October 21, 2005

The Conservative Party Leadership: what the two Davids must do to win

Posted by Watlington

Now that the final two candidates for the Conservative Party leadership are David Cameron and David Davis, Watlington sets out what each of them must do to win the contest. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

As the two Davids bounced into the final round of the Conservative leadership contest, two questions were being asked by the media yesterday: first, whether Mr Davis's claim that "it was not all over yet" has substance; and second whether Mr Cameron would stand up to the inevitable media scrutiny and be able to flesh out policy detail.

This is a contest that is far from over. Although Mr Cameron looks the hot favourite at present, six weeks ago he was virtually running as an "also-ran" and was being wooed assiduously by the Clarke team as a potential running mate. The six weeks ahead to the final result is an eternity in modern politics and anything can happen in between.

What Mr Davis must do
If Mr Davis is to recover much lost ground, he should take the following steps:

Stop the Smears. In the Commons tea room this week, there was much discussion – and frustration - over the fact that key Davis lieutenants had allegedly been smearing Dr Fox. One new boy, the 62 year old Brian Binley MP was so angry at this that he went to see Mr Conway to complain, stating that this kind of action was beneath contempt. Whether or not Mr Davis is behind the activities of his more exuberant supporters, the fact is that these activities do neither him nor the Tory party any credit and only gives succour to enemies of conservatism. Mr Davis should end his "who will rid me of this turbulent priest" dictum and ensure that all his team members practice honest and decent politics.

Change his Campaign team. Mr Davis's campaign team is dominated by machine politicians of the old school. To win the constituencies he needs to form a team of younger, fresher faces.

Losing a key supporter like rising star Nadine Dorries MP last week was a real failure as Ms Dorries has precisely the kind of image and presence to win over constituency hearts and minds. Even worse, it is understood that James Frayne, Mr Davis's campaign manager, resigned a few days ago disappointed at how the campaign was being run. Mr Frayne is a very talented individual and helped run the successful North East referendum campaign. Mr Davis should do all he can to get Mr Frayne back on board, give him real influence over the campaign and put Nick Herbert, Iain Dale and some of the newer MPs like David Gauke and Greg Clark in charge.

It is noticeable that whilst new MPs supporting Mr Cameron have been involved on a daily basis in the campaign, the newer MPs supporting Mr Davis have had little input. Newer MPs and other supporters should be fronted on Newsnight and the other media so as to embody a real freshness about the campaign.

Team Davis should contact grassroots campaigners like the experienced David Canzini who has just left Central Office and would have real expertise in running the constituency campaigns. He should engage third parties for support like Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers Alliance. There are a lot of talented people out there who could make a real difference. It is up to Mr Davis to find them and get them on board.

Change the Message. "Changing Britain, Improving Lives" amounts to nothing but a waffly slogan. By contrast the Cameron sound bite "modern compassionate conservatism", explains that he is the change candidate. Mr Davis needs to have something that summarises his embodiment of the Tory dream of aspiration and merit – of no one held back and no-one left behind. At present no one has a real idea what Mr Davis stands for. If Mr Cameron is the change candidate, Mr Davis should be the candidate of hope and aspiration. He should craft his message around these themes.

What Mr Cameron must do
Mr Cameron has mounted a slick and efficient campaign so far, but he needs to do more to sway doubters. Mr Cameron must:

Show that he will not operate through a clique from Notting Hill. Mr Cameron has done much to ensure that he has a team of all the talents and dilute the enmity towards the Notting Hill set. Not many people know that Rachel Whetstone (Michael Howard's former Queen Bee), for example has had nothing to do with the Cameron campaign, after a falling out over a personal matter. Nevertheless, doubts still remain and Mr Cameron must do more to engage people from all backgrounds in the party and show that he understands what it is like to struggle in real life. As a first step, Mr Cameron should ensure that he visits all the marginal seats that were just lost to Labour last time and find out from Parliamentary candidates and local activists why these seats are not held by the Conservatives.

Set out how he will reform the Party organisation. Mr Cameron says he is the change candidate but we know little about what that change means. What is he going to do about candidate selection, party campaigning and such like? His voters have a right to know more about this.

Set out more policy detail. Mr Cameron needs to explain where he is going in policy terms. He may be for student fees and against the old Tory policy on the NHS. But what does he think should be in their place? How would he help the poorest students? How would he help families and individuals struggling in their daily lives? How would he look to transform the lives of those living in our inner cities? How would he deal with social disintegration? It is no good saying that he is not going to write the manifesto now. He needs to at least signpost what actually he would like to do and prove that he is not just the heir to Blair but has the substance of Thatcher as well.

To read more by Watlington, see Watlington.

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Posted by: Guido Fawkes at October 21, 2005 06:45 PM

I doubt that either of them could punch his way out of a paper bag. This is living proof that any conservative with four or more inches of backbone and an IQ above room temperature is doing something for a living other than politics.

On the other hand, if the economy crashes as it likely will, the Tories could win fronting a Labrador Retriever.

Posted by: s masty at October 24, 2005 11:04 AM

Very unfair Mr Masty. David Cameron is the man to bring back the talent to the Tories. Some may see his call for a new generation of conservative dreamers as mere Blairite puff. I disagree. The chief difference between Blair and Cameron is that Cameron is a man of substance and sincerity. Blair is a disgusting narcissistic creep.

Posted by: OD at October 24, 2005 04:27 PM

I came across this blog while searching for the “Real Conservative Party.”
I want to start a Campaign for Real Conservatism, like CAMRA for beer.
Modern Conservative cannot think outside a market model. Whereas a conservative , small “c” note does.
Conservatives invented the “added value “ nonsense in school league tables as if children were potatoes being turned into crisps.. conservatives believe in education as a widening and broadening of the human spirit. Conservative ministers coined the idea that children joining school are in Year One. conservatives know they learn from birth, indeed scientists say before birth.
Conservatives made schools ape businesses. conservatives believe in schools as part of a community answerable via democratically elected councillors

The poor head of the Soham school was given “freedom” from Local Education Authority “bureaucracy”. He had so much freedom he never managed to get round to checking the record of the caretaker.
There was also the lady head of one of the direct grant schools who had the freedom to embezzle near a million pounds without the dead hand of the LEA Auditors. Is she still in jail? Tory policies helped get her there and the caretaker his job.

The problem for the Conservatives , whichever clone gets the leadership is “ your government did it, this lot have just continued.”
This is why they could not win the election . A party which should be proud to have had a Sir Anthony Eden , who resigned after being caught lying to the House should have made a similar demand of Mr. Weapons of Mass Destruction. But they cannot, they are trapped in they support for the war. And the history of their past rule.
And why should one join? I know people who joined to serve the community. But today meet people who do not know where they live administratively. I live in Berkshire There is no Berkshire. They abolished it. They did not abolish Buckinghamshire next door. Nor Surrey, the other side. Yet Slough Bucks is not in Bucks! And the County Hall of Surrey is in Kingston. Which is not in Surrey!
And a local newspaper carried a letter where the Slough MP had to point out that someone in Langley had written with a complaint but was not actually a constituent of hers. All your gerrymandering means that people have lost their sense of community politically. How can you serve a community as a politically local entity as a Conservative when no-one is sure where it is?
So until the party apologizes for its disasters from privatization to the poll tax/ council tax fiasco to the gerrymandering of authorities it could not win, from the GLC and ILEA to the Shire Counties, and declares itself conservative as well as Conservative we are going to be stuck with New Labour. Or the Lib Dems. As the Sunday Times pointed out yesterday the Tories cannot complain about the further centralization and lack of local control over the police when they introduced the first steps.
So here two slogans for your future. “We are sorry for what we did. We are now conservative Conservatives.” And “You Can Turn Back the Clock. Sometimes it’s a good idea. That is why you take medicine. You want to get better, like you were before you became ill.”

Posted by: Dave Nicholson at November 14, 2005 09:32 AM
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