Neil Reddin, a Councillor in the London Borough of Bromley, looks ahead to the election after next.
We no doubt benefited from protest votes last Thursday, only some of
whom may be likely to turn voting Conservative into a habit come the
General Election. Even so there are also those who, as Boris Johnson
identified, had their pencils hovering for a moment before voting for
us. Come 2010, the hoverers could well make the difference between us
winning and losing – or, being optimistic, between a wafer thin or a
stonking majority. It will be the likes of the NUT member who admitted
to voting Conservative, on a radio phone-in show last Friday, who could
make that difference.
The bigger challenge in our first four years in government will be to
crystallise those pencil wavers into habitual Conservative voters. Part
of that process, of winning the 2014 General Election, must begin now.
The best way to sustain the new Conservative revival, in the long term,
is not so much to keep the party closer to the centre of the political
spectrum (though that is invariably where elections are won from), but
to shift that centre point rightwards. We have a window of opportunity
in the next few years, a period when people are no longer shy of
admitting voting Conservative, a period when we have the ear of the
media at last.
We all aware that the Left have long been a prime influence in those institutions and bodies that play a largely unseen, yet key, role in implementing policy and forming public opinion, and which have as much an effect on national life as any administration in Whitehall. Look at any consultation document – from government white papers to a local “partnership” body planning a new project to promote “social inclusion” and toward the back of the document you will find a page-long (or more) list of bodies (many publicly funded or at least receiving state patronage of some form) of whom most of the general public have never heard – all contributing to the enactment of public policy and influencing the direction in which we are forced to live our lives.
Looking back, how was it that trendy educational theories continued to be advanced in our schools, even through Mrs Thatcher’s time in power? More recently, we will all have noticed the tendency for proposed solutions to environmental problems to involve the typically Left-wing responses of excessive regulation and taxation.
The point is that a sustainably Conservative Britain will require more than simply having a good Conservative majority in the House of Commons.
So we must now use the opportunity to start to break that hegemony of the Left.
We need to change the baseline assumptions that so many in the public sector and elsewhere use. Whether it’s in public bodies, charities and major campaigning groups, professional associations or trade bodies (yes, even trade unions) we have the chance now to change the script. Why shouldn’t there be, say, more Conservative members of Greenpeace, or trade unionists? It’s the entire Conservative movement – not just the Party – that must make the moral and social case for low taxation and small government wherever it needs to be made, after decades when both old leftist assumptions and trendy liberal fads have affected our lives, from education to the media, health to the environment and beyond. It is time to move the ideological battles from the think tanks to a wider arena.
The Conservative movement must grasp this chance to make, once again, the Conservative Party the natural party of government.