Liam Fox and David Davis back 'radical' Tory agenda

Liam Fox, Dominic Raab and Steve Barclay at the launch of Conservative Voice The MPs say they want the party to improve its 'campaigning edge'

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Liam Fox and David Davis have backed a new group aiming to put "popular and radical" policies at the heart of the next Tory election manifesto.

The influential right wing MPs want to put pressure on David Cameron to set out a "clear" Tory message to voters.

But Mr Davis said the group - Conservative Voice - aimed to "work alongside" the party leadership.

It will argue for "seriously ambitious" policies on tax, Europe, public services and political reform.

Mr Cameron is under pressure from some of his MPs to embrace a much more traditional Conservative approach to economic and social issues and assert his leadership within the coalition.

The Conservative leader has acknowledged the constraints on his party of it being in alliance with the Liberal Democrats and has suggested it would be pursuing a different course on welfare, Europe and other issues if it had a working majority of its own.

'Campaigning edge'

Mr Davis, who recently called for a major reappraisal of economic strategy, said Conservative Voice would provide a "home for the professional and voluntary wings of the Conservative Party and who are united in their belief in popular, radical conservatism".

"Our aim is to encourage seriously ambitious policy development and to help improve the party's campaigning edge in really practical ways," he added.

Analysis

Suppose David Cameron had written a good luck letter to the men behind Conservative Voice, the latest in a growing list of Tory groups. It might read something like this:

"Dear Davis, Foxy and friends. As a Conservative (and the Conservative chosen to lead the party over any of you) there is much I like about your aims.

"I too believe in aspiration, low taxes, and a small state. I want the Conservative Party to be an effective campaign machine that can win a majority at the next election. And I'm pleased with your offer of help.

"My small concern is that your new group might look to some like a challenge to me. I know you don't like the compromises of coalition and some of you think I'm rather too posh to connect with the aspirational working class voters Mrs Thatcher managed to win.

"I also notice with some concern that Nadine Dorries has been invited to your launch. By all means differentiate the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats.

"But I'd urge you not to differentiate yourselves from me.

"Best wishes, David Cameron."

"Our approach is to work from inside the party and alongside the leadership and to actively engage with think tanks, campaigning organisations, academics and business people."

The group also aims to harness ideas from Conservative MPs and and harness activists.

Other backers include Conor Burns, who resigned as a ministerial aide over his opposition to reform of the House of Lords and fuel price campaigner Robert Halfon.

Speaking at the launch of the group, former defence secretary Liam Fox said it would help the party connect with voters.

"It's not just about the high flyers, it's about the triers. It's not just about the achievers, it's about the aspirers.

"As we move towards next election we will need to differentiate our brand and set forward a clear Conservative message.

"We have a long-standing tradition of Conservative views which we intend to set out clearly."

Don Porter, a former deputy chair of the Conservative Party Board and founder of Conservative Voice, said he had been in touch with Downing Street "throughout the development" of the group and they were grateful for its "transparency and honesty".

Many Conservatives on the right of the party welcomed last week's government reshuffle, which saw promotions for Chris Grayling, Owen Paterson and Michael Fallon among others.

However, the changes have been questioned by others with former children's minister Tim Loughton, who lost his job, tweeting that it was "very worrying to see that children & young people brief downgraded to just one minister at the Department for Education now".

In an exchange with fellow Tory MP Michael Fabricant, about the scope for ex-ministers to form a dining club, Mr Loughton referred to what he described as a "one man firing squad".

It was reported at the weekend that a Conservative MP Bob Stewart had been approached by two unidentified colleagues asking him if he would consider standing as a "stalking horse" against the prime minister - an approach that he said he had dismissed out of hand.

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