If you haven’t read the contributions to ConservativeHome’s What David Cameron Should Do Next series you can click here to scroll through them all. For those who do not have the time here is my quick summary of some of what was said:
More conservative balance in Project Cameron: Matthew Parris urged David Cameron not to be "spooked" by talk of an early General Election. The Times’ columnist encouraged the Conservative leader to cherry pick from the policy groups with "relaxed command" and identify at least one "distinctively and obviously Conservative policy". Keep the "huggy, caring or green stuff", he wrote, but "no more pictures with poor people" – instead look increasingly prime ministerial by being photographed with "powerful people".
Stop the public strategising: Janet Daley’s piece included advice repeated later by Nick Wood and John O’Sullivan. Stop thinking, she wrote, about “what do we have to do to become popular again?” and ask “what does the country need?” John O’Sullivan called for the public strategising to stop. Nick Wood wrote: "Cameron must start to campaign for what is right and stop worrying about whether the BBC and The Guardian will judge it popular – a lot of the time they won’t." ‘Umbrella man’, under Janet’s article, wrote: "Seek to serve the nation and the nation will entrust you with office. Seek office and the nation will not trust you."
The need for better party management: Fiona Melville and James Forsyth addressed the leadership-grassroots relationship. Fiona suggested that the grassroots needed to convey the same modernising, optimistic message as the leadership. Conveying optimism was also a theme of Danny Finkelstein’s contribution. Fiona wasn’t afraid to criticise the central operation either and called for CCHQ to beef up its approach. Spamming out daily press releases wasn’t good enough, she said. James critiqued the leader’s approach to party management and regretted David Cameron’s "bashing" of Ali Miraj, Stanley Kalms and Graham Brady during a recent Today programme interview. "Understand," he wrote, "that not everyone who criticises [you] is a dinosaur or a glory hunter." He might also have mentioned the attacks on the grassroots as "delusional" during grammarsgate.
Confronting Gordon Brown (or not):
One of the more controversial suggestions came from Danny Finkelstein.
Stop being oppositionalist, he wrote: "You can’t influence people’s
view of Brown, just their view of you." Ruth Lea and Nick Wood
disagreed. "Gordon Brown’s 10 years of damage to the economy’s
underlying health needs to be robustly challenged," wrote Ruth. Nick
called for an agressive anti-Brown campaign "to run right through
September – to demonstrate that nothing has changed". Convince voters,
he said, that the Government led by Brown is essentially the same as
the one led by Blair that had come to be viewed with contempt.
Talk about Europe again: Ruth
Lea, John O’Sullivan and particularly Alexander Deane all thought the
party should talk a little more about Europe – and Brown’s broken EU
referendum pledge, in particular. Alex called
for a policy group to be established on Europe: "There should be no
limits placed on its thinking. If, contrary to experience thus far,
our involvement with this domineering institution can be made to work
to our advantage, good. If not, we should be prepared to leave." CCHQ Spy
asked a good question in response to Alex’s piece: ‘Who would chair
this policy group?’: "Someone like John Gummer would send the sceptics
mad. Someone like Bernard Jenkin would alarm the Clarkeites. Someone
grey like John Maples would indicate that the report would be fudged."
Personally I believe that crime and immigration are more potent issues
at the moment than the other core vote issues of tax and Europe.
Stop appeasing the establishment: That was the key message of John O’Sullivan’s piece.
Margaret Thatcher’s former special adviser wrote: "“Project Cameron” is
rooted in the assumption that the current intellectual and cultural
climate in Britain cannot be seriously challenged. It must therefore be
appeased. But even if the Tories could be elected by appeasing a
fundamentally inhospitable culture—which is doubtful—they would then
have to steer by the same stars in government, probably onto the rocks.
Once you accept that victory in the next election is unlikely, however,
you can begin the long process of persuading the nation, including the
media, that such values as patriotism, self-reliance, and
enterprise—and such approaches as choice, competition, and diversity of
provision in public services—are both admirable and sensible." It is
certainly Oliver Letwin’s view that oppositions can’t really change
public attitudes. Oliver may be right – I hope and believe not – but
to embrace that view as a way of politics is tantamount to intellectual
I plan to make my own short contribution tomorrow morning.