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 Arlington, Virginia.
It’s often said that life is a series of regrets. For those who are truly interested in politics, one of the most frequent regrets is missing a meeting that others wax lyrical about for weeks (or even years) on end.
I was privileged to hear Enoch Powell speak on two occasions, neither of which was televised or recorded for posterity. Regardless of one’s views of Powell, it cannot be disputed that he was one of the most influential and important political figures of the past fifty years.
I also had the privilege of hearing then Labour leader, John Smith, when I was at university a few weeks before his death. Many of us discussed earnestly whether or not we should attend what was essentially a Labour Students event. We feared being a focal point of abuse and invective and also thought that by boycotting this speaker meeting, we would be making some kind of (still unclear even to this day) statement. Thankfully common sense prevailed, we attended, we entered into banter with John Smith during his remarks and I have a memory that will last a lifetime of attending a speech given by a principled, if misguided, statesman.
By contrast I was unable to attend the 2005 Conservative Party Conference as I was working in the Caribbean. I therefore missed out on seeing in person the leadership hustings that were pivotal in propelling David Cameron into the pole position. Despite seeing Cameron and Davis’ speeches on tape since then, I missed out not only on hearing the speeches given live at the time but also perhaps more importantly I missed out on seeing first hand the fascinating manoeuvring of the rival candidates’ lieutenants and supporters.
Sometimes what is said at
these meetings is recorded for posterity. Margaret Thatcher’s “Not for
Turning” speech, her famous Bruges speech, Kinnock’s performance at
Sheffield, Howard Flight’s remarks during the last general election
campaign – all of these were recorded and made available for
journalists, historians and political analysts. With the advent of
C-SPAN (and, most recently, 18 Doughty Street Talk TV) those of us who
are self-confessed political nerds are able to watch political meetings
on television. 18 Doughty Street has already broadcast the recent
Battle of Ideas conference organized by Claire Fox (who has her own
programme on 18 Doughty Street called “Claire Fox News”) and the
channel will also be broadcasting from conferences or speaker meetings
organized by other organisations within the broader conservative
It is the enabling of so many activists to have access to meetings they
might otherwise miss that is at the heart of 18 Doughty Street. The
more that conservative activists see what other parts of the movement
are doing, the better we will all understand how the conservative
movement operates and how we can work together to advance our shared
The Conservative Home Awards that took place last Monday (and which
were broadcast on 18 Doughty Street on Tuesday) saw the first gathering
of the British conservative movement, from its leaders to its foot
soldiers. And yet while there were shadow cabinet members, MPs,
think-tank leaders and prominent bloggers and journalists present,
there was none of the feeling of “them and us” that has so often
permeated Party Conferences over the years. The sheer level of access
voluntarily and willingly offered by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith,
George Osborne and Richard Bacon, to name but three, is not only a
credit to them personally but to Conservative Home for recognizing the
importance in democratizing both the public policy process and the
internal communication channels of the Conservative Party itself.
Those of who missed the Conservative Home Awards missed out on the
start of something truly innovative and remarkable. Watching the Awards
on 18 Doughty Street is all very worthwhile and I would encourage you
to do so if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so. Nonetheless
attending the Awards and talking to so many committed and passionate
conservatives before and after the ceremony itself – of all levels of
experience and influence – made the evening so thoroughly worthwhile.
Roll on next year’s Awards!