View from the Left: why we need a Save Owen Paterson campaign

By Sam Blainey November 28, 2014 1:00 pm

As the Labour leader has stumbled from self-inflicted calamity to self-inflicted calamity in recent weeks, there has emerged among some Tory MPs and minor bloggers a “Save Ed” movement. They must dedicate themselves, they feel, to ensuring Ed Miliband remains leader of the Labour Party up to the next election as that gives the Conservatives their best chance of power. (What this says in terms of the appeal, or obvious lack of it, of the Tories is something left unsaid.)

I’d like to propose a similar campaign, except this one is called “Save Owen”. It’s a campaign dedicated to ensuring that Conservatives such as Owen Paterson speak out at every possible opportunity about how their party should be more Right-wing and talk more about Europe.

Theirs is a failed strategy that’s been repeated time and time again, in 1997, 2001, 2005 and arguably in 2010. Yet Tory Right-wingers continue to believe that what will actually attract voters is running the same campaign, but a little bit differently somehow. The “somehow”, incidentally, is never really addressed, apart from perhaps having a new leader. Someone Right-wing and experienced and well-known, perhaps like Michael Howa – oh.

What’s makes my “Save Owen” campaign even better is that the Tory Right has David Cameron round its collective little finger. Every time the Right expresses discontent (helped by an indulgent press) Mr Cameron gives in. He promises them some of what they want – an EU referendum, or a few impossible-to-deliver promises on immigration – and it keeps them quiet for a bit. But like children who know that their parents are pushovers, they always come back demanding more. And so the cycle continues, as all the while centrist voters see the same old Conservative Party that they didn’t vote for in 2001 or 2005 or 2010 banging on about the same issues.

Some Conservatives recognise this. This week Damien Green tried to re-energise the party’s modernisers (only in the Conservative Party would the phrase “moderniser” be seen as a pejorative one), following on from a doomed Laura Sandys attempt earlier this year. Mr Green and Ms Sandys have dangerously sensible ideas that might just appeal to the broad mass of voters. They must be stopped.

Hence my “Save Owen” campaign, aimed at ensuring that these men and women are drowned out by disgruntled (and almost all male) former Cabinet Ministers from the Right. More Owen Paterson speeches on Europe I say. More Liam Fox on gay marriage. More David Davis on everything. Then the Labour Party may just have a shot at actually winning next May.

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