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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Conservatives: Can they recover?
Iain Duncan Smith arrived in Bournemouth for the Tory party conference against the backdrop of falling poll ratings, the Edwina Currie revelations and speculation over a leadership challenge.

The Conservatives say 25 new policy proposals will be unveiled during the conference, proposals which will complete Margaret Thatcher's "unfinished revolution" of reforming public services.

But polls, like one conducted by the Daily Telegraph, show the public is finding the Conservatives disconnected from modern Britain. Another poll conducted over the weekend suggested that Conservatives were now neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats.

How can the Conservatives reverse their poor poll ratings? What do you think of their new policies ? Will they make a difference to the party's election chances?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

This has to be the way forward

Adam, UK
I think that there is great potential for the Tories. If they have the courage to take forward the agenda set out so far they can win back power. When people actually read the new policies they mostly seem to like them. This has to be the way forward.
Adam, UK

If the Conservatives want to win back the lost votes they will have to radically overhaul their policies as Labour did in the early 90s. They need to go out to the country and listen to the complaints that people have with Labour's policies and propose solutions.
Ian T, UK

Judging on her performance at the conference, as a Conservative I believe Theresa May should lead the party into the election. We need a strong woman to lead our party, not another grey man like Major, Hague or IDS.
Alistair Walters Jnr, UK

Simple - give Kensington and Chelsea to Posh, and make her the leader. The only threat to the Tory Party then would be Labour replacing the Blairs with Baby or Scary Spice.
Irdux, Britain

Changing the party name and adopting a false grin is all that's needed

Mark Olive, UK
Perhaps changing the party name and adopting a false grin is all that's needed. How about 'New Conservatives'. It worked for Labour and look how long it has kept them in power.
Mark Olive, UK

I think that there is great potential for the Tories. If they have the courage to take forward the agenda set out so far they can win back power. When people actually read the new policies they mostly seem to like them. This has to be the way forward. Time for the backstabbers and naysayers to (in the words of John Major) "put up or shut up".
Adam, UK

What the Tories need to get our country back on track is independence from Europe. It is the only way forwards as Europe is holding us up.
Nick, UK

When the right wing of the Tory party removed the centre right after John Major's defeat, taking total control, they instantly became unelectable, committing themselves and the party to a life in the political wilderness. The Tories' biggest problem to date is that the very people that make the Tories unelectable are the very same ones who are trying to find out whose fault it is as to why they are unelectable.
Paul B, UK

Can we please have a party that puts the whole of the UK first and not just middle class middle England?
Gerry, UK

I would consider voting for almost anybody remotely sensible who took the time to explain honestly and completely how their policies will work and what the benefits and drawbacks of them are. If any members of the Conservative party read this, then there is your challenge. Please take it up.
Paul, UK

It is difficult to see where the Conservatives fit in the political landscape of our age

Hugh Payne, Yorkshire, England
It is difficult to see where the Conservatives fit in the political landscape of our age. Change is inevitable; yet the basic philosophy of the Tories stems from resistance to change. Moreover, in economic policy New Labour have beaten the Tories at their own game. I feel it is likely that during the next few decades the Conservative Party will suffer a strange and slow death - like that of the Liberal Party in the early 20th century. The Tories seem to have already peaked and begun to decline. Thatcher was their Gladstone.
Hugh Payne, Yorkshire, England

The policies on schools and hospitals are good. A real alternative to Lib Dem/Labour tax and spend. Let's see more.
Russ, UK

The Tories are appalling as are the Labour Party. The sheer hypocrisy of both parties is shocking. Their failure to make good on anything that they promise amazes me. Yet the startling similarities between them makes me smile as neither party will see it for what it is - a different party with the same policies and a different name. Neither one can redeem themselves currently and neither frankly deserves to.
Mel, London, UK

The 'rock solid' Tory vote, as we all know, is comprised in the main of anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, anti-union, anti-everything attitudes that have little relevance in 2002 and beyond. The Conservatives no longer enjoy the clear support of business. The average voter sees little of merit in them. I consequently believe that the one and only hope they have of turning things around is for Labour to muck up in a big way. And even then IDS needs to have seen off the challenge from the Lib Dems who despite themselves seem to be doing pretty well, by comparison.
Mike Benso, UK

The Tory vote comes from people who are pro a thriving and stable country

Heidi, UK
So Mike Benso thinks the Tory vote is all about being anti everything! Wake up Mark, the Tory vote comes from people who are pro-education, pro-health, pro-economy, pro-business and mostly pro a thriving and stable country. Something which we are seeing stripped away by a government that has done nothing but make things worse. The average voter needs to open their eyes. Tony says "things can only get better" - well they couldn't get much worse than what we've seen over the past 5 years!
Heidi, UK

If IDS had rushed out a raft of new policies in the first 12 months of his leadership we would have heard the usual cliches of 'not listening' from the critics. If he takes his time, studies alternatives, listens to opinions he is accused of not being dynamic enough. I seem to recall Labour under Blair being shy of giving policy detail until the 97 election was upon them so why should the Tories do any different?
Adrian M Lee, England

I was extremely impressed with Theresa May's speech

Ian Smith, UK
I am not a natural Tory voter. But I was extremely impressed with Theresa May's speech. The sooner the Conservatives make her their leader the sooner they will get back in government!
Ian Smith, UK

In a world where the media demand headlines every day, it has been good to see IDS ignore them and take the time to formulate policy. Labour makes the right noises to the centre right voters but their actions show a lack of substance. Labour will be vulnerable in the coming 3 years until the next election. Now is the time for the Tories to provide the "substance" and lead the debates.
Jim, UK

I think IDS is ill-advised to have Michael Howard delivering a speech about "caring". He didn't come across that way when he was in office. Of course people do change but we're a sceptical lot when it comes to politicians
Alan Harrison, UK

He has shot himself in the foot with this bizarre statement

Peter Finch, England
Iain Duncan Smith's decision to return to Margaret Thatcher's "unfinished revolution" is probably the worst thing he could have done for the party. Anyone who remembers the "Thatcher Years" will shudder in loathing, fearful of such a return. He has shot himself in the foot with this bizarre statement.
Peter Finch, England

The Tories seem to have abandoned the distinctive policies that would have persuaded me to vote for them next time around. I want to vote for a Centre Right party, which supports the free market, opposes further entanglement in Europe and will substantially reduce immigration to Britain. The Tories seem to be attempting to win votes by swinging to the left of Labour! Unless this changes, my vote will go elsewhere.

Inventing 25 new policies just to make yourself more attractive is not going to work - policies must come from conviction and core beliefs. If the Tories don't have any that are relevant anymore, they should disband. A party stuffed with old fossils is never going to be re-elected.
Laurence Tyler, UK

The party just doesn't have the dynamic, proactive, interesting people that a successful party needs

Gary McCartney, UK
The Tories are currently absent of any form of dynamism. In a marketing sense they are where Skoda was 20 years ago. For all his faults, Tony Blair has an energy, a sophistication and a strength of leadership which Iain Duncan Smith can only dream of. For the Conservatives to counteract this negativity, there needs to be, not only, a change of leadership, but a complete overhaul of the frontbenchers...but the party just doesn't have the dynamic, proactive, interesting people that a successful party needs. Sad, but true.
Gary McCartney, UK

The biggest mistake the Tory party made was not to elect Heseltine as their leader. The second biggest mistake they made was not to elect Ken Clarke and opt once again for a third rate politician. Until they grasp the nettle by its thorns and elect someone who is as flamboyant and with the leadership appeal as Blair, they will never be elected again.

Perhaps it is the attitude of 're-election at all costs' that puts people off. Election strategy should come from sensible policies in which people can believe, not the other way round!
Derek Blyth, UK

They have lost all contact with reality

Charles Moore, Scotland
It's difficult to see them as an opposition. The majority of people in this country oppose the New Labour privatisation of schools and hospitals, the watering down of state pensions and the going to war for US oil interests. Yet the Tories demand even more of all these things. They have lost all contact with reality and it is high time they were dropped into the dust-bin of history.
Charles Moore, Scotland

If IDS sticks to policies of 'finishing the revolution Margaret Thatcher started' then they will continue to be the opposition.
Jim Leighton, Bracknell, UK

I really do despair when I see 'the Opposition' parties. The Conservatives do not have a hope, they are totally disorganised, like a life raft at sea. As for the Liberals, they seem more suited to 'Have I got News for You'. The result is that Blair can do as he likes and no one can stop him. A new force in politics is required. Prince Charles may consider stepping down from the Monarchy and going into politics, he would at least have some credibility.
Chrisp, UK

I'd like to see ethnic minorities represented in the party

Sam Rose, UK
The Tories need to embark on a soul searching journey but they don't have to look far. They must take a leaf out of the Republican party in the US which is equally conservative but more in tune with the 21st century. I'd like to see ethnic minorities represented in the party and they can only do so by appealing to minorities in the UK. The image which the Tory party conveys is that of an ageing white middle class little Englanders who are hostile to change and new ideas. They could also do with a charismatic leader - Iain Duncan Smith looks like William Hague's eldest brother. They need to prove to the public that they care about public services and concentrate more on attacking Tony Blair's record. Britain needs a serious and credible opposition but the Tories have a long way to go.
Sam Rose, UK

As a 20 year old student new to politics, I have been paying close attention to all the party conferences this year. So far, after just one day of the conservatives conference, I can see from what they have said that they are the only party with any ideas. I think if they can carry forward the positive rhetoric I've heard so far with their policies, there is only one direction for them and that's straight back into government.
Ben, UK

I cannot see the Tory Conference having any impact on public opinion. Who cares? The relevance of the annual conference has been lost with 24-hour news, political media management and so on. The political parties could do themselves a favour by abandoning these jamborees and spend more time in regaining contact with ordinary people. The Tories just have further to go than either LibDems or Labour - although New Labour has largely lost touch with the country anyway. Does anyone seriously think that any of our national parties has much say in the running of the country anymore?
Tony Crooks, UK

People's views are influenced by action and not dreaming

Rees Howell, UK
People are loosing faith in the political process as a whole. The public don't want to see new designs and catchphrases. They have seen these all before and it doesn't persuade anyone. People's views are influenced by action and not dreaming, Ian Duncan Smith needs to step out into the limelight more to have any chance of people noticing the so-called new Conservative party
Rees Howell, UK

I very much hope that the "Nasty Party" will remain on the fringes of politics! I didn't see much compassion for anyone but the wealthy in the twenty years of rule.
Barry, UK

The country took 20 years to trust Labour again. I can see it taking about 20 years before the Tories get into power again. But let's not write IDS off now, give him a chance and let him put some policies forward.
Nick L, UK

We have other ideas and ideals now and the only way they can win us back is to listen to what's important to us

Christine, UK
Although my political ideals are generally closely linked with the Tories I voted for the LibDems in the last election. In order for the Tories to become a credible alternative they need to shed the ghost of Maggie Thatcher, stop living in the 1980s and wake up and smell the 21st century. Even us children of traditionally Tory families have moved on. We have other ideas and ideals now and the only way the Tories can win us back is to listen to what's important to us.
Christine, UK

It is ironic that we've come full circle since the days when the word 'Tory' was an insult deployed by Whigish MPs in the 19th century. The Tories can pull back from the brink if they reform, rethink and most importantly rebrand.
Stephen B, Wales

It just goes to show how desperate the Tories are at the moment. Basically they are still reeling from their past two General Election defeats and still have not learned from their mistakes.
Daniel Robinson, UK

As a loyal Tory voter it saddens me to see them cast ever more to the lunatic fringe.
Chris G, UK

We already have a Tory government

Dave, England
It will be very difficult for the Conservatives to be re-elected as we already have a Tory party in government.
Dave, England

Tony Blair managed to persuade his party that PFI was a good idea and that a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was fine even though it must have gone against everything the party members ever believed or thought. Up against such a powerful political operator the Tories will remain impotent.
Phil, UK

The plain truth is that IDS is unelectable, in the same way that Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock were. Until the Conservatives get a leader who looks and can talk the part they will be in opposition.
Anon, UK

IDS and the Tories can be summed up in one word - unelectable!

John Amans, Redhill, UK
IDS is merely William Hague mark two. He and his party have still got Mrs Thatcher's albatross hanging around their necks. I didn't like Thatcher's medicine first time around, what make him think we need another spoonful? IDS and the Tories can be summed up in one word - unelectable!
John Amans, Redhill, UK

The real problem within the Tory party is the in-fighting and ever readiness of it's members to stab whosoever is the current leader in the back at the first opportunity. Unless the Tories present themselves as a united party, they will never lead again in the near or distant future.
Anon, UK

The Conservatives are still living in the past. Labour learned their lesson back in the 1980s and have now got a relevant and credible government. The Conservatives have light years to go before the majority of the general voting public sees them as anything other than old fashioned, out of date, out of touch and arrogant.
Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England

Tweedle Dum in the Blue Corner, Tweedle Dummer in the red corner. What's the difference? It is our democracy that needs the overhaul, not just the sad, jaded and confused Tories. I voted for New Labour at the last two elections, but I won't be voting again until a "none of the above" box is put on the ballot paper. Only then will our so called leaders recognise the seriousness of the damage they have done.
Roger Morgan Freedlan, Leicester, England

The Tories will only do themselves more damage this week

Miguel, London, UK
The Tories will only do themselves more damage this week. They will attempt to modernise, and annoy their core supporters, but not modernise enough to win back the support of the general public. What is more, the Tories seem to want power for the sake of it, not because they actually have a vision for this country. Time to be overtaken by the Lib Dems, perhaps?
Miguel, London, UK

Falling poll ratings at this stage in the parliament, and in the face of increased support for the Lib Dems spells serious trouble for the Tories. It may well be irreversible as the Lib Dems gain more attention and the Tories continue to argue amongst themselves.
Graham, UK

I think they have a tough task. Labour have adopted their stance on so many issues, that they either have to agree with the government or adopt a stance (cosy and caring) that the electorate doesn't associate with the Conservatives, and is highly sceptical of. I think they are out of power for at least 10 more years. Labour are too good at covering their tracks.
Martin Smith, Oxford, UK

Conservative Conference: Can they reverse the decline?



2225 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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See also:

07 Oct 02 | Politics
05 Oct 02 | Politics
07 Oct 02 | Politics
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