Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A further lurch to the right is not the path to Government

Edward Leigh MP has argued that in order to beat Labour at the next election, Conservatives should return to traditional Tory issues of "immigration, low taxes and Europe".

Highlighting Gordon Brown’s current lead in the opinion polls (no doubt buoyed by recent by-election success, albeit in two ultra-safe seats), Leigh writes in the current edition of Parliamentary Monitor magazine that it is now “a good time to take stock”, also commenting that "liberalism doesn't win elections”.

Whilst having some sympathy with much of what Leigh argues in favour of (low taxation and deregulation, consumer choice in education, health and pensions, the family as the foundation of society), this is precisely the same “one more heave” approach that has put the Tories to the sword in the past three General Elections.

We stood on a primarily immigration-focused platform in 2005, and lost – and for some of us, who were canvassing around Liverpool and attempting to explain to second- and third-generation Irish immigrants why the Conservatives apparently ‘didn’t want our kind’, the experience was not a positive one. We campaigned on an anti-European platform in 2001, and were beaten out of sight, Labour dismissing us a bunch of reactionary cranks.

While the issues mentioned by Leigh are important ones, all of which it would be folly not to hold positions on, we need to prove to the electorate that we have learned something from our decade in Opposition, that we really have listened, and that our policies reflect the views of the majority of British people. A further lurch to the right is not the path to Government. And contrary to the musings of the Daily Mail, David Cameron has had more than his share of successes also, most notably with the local election results last year.

Edward Leigh is correct in his assertion that Conservatives currently need to take stock, to review the progress we have made in the past two years, and to see where we could do better. Publication of the findings of the policy reviews, followed by a rigorous debate on their proposals at the most anticipated Conservative party conference in years, will go a long way in demonstrating to the country that the Conservative Party is serious about forming the next Government.

This is now the time for Conservatives to hold our nerve, and continue to focus on the real issues that are important to real people. Broon and the Dim Lebs can be beaten, but as friend and maybe-neighbour Hunter and Shooter says, careless talk costs votes!

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