The Daily Telegraph

The Tories need to build a pa­tri­otic pop­u­lar move­ment to beat the Left

Labour has used new me­dia to repack­age old so­cial­ist dogma into ideas that seem fresh and fair

- ROB WIL­SON Rob Wil­son was MP for Read­ing East and Par­lia­men­tary Un­der Sec­re­tary of State for Civil So­ci­ety un­til last month UK News · Politics · Elections · Conservative Party (UK) · European Union · British House of Commons · Arbeidersparty · Jeremy Corbyn · United Kingdom · Damian Green · Alex Salmond · Scotland

There’s no point in beat­ing around the bush: the Gov­ern­ment is up to its neck in trou­ble. Still strug­gling to come to terms with its weak­ened po­si­tion, it is at the same time try­ing to de­liver on the big­gest chal­lenge since the Sec­ond World War. The job of ex­tri­cat­ing our coun­try from the EU would be a back-break­ing task for even the strong­est ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse is to find com­mon ground and work col­lab­o­ra­tively across the House of Com­mons. This is a sen­si­ble ap­proach, but there is a dan­ger that the de­sire for com­pro­mise looks like en­trenched weak­ness. Yes, the pub­lic wants politi­cians to work to­gether, but it also re­quires the elected Gov­ern­ment to pro­vide strong lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly in such chal­leng­ing times.

The Gov­ern­ment’s fragility en­cour­ages end­less talk of an­other elec­tion, and the Labour Party is al­ready cam­paign­ing, with Jeremy Cor­byn spend­ing the sum­mer tour­ing mar­ginal Con­ser­va­tive seats and gal­vanis­ing his sup­port base. Re­al­is­ti­cally, how can the Gov­ern­ment be­gin the fight back? The sum­mer re­cess needs to be spent achiev­ing two things that will pro­vide the foun­da­tion for a resur­gence.

First, the party needs a new na­tional move­ment that brings to­gether peo­ple from all parts of our coun­try and so­ci­ety who be­lieve it is their duty to stop Bri­tain vot­ing Marx­ists into power. Se­condly, it must gen­er­ate ap­peal­ing and pop­u­lar Right-of-cen­tre poli­cies that pro­vide a clear di­rec­tion, at least over the next two years.

On the first point, many in the Con­ser­va­tive Party have been aware for some time that our ground op­er­a­tion has been dis­in­te­grat­ing at an alarm­ing rate. There is lit­tle or no growth in Con­ser­va­tive Party ac­tivism, partly be­cause the party lacks an ef­fec­tive and mo­ti­vat­ing call to arms. By con­trast, the Labour Party boasts a hugely in­creased mem­ber­ship and the hard-left cam­paign­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion Mo­men­tum, which now claims around 23,000 mem­bers and the abil­ity to call on 200,000 sup­port­ers.

From my ex­pe­ri­ence in Read­ing East and that of for­mer col­leagues, Mo­men­tum had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact at the elec­tion. They got se­ri­ous num­bers of cam­paign­ers out on doorsteps. In my con­stituency it led to a mis­match of re­sources. Mo­men­tum has be­come a move­ment that has rein­vig­o­rated and mo­ti­vated the hard-left to bring down the Gov­ern­ment, by what­ever means nec­es­sary.

Mo­men­tum and Labour’s Marx­ist lead­er­ship have man­aged to use new me­dia to repack­age old so­cial­ist dogma into ideas that seem fresh and fair to young peo­ple, in­clud­ing many univer­sity-ed­u­cated pro­fes­sion­als. Young peo­ple are then cham­pi­oning th­ese re­hashed, failed ideas in pas­sion­ate, some­times in­tem­per­ate, but mostly en­gag­ing ways. By as­so­ci­at­ing them­selves with po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions that make them ap­pear more com­pas­sion­ate and car­ing, they be­lieve them­selves to be more vir­tu­ous in any de­bate. How do you ar­gue with a gen­er­a­tion that has an un­wa­ver­ing con­fi­dence in the right­eous­ness of its ar­gu­ments? This de­gree of cer­tainty in a failed Left­wing phi­los­o­phy has cre­ated a con­sid­er­able ten­sion be­tween the gen­er­a­tions.

Mo­men­tum is some­thing the Con­ser­va­tives must re­spond to over the sum­mer. The party needs its own mo­ti­vat­ing and gal­vanis­ing move­ment: one that is a na­tional endeavour stim­u­lated by a pa­tri­otic duty to save our coun­try and econ­omy from the dan­gers of Labour’s Marx­ist ca­bal; one that can in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion of ac­tivists from all par­ties and none, pro­vid­ing an an­ti­dote to the hard-left, re­gres­sive mes­sage of Mo­men­tum.

Re­sist­ing and de­bunk­ing a failed ide­ol­ogy is one thing, but the new or­gan­i­sa­tion also needs to have a pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive and com­pelling vi­sion for the fu­ture. Damian Green, the Prime Min­is­ter’s First Sec­re­tary of State, should lead the hunt across de­part­ments for pol­icy ideas that would be pop­u­lar across the coun­try. He should be think­ing big, be­ing sen­si­ble and try­ing to cap­ture a sense of ex­cite­ment that will al­low a Con­ser­va­tive Gov­ern­ment to stake out the ground on which it feels com­fort­able. It’s not that dif­fi­cult.

Here are a few pro­pos­als. On the econ­omy: end na­tional wage set­tle­ments in the pub­lic sec­tor; de­volve fi­nan­cial pow­ers to cities and city re­gions; sim­plify the tax sys­tem and merge NI and in­come tax. On hous­ing: of­fer a guar­an­tee that ev­ery first-time buyer un­der 30 will have the op­por­tu­nity to buy a home at cost price and on a com­pet­i­tive low­est of­fer mort­gage. On pub­lic ser­vices: cre­ate a READ MORE at tele­ opin­ion raft of new mu­tu­als, for ex­am­ple a pub­lic op­tion for en­ergy con­sumers. On tu­ition fees: those uni­ver­si­ties that charge £9,000 an­nu­ally for three-year cour­ses must of­fer the same cour­ses over two years. On health: al­low vol­un­teers to be fully trained and in­te­grated into all parts of pa­tient sup­port in hos­pi­tals.

The harder part is to then build th­ese poli­cies into a theme for gov­ern­ment that will res­onate with the coun­try at large. There will be one op­por­tu­nity for suc­cess: the au­tumn party con­fer­ence. Af­ter that the mes­sage needs to car­ried onto the doorsteps and dis­sem­i­nated across so­cial me­dia by a new band of highly en­thused ac­tivists.

Th­ese poli­cies should gen­er­ate such strong at­tach­ment that they can be put to the vote in the House of Com­mons, even at the risk of de­feat. Alex Sal­mond ran a suc­cess­ful mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment in Scot­land and was very good at dar­ing op­po­nents to fight on his pre­ferred ground. He de­liv­ered the Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ists a ma­jor­ity at the fol­low­ing elec­tion. This shows that gov­ern­ments with small ma­jori­ties, even mi­nori­ties, are not bound to fail. But they are likely to fail if they are too timid, or are un­able to make com­pelling ar­gu­ments in sup­port of their poli­cies.

We should not for­get that most of the coun­try does not want Bri­tain led by a Marx­ist. It’s im­per­a­tive that the Con­ser­va­tive Party stops feel­ing sorry for it­self and im­ple­ments a strat­egy to re­sist the ad­vance of the hard Left. The party must in­spire its own na­tional move­ment so that it can com­pletely re­shape the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

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