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Former Theresa May aide Will Tanner says Conservatives are ‘sleepwalking into opposition’



Ruth Davidson (left) with Onward Director Will Tanner (right)
to right) Ruth Davidson, Neil O’Brien MP, Douglas Ross MP,
Kirsten Haire MP and Onward Director Will


  • Theresa May’s former deputy policy chief ally Will
    Tanner warns that the prime minister and the  Conservative
    party are “sleepwalking into opposition.”
  • Tanner, who is now Director of the new Conservative
    think tank Onward, spoke to Business Insider in an exclusive
  • Tanner described the move of ethnic minority voters
    away from the Conservatives in 2017 as “painful” and suggested
    that attempts to win over younger voters had been

LONDON – Theresa May and the Conservative party are “sleepwalking
into opposition,”a former senior aide to prime minister has told
Business Insider.

Will Tanner, who was Deputy Head of the Policy Unit at Number 10
until he resigned in the aftermath of May’s failed 2017 general
election campaign, said the party had failed to stop young and
ethnic minority voters from deserting the party.

Tanner, who is now the director of Onward, a new
Conservative-aligned think tank, said that May had failed to find
a new direction for the party and now risked the “terrifying”
prospect of a government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“The energizing zeal of pre-2010 policy or that of the first
months under Theresa May [is] not there anymore, and we’re
sleepwalking towards opposition. The prospect of a hard-left
government is terrifying, it would be a tragic end to what
could’ve… could still be a reforming government”. 

He added: “After eight or nine months out of politics I was
depressed by the lack of zeal and energy. Centre-right thinkers
had run out of steam.”

The Conservatives have failed to win over BAME voters 

Will Tanner and Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson, Will Tanner
and Margot James


Tanner also bemoaned the party’s failure to win over ethnic
minority voters with the party overseeing a 6% swing to Labour in
the general election.

With BAME voters also turning out in greater numbers, some
analysts believe it cost the Conservatives even more than
previously, with the Telegraph reporting it could be
the reason May failed to secure a majority

Tanner labelled the 2017 slide back “painful”, saying that the
party needed to do much more to demonstrate “that the
Conservative Party gets it and is on their side”. 

He said that while a greater representation of ethnic minority
politicians in the party would be welcome, it was more important
to recover efforts begun under former prime minister David
Cameron to convince BAME voters on policy.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can still have the
relationship with those communities…Cameron did it well as PM,
and May did it too as Home Secretary with Afro-Carribean
communities over stop and search and mental health,” he said.

Attempts to win over millennials have been “patronizing”

Will Tanner
Will Tanner, Director of


Tanner also spoke out about the “patronizing” attempts to win
over younger voters by senior Conservative politicians.

“There are a lot of assumptions about millennials [being]
individualistic, I don’t believe that to be true, and not true in
aggregate either,” he said.

” Non-political Millennials value community and the NHS, not
necessarily in favour of lower taxes, but are aspirational and
enterprising… It’s patronising and ill-thought through to

Onward are set to launch a major polling and focus group research
project looking at the policy preferences of young people.

The research is set to include how young people perceive
political parties and how they can be attracted to centre right

Tanner said that he wants to “challenge the widely held
assumptions and identify the reasons they don’t vote
Conservative, and what attracts those that do to the centre

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