In the subtle surroundings of Cameron’s old haunt – the dining room of the St Stephens Club – Conservative Voice launched this morning with David Davis and Liam Fox, as well as recently un-promoted members of the 2010 intake like Dominic Raab and Steve Barclay. While everyone was on their best behaviour today, making sure to say nice things about the Prime Minister and how this most certainly was not a challenge to his authority, what is clear is that the right of the Tory party are at least trying to organise.
Multiple mentions of Obama-style fundraising and online campaigning could not hide the fact that the whole thing seemed a little dated though. Soundbites like “a vision of radical and popular conservatism that reflects the aspiration of the voters, join us on this exciting mission,” were complemented by dated branding.
As one senior Tory told Guido afterwards: “this itself will not amount to much, but if it annoys the Prime Minister then sign me up”. The fact that the group has been set up by Don Porter, until recently the Tory’s most senior volunteer, shows just how deep the dissatisfaction is in the party. Despite this, the group claims they will be working “closely with the leadership and CCHQ”. Whether that lasts beyond what is shaping up to be a tempestuous Tory conference remains to be seen.
Probed on their funding by Guido, Porter confirmed that as of yet they have no “big donors”, though they were touting for them. Apparently the 25 most vulnerable seats and 25 must win targets will be getting help, but details of what the group will be actually doing beyond being a lightning rod for discontent was vague. The two somewhat tainted standard bearers of the right – Davis and Fox – were careful to attack the LibDems today rather than Cameron. While they talked about giving a voice to the right, you have to wonder whether their “conservative voice” would have been put to better use around the cabinet table.
Fox is putting a brave face on his enforced liberation from the shackles of government: “There are limitations to what ministers can say, given the constraints of Coalition. There are no limitations on what we can say.” That was not strictly true this morning though – it was clear the group were not quite saying what they wanted. Guido had to chuckle at the picture of Cameron looming over proceedings…