By Tim Montgomerie
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On yesterday's Comment is free website Professor Tim Bale listed the Ten Commandments of Electorally Successful Tory Governments. It's well worth a read. Bale's seventh commandment is that re-elected Tory Prime Ministers don't let their backbenchers, "let alone thy grassroots drive policy lest they strand thee too far to the right of public opinion" (my emphasis). I would have written a different, broader Commandment. The Commandment could have been "Successful Tory Prime Ministers don't stray too far from public opinion on any big issue" or "Successful Tory Prime Ministers don't allow fashionable opinion to drag them away from the views of the majority of voters". It may be just as dangerous to drift away from the Right if by Right you mean attitudes to crime, immigration, welfare, tax and Europe that are supported, not by a thin slice of the electorate, but by 60% to 80% of them. So long as there was no "right-wing alternative" to the Conservatives drifting away from the Right wasn't, perhaps, a huge risk. When UKIP is getting 6% to 12% in opinion polls it is a very real danger.
Immigration Minister Damian Green talked a lot of sense in another article yesterday – in The Telegraph. Damian talked about passing the "Danny Boyle test" but I was most struck by his remarks about the Conservative Party needing to occupy the whole political stage:
"What the Conservative Party needs is to revive, in a suitably modern way, the distinction made by Keith Joseph in the 1970s between the centre ground and the common ground. Connecting with the mood of the country involves finding and occupying the common ground, not splitting the difference between hard Left and hard Right. The common ground contains elements that would normally be classified as belonging to the Right or Left… This means maintaining the stance of taking tough but necessary decisions for the long-term health of the economy. Polling evidence shows that this is the biggest strength for the Conservative Party over all other parties. It also means sticking to our plans to reduce immigration, a policy which the public both cares about and supports. It also means continuing to tackle those areas where Conservatives have not traditionally been well-regarded, such as the NHS."
This is what ConservativeHome was formed to advocate. The shields that crown our frontpage masthead attempt to encapsulate this. A successful Conservative Party doesn't camp on the so-called centre, split-the-difference ground of politics or on the Right. It aims to occupy the whole political stage with policies on the social security safety-net, the NHS, vocational skills, pensioner security and control of the cost of living on one side… with policies that are supportive of the traditional family, immigration control, incarceration of offenders, zero tolerance policing, national defence and patriotism on the other. Some commentators are obsessed with the Tories moving to the Right. Conservatives must ignore those commentators and obsess with balance and breadth – knowing that that breadth most certainly includes the issues of the Right.