For too long the purview of ‘the good’ has belonged to Labour. Equality, national support, social mobility – core conservative principles, polling indicates, are now instinctively associated with HM Opposition.
This has to change. At a national policy level the Government is taking radical, progressive decisions that indicate that the Conservatives are not the party of the Oxbridge elite, but the party of the majority working in the national interest.
Scrapping fuel duty, raising millions out of tax altogether, a national Council tax freeze, ensuring that those working full time on minimum wage have their income tax bill halved, taxing the richest in the country progressively more each year than any year under Labour. All these help the majority, those who work hard, but aren’t wealthy.
Socially the Party stance is beyond reproach. On equal marriage, for example, the Conservatives are caring about what is right and not necessarily about pandering to the prejudices of the party faithful.
Tim Montgomerie has detailed a sample of the Ministers and back-benchers doing exceptional social work:
- Michael Gove on faster adoption
- Robert Halfon against petrol prices
- Damian Hinds against excessive payday lending rates
- Andrea Leadsom arguing for childhood early intervention
- Jeremy Lefroy leading parliamentary efforts against malaria in the developing world
- Mark Pritchard campaigning for a ban on circus misuse of animals
- David Burrowes for the release of Gary McKinnon
- Nick de Bois against knife crime
- Gavin Barwell and Charles Walker campaigning for greater understanding of mental illnesss
- Steve Barclay for the victims of dangerous driving
- Cheryl Gillan on autism
- Nadhim Zahawi’s campaigning and fundraising for vaccination programmes in Afghanistan
- Tim Loughton on freedom for Tibet
- Robert Buckland’s leadership on human rights freedoms
- Baroness Berridge and Angie Bray on religious freedom
- Paul Maynard for language therapies
- Andrew Murrison, Liam Fox and Lord Ashcroft on support for military veterans
The most effective way to put ‘pleb/plodgate’ and similar behind us is to fundamentally alter our approach to messaging and candidate recruitment. Not just of prospective Parliamentary, Assembly and Council candidates; but of activists, officers and members too.
At a recent meeting of the Party faithful Grant Shapps, Party Chairman, put it best. He remarked, unsurprisingly, that winning elections is of the utmost importance. But the methods we need to adopt are changing far rapidly than the average activist is willing to adapt life-time habits to.
At what point did politics become more about protecting the base of the Party than to reach out to new voters? At what point did we surrender the moral argument, hide from the press and give up making the strongest possible case for votes to everyone?
It’s far too easy to pander to the base for fear of electoral doom. With limited resources in all major parties, how we allocate them will shape our electoral future. It’s easy to knock on doors and ascertain where your core vote is to knock up on polling day. It’s hard to win the moral argument and to change minds.
Every activist is a politician; it’s our job to convince the majority that we are right and to avoid saying things solely to keep the party faithful happy. The two are not mutually exclusive, but I worry that recently the latter has started to over-take the former.
The base of the Party changes – and our approach to policy, messaging, canvassing and recruitment should reflect that.