I have ongoing discussions about the point of all the various groupings and so on in the various spheres I work in. It’s lovely that we all talk to each other so much but that cannot be the point: the point must, surely, be that action results from our talking. Today I was at the launch of Bright Blue’s new book, Tory Modernisation 2.0, for which I have also written a chapter.
I’ve written before about the proliferation of groups within the party, and I had two very useful conversations (one about government in general and one about international development in particular) this morning, both of which came to the same conclusion: that awareness raising, diagnosis and complaining about what’s gone wrong is all very well, but for it to be any use, action and/or change needs to result from the politicking, and delivery is essential.
Given my views on the government’s communications problem, this is going to be a tall order, but here goes anyway. What needs to happen for the Conservatives to win in 2015 is threefold. First they need to deliver what they promised – competently and coherently. Where they aren’t they need to explain why not. That’s why the Mid Term Review assessment should have been made public before it was dragged out, and that’s why it should have been made much more of, warts and all.
Secondly they need to continue to make the argument about what they are currently delivering and why. It’s no good just assuming that all will come good for 2015 – they need to explain what they’re doing, why, how, and what difference it will and is currently making. Connected to this, they need to reach out beyond the bubble and seek out new ideas; a minister recently complained to me that the civil service never comes up with any. Well, firstly I don’t think that’s really the civil service’s job, but more importantly if they don’t understand where the government wants to get to, they can’t. So that golden thread of narrative is vital.
And finally, they need to explain where they want to get to in the long-term. Assuming that this parliament is all about restoring the shaky foundations for the long-term (and I believe that the reforms they are making go a long way to doing a lot of that), they also need to paint a picture of the improvements that they aim for afterwards. Partly because we’re in for more austerity after 2015, and partly because otherwise it would be very tempting to run a negative, don’t let the people who caused the mess back in campaign. That – of course – should be part of it but it’s not enough. People need to vote for us as well as against the others.
A lot of what is in the Bright Blue book could be a big part of my second and third points. They aren’t the only organisation out there, and it’s essential that those of us who are involved with such things don’t just complain about what we see as wrong, and instead focus on practical and do-able things that can be done now and which might need to wait a bit. One of the interesting YouGov regular questions asks whether a party seems “old and tired” which the Conservatives have gone from 20 per cent in May 2010 to 36 per cent now on. Part of the 2015 offer needs to be about a positive vision for the future (as well as a past record on delivery); ensuring that books, pamphlets, events and talks like today’s feed into the policy and manifesto process over the next couple of years is going to be vital.