Jonathan Sheppard (of the Despatch Box blog) was the Conservative Party Candidate in Bassetlaw in the 2005 General Election. He works in Government Relations for a major High Street retailer based in Nottingham, and is also unpaid political adviser to a Shadow Minister. Jonathan submitted this article to conservativehome before the Blackpool Conference.
I joined the Conservative party in 1990 – and now aged thirty I have already spent half of my life already as a Conservative. Ever since I have been old enough to vote, the Conservatives have lost General Election after General Election – the upshot being that the party has now lost three in a row, the fist time in modern democracy.
Unless you have been stranded on a desert island, you couldn’t help to notice that the party is once again in the midst of a leadership election. This time I would suggest the decision taken by the party is more important than ever. The public are getting weary of our party changing leaders in the hope that it will bring better results. We don’t want to become just like the football club who gets a new manager yet doesn’t shake up the squad, but still expects a better performance on the pitch.
I am not one of those who is prepared to criticise any of the candidates who have put themselves forward for this election. We are all Conservatives, and there is a frustration I and many others share, in that since May 5th we have let the current Government get on with doing what ever they want – while we have focussed our guns inwards.
There are many good candidates, but for me one man, (and this time it is a man) stands head and shoulders above the rest. That man is David Davis.
Critics have said we need a “big beast” to take on Gordon Brown, but I say big beasts can be slow, cumbersome, and often become extinct – especially in modern day politics.
What the party needs is an agile, and disciplined performer, and that man is David Davis.
Much of the debate has focussed on whether a candidate is a moderniser or a traditionalist. In Davis I say we have the best of both worlds. We have a candidate who is rightly Eurosceptic, a candidate who believes wholeheartedly that hard working people pay too much tax, yet at the same time believes that we need to reform public services, not smash them, and I am sure is committed to reforming the party internally to ensure we are best placed to take the fight to Labour.
But what of the criticism which is thrown at David Davis? Some say he lazy – yet at the same time he is accused of being a hard task master as a boss, having the cheek to call people at 11:00pm at night. You mean to say he brings the drive of a business-man to the world of politics? I say more of it!
Some say that his parliamentary experience isn’t as wide as the other candidates. I point to his Chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee and more recently his masterful handling of the Home Office brief as just two examples of what a Davis could look like. Given that crime and the war and terror are likely to dominate the political agenda for years to come, there can be no better preparation for party leader than having been in charge of that portfolio.
I was once told that where you come from isn’t as important as where you going, however that is only half true. Where you come from can shape your opinions, and can be a determining factor in where you may end up. I can’t remember the amount of times I was told “You aren’t a typical Tory” when I was on the door-step in Bassetlaw, by people including ex miners and public sector workers. This was down to my background, which included the fact that I was from the East Midlands, I had worked the majority of my working life in the public sector, and I knew what it was like to be brought up in a single parent family. In short I could empathise with them, and in return they were prepared to give me a fair hearing. David Davis wasn’t born into the Conservative party – he chose it, and therefore his convictions are all the more stronger for it.
If we are to win those voters who deserted us for Labour in 1997, from the urban areas, and from the North and Midlands, then we need a leader who can go into those Labour areas, and make people think twice about the party. They may not agree with everything we say, but if they think, “Well their leader went to a state school; he was brought up by a single parent family – he knows about modern day pressures” then we are half-way there. It would be a fool who discounts a persons background.
His ability to see off the Lib Dems decapitation strategy in his own back yard, trebling his majority in the process just goes to show what we can expect in campaigning terms under a Davis leadership – a will to win.
Some may say that I am not the best person to judge the merits of David Davis. I would say you are right. But perhaps his colleagues are in the best place to past judgement – and at the time of writing he already has the support of 66 Conservative MPs.
Any future leader has to have the confidence of his colleagues in Parliament, and must ensure he draws upon the experience of people from across the spectrum of the party. Only David Davis has shown he can achieve this.
His recently launched manifesto highlights his desire for “Changing Britain, Improving Lives”. For this to happen it is essential that the Conservative Party re-discover its will to win. Under David Davis I am sure it will.
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