Much hilarity among those of a leftish persuasion in Westminster that the Conservatives might dare call themselves the Workers’ Party, as Grant Shapps enthusiastically did yesterday. Mind you, when Shapps gave his speech making this claim alongside Sir John Major yesterday, journalists were excluded, so he might not have said it at all.
But assuming he did, there’s no reason why the Conservatives should provoke any more hilarity than any other Westminster party when they make this claim. There are, though, two warnings that if not heeded, could make this new tag seem as hilarious to voters as previous attempts at rebranding.
The first comes from David Skelton, whose campaign Renewal is pushing for the Tories to do more to appeal to working class voters. He argues today that any attempt by Conservative MPs to pursue an electoral pact with Ukip would undermine that Workers’ Party tag, and seriously damage the purchase that the Conservatives have with BME voters.
But the second is a lesson hopefully learned from the last rebrand: that green tree that is now a bit less green. The party’s green modernisers have spent the past few months feeling a little bereft because they feel that their creed was picked up and then dumped by the leadership. The same could happen with a very well-intentioned drive for working class voters, with policies that the leadership doesn’t really believe in being adopted, only to be dropped in favour of ideas that send a different message when the fashions switch. Renewal’s calls for a higher minimum wage and closer links with trade unionists are thoughtful, but some in the party recognise that they may not delight some free market liberals on the right. That’s not a reason not to adopt them, but the party leadership needs to make sure it really does have the courage of its convictions before it gets too excited about an attention-grabbing new tag.