Chad Noble of the Centre for Progressive Conservatism explains his mission.
The Conservative Party has come a long way in the seven months since I joined it in the wake of yet another election defeat. At that stage there seemed little chance of the Party adopting a progressive outlook, so it became clear that progressive conservatives would have to stop hoping and start doing something.
My hope was briefly raised by an unexpected invitation to the ‘Case For Change’ C-Change meeting in July, but despite the appearance of a few modernisers, there was little sign of any real progressive ideas beyond the realisation that wholesale change was needed.
Progressive Conservatism, the fusion of conservative and liberal values that has been increasing in popularity outside political parties around the world seemed one modernising agenda too far for the Tory Party.
What is Progressive Conservatism and how does it differ from the progressive approach adopted by David Cameron?
Like Howard Dean’s effective use of the internet for campaign fundraising, progressive conservatives around the world have been coming together on forums and blogs to share ideas and plan the return of values-based politics. At the centre of this movement, have been dedicated thinkers in the USA like Randy Piper who have been actively seeking out and supporting progressive conservatives like myself.
The power of Progressive Conservatism hit me when I began to visit the different progressive sites outside the UK and saw how independently similar their core values were. It became clear that these progressive conservatives were espousing a values-based approach to politics and had real vision combined with practical, clearly-defined values and principles. This inspiring values-based method of policy-making was a refreshing and stark contrast to the ‘catchy policy’ approach adopted by other political parties and movements.
Although we share many similarities, ProgCons differ from the looser progressive framework adopted by David Cameron as we drive policy formation through five core values, integrating the linguistic framing work of George Lakoff to present a simple and clear message; 5 core values and a strict ‘No Preference, No Prejudice’ approach.
What are our 5 core values and how do they affect policy?
Mother Nation: We believe that we are responsible enough to live and run our own lives free from excessive government intervention whilst accepting that we do sometimes need state support. Mother Nation, the opposite of ‘Nanny State’, applies at both a national and international level and has led to our call for a pro-European EA (European Alliance) alternative to the EU.
Good Neighbour: This is the common core belief of all progressives, one of community. This value reflects our actions and responsibilities within our community, our country and our planet. Good neighbour values are those that understand the need to ensure that actions taken to benefit us do not harm others in the process.
One-For-All: By promoting individual excellence and achievement, we benefit the whole of our society. This frame was adopted to contrast with a selfish and greedy ‘all-for-one’ approach.
Majority Rule: We believe that our elected representatives and organisations at all levels should reflect the views and aims of those they represent without external interference or bias. With Majority Rule we are seeking to address both the electoral system and the use of party whips.
Clear Water: clear water promotes transparency and openness to independent inspection to reflect honesty and prevent dishonest governmental manipulation. Clear Water reflects the essential importance of Government accountability.
Back in August, with little sign of any movement within the Tory Party itself to adopt a progressive agenda we ProgCons formed a new political party to seek to promote our core values and ‘No Preference, No Prejudice’ approach to work alongside the Tories to influence them from the ‘outside in’. However, we decided to remain dormant until after the Tory leadership election, in the faint hope (we’re optimists at heart) that a progressive candidate would emerge.
As we now know, a progressive candidate did not just emerge, but he took the Party conference by storm and won a mandate to lead the party by a solid margin of over 2 to 1. The Tory party did not just begrudgingly open its eyes to change but embraced it with a commanding victory for Cameron.
The tectonic plates are indeed shifting, but the rising force in this movement, with new ideas and hope is once again a conservative one.
ProgCon has now reformed as the Centre for Progressive Conservatism to both support David Cameron’s progressive agenda during the inevitable knock-backs over the next few years, and to encourage him to come even closer to our progressive conservative values and approach.
We will continue to promote not just our core values that overlap with Cameron’s agenda, but to ensure we highlight the areas where we differ too, like ensuring that ‘No Preference, No Prejudice’ is adopted. We ProgCons like many others know that ‘positive discrimination’ is just discrimination.
We will continue to actively fight for the removal of prejudice, not the addition of new well-meaning, but misguided layers of ugly prejudice tagged as ‘preference’. We will seek to restore real equality by removing prejudice on a wide range of issues from electoral candidates, an equal parliament for England to giving children equal protection from passive smoking.
The Conservatives now have a positive, forward-looking agenda, and will grow in support through not just this progressive approach but the backward-facing attacks from New Labour and the LibDems. With the opposition stuck attacking the ghost of Tory past, David Cameron, by continuing his progressive agenda and hopefully moving closer still to ProgCons’ values and approach can look forward to winning not just the next election, but many elections to come.