By Matthew Barrett
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My series profiling the backbench groups of Tory MPs often features groups with ideological goals, such as those representing the traditional right or Thatcherite wing of the Party. There have also been profiles of newer groups with less immediately ideological aims, such as Fresh Start or the Forty. My group this week, Deep Blue, straddles both of these categories. They come from a firmly centre-right standpoint, although they aim to focus not so much on immediate policy issues but more on what the longer-term direction of the Conservative Party should be if it is to win future elections.
Origins of the group
The foundation of Deep Blue was the idea of Mel Stride, the Member for Central Devon. Stride decided to set the group up a few months ago, and the first meeting was held roughly two and a half months ago, after Stride took soundings and found there was "a strong appetite" from colleagues to get together.
Stride, who chairs the group, is an entrepreneur with a strong background in business and is a former President of the Oxford Union. He is PPS to John Hayes, who is the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. In my report on the Cornerstone Group, I listed Stride as a "friend" of Cornerstone, which is often seen as being on the traditional wing of the Party, while Hayes co-founded Cornerstone.
Members of Deep Blue include Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Nick de Bois (Enfield North) and Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove).
Role and key purposes of the group
Deep Blue exists as a forum for "2010 backbench Conservative MPs" on the "sensible right" of the Party to meet and discuss ideas openly and frankly with each other. Meetings are held under Chatham House rules.
Immediate topics of discussion have included the current state of the Coalition, and what the Conservative Party needs to do to win the next general election. Members of Deep Blue see victory at the next general election as "a very significant challenge", and are dedicated to looking at what kind of policies, approaches and messages would maximise the Conservative Party's chances of winning in 2015.
Deep Blue's role in assessing the party is not limited to discussing narrow areas of policy, such as Europe or economic reforms, but to having an overview of the Party, and creating a strong and coherent message for 2015 and beyond. As the "Deep Blue" name suggests, the focus and drive of the group is towards the right. It is firmly supportive of the leadership, but is also happy to ask the serious questions that need to be raised in order for the Party to be in a winning position in 2015 and beyond.
Up until now, the group's meetings have been organised as social gatherings – a dinner in Parliament, for example. Deep Blue has hosted speakers including Fraser Nelson from the Spectator, YouGov's Stephan Shakespeare, and our own Tim Montgomerie.
Deep Blue has a number of ambitions for the future. It is keen to ensure its meetings are seen as special events, at which well-regarded commentators and politicians (especially those from countries where successful experiences of the centre-right in power can teach Britain something, such as Australia and Canada) are happy to speak. This would mean that speaker meetings are not held with great frequency, but when they are, they will be must-attend events.
Between speaker events the group also plans more social gatherings.
Understandably, as a relatively young and fresh group, Deep Blue has not yet been in a position to boast a strong output of publications, etc. However, another ambition for the group is to begin to conduct and publish research both on its own account and in collaboration with others.