16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 38

Modernise the message

From Mr Malcolm Gooderham Sir: Re. Nick Herbert's article (Conservative cowards'. 9 November). To describe modernising conservatism as being about ditching a belief in the free market, or arguing that public spending is the only way to improve public services, is a crude caricature.

Conservatives who want to modernise the party believe that the principles must remain, but the message must change.

For the party to repeat the familiar free-market mantras, or cries for tax cuts, risks compounding many of the negative values that swing-voters now associate with conservatism, and will not have the same resonance as they did a generation ago.

History shows that successful leaders modernise the politics of their parties to make them relevant to the times. They reform and reposition their parties in order to capture the mood of the country.

There is a new dividing line in Tory politics: it is between reformers and reactionaries; Herbert, ironically, is with the latter.

Malcolm Gooderham

London N1