How can the Tory party broaden its appeal? Renewal, a group founded to do just that offered its answer at a packed Westminster pub yesterday evening. With just eight days to George Osborne’s 2014 budget, Robert Halfon MP and Renewal’s David Skelton offered their vision of a ‘workers’ budget for the Workers’ Party.’
Arguing that ‘what happened in Scotland [to the Conservative party] is slowly happening in the North’, Halfon outlined why he believes the Conservative Party needs to change its narrative, mission and structures to go beyond its traditional reach, particularly with working class and ethnic minority voters. Firstly, to address the Conservative party’s lack of a ‘moral mission’, a narrative should be crafted around the ‘aspiration’ theme — as opposed to the ‘safety net’ of Labour — to sell the party’s policies aimed at helping people get into work; and those who are already in work, improve their lives.
Tied into this, Halfon also proposed changing the party’s logo to a ladder, with hands at the bottom, to signify aspiration with guidance. Renewal even believes there is a case for renaming the Conservative Party to ‘The Workers’ Party’ — so those who feel sympathetic to the party’s policies but not the brand, are no longer embarrassed to vote Conservative. If the Tories don’t change their name, Halfon warned ‘we’re going to be in serious trouble in so many parts of the country because our brand has become so tarnished.’ And to grow the party further, Halfon suggested lowering membership fees to £1 and offering a free fuel card as an incentive to join. He stressed that a party in 2014 needs to ‘offer more than just a letter and begging requests for money’.
Halfon was not the only MP present; Damian Green, Mark Prichard and Tim Loughton were listening intently to his proposals. Although Renewal has had successes with its campaign for a rise in minimum wage and fuel duty freeze, and Halfon acknowledged the party is moving in the right direction, it’s unlikely the Tory party will be looking to change its name or logo anytime soon. But all of the ideas proposed by Renewal target a very real problem — the Conservative party needs to adapt and find new voters somewhere, somehow. Few others are offering such a consistent vision for doing that.
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