Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles is a former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
This morning, I will be presenting my review of the general election to the National Conservative Convention in Manchester. Party members will the first to hear and read my presentation of the conclusions.
At the 2017 general election, we increased our vote share by 5.5 per cent. But we lost our majority, and lost 13 seats, net (gaining 20, losing 33). I have been a member of the Conservative & Unionist Party for a few months shy of fifty years. I was a Member of Parliament for twenty five years. Eighteen of those were in the bleak years of opposition. I worked hard to get a Conservative majority government elected; so, at this election, I felt very keenly the loss of our seats and majority, along with many of the colleagues I worked alongside. That has not blinded me into the delusion that one thing caused our setback, however. Many of the problems we encountered have been present at previous general elections, to some degree or other. I hope that this report is a frank and unblinking look at our Party, which will set a series of reforms in motion.
When the Prime Minister and the Party Chairman asked me to carry out this review, I wanted our Party to come out of the process stronger and more adept at campaigning, ready to take on our opponents and win. The recommendations speak for themselves, without spin. My report covers the following areas:
- Ensuring common ownership and full consultation on the manifesto,
- Re-establishing a Conservative youth organisation and better engagement with young people,
- Tackling the growing problem of intimidation and harassment,
- Ensuring CCHQ is prepared for elections, in partnership with local associations,
- Improving the processes for the selection and support of candidates,
- Widening our support amongst those of Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority backgrounds,
- Improving training and investing in people,
- Raising our game on social media and digital engagement,
- Enhancing our local briefings material and campaign literature on offer,
- Investing in better and more effective data, targeting, and research,
- Mobilising our activist base and upscaling our presence on the ground,
- Using incumbency to campaign more effectively.
There is one thought that threads though all of the 126 recommendations: canvassing, targeting, and campaigning is not just about getting our Conservative message across. Of equal importance is listening to the electorate and the people of our great island nation. The strength of our Party over the years is that it has always spoken for our people.
In the coming months, we shall be judged on our leadership on Brexit, the economy, our place in a turbulent world, and the many difficult social issues facing us. To do that, we need to be present in the country as a whole, and for our country to be unambiguously certain that we are listening to it, and acting decisively on its behalf.
I would like to thank the 6,000+ party members who responded to the online survey, the 400+ members who attended meetings across the country, the 169 volunteers, staff, and candidates interviewed by the review team, and the 500+ MPs, candidates, councillors, and activists who provided detailed suggestions and feedback. I would particularly like to thank, for their assistance, my top chums: Graham Brady, Mick Davis, Nus Ghani, Patrick McLoughlin, and Rob Semple.
At this election, we faced a united and coordinated left that supported Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. We ourselves now need to encourage and cooperate with people and organisations on the centre right who share our beliefs in freedom, responsible markets, enterprise, social justice, and the rule of law. The battle for ideas that moved through our country when I joined the Conservative Party five decades ago were decisively won; but now, the benefits are taken for granted.
In my Whitehall office as a Minister, over my left shoulder, facing visitors, was a photograph of Che Guevara. It was there to remind me that, without constant vigilance, the cigar-chomping Commies will take over once again. Last week’s Labour Party Conference should remind all of us that such vigilance is needed more than ever.
At Conference this week, Conservatives will be showing how we are getting on with the job of government, and setting out the road to a better future for our country. Our task is to show that Conservative values offer our country the best chance for prosperity, social justice, and security. The Party — our partnership of elected representatives, volunteers, and professionals — itself needs to reform and look to the future to support that mission. I hope this is a blueprint for Conservatives to win decisively at the next election and save our country from the real and credible threat of a Corbyn-led Marxist regime.
You can download and read the full review here conservatives.com/gereview.