Later this afternoon I’ll post on ‘next steps for the core vote issues’ but here are a few thoughts on what, not particularly accurately, could be described as ‘moderniser or change issues’.
Although I’m very glad to see the party ‘rebalancing’ it is important that the party does not retreat into the core vote territory that was insufficient at recent General Elections. I have no doubt that David Cameron will remain committed to his change agenda but it’s important that the change agenda is also fully consistent with conservative principles…
Continuing to emphasise the public services. Our polices on schools and hospitals are a bit timid but they’re much superior to the command and control policies of Gordon Brown.
The environment. Earlier this month I promoted the idea of ‘achievable environmentalism’. I mentioned planting trees, recycling, cutting waste, investing in renewables, protecting natural habitats. John Redwood has written today about "practical environmentalism" and highlighted more fuel efficient vehicles, better energy conservation and more intelligent traffic management. Conservatives should be a party of conservation but not a party of higher green taxes or heavy restrictions on development (eg airport expansion).
Social justice. At Tuesday’s Carlton Club dinner David Cameron noted that there were 600,000 more people living in extreme poverty. The very poorest have got poorer under Labour. Britain needs a Conservative approach to poverty. Stronger families. A freer, more dynamic voluntary sector. Zero tolerance of crime and drugs. School choice. I have no doubt that the leadership is 100% committed to these core themes of a ‘progressive conservatism’.
International development. It was overshadowed by the fuss over the Rwanda trip, but Peter Lilley produced an excellent report on fighting global poverty. I hope Andrew Mitchell, Alan Duncan and George Osborne will be able to embrace many of Peter’s recommendations this week. I’d also like the party to take more action against the trade of arms to despotic regimes. I also wish we’d spoken out against the cancellation of the BAe-Saudi bribery investigation.
Respect for gay people. Many people oppose David Cameron’s belief that gay couples should be recognised in a similar way to married couples. I don’t. I support the freedom of religious adoption agencies to be able to refuse to place children with gay couples but it’s right that a modern Conservative Party is a defender of the rights of adult gay people.
Candidate diversity. I never supported the A-list but there are many advantages in having more diverse candidates. More people with roots in the north and in the public and voluntary sectors, for example. Candidate diversity shouldn’t just be about more women and more ethnic minorities. We should be actively recruiting candidates with real knowledge of poverty-fighting and environmental protection.
Changes of tone. Another change for the party to maintain is the change of tone. Sometimes our party’s rhetoric has been too harsh. In the last campaign our posters accusing Tony Blair of being a liar reflected more on us than on him. Our campaigning can still be negative but it shouldn’t be personal.