PAUL WILENIUS: Looking back may not be
the best thing for a political party wanting to move forward. The Conservative
leader's in America this weekend picking up tips on sprucing up his own
party's image to make it more inclusive, modern, electable. It needs it,
as the party's popular support is at a standstill.
Under Iain Duncan Smith
the Conservatives are portraying their party as one that cares about hospitals,
schools and the vulnerable and not just the Euro and immigration. There's
little doubt the language has changed and it's more inclusive, but critics
are asking is this just polishing up the old image or is it really something
new? They want to see real change in action and policy, to match the rhetoric.
The scale of the task
involved was admitted by Dominic Cummings, a senior Tory strategist, last
week. He said the party was even more unpopular than the Euro in Britain.
In an effort to collect more electoral support the leadership is talking
constantly about public services. Yet a leading Conservative think tank
says it's also vital to avoid old Tory privatisation policies, to show
its leader IDS really is new.
NICHOLAS BOLES: The Party is absolutely
right to be focusing on the public services, because that's what people
in Britain are focusing on. The party must be very careful not to fall
into an easy characterisation of privatisation as the only solution for
the public services.
WILENIUS; The Tories have also
expunged their traditional tax cutting message. Now they say they favour
funding public services first. But do they really mean it? Although modernisers
in the party welcome the new approach from IDS and his Shadow Ministers,
there are concerns that recent actions may have sent a contradictory message.
BOLES: Michael Howard as Shadow
Chancellor was absolutely right to say that the proper funding and reform
of public services, was more important right now than cutting taxes. He
was absolutely right to say that. It perhaps sent a conflicting signal
when the party then decided to oppose, vote against, the tax rises in the
budget, rather than for instance abstain.
WILENIUS; In recent weeks the Tory
Party has seemed to reject other opportunities to buff up its new image
The leader took a hard line on asylum in a recent article in the Daily
Mail. While in Parliament, the party opposed legislation to give unmarried
couples the right to adopt, even though forty per cent of children in the
UK are born to unmarried parents. The chance to show the party had changed
BOLES; I think that in the debate
about adoption and in the continuing debate about asylum, there have recently
been some signals sent which conflict with the overall direction set by
the leader and that was unfortunate, and it does need to be avoided in
future. Iain Duncan Smith has clearly set a new direction and adopted some
very new and striking themes for the Conservative Party. What is important
is that, that is now followed through in detailed policy work and that
the Party and the Shadow Cabinet do not get distracted by the opportunities
of cheap shot politics.
WILENIUS; Getting the Tories moving
again after two crushing election defeats is a big task for any leader.
Iain Duncan Smith has put them back on the road with a more inclusive approach.
Now he has three years to show this is not just a makeover, and he can
follow up with policies and action to put his party back in the political