Tory MPs aim to have 'ideas factory' up and running by January
Conservative MP Neil O'Brien is leading the effort to find new policies for Theresa May - or her replacement.
As many Tory MPs consider what to do with the prime minister, moves to provide an "an intellectual platform" for the party leadership are gathering momentum.
A week ago, it emerged that some of Theresa May’s and David Cameron’s closest allies had held a dinner to discuss new policies. The feast took place at the Mayfair home of David Meller, a Conservative donor said to be prepared to fund "a new organisation to devise policies that can help May restore the party’s fortunes and present a future leader with options".
Now, following widespread interest from Conservative MPs at the party’s conference, it is hoped that a new campaign group will be up and running within a few months.
One source told Total Politics that "dozens" of MPs had expressed an interest in getting involved in the proposed group in the first few days of Conservative conference in Manchester. They line up alongside two MPs who attended the Mayfair dinner, Boris Johnson-supporting Nadhim Zahawi and the rising star Rishi Sunak.
The level of interest in the new venture is thought to underline the desperation among many MPs for the Tories to re-invent themselves in order to appeal to younger voters and to see off the threat from Jeremy Corbyn.
The group is being seen by interested Tory MPs as an "ideas factory" that will draw up policies for the Tory leadership – whoever is in the hotseat. One source compared the proposed set-up that of the New Labour pressure group Progress and said the aim was now to be up and running by 1 January 2018. The source also stressed that the new group would work with May or any of her likely successors.
"We’re not backing a horse, we’re setting an intellectual platform. But we do want the winning horse to get behind our platform," said the source.
On 1 October, the first day of this year’s Conservative conference, The Sunday Times revealed that a dinner had taken place at Meller's home in Mayfair, organised by Tory MP Neil O’Brien and political consultant Nick Faith. Political editor Tim Shipman reported that May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy and her current deputy chief of staff Joanna Penn were present at the dinner, along with top Cameroon MP Nick Boles, two ministers and "several young MPs tipped as future leaders".