The Conservatives have only had one recent shot at reinventing themselves after successive spells in Government. It came after a fourth election victory in 1992, and wasn’t a success (to put it mildly). The bulk of Tory policy for the 1997 election, which saw Tony Blair returned with a majority of 179, will have been drawn up in Downing Street. If you want further evidence of why this method of policy-making is flawed, look no further than the manifesto of last June – and the election result.
George Freeman was therefore right to suggest on this site yesterday that the Number Ten Policy Unit is unlikely to have the wherewithal to provide a manifesto for 2022 or earlier on its own. His solution was twofold. First, a new Conservative Policy Board led by Parliamentarians “outside of the constraints of the Government machine”. Second, a new Commission including “not just our brightest Parliamentarians and reformers from both sides of the EU Referendum debate – from Nick Boles to Priti Patel and the new generation of MPs come to Parliament during the last few years, but also modern business leaders, social enterprise pioneers, our best council leaders and campaigners”.
You may worry that too many cooks will spoil this broth. You might argue that such a new Policy Board should have a more formal role in helping to draw up the manifesto, alongside the proposals for reform contained in the Pickles Review. But there is a sense in setting up a Party Commission, as soon as possible, that draws on the talents of backbench MPs – such as Nick Boles, Rishi Sunak, Fiona Bruce, the new generation of 2017 intake MPs, and Freeman himself – as well as people who aren’t Party members at all.