Coffee House

Renewal offers a vision for a Tory workers’ budget

11 March 2014

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.

Claim your gift

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.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Iain Hill

    A few crumbs from the table? It will need abandonment of the widespread and relentless policy of transferring wealth further to the rich, before any such discussion will become relevant. However, there is a space on the left, the previous tenant having given up the ghost!

  • global city

    Hmmm… and that George Formby song about hard working glazing washers could be the new anthem?

  • The Commentator

    Why don’t they change the name to UKIP? That’ll bring the votes in!

  • andagain

    to signify aspiration with guidance.

    Now, that phrase does not sound patronising at all.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    This is laughable. The Cameroons are making themselves a caricature now.

    • andagain

      Quite. It is absurd to imagine the Conservative Party even pretending to care about people who are neither wealthy nor living in southern England…

      • AnotherDave

        The Cameroons? Yes. The Conservative Party? No.

        • andagain

          Then they must be very unlike the typical commentors on right-wing websites such as this one. Curious, because they always claim to be keepers of the flame of true Torydom.

      • rubyduck

        What’s caring got to do with it ?

        They will get votes if the people have confidence in their ability to allow the economy to recover.

        • andagain

          You try gaining the confidence of people who know you wouldn’t urinate on them if they were undergoing a high temperature oxidation reaction.

  • kyalami

    The Tories are “doing a Scotland” in the South of England with the vast number of houses they are forcing on rural communities.

  • DWWolds

    I do wish people would stop talking about the Conservative “brand”. It sounds like something you would expect from some wet-behind-the-ears recent marketing graduate. More seriously, there are some real problems with the concept.
    “Branding” usually involves targeting some particular segment of the market as, for example, Tesco and Waitrose do. The danger with that is that the rest of the market is left out. Alternatively, the Marks & Spencer approach, which seems to involve trying to be everything to everybody, just ends up with confusion as anyone who has recently been into a M&S store and tried to find a particular item will know.
    What is lacking from the Conservatives – and maybe from all the political parties – at present is some overall notion of the kind of society they want to create.

    • 2trueblue

      Can you imagine Maggie talking about ‘the brand’? This all happened during the 13yrs when we were fed by the BBC (Blairs Broadcasting Corporation) with such catchy things like ‘the narrative’, and other catchy meaningless lollipop advertising speak.

      We need to get back to the use of normal language and get rid of the vacuous legacy of Blairs time. The use of language in this country in education and day to day use has been downgraded to the level of the average 5yr old. I remember the heralding of allowing children to express themselves freely and not be hampered with structure, grammar, punctuation, and accurate spelling. If there is no structure and no one knows the rudiments then we are lost. That is where we are now. No one has a clue how to get their point across clearly, as long as it sounds goo that will do.
      The infrastructure of the country can not cope at present in pretty well every area. Our transport, roads, rail, energy sustainability, hospitals, education, housing, are all inadequate for the population of the country. We need those in parliament to do their job, work for what is good for the UK. Liebore had a huge majority and over 13yrs. we had a narrative blared out form the TV daily and the country was not prepared for anything they imposed on the UK.
      The reality is that 13yrs covers a period where children left school uneducated, thus contributing to the greatest swell in our teenage unemployment, a rise in teenage pregnancies, child poverty, and massive growth in our population that could have been prevented. Frankly we need a miracle and real people who can restructure our country for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Any one wishing to live here should be bound by the same responsibility. We deserve better and we all have to strive for it.

      • HJ777

        One of the things that I am always reminded of when seeing old videos of Maggie is how clearly she communicated her thoughts and how much substance she included – whether you agreed with her or not. Quite simply, she treated her audience with respect – I am going to be honest and clear.

        This is why I deplore what has happened since. Politicians can make whole speeches of cliches with virtually no content whatsoever. For example, under the last Labour government we always had Yvette Cooper telling us “we’re doing this because it is the right thing to do” as if that somehow constituted an argument.

        • 2trueblue

          I agree. Maggie respected her audience, and she earned her place without pretending she was something else.
          The TV now continues to talk of the ‘narrative’. Not a lot of substance to a narrative as we found over 13yrs of being told ‘education, education, education,’ only to discover that they were just vacuous words that left us with an unemployable youth who had no idea what they had learned and could carry anything into the workplace. Liebore really did with the spin, aided by the BBC who repeated it minute by minute.

      • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

        What? Maggie’s public image was entirely about ‘branding’. The “grocer’s daughter” when she was an Oxford law graduate with a millionaire husband, the voice lessons, the handbags, that picture of her in a tank. Not to mention the long relationship with the Saatchi brothers.

        • 2trueblue

          Maggie never hid what she was, she was a bright, articulate individual and she did earn her place. What bothers you more? The fact that she was successful, married well, put this country on the map after being run into the ground by Labour? We were the laughing stock in the world and she reversed that. The UK became respected worldwide again. She believed in people being able to be aspirational. All that was reversed over 13yrs of dumbing down by Liebore and the BBC.

          Harriet Harman for instance tries to hide what she is, as does Balls, Cooper, et al. Harman comes from a very upper class background, being the niece of Lord Longford, educated at St Pauls Girls school and spends her time apeing a working class accent. Add to the list Blair, Cooper who put on phoney accents to belie their backgrounds, and heighten their appeal to the common man.

  • Kitty MLB

    Its pointless! you are talking about people who would vote for a donkey
    wearing a red rosette, the type who, some of them burned effigies of Lady
    Thatcher, someone who has not been in government for decades and yet
    forget that Labour- that damaging growth of a party were in power for 13 years,
    and the consequences of that we are still living with.
    Especially the damaged northern industrial towns and the working classes ignored
    by their own party in whom despised them and found them a embarrassment.
    Honestly, ask the people of Doncaster if Wee Ed Milibum represents them
    how on earth do you get though to such ignorance, especially with our
    leftie dominated media and the Labour Party constantly gerrymandering and
    spitting bile to please the lowest common denominator.
    We should stop trying to ” reach out” and never act like whimpering puppies,
    dump the Lib Dems who have been nothing but a treacherous hindrance and
    get on with running the country.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Oh god not that worthless Tory group. We’ve got Bright blue, Renewal, French Tart (Fresh Start), Cornerstone, 301’s, the Tufty club etc etc blah de blah de blah de blah. You can always tell when an organisation is in disarray by the excess of groups and factions that exist within the whole. It wouldn’t surprise that there are more Tory groups set up than there are Tory MPs

    Cameron talked of a post bureaucratic age but his party seem to be revelling in internal bureaucracy setting up a group every time an MP has another bout of flatulence.

    It s absurd. When the Tories once again can demonstrate they are not a broken fractured party working against each other (and without a preponderence of absurd proposals such as a new national liberal party ~Boles ~ or putting VAT on food ~ Kwarteng ~ or contorting themselves into a working class party overnight and instead are a disciplined coherent cohesive force then they may be worth taking notice of again.

    As for ‘Renewal’ and its ridiculous mouthpiece David Skelton and his absurd idea of making the Tories the workers party there is a simple reality. Approximately two thirds of the current Tory support comes from the ABC1 group (otherwise known as the upper classes) whereas only one third comes from the working classes (C2DE). This was demonstrated in both the latest Ashcroft poll and the latest FT poll (which are the two largest polls in recent months)

    Now it is reasonable to think that unless Skelton is posturing and paying lip-service to (i.e. deceiving) the working classes that Tory policies in future would quite significantly disadvantage two-thirds of their support. What sort of suicide jockeys will undermine large proportions of their support (oh alright David Cameron aside that is). All the garbage about the Tories being the party of the working classes is just delusional nonsense. Its sheer desperate panicked la-la land delerium and the elite will not let the Tories do it!

    Shish Last month Tories were looking down their noses at the less well educated more working class UKIP support (the Goodwin /Ford musings). Who on earth is so stupid to fall for a Tory pretense that they are a working class party. Its utterly ridiculous!

    • Count Dooku

      The Tories actually do pretty well in Inner London. They clean up most of Westminster and K&C.

      • Iain Hill

        Their home territority!

  • danny263

    It’s just a thought, but could the Conservatives perhaps broaden their appeal by consistently pushing policies that actually benefit ordinary working people? As long as they’re seen as the party of rich, elderly people living in the south-east and the political wing of the City of London, their voting pool is naturally going to remain somewhat limited.

    Of course, they’d have to start by actually WANTING to broaden their appeal! I remember reading a piece on here the other week, reflecting on how the Conservatives had been unable to win a seat that contained a large council estate. I was struck by how many of the self-identifying Conservatives who replied to the thread were making comments along the lines of “well, why would we even WANT people who live in council houses voting for us?” As long as that attitude remains common among Tories, they’ll never win a majority again.

    • AnotherDave

      Mr Halfon called UKIP supporters Nazis the other day. I wouldn’t recommend his attitude as one likely to increase Conservative Party support.

      • Hello

        No he didn’t. He said “some” and “members”, not “supporters”. He elaborated on that to flesh out the distinction.

        • helicoil

          Still haemorrhaging votes like billyo in Harlow though

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            He has a rather large personal vote. It would be a brave individual who would wager money on him losing his seat.

            • AnotherDave

              How can you say Mr Halfon has a ‘large personal vote’? He has never defended the seat.

              Harlow looks very winnable for Labour. The May local election results will be interesting.


              • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

                Halfon isn’t a typical Tory, and doesn’t act as such. There are several voter constituencies that wouldn’t vote for a generic Conservative who will vote for him.

                But by all means if you’re certain then place a bet on it.

        • AnotherDave

          That doesn’t help. Nazis are totalitarians. UKIP want to increase the democratic accountability of The State, and decentralise State power.

          • Hello

            Oh god…he didn’t say that they were Nazis either, he said that the comments of Gerrard Batten were “literally akin to the Nazis saying Jews should wear a yellow star”.

            In any case, Ukip is particularly stupid to be chasing this “democracy” argument. It will inevitably lead to a more democratic, and therefore more legitimate, EU. One of the unfortunate side effects of letting political amateurs meddle with things they don’t understand, they invariably screw it up.

            • AnotherDave

              The EU was designed to avoid democratic accountability. That won’t change.

              • Hello

                By the member states, you monkey.

            • Tom Tom

              Nazis were not the first to require a yellow star……it dates from the 9th Century in Baghdad

              • Hello

                Thanks for that.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I think they are just terminally stupid. Their ‘strategy’ sucks. They pick fights with the wrong enemy and don’t seem prepared to fight the real enemy with any real gumption. They choose to do things that make them unpopular or at least that can be easily misrepresented and turned against them. And above all they appear to have abandoned conservatism for socialism-lite. Cameron himself jumps from one ’cause’ to another, mostly things that don’t matter to us, and promises to throw money at them that he doesn’t have, meanwhile there is no money for close to home. Dire. Worse than Heath.

      • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

        Heath actually has the best GDP growth record of any post war PM.

        • AnotherDave
          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            I don’t know where the Graun got their figures, but I got mine from the ONS. They also seem to be working on GDP per capita, which isn’t what I said


            Taking the method of discounting the year a PM was elected (as the work of the last government) and by the same token including the year that follows, Teddy gets an average of 3.1, compared to Mrs T’s 2.5.

            If you can find a higher one in the averages I’d be happy to be corrected.

            • HJ777

              It is possible to get a quite misleading picture of economic performance by simply looking at the average figures during the period a particular party/politician was in power. This is because you need to look at the direction/performance of the economy they inherited and take into account the time lags in economic policy.

              For example, look at debt. If we have two parties alternating in power every five years and one always steadily runs up a deficit and the other always steadily eliminates it, then the average debt under both governments will be the same.

              • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

                Indeed, and my argument against the lauding of the 1980s are that they generated GDP by running down social and natural capital.

                I still think Teddy gets a bad rep.

                • HJ777

                  What is “running down social and natural capital” meant to mean?

                  We largely saw the benefits of Maggie’s reforms in the decade or so after she left power. In her first few years we saw the results of the recession which she inherited combined with many short term policy errors on her government’s part – the benefits came later and became increasingly clear.

                • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

                  That it was decided that millions of people would be left to rot on benefits rather than create a macro-economic framework that would provide jobs for them. This was financed by cashing in North Sea petrochemicals.

                  Further, if you’re going to give Maggie the benefit for the boom, them you have to give her the blame for the subsequent bust.

                • HJ777

                  It is not ‘macroeconomic frameworks’ that provide jobs. Surely everyone has learned that by now?

                  North Sea oil has never comprised more than 2% of GDP or more than 5% of tax revenues.

                  There was a recession in the early 90s (for which her government should shoulder responsibility, albeit she was at loggerheads over policy with Lawson at the time) but the subsequent recovery was not a boom – it was entirely sustainable with rapidly falling borrowing, controlled public spending and growing private sector investment. It only turned into an unsustainable boom from about 2002/3 with rising deficits, booming public sector spending and rapid inflation of asset prices.

                • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

                  I’m intrigued as to where you got your figures. In cash terms according to the ONS total North Sea revenues were 11bn in 1984, against a GDP of 85bn or so (again, not adjusting for inflation). Granted this was the peak, but regardless that is a significant sum.

                  The deregulation of the City and intense specialisation on financial services under Maggie, which New Labour did nothing to reverse, meant that when the crash came in 2008 Britain was worse placed than it otherwise might be.

                • HJ777

                  I suggest that you carry out a sanity check on your figures. There is a rather obvious flaw which you should easily spot.

                  As yourself how much real terms GDP has grown since 1984 and then think about how much average compound inflation would have to be for your assertion to be correct.

                  As Philip Booth has pointed out, it is largely a myth that financial services were deregulated under Margaret Thatcher. In fact, statutory regulation increased usually at the expense of self-regulation (which may well have been a mistake). But we had a good old-fashioned credit boom (just an extremely large one) under Labour – it wasn’t just regulation that caused the problem. The BoE was instructed just to look at consumer price inflation, ignoring asset prices and public sector inflation.

                  The credit boom under Labour concealed the lack of underlying economic performance which was a change in trend, not a continuation of what happened under Thatcher/Major (for example, manufacturing output stopped growing in 2002 and later fell about 10% under the last Labour government having grown by about 20% under Thatcher/Major).

        • Tom Tom

          He pumped so much credit into the economy to give us 24% inflation

          • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

            But wages went up faster, so living standards actually increased.

            A man very hard done by at the hands of Maggie’s fanboys.

            • rubyduck

              It sounds very much like you weren’t there.

              • Samuel Kaine Wheeler

                Because personal anecdotes remembered from a lifetime ago are better evidence than economic data?

        • Colonel Mustard

          But that doesn’t mean I have to like or admire him as a Prime Minister.

    • Kitty MLB

      Whereas Labour voters are seen as characters from third world countries living in ghettoes and members of the wretched word ” underclass”
      who are not working class, as none of them have worked for years-
      * Ouch Kitty.. put those claws back in *
      As for Labour, Lest we forget that little note ‘ There is no money left’,
      Labour also sold off all our gold, let our industrial cities go to wreck and ruin
      for cheap goods from China and they could not give a toss about council
      houses, to busy with their wealthy friends pretending to be Conservative
      and failed miserably.

    • Tom Tom

      The Tories are Norman Overlords in their Southern redoubts who only come North to ravage and ruin. They have zero chance of revival in the North outside the farming set in North Yorkshire

      • Kitty MLB

        Yes, well let them eat cake then !!
        There are Idiots who will always vote for Idiots.
        Ignorance breeds company.

    • andagain

      Of course, they’d have to start by actually WANTING to broaden their appeal!

      I used to hope that that would happen. Now it seems like hoping that water will flow uphill.

    • Iain Hill

      Rebranding is inevitably about fooling the public while continuing to filter away their cash!

  • Hello

    If the Tories want to keep the north then they need to plan longer term. You can’t maintain single parties across divergent regional economies, it’s inevitable that policy preferences will diverge also. It requires something a little bolder than a rebrand to prevent that.

  • DavidL

    Always a hard sell for the party in Government, and its leadership, to change their spots in public. But it is certainly true that the Conservatives are starting to “do a Scotland” in the North of England, and they need to do something about it. The bond that the Conservatives have made – periodically over the ages – with working class voters, has been based on patriotism, national unity, and aspiration. That’s harder to accomplish when we have largely cashed in our armed forces, and when we are subject to so much EU law, with little realistic prospect of any of the main parties being willing to take the plunge and leave.
    Aspiration is all that’s left; so there needs to be an appeal based on deregulation, tax-cutting and opening lines of credit, especially for SMEs and start-ups, and a willingness to take on the big businesses, including big finance. George could make a start in next month’s budget. But rebranding will have to happen once the party is in Opposition, I fear.

    • Fraser Bailey

      The Tories have been ‘doing a Scotland’ in the North for some decades. Where have you been? They could have positioned themselves as ‘the workers’ party some years ago, but it’s far too late now. Especially when Osborne’s understanding of, and interest in, ‘business’ extends no further than the City (which is not ‘business’ but theft, fraud and money laundering).

      They are perceived as being ‘out of touch’ because they are. Thus we will be ruled once again by the vile and incompetent Labour party.

    • Alexsandr

      think you need to look at some of the tory seats. there are plenty in t’grim north. But they are struggling in the large cities. I remember when I started voting in the ’70’s we had at least 2 tory MP’s in Leeds, one being Keith Joseph.

      • Tom Tom

        Keith Joseph depended on the Jewish vote in Adel and Alwoodley and Roundhay but they probably vote along different lines now and Seacroft and Shadwell assure Labour and Fabian Hamilton is Jewish

        • Alexsandr

          Shadwell. Labour. think not. Its divided between Alwoodley and Harewood wards for the city council, and both have 3 tory councillors.
          I dont think Donald Kayberry was jewish, and keith joseph was leeds north east, which is Roundhay and Oakwood. Leeds north east included Alwoodley but also Adel.
          Alwoodley (and Moortown) was where the Jewish community were.
          This was in the 70’s when I lived and went to school there. May have changed.

          Do miss the Jewish bakeries. Getting bagels fresh out of the oven at one in the morning from the back door of a bakery was a real treat.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Aspiration is all that’s left; so there needs to be an appeal based on
      deregulation, tax-cutting and opening lines of credit, especially for
      SMEs and start-ups, and a willingness to take on the big businesses,
      including big finance.

      Then nothing is left because like everything else you mention it comes back to the EU and their corrupt relationship with big business. Who controls regulation? Brussels. Who controls retail taxation? Brussels and who increasingly is interfering in banking? Brussels.

      As for rebranding forget it. If you cannot rebrand after an 8 year ‘modernisation’ project then chances are you will never achieve it. Its only a question of how fast the decline will be from here on in. The Tories have had their last chance and blown it.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here