Ahead of tonight’s first roadshow event Francis Maude, Conservative Party Chairman, ignites the debate about the Built To Last document…
“I really like David Cameron. He’s a breath of fresh air. But I need some convincing that the Conservative Party really is changing like he says it is.”
That’s a typical public reaction. More people today are willing to be convinced that we are a credible and appealing alternative Government than at any time since 1992. And loads of them positively want to be convinced. But they need to be shown that the Party really has changed from the Party they rejected three times in a row. That we haven’t just changed our Leader, but that we ourselves have changed.
We won’t do that just by asserting it. We’ll do it by showing in everything that every one of us says and does. By being the change. But we can also do it by voting for it. This isn’t a Clause 4. There isn’t one. Life would be simpler if there was. If there was a single symbolic switch to throw, as there was for Labour, how much easier it would be. Labour had to show that it had abandoned the ideological centrepiece of an approach that had manifestly been shown to have failed, both electorally and practically.
Our problem has been a different one. We have failed in recent elections not because timeless Conservative principles have failed or are wrong. People have been voting against us because they thought we were “stuck in the past”, “old-fashioned”, “cared only about the rich, not about ordinary people”.
So we need to set out what we stand for and what we are fighting for. Built to Last, which we published in late February, sets out pretty clearly the values, aims, approach and direction of the modern Conservative Party. It’s here. David’s introduction captures its direction:
“Our enduring values mean we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, championing freedom and supporting the institutions and culture we share as one nation. Conservatives are not ideologues. That is why in each generation we change, applying our values to new challenges.”
Modern Conservatism means fighting to improve the quality of life for everyone in our country. It means building a dynamic economy where we put economic stability first so people know their mortgages are safe, and a strong society. We need to improve public services for everyone, not help a few to opt out, and we must put climate change and sustainable environmental policy at the heart of our agenda, not just an afterthought.
We need to prove that these are our values, and show that the changes we are making to our party are real, meaningful and built to last. And we need to show that, unlike Labour’s quick fix culture, we will take a long-term approach to the big challenges facing Britain.
That’s why we want the whole Party to debate this document. We will be holding a series of roadshows across the country between now and late summer so that every member of the Party has the chance to express their views. The first roadshow is this evening in Hammersmith. You can find out where the others will be or take part in the online survey here.
This will be a vigorous debate, not least on this site. When it’s run its course, we’ll ask members to adopt a final version of this statement of aims and values by putting it to a ballot before the Party Conference in October.
Not all bloggers on ConservativeHome, I appreciate from my assiduous following of its threads, are fully convinced modernisers. But they’re mostly fair-minded. And they like an argument. So please read Built to Last. Take on its challenges: for example, that tax cuts will not take first place in our economic policy; that the right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich; that there is such a thing as society, but it’s not the same thing as the state.
Don’t hold back (as if you might). Here goes…