Archer blueprint to take on Labour
Tuesday 17 June 1997
He called for radical reform of the party's organisation, saying it "needs not only to take a leaf from Labour's book but steal almost every chapter".
He urged Tories to appoint a chief executive to drive the party to victory - a man or woman who will "make Peter Mandelson get up in the morning more frightened of the Conservative Party than the vagaries of his own party".
Lord Archer set out his vision for a Central Office-based response action team, to scrutinise every move that Labour makes.
The former Conservative deputy chairman, delivering the Robert Kennedy Memorial Address at the Oxford Union, called for a say to be given to party workers in the regions.
The lecture has previously been delivered by Presidents Clinton and Mandela.
Lord Archer told students general election defeat was "a political version of hearing the roll call of the dead after the first day of the Somme". He was strongly critical of the Tories' pounds 8m poster campaign, the money from which could have saved redundancies of Central Office staff, grassroots workers and agents across the country.
Trained staff are necessary to bring about a Tory victory in four or five years, he said. It is also necessary to understand the changes which have taken place in politics and why the party lost the election so conclusively.
"Top of the list and written in capitals should be the word `division'," pointing to the splits on Europe which still plague the party.
Lord Archer, who is convinced that politics has changed and moved closer to the American model, said it is vital for the Tories to understand that television interviews count for more than a speech in the House of Commons, that "we live in the age of soundbites".
"At the last election, the Conservatives were fighting the battle on horseback while the enemy were gliding around in Chieftain tanks," he said.
It is this type of "quantum leap" in organisation, self-discipline, campaigning and communication that the party needs, Lord Archer said.
Borrowing Labour's slogan, he warned: "It's time for a change - a change in the Conservative Party."
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