I am not discontent. I am pretty impressed with most departments’ policies (though I wish some would go further, and I wish the government as a whole would get a bit more gutsy on making its case and driving through its agenda, of which more another day). But the way we will win the 2015 election is not by sitting back and coasting.
It is by understanding why we didn’t win in 2010 (notwithstanding the best gain in seat numbers since 1931), acknowledging that our performance in government was always going to be the ultimate proof that we were worthy of government again, and delivering policies that are right for the long-term that we will win in 2015, and that means being discontent with everything.
Damian Green’s speech to the launch of TRG North last week was an excellent example of this. He underlined that the way that Conservatives win elections is for successive iterations of the party to base their approach on respect for the past and preservation of the best, but also on a progressive and radical approach to improve that which needs to change.
That is such an obvious point that I’m slightly surprised anyone still needs to make it. But there are still plenty of people who don’t think change is needed. Political people are really bad at understanding that how voters see us is significantly more important than how we see ourselves. As I’ve argued all over the place, it is not inconsistent to be both caring and hard-headed, or tough on crime and determined to address the causes, or to want to see a state which is big enough to do what it has to but small enough that people’s own efforts and aspirations have space to flourish.
We can only win in 2015 by being discontented. We need to question the way we’re explaining ourselves so that people can hold us to account; we need to question whether we’re really taking the best decision for the long-term, or one that just gets us through to 2015; and we need to question whether we’re delivering on the spirit of what we promised.
It’s really difficult, I know. But the way to win in 2015 is not to continually look back, but to remain uncomfortable that we didn’t gain the trust of enough voters to win, to ensure that we deliver the best outcomes we can for as many people as possible through our current programmes, and to ensure that when we go into the 2015 election, we have a great record to defend and a serious platform for further change to come.