The NS Interview: Tim Montgomerie

“God is not a Conservative, but Christianity led me to the party”.

You're described as the voice of the Tory grass roots. What are they saying?
They are dominated by a dislike of Gordon Brown. But they are confused, sometimes, by the Cameron project.

How has the internet changed politics?
The internet is a historic decentralisation of power. If political parties don't listen, they'll be swept away by an internet-based movement.

How influential do you think you are?
ConservativeHome is influential. But if it was just me spouting off, then it wouldn't be.

Are you a divisive influence among Tories?
What ConservativeHome does is open things up. You can say that's divisive, and in some ways it is, but the party has never complained to me.

How is your relationship with the leadership?
I have a very good relationship with them. They've never stopped engaging, even though I sometimes cause them a headache.

What are the weaknesses in the Conservative election campaign?
You have a central office that needs to feed the media monster. Occasionally, mistakes will be made. My advice: don't rush out a product until you're convinced it's the right thing to be saying and you've checked all your numbers.

What is the first thing you would want a Conservative government to do?
Unless we start tackling the Budget deficit quickly, international markets will panic.

Is ConservativeHome a mouthpiece for your own brand of social conservatism?
I give my view, but on the platform it's diverse. On climate change, for example, I'm a sceptic, but we have people in favour of radical action.

How do you define "climate-change sceptic"?
I'm sceptical about policy. We should do green things, but only when they have other benefits.

Do you believe that Britain is broken?
The whole of Britain isn't broken, but elements are. Unless we repair the family, demands on the state are going to grow.

Why the obsession with marriage?
It's not just marriage - the Tory policy has lots of dimensions. But every European country other than us supports marriage in some way.

What made you a Conservative?
When I was 11, a teacher told me about the evil of nuclear weapons. My dad, who was in the army, introduced me to the idea of deterrents.
I became fixated with politics thereafter.

What has been the Tory party's low point?
Thatcherism's failure: the failure to look like we cared about everybody in the country.

Were you always religious?
My parents say that at the age of seven I started nagging the family about why we never went to church. My father's a lay reader now.

How will you hold Cameron to account?
We will watch what they are doing; we're not going to be puppies in government. David Cameron is the leader of the Conservative Party, but he doesn't own it. It's all of ours, and long after he's gone, members will still be helping to form it. So they deserve their say.

Are you influenced by extreme American Christian conservatism?
I have learned from what the United States has done wrong, as well as right. For the church to have become identified with abortion and homosexuality is a terrible failure. There's a lot about American Christianity that I admire, but no, I'm not importing it to the UK.

In your ideal world, would abortion be illegal?
An unborn child is the most vulnerable of human beings in society. In my ideal world, lots of things would be different, but my ideal world
is never going to happen.

Are your political convictions inherently linked to your religion?
Yes. There are Christians in all parties - God is not a Conservative. But Christianity has led me to be a Conservative because of what I believe about family and individual responsibility.

Is there a plan?
By the end of the year I want to be doing something different, to stop blogging.

Is there anything you regret?
My biggest regret is from my faith. I took quite a doctrinaire view in my twenties about homosexuality, and I was wrong. I don't think there has ever been an occasion with a gay person on which I've been anything other than kind and friendly. But it's quite a big regret.

Are we all doomed?
If anything should keep us awake at night, it's nuclear proliferation. I'm much more worried about Iran than about global warming.

 

Defining moments

1970 Born into an army family, grows up in Hampshire and Germany
1990 While studying at Exeter University, sets up Conservative Christian Fellowship
1992 Takes a post at the Bank of England
1998 Joins Conservative Central Office, working on outreach to faith communities
2003 Appointed political secretary to Iain Duncan Smith, then party leader
2005 Sets up the ConservativeHome political website