Tim Montgomerie is the founder of Conservative Home and is, in my opinion, a bit of a legend. It's only two years ago that he got the customary welcome from a less distinguished Tim when he started blogging. This evidence suggests that his site's pledge to provide grass-roots Conservatives with a platform for their views is being fulfilled. Tim is a man who has earnt the right to be taken seriously in political circles.
I believe that democracy and open debate are paramount to Tim's ethos and I admit that I like the fact that a former CCO insider told me that Tim causes a lot of trouble. Tim has recently penned a recent article for the Spectator with the extravagant headline "The next general election will be won and lost on the internet".
Although I don't have such a clear vision of the future impact of internet-related political engagement as Tim, it's clear that political parties would benefit from thinking harder about how the internet can be used. A recent 18 Doughty Street show with Julian Glover (Grauniad) and Steve Richards (Indy) was interesting because they both seemed to agree that the Conservatives press team's focus was hopelessly misdirected away from leading bloggers. Which brings me on to the subtext to Tim's article.
I am happy to be corrected, but whilst the piece is ostensibly directed at all political parties it looks like the intended target is Cameron - and was more than just a spot of advice. His article is not quite in the use me or lose me category, but it was certainly a shot across the bows. Now I don't know whether Team Cameron are upset with Tim, but it can come across like that - and that concerns me.
Frankly, it is not easy or advisable to marginalise someone in Tim's position. For a start he absolutely relishes the fact that he operates outside the constraints of party politics - indeed his desire to discuss taboo issues is a key factor for his success. Further, given that Tim is someone seeking party democracy and a set of policies underpinned by truth, logic and principle, I am sure I will not be alone in being wary of the motives of his critics.
Getting our internet strategy right presents tremendous opportunities which unfortunately appears to be a task marked as important but not urgent. The party badly needs to wake up. Tim is a friend and a highly talented resource, not a competitor. Listen to him. At last year's party conference, Eric Schmidt the CEO of google was on the main stage whilst Tim was on the fringes. What chance that we'll see Tim on the main stage in Blackpool?