First time I met Francis Maude was in the early 1990s. I was his chauffeur when he visited Montgomeryshire and featured in a debate about whether the UK should enter the Euro, held at Gregynog. His pro-Euro opponent that day was Charles Kennedy. The audience was about 100 local businessmen and women, and the Chair was the BBC's Sarah Dickin. Francis totally destroyed him. A vote was taken and the entire room (except for about two backed Francis). I've had a great regard for his political skill and judgement ever since.
So I read today's major interview in the Telegraph with especial interest. "The Conservative Party only succeeds when we are forward-looking." and "Our greatest tradition is to modernise." and "The idea that offering tax cuts is an instant route to electoral success is utter rubbish." and "I haven't found a single person who wants to spend less on the health service." and a whole lot more. Much of this may well not appeal to everyone, but it does appeal to me.
People often ask me what I think the Conservative Party has to do to win the next election. I usually respond (in all seriousness) by saying we have to persuade a lot of people who have not considered voting for us for the last 11 years, to change their minds. In Montgomeryshire, I always tell our team that there is absolutely no sense in criticising the thousands of people who seem to vote Liberal Democrat no matter what. For us to win, we have to persuade them to vote for us. Francis Maude understands this same principle at a national level better than most.