The headline of this post is taken from an article in today’s Times by Sam Coates (not ConservativeHome’s Samuel Coates!). It’ll give ConservativeHome’s Sam and I plenty to talk to him about when the three of us have lunch together next week.
I know that there are a fair number of people in CCHQ who would prefer that this website did not exist but it is wrong to suggest that many high-ups want "war" with this site. David Cameron and Steve Hilton were very warm when I chatted with them in Nottingham. Members of the shadow cabinet and their staff are in touch with me on a daily basis – sharing news and offering comments. An MP writes for this site most weeks. I’m having lunch with Francis Maude next week for a catch-up. The Times’ Sam Coates quotes one "senior Tory close to Mr Cameron" as saying about ConservativeHome that “it’s 30 people talking to 30 people." The party leadership knows that that isn’t true. Many thousands of activists, parliamentarians and journalists visit this site every week because it offers the most comprehensive account of developments in the Conservative Party. At Nottingham I lost count of the number of people who came up to me to say how much they valued this website. ‘It’s the only way I find out what’s really going on,’ was the most frequently-made comment. The blog threads aren’t representative – and I have never suggested that they are – but the monthly survey is a fair insight into the mood of the Tory grassroots.
Given what The Times has written today I thought I’d recap on the main purposes of this website – as Sam and I see it:
- To provide a one-stop guide to all major developments in the Conservative Party. The front page is the guide to all of those developments and it is what David Cameron told me he found most useful.
To contend for the ‘And theory of Conservatism.’ I advocated this ‘And theory’ well before Mr Cameron became Tory leader – it is, in fact, the inspiration for the masthead of this site. The eleven shields represent eleven great components of the conservative movement (from left to right): home and family, prosperity, personal compassion, law and order, the worth of every human life, faith, conservation, the power of culture, patriotism, internationalism and political participation. I believe that the Conservative Party is at its politically most potent when it is not narrowly focused on a few issues but determined to be a government-in-waiting – blending a familar focus on tax and crime, for example, with a passion for social justice and a cleaner environment. As I wrote recently – for The Guardian – that balance is beginning to emerge more clearly and is driving the party’s improved opinion poll performance.
- To give party members a voice. There are still too many people in the Conservative Party with a we-know-best attitude. John Maples’ weekend remarks to ToryRadio that he could get "the right candidates in the right seats" with "the right percentages of women and ethnic minority candidates" were very unfortunate and revealed an anti-grassroots mindset that sits at odds with the party’s emphasis on localism. ConservativeHome’s traffic first started to rise when we campaigned against Michael Howard’s attempts to take the vote away from members in the election of his successor. This site covered that story when the national newspapers largely ignored it. We’ll continue to champion a more democratic, open party and are ready to defend members’ voting rights in the selection of European Parliamentary candidates.
ConservativeHome is, of course, far from perfect and I know you won’t hesitate to use the thread below to tell me where we’re going wrong. All comments – particularly constructive ones (!) are always very welcome…
PS The ConservativeHome masthead appears on the mug that you receive if you donate £35 or more to the CH Appeal.