By Tim Montgomerie
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On Wednesday evening ConservativeHome held an event to discuss how the Conservative Party might win the next election. Yesterday I blogged the contribution from Chris Grayling. Tomorrow I'll reflect on the contribution of the third panellist, Stephan Shakespeare. Today here's a summary of what Matthew Elliott, CEO of the TaxPayers' Alliance, shared.
First, Matthew Elliott said it was vital that the party got the boundary review passed. Many of us, he said, "took a lot of body blows" to win the AV referendum* and it would be "dreadful" if the political capital from it was "blown". The understanding had been that the Lib Dems got the AV referendum and the Tories got the boundary review in return. There are now mutterings from the Lib Dems that they won't vote for the boundary review if they don't get House of Lords reform. Estimates vary but if the last election had been fought on the new boundaries David Cameron would have won a very small Tory majority. Their passage is not a small matter.
Second, Matthew argued that it was vital that the Coalition cut back the £131 million subsidy of the trade union movement. Add up all of the centre right parties and campaign groups and you only get an annual budget of something like £30 million. The Right is therefore hugely outspent by the unions and that needs to change. The playing field was, perhaps, once levelled by the loyalty of many newspapers to the Tory cause but newspapers are now much more promiscuous with their affections – preferring fidelity to their readers than to a political party. Ending subsidy of the union movement has already been a theme of Majority Conservatism.
Third, Matthew recommended that the Conservatives become a little bit more willing to appoint reliable people to public bodies. When Labour is in charge it 'marches through the institutions'; stuffing those instututions with people of like ideology. Matthew Elliott said that Conservatives didn't need to do exactly the same but certainly needed to understand that appointments were a long-term driver of government – sometimes more significant than policy. He highlighted two key forthcoming appointments – the head of the Charity Commision and the DG of the BBC. Dame Suzie Leather, a Labour member, was stepping down as Chairman Charity Commission at the end of July. During her time in charge she had launched a vendetta against independent schools, attacked the Government on spending cuts and targeted the status of centre-right think-tanks. Matthew also hoped that we could get a new BBC Director-General who challenged the BBC's worldview. He recommended the reforming David Elstein as one sound candidate.
* Matthew Elliott ran the No2AV campaign.