Is the cost of getting a licence for a pub about to increase? Will the 400-year-old tradition of Morris dancing in Bampton be threatened as a result? Why is all this happening?
What are the challenges facing Britain today? Where exactly is Bampton? Why do I start speeches with multiple questions?
I'll tell you why. It's the same reason I'm in favour of lists. And short sentences. Preferably without a verb. First, what we are all about is lively debate. In Blackpool. In Birmingham. In Bourton. Second, the central message that I'm hearing, loud and clear, is that people have short attention spans. We're all in this together. Individuals. Families. Communities. Voluntary agencies and faith groups. Businesses. Pony clubs and gymkhanas.
Should we agree with Tony Blair when he has the right ideas? I say a resounding yes. Just look at academies, which I fully applaud. Thirdly, take the Sexual Offences Bill, which I helped through Parliament every step of the way (although at one of my surgeries in Woodstock some naturist constituents pointed out, quite rightly, anomalies in the clause on flashing which would criminalise a perfectly harmless activity). It's common sense.
Now I know what you are thinking. But let me be absolutely clear. I am absolutely clear that I am proud of this great party. I am absolutely clear that we Conservatives have done amazing things. I am absolutely clear that our country is just incredible. I love it. My default option will be to reach out to the instincts of our core. Yes, there is complex wonder in our modern, diverse society. But people in it still read the Daily Mail. So let me list seven vital areas where I will take a stand and tackle the issues. The pasta of confused abbreviations. The scourge of drug abuse. The amoeba of muddled thinking. The coarse impact of highly sexualised music videos. The plight of small abattoirs in Oxfordshire. I want you to come with me.
But let me tell you something. To those who say that our traditions and our values are enough, I say this. All the evidence shows that we have lost the last three elections. I think that's crazy. And it is not enough to simply shout louder. To simply rebrand. To simply split more infinitives. We have tried bald leaders. We have tried leaders with hair. That is no longer the challenge. We all know it. The challenge is clear. But what is the challenge? You don't get anywhere in life by shirking the real issues. Let me give you an example. On 7 January this year the late-running 15.52 from Paddington did not stop at Hanborough or Kingham. I faced it head on for my constituents. First Great Western admitted it was unacceptable ad hoc timetabling that would not be repeated. That is why I talk about not just a new party, but a completely new party. That is why I talk about not just modernisation, but real modernisation. That is why I talk about not just party-political point-scoring, but about resolving real problems with real rigour. It's not always easy to say. But is that a reason not to say it? I don't think so - do you?
The future is ours. If we go for it. If we seize it. If we fight for it. With every ounce of passion. With every fibre of our being. Then this great party of ours will be truly compassionate. Really up-to-date. And the good news is that the Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton areas are switched on to broadband. Charlbury and Stonesfield will follow shortly. Nothing can stop us now.
As told to John Leigh and David Woodhouse, authors of Faber's Lexicon seriesReuse content