Goldwater's offensive beliefs ruled him out from being "great" - unless you mean the 'not to be admired' form of "great".

Stop berating DC over his manifesto involvement. We have all done stuff under instruction for our boss that we did'nt agree with. Its called learning.

The best politics is played out amongst the majority of voters, where-ever that happens to be at the time. And yes, good politicians should be able to anticipate where the majority can be moved to and carry it through.

Thatcher was just such a politician. Her real legacy of course was the creation of politically placid times, and thus for the last decade or so the majority of voters have occupied the political centre ground. She swam in troubled waters and made them calm. Through her kitchen table economics, defeat of the unions and house ownership policies she successfully herded millions of people out of the extreme edges of politics into the comfortable and aspirant middle class. She knew that the majority were ready to move and which direction they wanted to go.

So as Portillo rightly observed this weekend, "there is no sense of crisis in Britain today...and the majority of people do not believe that revolutionary change is the answer...they may be wrong but there is no future for any politician who stuffs radical ideas down unwilling throats in such placid times."

I am always amused that the Right wing fringe, so fixed on the memory of their heroine Thatcher, have forgotten who this election winning majority are and are so idealogically opposed to any policies that attract them. These people are the exact same people that Thatcher pulled from the mud. It is not their essential outlook on life that has changed, just their social and economic aspirations. They still want to be looked after and as much as they can get for free.

The Tories mistake was to believe that all those people who bought their council houses also converted to selfish, hard nosed, survival of the fittest, capitalism. They didn't and that's why we lost power.

So as all good and bad squash players know, it is all about dominating the T in the centre of the Court and forcing your opponent to run around behind you.

If that is what politics has TEMPORARILY boiled down to, then Portillo will be wrong about one thing - Cameron will only need one leap to power and we can all raise a glass to that.

As somebody who was bitterly opposed to Cameron becoming leader (many will remember that I was guest editor of the now-defunct Conservatives Against Cameron's NewLabourisation blog), I have to say that I've been pleasantly surprised by his opening six weeks as leader.

I still have some pretty significant reservations - for example, I still fear that the Conservatives may end up strolling towards the next election in a principle vacuum, but for now, I'm prepared to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt that the 18-month policy consultation exercises turn out to be more than just a gimmick.


The point is Richard, who is the better politician? The one who alerts people to problems before they become crises, or the one who kids them that everything is all right?

I would rather that we alerted people now to the fact that our economy is on the point of resuming its pre-Thatcher relative decline, rather than waiting for us to get into the position we were in in the 1970s.

"However to win in the Urben [Urban],inner city areas we need to field Candidates who have local knowledge from a working class background"

Are you sure about that - how much local knowledge or a working class background did Ruth Kelly have to take Bolton? There are many Labour MP's in this situation, growing up in London or Essex and taking Northern working class constituencies without knowledge or experience of either.

Thatcher didn't. Her campaign gave little indication of the full nature of her eventual leadership.

I would prefer it too but human nature just doesn't allow it. Churchill tried that method in the 30's and look where we ended up before he was proved right. It's just the way it is.

Cameron may well not be the right man to tackle a recession but boy is he the right man to regain power in today's "bury your head in the sand" culture.

Richard's e-mail sounds very clever and contains some grains of truth. However, it has a number of serious flaws. In particular, it ignores that fact that in the English-speaking world, the British Conservative Party is the only one which over the last twenty-five years has failed (a) to regenerate and expand its own heartlands; and (b) to create a broad-based ideology based on freedom with which to challenge the left. Instead, ever since 1945, the British Conservative Party has conciliated the left and is therefore stuck in a spiral of long-term decline just like the centre-right in France and Germany. All that Cameron is doing is perpetuating that process by retreating to the tried and failed Butskellite formulae pursued by the Conservatives in the fifties, the early sixties and under Heath. These are sticking plaster solutions. Over time, his heartlands will waste away and he will be totally reliant on the floating vote. Show me a Party in a modern democracy which has won a long spell in office just on the basis of the floating vote.

Sean
agreed the government has taken our economy to the edge but it isn't 1970's all over again - the unions aren't yet the problem they were, inflation isn't a problem (yet), we haven't had power cuts, bread shortages, fuel shortages. Even with all the 1970's problem there was a good chance Sunny Jim would have won an autumn election - it took the Winter of Discontent to show how useless Labour was. I don't think we can depend on that happening again.

Canada (which Michael mentions above is a good example). The Tories should have won the last election (a big challenge but they nearly made it) - but the Libs built sufficient fear of the Right to get a sufficient number of seats to govern. The Tories are much more centrist this time and they are being helped by the corruption scandal - but still a big chance they will not get a majority of seats because of the lingering distaste for Kim Campbell's government and fear of the unknown/right.

Can we plan our strategy to get back to power on expectation of economic collapse or perceived corruption? I think its about regaining credibility then demonstrating the intellectual bankcruptcy of this government - and perhaps at that point introducing policies that appeal to our key target and core voters.

"I would rather that we alerted people now to the fact that our economy is on the point of resuming its pre-Thatcher relative decline"

We've been attacking Labour's management of the economy since they came to power. I agree, the economy is heading towards desperate times, but the electorate won't ditch Labour on economic grounds until they feel the decline in their own pockets. If we don’t want to be the party that always gains power at the start of a recession, we have to spend our media slots talking about issues that voters care about today.

Dont know why some think Cameron is like Blair, and the Tories are "apeing" New Labour.

Cameron has a completly different attitude towards issues, people and politics. He seems to be winning the argument via actual intellectual, sensible, wide-ranging Conservative discourse with Parliament, the party and the voters... which this country has missed out on for some time now.

He's finally doing what a Conservative thinks is right, and not the "norm perception" of what a Conservative is supposed to be, and have made themselves allowed to be painted as such in recent years, in the eyes of the Tory bashing press.

I think Cameron will be the next Tory PM, and a rather good one at that!

"Rob, I don't know much about American political history but, from what you've written here, Goldwater's offensive beliefs ruled him out from being "great" - unless you mean the 'not to be admired' form of "great"."

What I meant by 'great' was that he was the first man to stand up and speak out effectively against the New Deal economic consensus, Barry Goldwater helped to in the long run break this consensus and laid down the foundations for the Reagan victory of 1980. However if using Tolstoy's definition of greatness "There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Goldwater does not qualify due to his views of segregation. Therefore perhaps it was wrong of me to label him as 'great' but his importance must never be underestimated.

Mark if you want to brush up on American political history and Barry Goldwater, the best book I would recommend to anyone would be 'The Right Nation' By Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait. There are a lot of political lessons any Conservative could take from that book, on how the right came to dominate America.

"Thatcher didn't. Her campaign gave little indication of the full nature of her eventual leadership."

Only if you ignored the 1979 manifesto...

Michael, I am again with you essentially. Idealogically I would love the Conservative philosophy to defeat socialism once and for all. But it won't happen.
Again, understand the psyche of the individual and the herd. When you have no money and no prospect, you have nothing to lose and it is easy to propel you forward. Most will back themselves not to drown.
But when you have money and prospect, it becomes very easy to frighten you with ways you might lose it.
When Conservatism does its job and fundamentally raises the nations wealth onto a new plateau, it then suffers the inevitable fatigue of the task, relaxes and coasts - downwards.

The real anchor weighing down the future of conservatism in this country is the NHS. The ability of the left to accuse the the right of threatening the essential principles of the NHS will always be our achilles heel.

Gravity affects politics too!

My views on what we have seen so far are:

1. There is an overall tendency for Cameron's approach to be to adopt the progressive consensus of New Labour, but with the attitude that Conservatives with no experience of government will somehow do it better, eg Taxation, health and education policies. Cameron seems to be accepting the these policies at the precise time that public opinion senses they are failing.

2. There are exceptions, notably the policy on police, and if it is followed through, the overdue withdrawal from the EPP.

3. Some of his spin has been good, eg trying to ditch the immigration policy (although I am not yet sure what will replace it), however some of it, such as ChocolateOrangegate and yesterday's self-comparison to Richard Branson in The Sun, indicates a lack of experience and a potential for unneeded gaffes.

4. There has been little on making the party a more effective campaigning body. The party's campaigning outside London is poor, with too much effort at volunteer, agent and candidate level spent in safe rather than marginal seats. CCHQ also needs a going-over and to recruit some real talent. Such reform is urgently needed.

5. The issue around who should be future candidates is very worrying. People should be selected on ability, not acquiesence of
Guardian-reader dogma. In many ways this is the wrong solution to a correctly identified problem. The party needs more female MPs but this is a problem of not recruiting them to the party in the first place. Putting inferior candidates in position to fulfil quotas will only help Labour.

5. To become Prime Minister he has to offer a clear and distinctive message to the electorate as to why they should elect a Conservative government, and do this over a constant period of time. Eg Thatcher and in 1970, Heath, won because they convinced the electorate that it could manage its life better than the State could. At present, the message is too confused.

All I know is that no matter how much the blue rinse brigade continue to bang their drums, Gordon Brown doesn't believe he believes the same as DC. He even seems pretty desperate to bash him. That's good going in my book, Dave!

This is a moment for cool heads and cunning plans. We should be tellin' the box wallahs at the Beeb somethin' like this:

I admire David Cameron's refreshing update of timeless Conservative values, in particular:
[DELETE AS APPLICABLE]:
* his commitment to leave the federalist EPP;
* his promise of Police Reform to focus on protecting the public, not managing targets set by Whitehall;
* his formation of a policy group on national and international security to provide objective and unbiased advice on the war against terror;
* his reaching out to sections of the public who have become alienated from us and panicking the Lib Dems into kniving their own leader;
* um
* er
* well, that joke about Blair being the future once was pretty good
* let's see, must be something else
* his support for low-yield nuclear bombing of the Vietnamese jungle [I might be wrong on that point, not really followin' the previous discussion]

Okay, James, I pushed that boat out a little too far, but you have to accept that her '75 leadership campaign was pretty soft. By '79 everyone knew what was needed and she provided it.

My essential point is that it is not wrong to push the right buttons at the right time and it patently the wrong time now to push the right wing radical button.

The sooner David Cameron's new approach filters down to constituency level, the better.

Our constituency, a target marginal, was one of the handful that actually swung to Labour in the 2005 General Election.

Our failed candidate has recently updated the constituency web-site, but still prominently includes the discredited slogans (immigration etc) that helped bring about this result.

He obviously thinks he lost because we weren't right-wing enough!

DC's new broom can't come soon enough - especially cleaning up the approved candidates list.


I thought the point about Barry Goldwater and segregation, Rob, was that he was *not* opposed to desegregation itself (and had supported desegregation in his home state), but was opposed to it being mandated by central government.

Jeepers. I've just been on the Newsnight homepage and read their instructions.

I'm 34 and I am not completely sure I know how to do it!! I do hope this is not some sort of clever humiliation where we all fail to comply and leave Newsnight to claim that we are still the tweed wearing, technophobes many people might think we are!!

I'm off to take evening classes in MMS and other such complicated technical processes!


Henry and Elaine, which constituency is that?

Cameron understands that a successful political party must take the electorate with it. By moving back and winning people over with a limited centre-right agenda we may then be elected into Government and, if we deliver, possibly given electoral approval to go further after a first parliament. But only if we take people with us. Cameron’s approach will prove both popular and good for the Britain. Popular because the majority of conservatives and the electorate prefer a limited and measured change to radicalism. Good for Britain, as it’s a significant improvement on that offered by Labour, which has found itself jammed between political ideology and public opinion, allowing no lee-way to meet the challenges currently facing the country.

"Cameron understands that a successful political party must take the electorate with it."

No, he has accepted the Portillo "parrot" approach whereby you just tell the electorate what you think it wants to hear.

He's a follower, and not a leader.


Taking the electorate with you implies that you persuade them that your ideas are good ones, rather than abandoning your ideas.

James, Sean
First you have to get the electorate to listen - then you persuade them. If the electorate pigeon hole you as the bar room bore what you say goes in one ear and out the other.
So to start with you tell them what they want to hear, then you discuss, then they tell you whats wrong etc...
We need to start to make ourselves listened to rather than shout slogans that they ignore.

BTW a good editorial in the Canadian Globe and Mail - the sort we'll need in three years time.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060114.wxeelec0114/BNStory

Sean & James

Theres nothing wrong with dumping ideas weve been hailing since the late ninties if not late 80's and some people still talk that we need another Thatcher revolution from 1979!?

Its 2006, theres a different crowd that needs winning over now, new and fresh Conservative ideas are exactly whats needed. Dont you get it yet? tut, honestly some people!!


Graham, the only criterion for dumping an idea is that it's bad. If it's good, it should be kept.

Well done Wat and DVA ( Get behind the leader, despite reservations ) Paxo will be looking for Cameron critics and boy, he'll find plenty here.

Sean, you are indeed correct, Barry Goldwater was never an open supporter of Segregation, he stressed a support for 'states rights' which may seem like an admirable cause. However the implication of states rights, lead to the general impression of Goldwater as a segregation supporting racist. Ironically Barry Goldwater despite many misconceptions was quite a socially liberal man and was strongly pro-choice, right up to his death, despite the view of many in the Republican party. I find Goldwater, as you can probably tell, one of the most interesting and colourful polticians of the 20th century, and have taken a great deal of interet in him. I think all of his beliefs can best be summed up as being, anti-establishment, his hatred of federal government has been without rival for 50 years.

"We need to start to make ourselves listened to rather than shout slogans that they ignore."

And the way to do that is to show how your policies connect with their values and aspirations, it is not to simply tell people what you think they want to hear.

I don't think either Sean or James is suggesting shouting slogans at anyone. One aspect of the Conservative Party's abject performance since 1997 is its failure to paint an optimistic picture of how much better ordinary people would be if the constraints and mean-spirited prejudices of the left were swept away and public services served the public, not politicians. There's nothing "right-wing" about that....or if there is, it consists of playing on the politics of hope, not fear.

Cameron will have none of this as he paints himself into a corner as a latter-day Ted Heath.


Perhaps I'm absurdly optimistic about human nature, Michael, but I've always believed if you have a good idea, and take the trouble to explain it to people without preaching to them or patronising them, you can actually win them over.

"I've always believed if you have a good idea, and take the trouble to explain it to people without preaching to them or patronising them, you can actually win them over"

You're not optimistic about human nature, you're optimistic about the media coverage you're going to get. In the little mainstream media time you have, you're forced to make news or talk about topics that currently interest people.

Conservatives talking about the economy is neither news nor, to most people, interesting.

I didn't accuse Sean or James of shouting but IMHO our last campaigns have been lacking a strong narrative that connected with the electorate and seemed to be a number of ill explained slogans.

We lost the trust of the electorate in the 90's and getting that back means looking at where we are, our strengths & weaknesses and facing up to need to re-launch some ideas or drop them.

If the mass of the electorate believe we are focussed on the benefits of the haves or are "headbangers" on particular issues then lets not waste goodwill trying to re-launch policies already rejected. We can come back to those ideas when the ground is fertile for them but its not today.

"If the mass of the electorate believe we are focussed on the benefits of the haves or are "headbangers" on particular issues then lets not waste goodwill trying to re-launch policies already rejected."

The mass of the electorate have no idea what our policies were, because the Howard leadership was utterly dismal at actually explaining any of them, opting instead for grievance based slogans.


Well one obvious, welcome and immediate change thanks to Cameron is seeing LibDem councillors defecting to the Tories and happily declaring their switch on conservative forums like our progcon site.

Long may it continue!

Newsnight: Like a Phoenix from the Flame, the Conservative Party has been reborn from the ashes of defeat and rejuvenated by the leadership of David Cameron, enabling the party to once again fight for hearts and minds of the British people for the right to make a real difference in Britain.

In only a matter of weeks, David Cameron has turned around the fortunes of the Conservative party and has once again made it a political force to be reckoned with. David Cameron’s acknowledged influence extends beyond the boundaries of even his own party. He has Labour Government ministers running scared with popular policy decisions; his meteoric rise was a major factor behind the Lib Dems forcing out their most successful leader to date, and even Tony Blair has been forced to admit that the Conservative party is back and a threat to his once seemingly safe position. Mr Cameron’s strategy has made an immediate impact in the polls, almost all of which now show the Conservatives have a lead over the Labour party – almost unthought-of 6 months ago.

Mr Cameron has realised that it is the winning that counts; not the taking part. Only in power can the Conservative party truly make a difference.

Unlike Tony Blair, who says something to appease the Unions that fund the Labour party or refrains from needed radical reform to escape Labour backbench wraith, when David Cameron says something, it is because he truly believes it - even if members of his own party do not agree with his methods. His approach to politics is to do the very best he can to help the people of Britain rather than to slavishly serve ideology or trade union interests for which Mr Blair has become so renown.

David Cameron is not only a “man in the right place at the right time,” but he IS the right man in the right place at the right time. David Cameron is living proof that one man can make a difference in society, and if I were a Labour or Lib Dem MP in even a semi-safe seat (and certainly a marginal seat,) then I would be very worried about my future.

"when David Cameron says something, it is because he truly believes it"

Please! How gullible can you get?

God I feel old...this sounds like 1974 or over again. Electorate don't understand us, how could they vote for those labour failures, we didn't we explain our policies better?

James, politically I think we agree on the type of Britain we want to see. The question is how do we get elected again so we can take the small steps to getting there?

You seem to think the new leadership has betrayed true conservatism, I don't, I think it has sensibly ditched tainted policies and blunted the 100 day offensive which would have really damaged this party. I do not believe we will be in a position to make the arguements necessary until we are in a position of strength to do so, which means either winning the election or a majority of the votes.

But hey - isn't it fun to be in a party that is alive and on the whole intellectually stimulated again, looking at a realistic chance of bundling these incompetents out. Only lets do it constructively, fighting our corners but without doing down the party leadership and our colleagues - not targeted at you James but y at ex DD and DC supporters still fighting the leadership election (though I think the worst attacks have come from UKIP and other right wing interlopers)

"Well one obvious, welcome and immediate change thanks to Cameron is seeing LibDem councillors defecting to the Tories and happily declaring their switch on conservative forums like our progcon site."

Except this happened in the last parliament and post-election under Howard's leadership. A lot of local politics is to do with personalities rather parties.


In Hertsmere, by last year, we had two ex-Labour, one ex-Lib Dem, one ex-Independent, and one ex-UKIP, among our councillors.

It is far too early to say how the Cameron revolution will change the party in the long term - but finally heading towards being electable again is a massive step forward which cannot be a bad thing!

Politics isn't like instant mashed potato or instant coffee - it needs assessment and reflection. I think Cameron will best be judged by his treatment of people, and that must begin with a re-instatement and apology to Howard Flight and Adrian Hilton. Until the Tories treat their own with fairness and respect, how can we trust them to be nice to the rest of us?

A Tracy
It is true,In some areas you can put up anything with the correct party ribbon and some peoples strong feelings will get the better of them and vote for the party they have always voted for,but from experiance the floating voter with out any political alliance will take in to consideration how well the Candidate knows the area ,what are the local issues effecting them and their "what are you going to do about my drains".
a certain candidate once found this out whilst canvasing in Hartlepool.He overheard a resident complaining to one of his helpers about something,he rushed over to the doorstep and said I will deal with this its the European issue isnt it,the reply came "Never mind about Europe what are you going to do about getting my door repaired".

I'd definitely support Howard Flight being a candidate for the A-list.

We Conservatives should all thank God for giving us DC. He has made a splendid start to his Leadership.

In my opinion he is well on his way to securing the backing of the British people at the next election.

I feel that he is our Stephen Harper, Ronald Regan and Brian Mulrooney.

As regards the manifesto, the type of policies it contained failed to gain the support of the people during the last three elections.

DC has done the right thing by dumping it. After all Labour ditched all of their policies and principles in order to get elected. Labour has accepted our agenda.

Well done DC. Keep up the good work.

"isn't it fun to be in a party that is alive and on the whole intellectually stimulated again"

It is a lot more easy to be optimistic again, however intellectual stimulation is being limited in the party by ill thought out policy announcements, ruling out many possible options for the key policy commissions.

"I feel that he is our Stephen Harper, Ronald Regan and Brian Mulrooney."

Or our generation's Ted Heath.

"As regards the manifesto, the type of policies it contained failed to gain the support of the people during the last three elections."

As moderate centrism was so resoundingly rejected by the electorate in 2005, by your logic we should lurch to the right!

Isn't it interesting? Lots of people in previous discussions over the past week or two on this site have been pretending to be conservatives, but all of a sudden in this discussion, everyone seems to be more or less a propper conservative. Mark you, there are very few Tebbitt supporters revealing around even so.

I think Cameron is terrible. His tactics make no sense when you stop paying attention to the media line and look at the reality of the situation.I also think that he believes a lot of what he preaches, otherwise he would have veered the party more towards deep-blue thatcherism and attemped to defeat New Labour the way the Republicans defeated the Democrat centre-ground tactic (answer: move to the right, destroy them with patriotism and and a dose of "get a grip" reality).
Cameron will most probably not get elected at the next general election. The stats are against him. All he will have done is make the conservative party accept the New Labour consensus.
Had we elected Fox for example, we could have got ourselves elected not this time but the next without giving up ground to the Secret Socialists (blair, cameron...), which will take years to get back.
Actually I don't think that Cameron is a secret socialist, but I do think he is quite dim (but he only looks it in real life).
what was it someone said to him? 'You couldn't run bath'.
The media don't care, they want a thick tory pseudo socialist in power. Remember, thatcher only wounded socialism in the political sphere, on an individual level none of the socialists were killed, not in the media or in the labour party. They're still here, and they are out to crush conservative values, not only through the BBC and politics, but by planting labour activist and supporters who are "on message", everywhere, especially in the "Tory" press and in the "Tory" blogosphere.

Blogga, having never seen your name crop up before, I'm somewhat bemused by your comment about people pretending to be 'conservatives'. I haven't seen anybody acting out of character.

The 'You couldn't run bath' comment was made on QT by Aitken the Younger who, at the time, was working for Camp Davis.

We can only speculate as to what would be different if we had elected Fox. Since he seemed to appeal to very few, I suspect we'd have continued to be a party in decline.

"Since he seemed to appeal to very few"

Apart from in the focus groups that the Cameron supporters crowed over, obviously.

And the Conservative Home polls that placed him second behing Cameron.

Like I said, I haven't seen anyone acting out of character.

Blogga [sic] - What tripe. Although I have reservations about his policy direction, attacking him as "thick" seems pretty absurd given his educational backgrounds (Oxford First).

Cameron is very clever, and knows exactly what he's doing. The more Heffer and Hitchens scream "blue murder", the more plausible the line that the Tories have changed becomes, and the quicker our image rehabilitates. However, I do wonder if he's overplaying the strategy. The paradox is that our policies were popular at the last election but the brand was fundamentally tarnished. Cameron appears to be improving the brand but at the expense of good policies. I hope that, once the party's image has recovered, a new wave of centre-right policies will be unveiled. The question seems to be: what is dispensable or what isn't? There appears to have been a tactical decision to ditch some policies to fit it with the "we've changed" narrative.

The real questions are: what issues are too fundamental to compromise on, and how far does this strategy have to be played out to convince the public that the Cameron Conservatives are genuinely different?

"Although I have reservations about his policy direction, attacking him as "thick" seems pretty absurd given his educational backgrounds (Oxford First). "

I don't think his degree is relevant to whether or not he has political judgement (I'm not saying he is thick, just making the point).

You could say that Michael Foot was intelligent from his educational background.

While I have reservations about the current ‘principle vacuum’, overall I’m happy with his performance to date, and more than willing to give him time to show us what he's made of.

My concern is that we are hearing from nobody but Cameron. After all the good work of the leadership contest in showing the public that there is a whole team of talented people, I think this is a backward step.

Shades of Blah’s ‘eye-catching initiatives with which he can be personally associated’...?

Blogga was quite clearly a member of the Labour Party, thus not worth anyones time...

Graham, Blogga didnt sound like a Labour Party supporter to me. Apart from saying Cameron is thick, he does make some good points. I agree that Cameron's strategy in the long term doesnt seem very logical. I think Fox could have made a very very good leader.

Al "My concern is that we are hearing from nobody but Cameron"

I absolutely agree. It would be good to see a little team empowerment.

Al "My concern is that we are hearing from nobody but Cameron"

It's so reminiscent of the Howard strategy: surrender every argument and sequester the Shadow Cabinet.

That worked well, didn't it?

The problem is the "tarnished brand" image which means even if the electorate like Tory policies they won't vote Tory. I wonder if Cameron is going about it the right way. There is an imediate effect as "right wing" policies are ditched eg. Patients Charter, but long term, the reason for the image is not being addressed.

For 10 years Tory leaders have kept their heads down while everyone else has written history. It would appear the voters don't trust the Tories over thre NHS because they have come to believe the Tory governments cut the NHS. In fact it was substantially expanded.

By addressing the reason for the image problem things could look even better than at present, but, if it is not addressed, come the next election, the image problem will still be around.

The first six weeks of the new leadership has obviously seen a honeymoon period for Cameron.Make no bones about it though stern tests lie ahead.

Those tests wwill not be met by timidity and compromise with Blair.Ideas are important in politics.It is the duty of the conservative party to engage in the intellectual battle with Labour.

The ambition should be to create a wholly new politics based upon a Localist agenda which filters power down to communities.Public service reform is also key and it is disppointing that the leadership appears to have closed the door on radical health and education reforms.

A distinctive conservative agenda needs to be set .One in which the case for lower direct taxation is linked to the spread of personal responsibility. The public sector is not allowed to swamp the productive weatlh creating sector .Opportunity for all our children is enhanced by allowing excellence in schools, to thrive by giving parents more choice.

The one positive area of Cameron's leadership thus far lies in his speech on crime made yesterday.The decision to tackle the structural issue within the services no too simply major on the more police mantra is to be welcomed.

No Rob, he is wrong. Briatain doesnt need "deep blue" Conservatism, Britain needs a Conservative Party of tolerance for all but criminality, a champion of civil liberties and climate change, compassion, one that recognises difference and doesnt champion indifference, and the drive to make everyones life better.

Not a big 'hoo-ha' about Socialist conspiracies or a party seemingly obsessed with money and immigration. We are talking about other things aswell now, and I believe this is the way a potential government must conduct itself.

"The more Heffer and Hitchens scream "blue murder", the more plausible the line that the Tories have changed becomes, and the quicker our image rehabilitates."

While it may be easy to mock right-wing journalists, I have yet to see anybody take their arguments on head-on. It seems their only crime is to dislike living in a country that has falling education standards, high rates of crime and rising family breakdown.

The only fault I can see with their analysis is that no matter how right they may be on certain issues, nobody wants to hear it because it raises uncomfortable questions.

"Britain needs a Conservative Party of tolerance for all but criminality, a champion of civil liberties and climate change, compassion, one that recognises difference and doesnt champion indifference, and the drive to make everyones life better."

I wouldnt doubt you there. But do you seriously think that Cameron is driving to make everyone's life better, when he rules out policies that would significantly improve our lives. He rules out bringing back a selective education system, condeming generations of children with practical rather than academic minds. He rules out private health insurance schemes, opting simply for 'better management' meaning the NHS will never improve and will be left with institutional flawes. He uses the soundbite 'sharing the procededs of growth' but doesnt make the argument of low taxation as the best way of stimulating growth. Cameron may be good at winning a good headline the next morning, but I fear we may wake up a few years down the line and find we have little to take to the country that would genuinely improve people's lives.

There's no doubt that David Cameron's impact in his first 45 days has been immense, not just on the Conservative Party but the wider voting public. His biggest achievement has been to add some humanity to the Party and to start the process by which we can appeal to those millions of people who we lost in 1997. Many have reservations about some of his more apparently liberal policies, but his strategy is 100% correct. The big challenge he faces now is to keep the Right on board while developing policies which on the face of it look as if they are on the left. This is the big tent which the Conservative Party needs to build if there is to be a coalition of interests wide enough to win an outright victory. Cameron has changed the political landscape and is setting an agenda. Since when was one able to say that about a Conservative leader? And I say that as someone who wanted a very different outcome to the leadership election. As some of you will know, I worked as David Davis's Chief of Staff until the end of the year. But credit where credit is due. Those of us who may have been disappointed on December 6th ought to have had our spirits raised by how far we have come in such a short time.

"Those of us who may have been disappointed on December 6th ought to have had our spirits raised by how far we have come in such a short time."

The three points behind in the latest Populus poll ;)

and 4% ahead in the last ICM?

The last thing anyone needed, even those on the left, was yet another lame duck leader, a la Hague, Duncan Smith, etc, who was never going to win.

If Cameron can reinvigorate political discussion in the country, and put a credible challenge to the government, then everyone will benefit.

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