Our recent loss in Corby, alongside a number of disappointing Police & Crime Commissioner election results across the country, should encourage the entire Conservative party family to reflect on what needs to be done before the 2015 General Election. One of the finest election winning machines in the history of global democracy is, at present, in a very sorry state.
Having been our leader for the last seven years, David Cameron has, too often, chosen to set himself against his party, and the generally poor state of morale amongst local activists is increasingly reflected in ever more depressing election results. The recent appointment of Lynton Crosby offers some hope that the party is being opened up a bit more, and is a sign of encouragement.
But despite this one step in the right direction, the Prime Minister has proven to be a rather disappointing custodian of our party. His decision to describe his personal commitment to gay marriage at the 2011 party conference as not being despite his political convictions, but rather in consequence of these has driven a dangerous wedge between Mr Cameron and his activists. In the fifteen months since that speech, that divide has grown wider. The irony that, in making those comments, he was expressing the value that he attached to inter-personal commitments is not lost on many of those party members who, in frustration, feel that they have had enough: our leader has presented himself as detached, with his threat to drive various policies through irrespective of the concerns of the wider political family imperilling our chances in 2015.
And for those who are feeling increasingly semi-detached from their party, they can cite the need for a more robust line on Europe to bring the policy of the party back into line with the instincts of our electorate and the membership; the shambles of an energy policy which will impose eye-watering costs upon an already failing economic recovery, at the insistence of our so-called coalition partners; and the monumental disaster which has resulted in a derisory ambivalence to the progressive weakening we have seen in our construction sector.
The fact remains that David Cameron is not the proprietor of the Conservative party; he is its caretaker, and however proud he is of his ability to detach himself from the needs and concerns of party activists who are in touch with every community in our country, unless he can reverse the emaciation of our political machine, his own prospects look increasingly fragile, and, with it, the chances of a majority Conservative government able to replace the nonsense of the last fifteen years with a narrative resonating with the long-standing instincts of our country is imperilled.
I believe that it is only by drawing breath, changing course, and reconciling with the widest possible right-thinking audience that the Prime Minister can avert that car crash. He – and his circle – needs to recognise that they do not have all the right answers, all of the time. They also need to acknowledge that good management is vital to the process, and that particular commodity has often been in short supply. The Conservative support base has a lot more to offer than the cabal hidden away in the bunker around the leadership have been willing to engage with to date. Trust us, David, we really do need (and want) to win the next election: and, what’s more, if you can find a way to work with your own party, we can still do it.