Robert Tyler considers the pros and cons of re-naming the Conservative Party
This week, Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, said that the Conservative Party should be renamed the “Workers Party”, and that it needs to re-brand. This isn’t the first time that someone has suggested re-naming the Party: a few months ago Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles suggested renaming it the ‘National Liberal Party’.
To my mind the idea of re-branding isn’t such a bad idea: after all, it worked for Labour. However the problem I have with re-naming the Party is that it would confuse the electorate. Albeit as a dirty word in some parts of the country, people do recognise the Conservative Party name, and that’s something we can’t afford to lose.
Once again, I find myself writing the words “Look to Europe”. The Czech elections last year saw the rise of a handful of new right-wing parties, and that confused the electorate. Where they had voted ODS before, they now found themselves voting for five different parties, all standing on roughly the same platform.
Now I will admit that this is more an argument about ensuring party unity, but I don’t think changing the name to something that belongs in the Soviet Union is going to do that.
What really needs to be done is to reorganise and restructure the Party as well as re-brand it. My suggestion for this would be to regionalise the Party and change the name on a regional basis, much like the CDU/CSU do in Germany. Perhaps rename the Scottish and Welsh Conservatives ‘Unionists’, especially as, in fact, that’s technically already part of the Party name.
Or it could follow Labour’s lead and adopt another name, but one based on affiliation. Labour Co-Op do quite well (well, until the unfortunate associations brought up by the “colourful” Rev Paul Flowers, anyway). For example the more Libertarian-leaning Conservatives could adopt a ‘Conservative-Reformist’ tag, or more wishy-washy moderates could become ‘Conservative-Progressives’. We could even start to lean towards what happens in New Zealand and America, and adopt caucusing within Parliament. I like the idea of a Liberty Caucus with MPs such as Douglas Carswell and Steve Baker voting their own bloc rather than following the main party whip.
Yes, it may look as though the party is being divided up a bit, but at least it’s not an external split that would cost the party a lot more, come election time. Plus it might also offer the electorate a chance to pick the type of Conservative they want to represent them during Open Primaries, the idea of which has started to take off more within the Party.
Whatever the route taken, there will be downsides as well as upsides. However, at the end of the day, something has to be done, because the Party’s tarnished image needs repairing.
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