“To help win a new generation of young voters, the Conservatives need a new Swinton College – or a modern equivalent,” Andrew Gimson wrote on this site last summer. We wrote that there is interest in the idea at CCHQ last autum. Today, we can report a new initiative to help make it happen.
The first of a planned series of events will place next week in London. Its title is plain enough not to attract attention (it is billed as a “history and philosophy seminar”) but its speakers, themes and backers are worth a look. It will hold sessions on lessons from the past; modern conservatism, and conservatism in the digital age.
Brandon Lewis will open the seminar – a sign that it has the Party’s backing. Speakers include Chris Skidmore, Jesse Norman, Jacob-Rees Mogg, Neil O’Brien, Stephen Parkinson, Anne Jenkin, Andrew Roberts, Ruth Davis and Carrie Symonds: that list has an ecumenical flavour in Tory terms, and quite a senior one too. Parkinson is the Prime Minister’s Political Secretary. Skidmore is the Party’s Vice-Chairman for Policy.
This might look like just another talking shop were it not for the invite and audience. The first comes from Dominic Johnson and Dean Russell. Johnson is a Party Vice-Chairman and senior treasurer. He put up David Cameron after the latter left Downing Street. He also founded Somerset Capital with Rees-Mogg. The audience is “limited to just 50 invitees – all personally selected”. “I’m sure that raising money is part of the plan,” one attendee told ConservativeHome.
“Great Party chairmen such as J.C.C Davidson and after the Second World War Lord Woolton realised that in order to win we needed to establish our belief system loudly and clearly, educate the electorate as to the benefits of conservatism (and dangers of socialism) and organise a proper election winning machine,” Johnson writes in a letter of welcome.
He adds that he hopes the event will look at “what methods we used to educate the electorate and our army of activists and agents and ultimately discuss more closely what are the crucial tenets of Conservative philosophy and how best to deploy these values in a way which changes minds and wins elections. The language is opaque but the direction is evident. We wish this initiative every success.