By Peter Hoskin
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Now we have cause to wonder whether Polly Toynbee reads Tim Montgomerie before writing about him. Last week, she described him as the "master-manipulator" of the Conservative Party. Yesterday, she wrote that he was "dominating the scene … tugging [David Cameron] ever rightwards". A-wha?!
Perhaps we should be flattered by Polly's valuation of ConHome's power – but I'm not the only one to notice that her account of the ConHome/Montgomerie philosophy is rather faulty. At our New Year's party last week, George Osborne paid tribute to the positions Tim has taken on same-sex marriage and international development. Another George, the New Statesman's Mr Eaton—no rightie, he!—tweeted that on gay marriage, wealth taxes and aid spending Tim couldn't be thought to be tugging the party in any crude right-wing direction. And, what's more, both Georges could have added to their lists Tim's support for further devolution to Scotland, the restoration of the 10p tax band, the triple lock for the basic state pension, financial help for low-income parliamentary candidates, and his opposition to the NHS Bill as well as to large parts of the arms trade.
Tim has explained his 'and theory' before now – the idea that the party hasn't ever needed to abandon its traditional positions on Europe, tax, welfare or immigration, but it has needed to broaden its appeal. Yet, speaking as a friend, I think he tells it better in the breadth of his own writing and in how he's run ConHome over the years. I, for one,wouldn't be employed here if we were in the business of dragging the party to the right.
And that's what I hope ConHome will continue to be about. It's what Keith Joseph called the broad middle ground, not the narrow centre ground. No tugging or manipulation necessary.