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Nick Boles: Where the Tories were wrong on modernisation

8 November 2012

Few people have been more important to Tory modernisation than Nick Boles. He co-founded Policy Exchange, the think tank that has developed most of its policy ideas, and has been a tireless—and tieless—advocate of it.

But one of the things that has always marked Boles out is his willingness to think and reflect. In an interview with The Spectator this week, Boles — who was promoted to the government in the last reshuffle — assesses what he and his fellow modernisers got right and wrong. He concedes that the modernisers lacked ‘a strong, economic message’ and that they became too carried away with ‘media zeitgeist’ issues like ‘chocolate oranges in W.H. Smith and some of the environmental messages and the work/life balance stuff’.

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He reserves perhaps his strongest criticism though for the flirtation with Red Toryism, or as he puts it ‘that Phillip Blond nonsense, we indulged in.’ He goes out of his way to praise Tescos and co, Blond’s main target, declaring that ‘supermarkets have done more to promote the quality of life, the well-being, the happiness, all of those fluffy things that we put at the front and centre, than government has done in the past 20 years’.

But this is not to say that Boles has abandoned modernisation. He still argue that it is important that the party tries to deal with the reasons that some people will never consider voting for it. He argues that the Tories won’t attract the support they should from black and ethnic minority communities until they ‘cleared away a lot of the stuff over Enoch Powell and Macpherson and all those things that we never really, in my view, dealt with.’

Boles is, I think, right that these two agendas — the economic, cost of living and aspiration agenda and the one aimed at removing negatives about the party — have to go together. The Tory party won’t be believed when it says that it wants to ‘spread privilege’ unless voters think that it is a trustworthy party with good motives.

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  • barbie

    He’s probably sincere in his beliefs but the poor who have been suffering he most cuts won’t even give him the light of day. Many don’t want a life on benefits at all, they would work if the jobs were there to go to, there aren’t any. When you see a party cutting from the disabled, the sick, and the poorest in socieity who can really have faith in them? Yes welfare cuts have to take place, but its where you cut, how you cut that’s interesting. Now the elderly, who if ill could, can, claim Attendance Allowance, they now have to have the condition for 6mths prior to any claim. How can one predict a stroke, heart attack, or accident, but the rule means they won’t get any help for 6 mths. This is cutting from the most vunerable, its heartless and won’t wash, while Cameron allows more and more foreign aid to leave these shores. Its all to save money, yet, he allowed £40,000 cut for the richest taxpayers, it just does not add up and is seen as self interest, while the poor take the brunt. Cameron’s government as got it wrong. If you cut from he poorest and from those who cannot fight back, you are seen as nasty, and the party will go down in history as the ‘nasty party’ like they’ve always have been. They have a long way to go before anyone will have faith in them completely, I for one have none.

  • trevor21

    Not just the minorities,I’m born and bred Brit and i would hack off my arm with a rusty knife rather than vote Tory. I hope to live long enough to see the party utterly eradicated.

  • Daniel Maris

    Right, we get it right – Boles is a mass immigration man. Great, carry on Boles. See where that gets you…

    “Little men with no sense of history, nor even the whiff of desire in their nostrils. “

  • Magnolia

    Modern should mean appealing to all. It should not mean throwing your principles out of the window. When I look at President Obama and his wife and kids I see a family but when he talks I hear a politician who says syrupy stuff that I don’t agree with.
    That is modern. He just happens to also be a black man.
    When our black and asian MPs go on TV then I feel good about the way they argue and debate the Conservative cause but when Labour’s ethnic minority MPs are on then I usually find them loathsome in the same way that I find Ed Miliband and Rachel Reeves loathsome. Labour have been very clever to blend ethnic and political identity together but then they are always tribal. This cannot and won’t last especially if we become more black/asian/female than they are.
    I truly believe that all we have to do are these simple things to become ‘modern’ enough to win votes. We can promote a traditional Conservative message to the whole electorate by example. I think we need more black, asian and female Conservative MPs who are prepared to go on TV and be a bit exciting and charismatic. MPs like Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi. We also need some older women and more MPs with northern and working class roots. I really don’t think it matters whether they are Cameroons or eurosceptic rebels.
    In the end the voting public will notice the Conservative message and not the skin colour, sex or ethnic identity of the Conservative Party.
    Finally the PM needs to get someone to put him right on his obvious women/men from the wrong side of the tracks problems.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Funny isn’t it how the Tories have to don sackcloth and ashes and self flagellate just for perceptions of them that they have no control over and yet will still be hated whilst Labour merely have to pretend the past doesn’t exist and give themselves a new buzz word to have the press and moronic Britain fawning over them.

    “The stuff over Enoch Powell and Macpherson”? A guilt trip hangover of no real substance and yet Labour do as they have always done, stuff the country beyond all recognition and spend all the money, then lie, lie, lie. But they are forgiven and all is forgotten because the poor dears meant well.

    Excuse me while I vomit.

    • dalai guevara

      It is really not my aim in life to praise the virtues of the Labour party, this is why I repost a copy of bristoled’s own data which reads as follows:

      ‘1945 debt was 216% of GDP: when Labour left in 1951 it was 175%.
      1964 debt was 91% of GDP: when Labour left in 1970 it was 64%.
      1974 debt was 48% of GDP: when Labour left in 1979 it was 44%.
      1997 debt was 42% of GDP: by 2008 it was 37%, but then rose to 52% in 2010.
      And in 2006 the last of the WWII debt to the USA and Canada was paid off.
      It’s now around 68% and rising…
      In only one year did absolute debt reduce: between 2008 – 9.
      So, only one party, Labour, in one year, reduced debt.’

      OTOH, who is spending all my and your money now?

      • dorothy wilson

        Comparing the 1997 figure with that of 2008 is nonsense. We were at different points in the economic cycle in those years. By 2008 it should have been around 30% not 37%.

      • The Wiganer

        That must be one of the grossest abuses of statistics I have ever seen. How the hell can you quote 1945 figures, when we were just ending a period of total war, with 1951 which was after the Marshall Plan money was in full flow?
        And anyone who tries to pretend that everything was peachy in 1979 is after an award for liar of the year.
        You post 1997 statistics also ‘forget’ PFI and the sale of the gold reserves.

        • dalai guevara

          Yes, and what do you call the repatriation of Royal Mail pensions into our beloved state funds, or this year’s QE of £175,000,000,000 that may or may not hit the balance sheets?

          I am aware that everyone is playing the game, but the outright statemant that only one side was consulting David Copperfield is an outright misrepreseantation of the facts.

          • Colonel Mustard

            But that wasn’t my statement.

    • Heartless etc.,

      This raking over pretend Tory wickedness is all salacious bullsh*t!

      The ridiculous H2B could, – and could have, of course, merely say “No!” – “Non!” – or any other word that means the same, both to the effete “modernisers” and the bleeding heart limpid dicks.

      But of course, that takes COURAGE!

      • trevor21

        No,it would take that twenty seats that dick-wad Dave failed to win even when facing an open goal. 2015,the Labour landslide approaches.

    • 2trueblue

      Agree with you. 13yrs of the 3Bs delivering growth in the gap between rich and poor, child poverty, youth unemployment, and the national and personal debt. What a legacy and not a single apology.
      They did manage to lower most standards in most areas.

  • 2trublue

    He might look back on the Blair era and evaluate what exactly the moderinisation of that particular 13yrs did to enhance life in the UK. It attacked most things that made up our daily life, destroyed the concept of real family life, education, and our culture. The list is endless. Everybody believed that Blair was making the UK a better place, making us more human, part of the modern world, indulging themselves mainly, so frankly a little less soul searching and just get on with it might be a better option. History can not be rewritten, we just need to get on with our lives as best we can and ‘do no harm’, or at least as little as we can.

    • TomTom

      Blair was the front man for a Boy Band of Reconsitututed Trots and Marxists who played the Fast & Loose Credit Card and left the City alone so they could implement the most Left-Wing Wet Dream Policies in history nationalising Banks, destroying national identity, controlli9ng police with ideological nostrums, and co-opting the “right-wing” press and parties to their agenda.

  • bunnco

    That’s odd because I saw Philip Blond in the lobby of the DCLG, where Boles is a Minister, last week. He seemed as if he was very much at home. And on the inside track.

  • TomTom

    ” ‘supermarkets have done more to promote the quality of life, the
    well-being, the happiness, all of those fluffy things that we put at the
    front and centre, than government has done in the past 20 years’.”

    Total BS. There is no difference…Supermarkets BOUGHT Government in the 1980s and got planning consents to build sheds and rig Business Rates to their advantage so they could exploit customers with excessive plastic packaging, de-natured food, and rigged pricing structures.

    The Tory Party is in love with supermarkets and models its approach on Tesco and the like which is why people don’t vote for them – everything is TRANSACTIONAL in the modern Tory Party

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