My letter to the Prime Minister seems to have got some tongues wagging – among party activists as well as the Press and Westminster politicos – which is fine. If it starts a serious conversation between the Party’s leaders and our voters then I’ll consider it a success because it’s about time that we had some proper engagement between the various levels of the Conservative Party and actual conservative voters. Previously, it’s felt like the PM and his circle have gone out of their way to disregard their concerns and aspirations. That has to change.
Much of the reporting about the letter has focused on its passing reference to gay marriage. The issue is certainly an important one – David Cameron’s pursuit of his pet project in the face of all opposition is symptomatic of a wider problem – but the argument is broader than that single topic. The gay marriage debacle is just one of a growing number of cracks in the relationship between the party leadership and its support base. My concern is that if we continue along this path then it won’t be too long before the division becomes a rupture and we end up losing the next election.
It’s a question of priorities and Mr Cameron’s priority still seems to be to “modernise” and re-brand the Conservative Party. He wants to focus on gay marriage and “green” issues even though these have little resonance with the people who might actually vote for him. It might keep the Lib Dems happy but he’s actively alienating the core support base of our party. We have to fight an election in the not too distant future and I want to see a full Conservative Government with David Cameron as Prime Minister at the end of it. But if he persists in ignoring the party then he’s not going to have the support of the activists who put in the vital groundwork. We’ll be at risk of Labour getting back into power and that, quite frankly, would be a disaster for the country.
So Mr Cameron needs to stop pandering to trends and fashions and actually concern himself with the issues that matter to Conservative-thinking people. They’re not lying awake at night worrying about the UK’s contribution to global warming – they’re concerned about the size of their energy bills. They want to see the Government using our money to support our citizens and our businesses, not giving it away to EU bureaucrats and so-called poverty alleviation in countries with their own space programmes! If he only took a moment to listen to them then the PM would understand that these are the real issues concerning people. Perhaps he should take a break from his circle of advisors and look beyond the Westminster bubble; take a walk through his constituency and speak to the people who actually voted for him. I guarantee that gay marriage wouldn’t be high on their list of priorities.
He must listen to our party’s concerns. The impression the leadership gives at the moment is “we know best.” Downing Street’s initial reaction to my letter is an example. I was dismissed as being “well known for his right-wing views”. That’s the sort of arrogance that is driving party membership down. They’re not just right-wing views. They’re the views of real conservatives across the country and David Cameron would do well to listen to them.