If David Cameron wins the next general election, will Conservative Home be an asset or a Trojan horse that could wreck the first Tory government in 13 years?
Like its right wing counterparts in America the website is one of the great success stories in giving a lively voice to free market and Conservative views. It reflects the wide gamut of party opinions on Europe, crime, benefits and taxation. It is to the embarrassment of Tory spin doctors at Central Office singularly unafraid of carrying blogs criticising the Cameron leadership. Witness the recent public debate on the site over whether Cameron was out of touch and living in a protected bubble from the rest of the party as he roamed round Parliament. Something you might expect more on Labour Home than Conservative Home.
Despite being funded by billionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft there appears to be no heavy hand of censorship and some Tory stars like Eurosceptics David Davis and John Redwood are more popular on Conservative Home than members of the present Shadow Cabinet.
Much of its success is due to the personality of Tim Montgomerie, a Christian Tory who is less abrasive than his anarchic right wing counterparts, Tory Bear and Guido Fawkes. He appears to have taken the view that a well read website should not have to toe the party line and can produce uncomfortable facts for the leadership. None more embarrassing recently than the low priority many of a new generation of Tory prospective MPs give to the environment and climate change – despite the Cameron leadership emphasising the “ Blue Green “ nature of modern Conservatism. It is almost a Christian view of ensuring the leadership have to turn the other cheek when they face a problem.
This is fine while the party remains in opposition but what would happen if it came to power. Now most of the criticism of Cameron is hidden in a deluge of comment attacking New Labour or as many Tory bloggers call it, Nu Labour. It is very easy to take pop shots at Brown over bullying, or slam Ed Balls for his ruthlessness. Attacking Harman and the Milibands is no doubt very helpful to the Tory leadership. They can be blamed for broken Britain.
But in power it would be different and the signs are that the real Tory party is nothing like the one the Cameron leadership presents to the electorate. It would be extraordinary if the right wing blogosphere that has none of the old guard deference to the leadership did not organise against it with same ferocity it attacks Nu Labour.
I know this is already happening. Before Cameron even has a chance of putting a foot inside Number Ten, Tory right wing rivals, UKIP, have spotted that Cameron appears to have foolishly pledged to hold a debate in Parliament on whether the UK should stay in the EU. Provided, of course, one million people sign a petition.
Organising a million strong petition on the net is child’s play with Facebook, Guido Fawkes and of course Conservative Home, only too happy to play a part. And UKIP has said to me that with many of their friends on Conservative Home sympathising with their views on Europe, they think that debate would have to take place soon. No wonder Cameron is despatching the old pro European bruiser Kenneth Clarke to Brussels to reassure our partners in the EU.
And why stop at Europe? Big tax cuts, bringing back hanging, demanding the right to kill a burglar, abolishing trade unions, opposing action on climate change, none of which are on Cameron’s immediate agenda, could become the new on line demands.
Lord A could pull the plug on Con Home after a Tory victory. But the genie is out of the bottle and the Tory leadership is in for a rough ride from the grass roots cyber fighters on the right.
This post is also on the Progress website under Tory Tracker at http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=361