Tim, Nice With Spin

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Tim Montgomerie is a political operator with an ambitious agenda. Informed by a quiet Christianity that underlies the approach of his IDS-chaired Centre for Social Justice, Tim aims to win the war on poverty by “getting the government off the back of the armies of compassion”. Essentially its compassionate conservatism combined with social activism. Tim is sensitive to suggestions that he is the cutting edge of the Christian Right in Britain, going to great lengths to disassociate himself from the negative side of the American Christian Right, despite sharing much of an agenda with them. Though he forswears an anti-gay agenda, he still manages to condemn poseur multilateralist metrosexual politicians. He claims he now has nothing to do with his former berth, the Conservative Christian Fellowship and is not even a member anymore.

Tim is very busy, apart from his real job at the Centre for Social Justice, he is behind ConservativeHome.Com which has quickly become a clearing house for Tory internal debate during the leadership campaign. Well laid out (after a few early design problems) and well edited, it has become an online community of bloggers. In fact its launch was heralded by a famous (for the blogosphere) article largely written by Tim that went out under IDS’ byline in the Guardian:

Through the tradition of town hall meetings, officials were held to account by local people. Blogger communities are going to be much more powerful. They will draw together not only local people but patients who have waited and waited for NHS care. They will organise parents of disabled children who oppose Labour’s closure of special-needs schools and evangelical Christians who see their beliefs caricatured by ignorant commentators.

All this should put the fear of God into the metropolitan elites. For years there have been widening gaps between the governing class and the governed and between the publicly funded broadcasters and the broadcasted to.

Until now voters, viewers and service users have not had easy mechanisms by which to expose officialdom’s errors and inefficiencies. But, because of the internet, the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move. They will expose the lazy journalists who reduce every important public policy issue to how it affects opinion-poll ratings.

Tired of being spoon-fed their politics, British voters will soon be calling virtual town hall meetings, and they will take a serious look at the messenger as well as the message. It’s going to be very rough.

Karl Rove is right. The internet could do more to change the level of political engagement than all the breast-beating of introspective politicians and commentators. A 21st century political revolution is now only a few mouse clicks away.

Tim rejects the Tory-Taliban-Lite tag, he is backing Liam Fox, but says he would have backed David Willets had he stood. He also keeps his distance from the headcases of the Cornerstone group and US Moral Majority types such as Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, claiming they lack a vision for social and international justice with too much focus on homosexuality. Bachelor Tim prefers a pro-family, rather than anti-gay stance.

Tim is nice with spin, it was in no small way due to Tim’s repeated references to Cameron and cannabis that the issue seeped into the mainstream long before Cameron was asked about it on the Tory party conference fringe. It was the Mail group and Tim who publicly and repeatedly, again and again linked Cameron’s liberal comments to the Home Affairs Select Committee on drugs with his personal history. Tim boasted that his

post of Sunday on ‘Cameron and cannabis’ produced more than 160 reactions (at the time of writing this) and the subject is interesting commentators, too. Pundits are seeing Mr Cameron’s unwillingness to talk about his experience with illegal drugs as a betrayal of ‘the new kind of politics’ that they hope he might represent.”

This lived up to Tim (and Karl Rove’s) hope that right-wing blogging will change the way we engage in the political process. Tim protests to Guido that he was not trying to smear Cameron. Maybe not, but when Cameron placed an article in the Daily Mail defending himself on the subject, Guido hears the Cameron team went to the trouble of alerting Tim to it. Cameron’s people seemed to think it important to engage with him on the issue.

Tim Montgomerie is a wonk to watch, his agenda is gaining traction, its sophisticated and savvy. As the Conservative party seeks big ideas, Tim may find success repackaging American compassionate conservatism for British tastes.




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