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Conservative party membership has fallen from nearly 300,000 to about 150,000 over the last ten years, and it is forecast to decline further in the future as a large proportion of its members are elderly. Mr Cameron wants to reverse that trend by entrenching his party decisively in the centre ground of British politics – possibly setting up new Compassionate Conservative Caucus.
To this end, a review was launched after the general election by Lord Andrew Feldman, Conservative party chairman, a handful of MPs and local/regional party chairs.
Rob Halfon, the new deputy chairman, is said to feel that, to thrive long-term, the Conservative Party must become a mass movement, reaching out beyond its traditional heartland.
Kate Allen, political correspondent of the Times, reports that – according to people familiar with the review’s progress – it is felt that the Conservative party needs to re-establish itself in communities, winning over a new generation of members and activists. The first step taken at last year’s party conference was the announcement of a £250,000 fund to help people on lower incomes run for parliament.
Predicted measures to bring floating voters into contact with prime minister David Cameron’s brand of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ and win them over, include:
- party activists setting up local community groups to improve the party’s image and attract a wider range of members,
- groups tackling practical activities such as litter-picking and renovating community facilities,
- campaigning on local issues such as roads and schools,
- demonstrating that the party is no longer dominated by elderly, socially conservative members.by supporting measures such as same-sex marriage and continued spending on overseas aid,
- continuing to target younger voters by mobilising grass roots campaigners through the RoadTrip group – as MP Andrew Mitchell, advised the party’s youth wing: “A greater emphasis on by-election leafleting and a little less on Tatleresque social activities is overdue”,
- spending more on new media marketing, such as Facebook advertisements,
- seeking to build on the party’s city seats initiative, which has seen candidates and Conservative associations in urban areas that are not traditionally Tory working closely together to build the party’s vote,
- considering a membership package akin to that of a members’ club or health club to include free or discounted access to events, reading material and promotional merchandise, and the opportunity to shape party policy,
- and setting up a new Compassionate Conservative Caucus to focus on social justice, possible members to include Welsh secretary Stephen Crabb and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.
Andrew Feldman rallies the party: “We have a golden opportunity to ride the wave and renew our Party – and we must seize it. The road to 2020 starts here”.