Tim Montgomerie over at ConservativeHome asked us to contribute to his series on what David Cameron should do on his return from holiday today.
This is the full version. Let us know what you think…
First of all, hope you and your family had a great holiday, and you’re ready to return to the political fray.
If you haven’t yet, do read Alistair Campbell’s Diaries, especially the sections on party handling, and the section where Neil Kinnock goes ballistic in France. Take note especially of the iron focus on what will lead to victory, and the need to ensure a consistent and coherent line. And, do remember the John Prescott role – the less-modernising tendency needs to know that their heroes are with you as well.
Then take a deep breath, remember what happened to previous Conservative leaders who abandoned their original modernising instincts, and resolve to continue the programme of change.
Make sure that the people in CCHQ understand and support what you’re trying to achieve.
Give Andy Coulson carte blanche to politicise the press office. The phoney war is over – Brown has taken charge and he is the target we now face. Sending out a press release and expecting favourable coverage doesn’t cut it. The press office and every other person working for you needs to be relentlessly focused on persuading everyone they talk to of the value of Conservative ideas.
Don’t give in to the temptation to personalise the attack. It’s Brown’s record, not his personality, that matter. Critique, critique and critique again. The critique needs to be in terms that voters understand – not in weird statistics. Personalise the solutions – what do Conservative ideas mean for YOU? Now that the policy groups are reporting, it’s time to articulate the positive vision that we know is there to make Britain a better country.
Please stand your ground – right bang in the centre. For the 19 months we led nearly every poll, it was because we focused on what affects peoples’ daily lives – their journey to work, the air they breathe, their social environment, how their children are growing up…
Don’t zig-zag. Consistency and clarity are key. Your instincts are in the mainstream of British opinion and you must stay there.
Make sure that Conservative messages are sustained, not just dumped out there and left to sink or swim. Repeat things till we all want to curl up and die from boredom because only then will they start to sink into voters’ minds. Even Conservative members often only remember the Labour spin, not the Tory message. All of us have a responsibility to listen and to promote the Party’s vision, not to carp at the sidelines because our personal favourites aren’t in there, but CCHQ has got to keep pushing a sustained, coherent message, not abandon things because they think once is enough – it’s not. Remember how sick we all got of ‘ten words, plus one’?
Our policy process has been long, thorough and rocky at times. You need to make sure that the choices that you and the Shadow Cabinet make from the menu of options from the Policy Groups sit together as a coherent whole, and that they are the right choices both for the country and politically.
You could take the easy option and make the decisions based on what will go down well with our grass roots – but remember that we’re doing this because we need to make the right decisions for the country.
We are Conservatives – we want to see less regulation, more independence for the individual, less tax but it can’t happen overnight. Sustainably turning the country round will take time but we know the right direction.
Making the case for a the Conservative vision of a bigger society, a smaller government, successful, sustainable growth, a reducing tax burden and a greener world is up to us as well as you – we’re all in it together.
Remind us why we elected you. At the risk of sounding like Philip Gould’s hideous message to Tony Blair about leaving ‘with the crowds wanting more’, you need to remind us – MPs, members, voters – WHY you took us by storm in 2005. The last couple of months have been hard on you and on us, and we need you to reignite those feelings of change, hope and optimism so that we can work with you to win the next election.