Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public
Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the
Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
has often been remarked that the Conservative Party is a broad church.
Over the years the Party has managed to bring together under its wing
those who believe in protectionism alongside free-marketeers, wets and
dries, and in more recent years Eurosceptics and federalists.
advice from Morton Blackwell under this week’s Law is that any
campaign, administration, committee or indeed government should
comprise as many people who are to the right of the candidate or
elected official as there are to his left.
is little doubt that Margaret Thatcher was the clearest example of a
conviction politician in the last century. She advanced the careers of
those who were "true believers" and referred to them as "One of Us".
Nonetheless she was not overtly factional in her appointments. While it
may be the case that the likes of Norman Tebbit, Nicholas Ridley and
Cecil Parkinson might not have held as high positions under other
leaders as they did under Thatcher, the fact is that Thatcher also
worked to include a number of people in her team who did not
instinctively share her beliefs – Pym, Prior, Heseltine, Gilmour and, of course, Whitelaw.
only began to encounter difficulties within the Party when she ceased
to operate a "balanced ticket".
Major too was afflicted by such
difficulties given that his cabinet was dominated by one particular
wing of the Party (Hurd, Clarke, Heseltine and Rifkind) to the
detriment of the Thatcherite Eurosceptic right. This imbalance left
Major open to attack from his right flank and helped undermine his
position of Tony Blair is particularly interesting. His cabinet has
included a number of people who are "true believers" (it is hard to
conceive of anyone who would be able to be to HIS right!) but it has
been light on those whose views are radically to his left (with the
exception, perhaps, of Prescott and Hain). Blair’s strategy since 1994
has been to fight the left in his Party so as to show that he is a
quasi-presidential figure who is able to sit above the fray.
is a strategy that David Cameron seems to be wanting to duplicate.
Whereas Blair took on the Labour left, Cameron’s move to the centre is
also being presented as an attack on the Tory right. There is an
important difference for Cameron to bear in mind, however.
the Labour left was rightly blamed for Labour’s years in the electoral
wilderness (which arose directly as a result of the failures of
left-wing post-war Labour governments and the creed of Butskellism),
the attempts of certain of Cameron’s cheerleaders to denigrate the
achievements of the Tory right is misguided.
Tory governments of 1979-1997 (and in particular between 1979 and 1990)
were successful: they were so successful that much of Thatcher’s legacy
is beyond the realms of political debate. It is also revisionism of the
worst kind to say that the Party’s defeats in 1997, 2001 and 2005 were
because the Party ran on too right-wing a platform.
1997, the Party lost because of Party in-fighting, a weak message on
Europe and (most importantly) because Blair had convinced the
electorate that Labour had changed.
2001, the Party lost because the country wanted to give Blair another
chance (and because the Party’s main message – "Keep the Pound" – was
made irrelevant by Blair’s promise of a referendum).
2005, despite a sleazy government and an unpopular war, the Party lost
because its message was weak, bordering in the eyes of some on the
vacuous. It is therefore sloppy thinking to argue that the Party lost
three elections because it was too right-wing and that therefore the
Party needs to ditch anything that smacks of Thatcherism in favour of
being more Blairite than Blair.
before any unthinking Cameron-loyalists fire off posts haranguing me
for advocating a "dog whistle" or "core vote" agenda, I am not. I am
simply saying that modernisation (which I support insofar as I am able
to understand what it means) does not have to mean the wholesale
abandonment of long-held and electorally successful principles.
"Project Cameron" to succeed, he needs to ensure that his team – and
policy programme – are balanced. Wets need to be balanced by dries.
Thatcherites need to be balanced with centrists. Moves to the political
centre need to be balanced by offering reassurance to traditional
Conservative supporters that the Party still has a place for them.
the passengers on a boat all stand on one side of the boat at the same
time, it will flip over and sink; likewise the Conservative Party. To
win the Party needs to have a programme that excites and reassures. It
needs to be a balanced ticket.
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