One of the most thoughtful MPs of the 2010 intake – Gavin Barwell – has written a good blog which laments the pause in Lords Reform, and the Lib Dem tit-for-tat response. He is basically right on both issues.
There is one sentence that is worth lifting out of the blog to consider on its own.
“To be fair, the root of this problem is that Liberal Democrats MPs went through the Coalition Agreement line by line and signed up to it; Conservative MPs did not and hence many do not feel themselves bound by every detail.”
When the Coalition was formed the Lib Dems held a special conference so their members could discuss and ratify the decision to go into the partnership with the Conservatives. Our views – and in “our” I include most backbench MPs – were not necessary.
The current management style of the Conservative Party is not inclusive. It is very much top-down rather than bottom-up. The A-list for example was a short-cut way to improve the Conservative Party’s face, but it did nothing to improve involvement at a lower level. Change is only sustainable if it has depth. The Big Society was created at the top of the party and the first most members knew about it was when we saw Cameron standing in front of the smiley logo on the news. This was a month or so before the election. The next day when volunteers were knocking on doors in marginals across the land the question we were asked was: “What is this Big Society all about then?”. No-one had included us in the creation process, none of our literature explained the Conservative’s big idea, no short scrip had been provided. The foot soldiers only had their leaflets in their hands.
Entering Coalition, pushing the Big Society concept, evolving the make-up of the Conservative Party so it better reflects society are all the right things to do. But the top-down way they were implemented meant that no individual Conservatives had to agree, thus no-one had to buy into the programme.