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Dismore AlexAlex Dismore is a party member in
his final year of International Relations and Politics at the University of
Sheffield.

The most surprising thing about the comments
attributed to Lord Feldman last weekend was the surprise. The vague reports that David
Cameron himself has said something similar in the past should also be greeted
with only the merest flutter of surprise. This divide between the Prime
Minister and some on the Party right is becoming more and more visible and
damaging. It is time for Mr Cameron to be bold and choose the side on which he
stands; otherwise the crack will become a chasm that swallows up his
leadership.

That a journalist supposedly overheard these
comments typifies this Government’s media haplessness. But – and I say this as a Party
member – the comments have an element of truth. Take a trip into an isolated,
rural constituency; press your ear against the door of a local council meeting.
The phrase “swivel-eyed loons” may just come to mind.

I am not for one moment suggesting that this lunacy exists across the board. However, recent events have given the loonies an
increasingly prominent voice in Parliament. The Party has been visibly shaken
by UKIP’s impressive results in the recent local council elections. But Cameron
has allowed the Parliamentary Party’s response to panic and accept the Farage line that “the results represent a sea-change in British
politics”. Calm and perspective are desperately needed. 23% of 31% of the
electorate voted for UKIP, and they still do not have overall control of any
council. This was a mid-term protest vote in which all the main parties
suffered. Of course political leaders should take note; the electorate’s
concerns should be addressed and questions answered. But answering the questions posed by UKIP does not mean becoming UKIP.

The recent Euro-frenzy has shoved out other
important and useful political stories, like Mervyn King’s relative optimism over the economy
last week.  When 114 of his own MPs
continue to drown out the government’s main economic message with an amendment
to the Queen’s speech, Cameron should certainly not be “profoundly relaxed”. Where
was his impassioned defence of gay marriage, something he clearly
believes in, when it returned to the Commons last week? At the moment it looks
as if he’s following the Party and not leading it. Every week he looks weaker
and weaker.


But this isn't just about combating Cameron’s
perceived weakness. This is about not allowing himself to be dragged to the
right, onto ground where he does not belong. He must drown out the siren call
of Nadine Dorries, and the mutterings of Jacob-Rees Mogg, who are cosying up
with UKIP and talking of electoral pacts. This is a Party one of whose councillors
have been photographed giving Nazi salutes (don’t worry, he was reaching for a
phone), and who have been forced to deny describing illegal immigrants as "sandal-wearing, bomb-making, camel-riding,
goat-f******, ragheads". But perhaps I’m being unfair. After all,
candidate Geoffrey Clark’s call for an NHS review into aborting foetuses with
Down’s syndrome was proposed simply as a solution to cut the deficit.

If the likes of Nadine Dorries want to stand on a
joint Tory-UKIP ticket, let them – and let the whip be withdraw in response. If the MPs who
cynically hide behind “equality” in their opposition to gay marriage – after
years of opposition to every piece of gay legislation – feel at odds with a
modern Conservative Party, then Mr Cameron should not stand in their way to the
arms of Mr Farage. It should be made clear that there is no room for those such as
Sir Gerald Howarth who think that equal marriage will open the gates to an
“aggressive homosexual community”, that sees it ominously as “just the beginning”. Just what
exactly is the good knight afraid of? Bands of armed gays descending on his
Aldershot constituency and forcing its decent townsfolk into polygamous gay
marriages?

The Prime Minister must stand up and voice a proper
Conservative alternative: attacking UKIP is not the same as attacking the
people who voted for UKIP. To do this, he would do well to remember why he won
the Tory leadership. Cameron promised to purge the “nastiness” from the Party
and deliver electoral success: he only partially did both. Recent events
represent an opportunity for him to approach his modernising agenda with
renewed gusto. Let UKIP provide asylum for the loons.

I’m not proposing a “lurch to the left”, but simply
that Cameron should reaffirm his commitment to modern Conservatism in a bold
and unashamed way. He needs to confidently present the Party as one of economic
and social liberalism: a Party which
will reduce taxes wherever feasible; one which will keep a tight grip on
the public finances whilst offering smart solutions to provide the best
services possible. People want a sensible, mature debate on Europe, which is
based on economic pros and cons.

If the Government’s main economic message
continues to be drowned-out by the alarmist, obsessive and dogmatic rhetoric of
recent months, then we will lose the next election.  The Conservative Party must be on the side of
working people – but prove it in more ways than by simplyy reforming the welfare state (which
must continue, but without the nasty and misleading “shirkers” rhetoric).  Alongside this, Cameron must not shy away
from his belief in social liberalism. He must not be afraid to standby his
instincts on gay marriage. He should take the initiative and show that the Party
is prepared to engage in a rational debate on drug policy.

Now is the time to
show the vast majority of the Party and the British people that aren’t
“swivel-eyed loons”, that Cameron’s Conservative Party remains committed to
fiscal prudence, economic liberty, and social mobility, whilst being forward
thinking enough for a modern Britain in a 21st century globalised
world. 

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