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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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
Can we please have a party that puts the whole of the UK first and not just middle class middle England?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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!
Charles Moore, Scotland
If IDS sticks to policies of 'finishing the revolution Margaret Thatcher started' then they will continue to be the opposition.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a loyal Tory voter it saddens me to see them cast ever more to the lunatic fringe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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