Donal Blaney is the Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation.
The stunning victory of the No2AV campaign is a personal triumph for Matthew Elliott, its director. True, it could not have happened but for the support of the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party machine (and its donors). But No2AV was the epitome of an understated, cautious, well-run and organized campaign – although this should come as no surprise to those us who are longstanding fans of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Had Matthew Elliott not marshaled as coherent a team and strategy as he did, and had No2AV lost, the Conservative Party might never have governed alone again. The stakes were that high. Having worked through the TPA to save conservatism when its fortunes were at its nadir, Elliott has help to save Conservatism too. If he doesn’t deserve a peerage, who does?
He deserves our heartfelt thanks – as do those who worked closely with him, whose numbers make up the increasingly influential conservative movement in Britain. Indeed the outstanding result in the referendum ought to act as a reminder and wake-up call to the Prime Minister and his comrades at CCHQ: the conservative movement is an ally, not the enemy. Its organizations and leaders ought to be treated as a welcome help and not as an embarrassing hindrance.
Despite changing the terms of the public spending debate, the TPA remains with its face pressed up to the windows of the Treasury, just as the IEA has done since 1990. ConHome’s founder, Tim Montgomerie, wrote that he’d received a telling off for daring to say that he’d prefer UKIP to do better than the LibDems at the polls this week (a view shared with the majority of his readers, me included). Well-written and thoughtfully argued reports from too many conservative think-tanks and campaign groups regularly go unread by ministers.
I wrote nearly four years ago that the Conservative Party ought to handle conservative coalition relations with greater care and imagination. The conservative movement is stronger now than could have been imagined when Stephan Shakespeare, Tim Montgomerie, Matthew Elliott and I first discussed how best to coordinate its activities 4 years ago this month in a meeting that culminated in the launch of monthly meetings of its constituent groups under the auspices of the TPA.
The conservative movement can help to advance and protect conservatism. The interests of the conservative movement and the Conservative Party will not necessarily coalesce all the time – just as the interests of trades unions and the labour movement are not ad idem with those of the Labour Party at all times.
On occasions the conservative movement will say or do things that the Conservative Party may utterly oppose (or usually, based on my experience, secretly endorse). That does not mean that the groups comprising the conservative movement should be marginalized, denigrated or ignored, as still happens far too often. They should be embraced – sometimes publicly, always privately. Hopefully Team Cameron finally understands that after this week’s momentous referendum victory. If so then that is another thing for us all to be thankful to Matthew Elliott for.
That way the Party can leverage the expertise, drive and enthusiasm of the conservative movement to the mutual benefit of the other. After all, we cannot rely on Chris Huhne and Ed Miliband being around to score own goals in every future campaign.