Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation,
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
I have written previously in connection with a related Law of the Public Policy Process (Politics is of the heart as well as of the mind: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care). One of the great mistakes that the Conservative Party has made in recent years is that the smug bien pensant elites who took over the Labour Party in the 1990s have been able to appeal in an uncontested manner to voters’ hearts. Conservatives won the battle of ideas but left the battle for voters’ hearts wide open for Labour.
It seems that while the Cameroon approach is to moderate the Party’s policy platform so as to broaden the Party’s appeal, the Party is now also exhibiting moral outrage as a campaigning or presentational device. This may be a cynical viewpoint. The moral outrage so apparent this week in connection with the John Prescott affair may not be as a result of feigned indignation. It may be genuine. And it may be particularly genuine as a consequence of Labour having been in office for nine years and the wholesale lack of achievement of the Labour government.
It is certainly quite an achievement to make John Major’s troubled final term in office (1992-97) seem to be competent, successful and unsleazy but the scandals surrounding John Prescott, Tessa Jowell, Peter Mandelson (twice), David Blunkett (also twice) and Cherie Blair (I have lost count) are managing to do just that.
The passage of time has certainly helped. In its earliest days in power, Blair’s government was engulfed in the Ecclestone donation scandal but the Zeitgeist was very much against the Conservatives and in favour of Our Dear Leader, Teflon Tony. Now, after 9 years of underachievement and a growing smell in the air, the scandals are beginning to stick and the Party’s moral outrage is starting to work to its advantage.
The motivational power of moral outrage certainly encouraged a sizeable
number of voters to desert the Tories in 1997. Now it is working to the
Tories’ advantage. In 2005, the sense of moral outrage felt by country
sports enthusiasts worked to secure excellent local results for the
Party – most notably in Hammersmith & Fulham where a substantial
number of campaigners were huntsmen.
To many of us tax and regulation are moral issues too – and if the
Party grasps the nettle it will succeed in motivating voters, activists
and donors alike. Businessmen in all walks of life are struggling under
the burden of Labour’s tax increases and the ever growing burden of
regulation. If businesses suffer, we all suffer. And yet the Party is
failing to capitalise on this sense of moral outrage – the guardians of
our morality are The Taxpayers’ Alliance.
While there are clearly merits for a non-partisan activist organisation
to campaign on tax and regulation, that campaign would have a greater
chance of success if the Tories took to the barricades too (or at the
least gave tacit support). However in the interests of what some see as
appeasing the BBC and Guardian, the Party will not be adhering to sound
doctrine in this regard at the next election.
Britain is being governed by a rotten government. All of us will have
sensed from conversations with work colleagues and friends that the
mood is running against Blair and Brown and that it is increasingly
running in favour of Cameron (and to a markedly lesser extent the Party
It was once said that people are governed by the government they
deserve. It is no longer good enough for those who feel oppressed by
Labour to sit on their hands and to whine about the state of the
country without doing something about it.
If you feel the same sense of embarrassment and disgust that I do when
I see political pygmies, liars and crooks representing this country in
the chancellories of Europe and on the world stage, you need to make
sure that you transmit that sense of moral outrage to others. Once
enough voters feel sufficiently repulsed at the concept of Blair,
Brown, Prescott et al being our government, those voters will desert
Labour. Provided the Conservatives offer a coherent, sensible and
optimistic vision for the country, I am confident that the Party can
convert the growing sense of moral outrage into electoral success.
Previous entry in this series: In moments of crisis, the initiative passes to those who are best prepared