Robert Halfon is Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and MP for Harlow.
The Conservative Party is perhaps the greatest political movement in the Western world. It has had unrivalled success at the ballot box, been a force for freedom across the continents, provided our country with some of the greatest political leaders over the generations and shown a remarkable ability to turn devastating defeat into victory.
Our history is something to be proud of: a powerful voice for millions of Britons who share our values. Our electoral strength has been at its zenith whenever we have been a mass movement – when we have attracted hundreds of thousands of members to our cause.
After winning last month’s election – against all the odds and every expectation – we must bring that spirit once again to our party. We need to fix the roof when the sun is shining. Our duty must be to re-create and renew the concept of the Conservatives as a mass movement.
A Party that has a moral mission that excites millions across the country. A Party that is genuinely seen as the party of working people, not just because of Government policy, but by our own membership offering, language, acts, deeds and actions. A Party that attracts people from every walk of life – whether it be through our volunteers, or CCHQ, or with our Councillors and Parliamentary Candidates.
Never again should the Conservative Party be seen through the misleading prism of our opponents – but rather from the perspective described by Winston Churchill (pictured above using a telescope). As he said, we should be the party of the ladder: of assistance, aspiration and achievement.
By the 2020 election, when we are all knocking on doors across the United Kingdom, our objective must be not to convince ‘shy Conservatives’ to vote for us, but to meet people who are proud to be associated with the Conservatives, because – unlike our opponents - we are on their side. How much better would it be, if the public, instead of thinking of us just as Tories, thought of the Conservatives as for the workers, or as David Cameron described us in his speech to last year’s Party Conference:
‘’We in this party are a trade union too. I’ll tell you who we represent. This party is the union for hardworking parents, the father who reads his children stories at night because he wants them to learn, the mother who works all the hours God sends to give her children the best start. This party is the trade union for children from the poorest estates and the most chaotic homes. This party is the union for the young woman who wants an Apprenticeship, for the teenagers who want to make something of their lives. This is who we represent, these are the people we’re fighting for.”
This is why, Lord Feldman, the Party Chairman, has set up the Conservative Party Panel to look at party reform and hear the best ideas from party activists.
What should our mission statement be? How do we re-create a mass movement? How do we reach parts of the country that Conservatism does not yet reach? How do we encourage more people from every different background, including those on lower incomes, to become Council or Parliamentary candidates? How do we build on the relationships between the Parliamentary Party, CCHQ and the voluntary party? These are just some of the main questions being considered by the Panel – there will be others to be suggested and considered.
We have already had our first Panel Meeting. Future sessions are taking place in different parts of the country. Surveys will also be sent to our membership and activist base. These will be reforms that run with the best of the grain from our grassroots, not by diktats from the centre.
Conservatism has always been about changing what is necessary to conserve what is best. The potential for successful party reform is huge – and exciting. Building on our traditions, but renewing ourselves for the years ahead. Let us go out there and show our opponents that we mean business.
P.S. For updates on the progress of the review and panel, please follow the new Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Facebook Page.