Boris Johnson’s newly appointed Conservative celebration chair Oliver Dowden hopes to mannequin himself on one of his most high-profile predecessors, Cecil Parkinson, Margaret Thatcher’s right-hand man, as he readies the celebration for the next normal election, his allies say.
Dowden’s allies mentioned he wished to “beef up” the job of chairing the celebration, making it a extra public-facing function in addition to making ready Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) for an election marketing campaign.
Parkinson, a champion of Thatcherism from a working-class background, continuously appeared on TV to clarify Tory insurance policies. He ran the 1983 marketing campaign that led to a landslide majority, earlier than stepping down later that year because it emerged on the celebration’s convention that he had fathered a baby with a former colleague.
Dowden represents Parkinson’s former seat of Hertsmere, and aides say he’s eager to replicate his predecessor’s election-winning methods – if not his difficult non-public life.
Wednesday’s reshuffle was carried out with a agency eye on the next election, which is due in 2024 however may come earlier. Dowden informed CCHQ employees on Wednesday that they need to begin entering into marketing campaign mode now. “You can’t fatten a pig on market day,” he mentioned. “It’s time to go to our offices and prepare for the next election.”
Trusted by No 10, he’s tipped for a return to a senior cupboard function if he succeeds in reshaping CCHQ.
His predecessor, Amanda Milling, relentlessly toured Tory-held seats within the “red wall” and past, her Twitter feed peppered with photos of herself alongside MPs of their constituencies, however there have been doubts in Downing Street about whether or not she had a grip on the celebration’s marketing campaign equipment.
Many Conservative MPs blamed what they noticed as complacency in CCHQ for the loss of the Chesham and Amersham byelection this year to the Liberal Democrats, and the failure to take Batley and Spen from Labour.
Some celebration donors additionally privately raised considerations about what they noticed as an absence of path underneath Milling. One mentioned: “The donors are basically running CCHQ now.”
No 10 could also be hoping that “Olive”, as Dowden is understood by colleagues, can rein in his co-chair, Ben Elliot, the flamboyant celebration fundraiser who has generated a string of detrimental headlines in current months.
One senior Tory who labored in CCHQ over the past three elections contrasted 2015 – when David Cameron had given the marketing consultant Lynton Crosby greater than two years to hone the celebration’s technique – with 2017 and 2019’s snap elections with rapidly assembled campaigns.
“Cameron brought in Lynton and gave him two years to get the operation into shape and prepare for the 2015 election. Boris is doing the same with Olive and getting him to properly sharpen the operation in good time,” they mentioned.
In 2019 Johnson’s marketing campaign centered on the easy “Get Brexit Done” message. Crosby, who is understood to stay in contact with the prime minister, has mentioned Johnson wants to give attention to convincing voters who backed the Tories in 2019, maybe for the primary time, that he has acted on their considerations.
Crosby mentioned these voters “will be looking to see if the investment they made with their vote is delivering the return they wanted in terms of the attention to their issues and an understanding in response to the problems that they felt they faced”.
That is probably going to imply urgent forward with the federal government’s “levelling up” agenda, although some Tories are additionally involved concerning the celebration’s vulnerability in “blue wall” seats within the south of England, many of which the Liberal Democrats are concentrating on aggressively.
As tradition secretary till Wednesday’s cupboard reshuffle, Dowden was a key foot soldier within the authorities’s (*10*), wading into rows concerning the elimination of historic statues and choosing fights with the National Trust. He lower his political enamel as an adviser to Cameron, and a former colleague described him as “ultra-political and razor-sharp”.