DAVID GROSSMAN: Iain Duncan Smith said we shouldn't
under estimate the determination of a quiet man - actually the Tories are
making so little impact on voters right now he might as well be in a silent
movie. The party conference may have cheered and waved - but opinion polls
suggest the public just hasn't heard him.
At their conference
last month the Conservatives unveiled twenty five new policies in an effort
to demonstrate a new sense of direction and win back an audience. Iain
Duncan Smith wants to rid the Tories of their nasty party image and become
the champion of the vulnerable. But when you examine these policies you
get an uncanny sense of deja vu - it's like walking into a movie you've
already seen - because out of the twenty five, sixteen policies are actually
straight out of the last Tory manifesto. And where they have come up with
new new policies - for example, in health, by placing the emphasis on a
greater role for the private sector, critics say they are simply reinforcing
the old image of the party. So, does the Tory strategy lack coherence?
ARCHIE NORMAN MP: It's no good just having a selection
of policies. We've got to set it in a broader context, demonstrate that
we really do care above all about those people today who want to look after
their communities and make a contribution.
ANDREW LANSLEY MP: What is important for the Conservative
Party at the moment is to articulate policies which reinforce a sense of
who we are, what we stand for and where we're going.
GROSSMAN: One thing you can't criticise
the Tories leading man for is not trying. Iain Duncan Smith has covered
hundreds of miles in an effort to spread the message that the Tory's script
has changed. He's not trying to become a matinee idol but instead wants
his party to come across as trustworthy and relevant - both qualities vital
to winning back the hearts of voters.
Any actor will tell you a good script is everything - and it's pretty
much the same in politics. One potential blockbuster that Iain Duncan
Smith is now offering is right to buy. It tells the tale of IDS battling
to ensure that council house tenants keep the right to buy their homes
and extend that right to Housing Association tenants. But hang on, isn't
that a bit of a familiar plot? It's actually a re-make of the same policy
that William Hague fought the last General Election on, but the first Conservative
right to buy policy was actually introduced by that leading leading lady
of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, way back in the eighties.
Modernisers within today's party say that re-launching this policy, albeit
with a different cast, does nothing to get across the message that today's
Tory party has changed.
LANSLEY: At the Party Conference,
David Davis announced a policy of extending the right to buy to Housing
Association tenants. What I think most people didn't remember was that
we announced that policy in 1999 and again in the year 2000, so the issue
is not so much to have policy but that the polices that you announce -
and they don't have to be a very large number - support a sense of what
you're trying to achieve, a sense of direction.
NORMAN: The danger of simply talking
about the right to buy is that we remind people that we're sticking by
the policies of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, nothing wrong with that,
it was a great policy at the time, very popular, and of course we should
stick with it today, but it's more than that we've got to be seen now to
be addressing the real problems of today's housing stock, of people who
live on inner city estates, of people who live in council houses that are
very badly maintained, of people who are looking to buy or find somewhere
to live that's affordable to them in the South East especially and can't
GROSSMAN: Iain Duncan Smith's latest
stop is a youth project near Exeter. He's here to spread the main theme
of his leadership - helping the vulnerable, at the same time as helping
himself to a spot of curry. But critics say that worthy theme can be lost
because some policies like right to buy have an entirely different flavour.
True, the Tories now say they will invest the proceeds of sales in new
social housing - the recipe though, say some worry, still doesn't fit
with helping the vulnerable.
Former Shadow Cabinet member Edward Garnier fears that it could actually
harm the vulnerable.
EDWARD GARNIER MP: If you have been brought up
in a poor family, a not very well off family in a rural village, the chances
of being able to buy a house in that village are non existent and therefore
the provision of Housing Association housing is vital so that people can
stay in the communities that they were brought up in and want to work in.
If the Housing Association houses are sold away well then the stock of
what is loosely called affordable housing, is diminished.
GROSSMAN: After lunch there's no
rest for IDS - he's got to say his good byes and rush off for the next
location. But the Tory's former pollster says that frantic activity isn't
alone enough. They need to come up with a theme and stick to it - a process
rather like song writing.
NICK SPARROW: Whenever anybody's putting
a song together you have to think about you have to start with the individual
notes and you have to make sure that all those notes hang together and
make a song that everybody will recognise is, is of a particular type and
understand that that is what that song is all about. I think you have to
be very, very careful with the individual notes that you use to make that
song if individual notes strike people as being strange or out of place
and something like right to buy simply on it's own given that a lot of
people won't really understand where we've got to with right to buy, and
what the new proposals are, just remind people of the old Conservative
GROSSMAN: So are Iain Duncan Smith's
new policies just William Hague's in some different packaging? Well,
In amongst the older ideas are some grains of innovation.
At the Party Conference the Shadow Health Secretary did actually unveil
something that was brand new fresh out of the box.
Dr Liam Fox outlined his thinking on health and it involves a much greater
emphasis on the private sector - he said he was very impressed with the
health care system in Finland, where patients who go private can reclaim
sixty per cent of the cost back from the State.
But critics say this policy simply serves to reinforce the negative image
that many voters already have of the party - that it's just there to help
middle class people with money opt out of sub standard public services,
rather than trying to make those public services better for everyone.
NORMAN; When we talk about caring
for the vulnerable we equally have to be able to explain how our policies
in health are going to help the vulnerable first. Now if you produce a
policy which is clearly not accessible to people who don't have savings
of their own that is - that's not it doesn't mean it's the wrong idea,
it means it's not sufficient, it doesn't knit together with what else we're
saying. The flagship of our health policies should be reform of the NHS
not just enabling people to go outside the NHS.
GROSSMAN; It all seems so long
ago now doesn't it? William Hague accompanied by his chief strategist
Andrew Lansley. Now a backbencher, Mr Landsley says that talking about
helping people with money opt out of the NHS is a big mistake.
LANSLEY; It does concern me that
we spent a great deal of time and effort discussing health policy in the
run up to the last election, seeking to escape from the trap that the Labour
Party would otherwise put us into, which has only been concerned with whether
people can opt out of the NHS and buy private medical insurance. The issue
is how do we raise overall standards of health care in this country.
GROSSMAN; On the road again this
time to a public meeting in Plymouth. This activity is partly designed
to exorcise the adjective that haunts the Tories - nasty - but modernisers
say that when the party does have the opportunity to act in a non-nasty
way they instead slip into old habits. Tomorrow the Tory leadership will
instruct its MPs to vote against allowing non married couples to adopt.
Former shadow cabinet member Andrew Mackay though is ready to defy this
ANDREW MACKAY; I think it's difficult to explain
and understand why we're doing it, I think it's very healthy that in the
Conservative Party no doubt the same as the Labour and the Liberal Parties
that we have different views on this issue. I believe passionately in the
freedom of the individual to express himself or herself as she sees fit,
I think the State or political parties telling people how to behave is
something fairly abhorrent which normally only happens under fairly restrictive
regimes of which most of us would not approve.
LANSLEY; If we can achieve a greater
pool of adopted parents by making it possible for unmarried couples to
adopt, then that I think is the right policy; my problem is that if the
Conservative Party corporately as it were is seen as resisting that, we
all understand that the motivation is a good one which is to defend the
institution of marriage and not see it undermined, but the effect is a
GROSSMAN; One change that some
in the party now seem to agree could be necessary is that of the leadership
itself - the quiet man is having to face down the whisperers on his own
back-benches. Over the past week several Conservative MPs described the
atmosphere to me in the parliamentary party as being febrile. One MP said,
according to some newspapers at least to have serious concerns about the
leadership, is the former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Andrew Mackay.
Is the atmosphere among
Conservative MPs, do you think, relaxed at the moment towards the leadership?
MACKAY; Well inevitably when we
are not yet moving forward in the polls, when what I thought were extremely
good policies which were brought forward to the Party Conference have not
yet been understood and accepted and supported which I'm sure they will
be by the party, by the country at large, then I think there's obviously
some uncertainly, we're at that stage in the Parliament.
GROSSMAN; Is it a bit jittery?
MACKAY; I think there are legitimate
concerns and that is healthy in a democracy,.
SPARROW; People make their own
minds up about political leaders very early on. They would then look to
the media or to the Party itself to either confirm or confound that belief.
And I think Iain Duncan Smith did not appear to be a very good leader
to a lot of swing voters to start with so there was that impression. And
that will simply be confirmed by the fact that, well the media don't think
he's any good either and half the party don't think he's any good. And
that is a very difficult position to come back from.
GROSSMAN; Making the Tories look
like a modern party again and get their voice heard is tiring work - and
constant speculation about his leadership makes it doubly difficult for
Iain Duncan Smith. But many inside his party believe that renewal will
come only when he succeeds in getting the Tories back in tune with today's