The Conservatives are launching "Stand Up, Speak Up – The Nation’s Despatch Box" this weekend – like Labour’s big conversation but more big and more interactive.

Saying "no experts have a monopoly on good ideas", Cameron is asking local associations to organise meetings to discuss policy. In a very welcome development, the Party’s website will host online discussions and votes moderated by the policy group teams.

Although it is something that could have been done earlier in Stage One (which ends in the next few months as the groups report their recommendations) of the policy reviews, this will be part of Stage Two – seeing if there are any bright ideas that have been missed, and giving Team Cameron an idea of what is popular.

The Telegraph have got a copy of the letter to be sent from David Cameron to association chairmen, MPs and PPCs…

Deputy Editor

"Over the past eighteen months we have set out a new
direction for our Party: more green, more local, more family-friendly;
less arrogant about what politicians can deliver from the centre, and
more optimistic about what individual people can achieve if we trust
them to do the best for themselves, their families and their

We have already made a number of key
policy commitments, including the abolition of ID cards and regional
assemblies; improving our nation’s security with a new dedicated border
police force, and shifting the burden of taxation from good things like
families and business onto bad things like pollution.

the centrepiece of our policy development process is the comprehensive
Policy Review that I asked Oliver Letwin to lead eighteen months ago.
Stage one of that process is now coming to an end. Six main Policy
Groups and over twenty taskforces will in the next few months make
their recommendations to the Party and the public.

I made clear at the outset, those recommendations do not automatically
become Conservative policy. There will be some proposals which we do
not agree with. In some areas, hard choices will have to be made
between competing priorities. And of course, as George Osborne has made
clear, no policies will be adopted until they have been properly costed
by our Treasury team.

But there is an even more
important reason why we will not simply adopt the recommendations of
our Policy Groups wholesale. It goes to the heart of our Conservative
philosophy – and the big divide in British politics today, between our
approach and Gordon Brown’s. We want to see a complete change from the
top-down centralisation of the last ten years. We believe in social
responsibility, in trusting the wisdom, experience and judgment of the
British people. That’s how we helped transform our economy in the
1980s, and that’s how we’ll help transform our society in the years
ahead, applying Conservative principles to challenges like reversing
social breakdown, tackling crime and reforming our public services.

we move into the second stage of our Policy Review, I want us to apply
the same Conservative principles to the business of making policy. I
want us to end the age of top-down, ‘we know best’ politics. Politics
should be bottom-up and open – driven by the passions and priorities of
the public. Many hundreds of experts have worked on our Policy Review,
and I’m hugely grateful to them for the time and dedication they have
brought to the task. But no experts have a monopoly on good ideas, and
I want us to be the party that harnesses the ideas and enthusiasm of
everyone in this country, not just the political elite.

I’m writing to you now to explain the central role which I want our
candidates and local associations to play in the next stage of our
Policy Review. We will shortly be launching Stand up, Speak up – The
Nation’s Despatch Box. This will be a campaign for public involvement
in shaping the next Conservative manifesto, bringing Parliament’s
Despatch Box – a key symbol of our democracy – to the people of Britain.

want everyone with an interest or an expertise to get involved in
debating our Policy Group reports. I want local Conservative
associations across the country to organise meetings for members of the
public to have their say. There will also be online discussions hosted
at and moderated by the Policy Review team.

who wants to participate in these policy debates will be able to sign
up, either to discuss the Review as a whole or those aspects of policy
that interest them. We will give people opportunities to weigh up
different priorities, rank preferences and vote in online forums. The
results of these public discussions will be reviewed by the Shadow
Cabinet, and along with the views of our members, councillors, MPs,
MSPs, AMs and MEPs will then shape the preparation of our election

Francis Maude will be in touch soon
with more details of the Stand Up, Speak Up campaign, and the practical
support we will be offering you in your key role of facilitating this
unprecedented national policy debate.

This is an
exciting time in our Party’s history. We have a real prospect of
forming the next Government, and of changing our country for the
better. With the imminent publication of the Policy Group reports, we
are firmly established on the course I set out eighteen months ago.
With your leadership at the local level, over the next few months we
will conduct the biggest and most wide-ranging grass roots policy
debate Britain has ever seen.

In the Autumn, Party
members and activists will have their say at our conference in
Blackpool, and there will be a series of discussions with our elected
representatives. Soon after, and once the Shadow Cabinet has evaluated
the full range of policy proposals and responses, we will move to the
third stage of our Policy Review – the publication of our draft
programme for government.

So the next few months
will be busy – and I hope very much that you will play a leading role
in this great debate, and this opportunity to take our message of
change, optimism and hope to everyone in our country.

I look forward to working with you in the months ahead."

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