Priti Patel is an elected Member of the Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public Administration Select Committee. She is also a member of the Party’s Policy Board and MP for Witham.
Never let the facts ruin a great story. That maxim clearly guided the FT journalist who wrote this week that of the six people producing the Conservative manifesto five went to Eton and one went to St Paul’s.
As someone personally involved in the work informing our manifesto, I can tell you that the real story is all too different. The truth is that the Conservative Party is now running what I consider to be the most inclusive manifesto process in its history.
Of course, no one will be able to stop journalists getting it wrong , but, for me, this FT story and the follow-up ones that recycled its misleading assertions were disappointing because they failed to mention the vital role that key figures in our party are playing.
In November last year, when David Cameron set out before the Parliamentary Party the process that would deliver us a Manifesto, he was crystal clear that since all colleagues have to stand on this manifesto, so everyone should have a chance to contribute their ideas.
The five central people in this process are the Cabinet Ministers who chair the five Manifesto Policy Commissions are William Hague, Theresa May, Michael Gove, Patrick McLoughlin and George Osborne – not one of whom went to Eton.
For the last three months, these senior Cabinet Ministers have been delving into the detail of the policies we will be including in our Manifesto, working closely with the chairs of the 1922 policy committees, members of the Policy Board and Conservative Select Committee Chairs.
Take Theresa May’s Home Affairs Commission, where Chris Grayling, Maria Miller, Theresa Villiers, David Mundell, David Jones, Graham Brady, Nick Gibb, Robert Buckland and I have been working together to get the right mix of themes for our Manifesto. No one can seriously claim that’s a cabal.
Indeed, the FT’s entire thesis would have been entirely demolished by the facts – had the paper checked them. The reality of the next election is that we will see more of this style of reporting. Quick and easy politicised reporting driven by the lust for followers on twitter and the commercial fragility of newspapers.
What we must do, in the face of this, is to carry on delivering on the public’s priorities right down to the wire: reducing the deficit, cutting income tax and freezing fuel duty, creating more jobs, capping welfare and immigration and delivering the best schools and skills for young people.
By the middle of this year, the Number 10 Policy Unit, which is providing the secretariat to the Manifesto Policy Commissions, will deliver their findings to the Prime Minister, an important milestone in what has every claim to being the most inclusive manifesto process run by any of the main parties at any General Election.