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What's the purpose of the Conservative Policy Forum if we have this? This idea is simply the CPF with a wider audience. Hardly a new one.

In recent years, the CPF has declined alarmingly. The CPF used to have its own team but they were the victims of cuts at CCHQ. The number of active CPF groups in constituencies, especially in target seats and the North, is remarkably low.

I agree with most of the above but not the "platform for diverse voices". Interest groups are the not the public. They have their agendas, often opposed to our Conservative values. Oxfam, which opposes free trade and capitalism, is a classic example.

I like your thinking, Editor. If we can trailblaze something along those lines then we'll harvest ideas and voters, especially amongst the young, who are extremely passionate about politics and the internet, often in equal measure.

The trouble is, do we have the resources to do anything remotely this ambitious? Do members of the the Shadow Cabinet or those MPs in junior shadow posts have any inclination to have a presence on the internet?

What i'd like to see is something like shadow departmental mini-sites, like you describe, where shadow miniters can comment on news and put forward policies straight into the public domain, bypassing the normal media.

Online politics has a long way to go, I would agree. But the strength that is generated by regular meetings of committed and well-lead individuals should not be overlooked.

The best messages are simple - able to be expressed in few words - and they travel by word of mouth, poster or street leaflet and have immediate local relevance. Internet politics tends to wander.

Politics has resided in the media for a long time, and the internet is becoming an interesting and useful alternative voice to that. But the strongest way to deliver a message, develop policy, tactics and strategy will still be at street level - the face to face campaign. Humans prefer their politics that way. That's why.

If the activist level of politics was still working, things would be very different. Most don't trust the media any more. But who has the energetic and inspiring simple message which fits the street level campaign? Mostly the smaller parties. That's probably why they've gone from 8% to around 15% in the last few years. Their progress should continue.

It's fair to say that the internet is on a roll and more and more is going to happen through this varied medium. However, I don't think that making a Party 'on-line' in it's self will create the kind of situation that you have alluded to above.

The fundamental issue will remain just the same as it has been for a long time. It is a fact that unless an issue has implications on a personal level that will effect that person, usually financially, but in terms of enjoyment and 'easy living' or alternatively that a person has personal life experience of the subject matter, they will simply not be interested.

This is amazingly frustrating and it has been my experience when I have worked in both a Charity and Local Authority environment. The same thing is happening right now as I try to get support to counter the Government Repeal of Section 75 of Local Government & Provisions Act (1975) on which I posted an article on Your Platform on 31 May.

When our Politicians wake up to this and start to focus on communicating in a way which relates better to the person and makes it 'real', the medium of the forum will be not be the issue as people will accept that online politics is easier for them.

The Party could start a revolution in politics today if the modus operandi were to change and this approach were to be adopted.

I like your idea of mini-sites for each portfolio EML and there should be lots of template sites dedicated to micro campaigns (including run by local associations). I just think six sites dedicated to six big topics would be a good place to start. I agree that there are big resource issues for this initiative but I think that the investment would be worthwhile.

I'm not suggesting, Tapestry, that an online infrastructure replaces face-to-face campaigning. Both need each other. At its best an online infrastrasture will help the party recruit more grassroots supporters and will help to identify which addresses to target.

I agree wholeheartedly with this idea, as a party we need to engage with the younger generation. As an activist in Yorkshire, we remain an "old" association & find it difficulty to attract younger people who are less interested in the old fashioned way associations are run.

I use the internet and email to keep people locally informed and find that I get most issues raised with me this way.

We need to build a broader consensus if we are to succeed in winning power & attracting people through the issues that interest them is one way to do this & I think allowing third parties to contribute and comment, even where they may not always agree with us shows an openess and willingness to listen that is essential if we are to return to power.

I would add pensioners and their concerns within your priority list of six issues under point two.

Grey voters are vitally important and we should not underestimate (i) the number of silver surfers and (ii) the Maven-like extent to which those silver surfers talk to pensioners who are not online.

Yes I think there is mileage in this although not every aspect of what you suggest (voting on which tax to cut isn't necessarily a good idea for various reasons). It is really an on-line CPF as some say. I agree that its one of those things that if you are going to do must be done properly with proper updates and feedback. I think the party could also act as a resource for non-political campaigns by residents so we are assisting citizenship.


It must be much more than an online CPF, Matt. We need to reach tens of thousands of new activists who are inclined to single issue pressure groups but we can attract with the promise of being able to translate their concerns into practical action.

Find a contemporary name for the initiative

Simply call it InterAct

or Conservative InterActive

Agree, Editor,


I think these suggestions are excellent but do have a few fears. I think there is still a very big digital divide in this country between those online and those not - including those online who don't know how the internet really works.

It's a superb idea to allow external groups and organisations to contribute to polciy debates, and a brilliant way to attract potential new supporters who these days vote on issues.

What we must ensure is the "little guys" voice is heard. I am sure Oxfam would be able to contriubute to a debate online (they would have the resource and time to do so) but what about a tiny charity based locally? It's here where if its done properly the internt can give the little guy a voice which isnt there at the moment.

If you wait until nearly every person is online Jonathan you'll be second, or third or fourth in setting up the necessary infrastructure. I want us to be the party that gets there first with the necessary infrastructure.

As I have said above - those on the analogue side of the digital divide mean we still need the traditional doorstep campaigning, too.

Completely agree with you on the need for the internet to be a tool to include smaller charities - not just the big Oxfams etc.

Agree with your comments Tim. I hope the party has a will to do something like this! It certainly is a better method of doing things than Labour's big comversation.

Why not call it 'AlienateTheBase' just to let our elderly voters, most of whom have never heard of the internet, that we don't want or need them anymore as we embrace the white heat of technolofy and attempt to lure 20-somethings in Shoreditch to vote for us?

I seem to recall we did alright in the 80s without the internet. Perhaps its the message rather than the messenger that needs changing. I repeat: Europe + Crime + Immigration = Victory, whether that message is on a website or written on a piece of paper, shoved in a bottle and thrown into the sea.

Oliver - if you dont accept that the Internet has changed most people's daily lives I think you are kidding yourself.

As for the elderly - people like my mother who is a pensioner is one of a growing a huge section of the population called silver surfers!

They may not be able to attend policy meetings - but the web gives them an opportunity to have a voice which we surely would want to embrace.

There is the germ of a very good idea here.

One thing is essential, though: it must be prepared to allow the expression of dissenting views, otherwise it will be just a a anodyne regurgitation of the party line.

Allow the dissenters and argue out the pros and cons properly and let the readers make their own minds up. This might allow for some advance notice of topics where Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne are far too far ahead of the Party as a whole and thus prevent another Grammar Schools issue or the foot-in-mouth Museums stupidity.

Also allowing dissenting views will counter any accusation of control freakery etc. Could you imagine Alistair Campbell, the most interesting Propaganda Aparatchik since 1945, allowing anything 'off-message' on such a site?

What happened in the US elections is that right-wing bloggers volunteered to the cause and became unpaid but very effective advocates for the Republicans. They had a reach and an immediacy which no corporate site could hope to emulate, and are credited with making a very significant contribution to the election of Bush.

If the Conservative Party wants to reach the on-line community, therefore, it might be better advised to look at the US paradigm, and copy some of the winning tactics rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. That would include working with existing bloggers, rather than trying to go into competition with them, and trying to avoid hacking them off.

Corporate (including political corporate) sites - known as "clogs", as in "corporate blogs" - never work. There are too many people with their fingers in the pie, too many approvals required, and the authors are always looking over their shoulders. They end up leaden and uninteresting.

Why should it alienate the base? In my constituency where the majority of active members are older most communication is now by email. Also what is wrong with luring 20 year olds from Shoreditch or anywhere else to vote for us? I really don't see the point of your post Oliver.
It's a good idea in principle Tim and one I remember us discussing in the early days of CH. Conservatives.com should become interactive with Q and A 's from shadow ministers,email campaigns could be launched and advertisements/sponsorship could from friendly organisations could make this self funding or even profitable.I can't understandwhy so little progress has been made in the last two years.

"Europe + Crime + Immigration = Victory"


This is a joke, right?

Malcolm: "I can't understandwhy so little progress has been made in the last two years."

Because what is being proposed is a lot of hard work and Team Cameron's attention span doesn't extend beyond the next day's newspapers.

Malcolm - I agree. My one question - and I dont know who can answer it, is whether the party is ready for people to give views it might not want to hear.

This current Government holds consultations and then just loves to ignore the results which is why people get so negative. We can't afford to listen to people and then just ignore them.

I like these suggestions very much, because the internet could become a very powerful tool, if used properly, for democracy.
ConHome could trial this by picking out the most positive (and usefully critical) comments made on the daily threads under the six headings, as suggested by Tim, and posting these to the 100 Policies.
After a suffcient period of time, these could then be edited into coherent shape in the form of a policy.
Each heading could perhaps start with a list of failures or deficiencies in Nulab practice (based on facts and figures, not blind prejudice), followed perhaps by a statement of principle(s) on which the tory replacement/improvement policy would be based.
The details could then flow from the principles.
Genuine supporters of tory principles have a lot to offer on ConHome but it is doubtful that they actually achieve anything at the moment.

A good question Jonathon to which I obviously don't know the answer.The party though will be told things it does not want to hear from members anyway (Grammar Schools etc) both privately and in public so will it make that much of a difference?

The difference I would see is that the party (rightly or wrongly) can say it is listening to the electorate - when members have a different view.

If policy groups are only advisory it can also claim to have listened and taken on board the points in part.

If we use the internet to embrace even more perspectives - the party has to be prepared to really listen.

RE: "Why not call it 'AlienateTheBase' just to let our elderly voters, most of whom have never heard of the internet, that we don't want or need them anymore as we embrace the white heat of technolofy and attempt to lure 20-somethings in Shoreditch to vote for us?"

The 55+ age group is the single biggest group of internet users(source:hitwise).

When the world changes, those who adapt quickest prosper those who adapt last die. That's just how it is.

What's so wrong with being attractive in Shoreditch? Am sick of unwarranted attacks on this beautiful borough of Hackney and don't, frankly, see being hideously uncool as a badge of pride. I wonder if Oliver's ever visited Shoreditch - it seethes with small businesses, entrepeneurs, cafes, it is of course one of the fabbest places to lie on your back on the grass and stare at the sky, oh sweet lost summer of my youth, long warm evenings in Hoxton square nattering away to everyone, anyway, it is full of people who should be natural Tories, so why does Oliver not want them? Hoxton itself is one of our target wards - we have a good and loyal vote in the council estates - it's those creative Shoreditch types that people on this site are constantly sneering at that we absolutely require to attract to win.

Am very pleased that when I met David Cameron (for like 10 seconds) and the poor guy did his "And where have you come from?" bit, and I said "Hackney" (just as Keith started up about not getting a Christmas card, it was never a problem for the Howards etc etc), Mr C said "I'm ALWAYS in Hackney". So he is. Good for him. One more reason to love him.

Spot on, Editor. It has to happen. Team Cameron DO get this stuff, and I think they will do something with it. But remember, they've only just de-toxified the brand, made it something that the younger generation would even think of engaging with. Now that they've done that, they can move into the next phase of engaging with them/us. Per some of the comments above, it's right to remember that not everyone is online - but then again, I think the silver surfers are supposed to be one of the fastest growing groups of internet users, so let's not assume they're technophobes.

Fantastic post Ed!

I hope that people in CCHQ and Cameron's office read and take note. David Cameron has shown he is willing to embrace new technology and I hope he will make sure our party takes full advantage of web 2.0.



Much as I believe the ‘Stand up Speak out’ campaign is a very positive step forward and I applaud your ambitious and progressive suggestions, I like many have reservations.

A Conservative Party sponsored forum site is a much riskier enterprise than Conservative Home. It is your very independence that permits you to disregard, to some extent, many of the risks that would surround a party sponsored site. Anyone can say what they like on here, within reason, without it being directly associated with the Party and consequently little harm and considerable benefit has been accrued by your site.

Any successful internet forum is likely to become dominant over other forms of forum.

Other forms of forum simply require more effort by the potential participants as well as requiring significant resources to organise.

Does the party have the will and resources at this stage to create equivalent levels of alternative forums to make them successful. I doubt if they can overcome the difficulties faced.

People without internet access are likely to feel excluded from the debate and resentful as a result. That, in turn, could be used by opponents of the party to undermine the party’s theme of inclusiveness on the basis of wealth and age. How can this be addressed?

For every silver surfer there is a pensioner without internet access. For every person who can afford internet access I suspect there is someone else who cannot or will not afford it.

I suspect it will be another 10 to 20 years before this will stop being a concern.

However, I do agree that that should not stop this sort of initiative going ahead much earlier.

I believe ensuring the credibility of the forum is the biggest issue to be faced. The internet is a very imperfect anonymous place. Given, there are ways that you can validate the identity of party members and organisations representatives, but how will the party validate the identity of other members of the public? Potentially this could become a contentious issue in itself.

If the forum is the success that you envisage, it will attract all sorts of views. How do you ensure that intentionally destructive views from disingenuous and malevolent contributors do not taint the image of the party and undermine the forum? On the other hand how do you avoid accusations of censorship?

After all we have seen the impact of the internet debate on Grammars Schools has had and the attention it received from the media. Indeed, how would access for the media be addressed?

In addition do we want the different interest groups freely interacting? Again there is a risk that this could cause conflict that would taint the image of the party.

Furthermore, the topics also need to be all inclusive so issues such as Europe have to be considered.

Therefore, I suggest that topics could be broken down along these lines:

1. Health & Wellbeing
2. Education & Training
3. Democracy, Government, Rights & Europe
4. Foreign Affairs, International Development & Environment
5. Economy, Tax, Trade, Public Services (excluding Health & Ed), Employment, Benefits, Welfare & Pensions
6. Security, Defence, Criminal Justice, International Justice & Immigration

Obviously there will be a need to pass ideas between each forum. Which brings me on to another key point, how will these forums be managed, facilitated and moderated fairly and firmly, mitigating the relevant risks above?

Having worked in the IT Sector for 20 years or more, the major longer term issue is rarely the technology used, but the management of the use of that technology once implemented. It takes considerable skills, determination and resources to do this truly successfully over a period of time and those skills are far rarer than people think.

Finally, how will the party advertise this forum? Having seen the ongoing confusion in people’s mind over what is and isn’t Conservative Policy recently, how will the party get the message over to the public about such web-based forums and address the likely cynicism that could be associated with them?

EML’s comments have some merit but even if Shadow Ministers have the time to take this on top of the Elections, their portfolios and their constituencies my comments above apply.

None of this is insurmountable, but the creation and ongoing success for such a forum will need a great deal of resource, skill and determination. Does the party have the will to make this happen at this time?

What is certain is that it must not go forward under unrealistic expectations. This is no easy task but if commenced in a limited manner growing with its succes could work and have great benefits. Perhaps, to start with, this would be better as a party member only facility alongside the ‘Stand Up, Speak up’ initiative building on the facilities already available on the party web-site?

Finally, you’re right the banner name needs changing. How about using the theme ‘The Voice of Britain’ or something similar?

About time to!
It is a very important media and it is important we connect to the rest of the world-they are the voters!
I must declare an interest being in the market research industry but online research is very important and can reach the parts...
We should be using this media to move beyond focus groups and use the new techniques available to measure the true attitudes of the general public. No leading questions and accurate. Try entering " Metaphorix" into google!

As for our websites, has anyone heard of web2?
This should be where we are making them more interactive and user friendly.
Maybe then we will be taken seriously.

As I mentioned the other day, when association ran CPC groups most discussion time was spent on the question 'What are you most concerned about at the moment?' (or however it was phrased)

Online discussions would inevitably gravitate (rise?) to this in exactly the same way that the most popular CH threads deal with immigration, 'Grammargate' etc.

I've no problem with that at all, but can the same be said of the present leadership?

Really, I thought web2 was just a marketing con and is in fact just another name for current funcionality which is already available. If this is the case, what will be the new attraction?

Ed, Wasn't Stand Up Speak Up the Nike anti-racism social marketing campaign?

yes - it was Dom.

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