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After years building Bright Blue, today we’re celebrating a new chapter for the organisation: as an established think tank and pressure group. As the journalist Matthew d’Ancona, a member of our Advisory Board, writes about Bright Blue in our new book The modernisers’ manifesto: “Modernising Toryism now has a home and an HQ for the next generation of Conservatives”.

Back in 2010, a group of Conservative activists and advisers came together to create an independent organisation that would champion liberal conservatism and support the modernisation project that David Cameron was promoting. Back then, on a shoestring budget, we organised small gatherings for like-minded people in different pubs who wanted to chat politics and brainstorm policy. Today, these are a common fixture in the Westminster calendar: our monthly Drink Tanks, attracting large audiences and high-profile speakers, and the odd bit of press attention too.

Bright Blue has come a long way over the past four years. Finally, we have two full-time staff members: me and our brilliant researcher, David Kirkby, with plans for expansion over the next year. On top of that, we have a passionate associate executive, an impressive advisory board with three Cabinet Ministers, and 42 parliamentary supporters.

Our analysis – rigorous and independent – is regularly featured in national newspapers, and on TV and radio. We’ve published two books: Tory modernisation 2.0: the future of the Conservative Party and, out today, The modernsiers’ manifesto. A number of policies we’ve campaigned strongly for have been adopted by the current Government: for example, increasing the minimum wage, greater financial support for parents to afford childcare and lifting the cap on the number of undergraduate places at universities.

From day one, we’ve wanted to make Bright Blue a friendly, inviting space where people from all political backgrounds can attend and speak at our events.  Hence the range of politicians and opinion formers on the centre-right contributing to our new book: Dr Liam Fox MP, Ian Birrell, Isabel Hardman, Professor Tim Bale, Andrew Mitchell MP, Laura Sandys MP, Paul Goodman, Zac Goldsmith MP, and many more.

For us, politics is about ideas, not tribes; dialogue, not mudslinging. And we didn’t just want to be a think tank, important as they are to improving policy-making in this country, but a pressure group and membership organisation too: bringing together that growing group of people in our society, especially among younger generations, who identify broadly as economic and social liberals. Later this week, you’ll be hearing from David Kirkby about our new Think Forums, where members and supporters can get together in their local area to meet new people and talk big ideas.

But, we liberal conservatives are guided by eight broad principles. At the heart of it all is an optimism in the potential of individuals and society, a belief that good policy (with government, markets, communities, families and individuals themselves all playing a role) can help create more prosperous, secure and fulfilling lives.

Tonight, we launch our three main research themes for the year with our President, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, who has been a tremendous adviser and friend to the organisation since its birth.  These are:

1.       Individual power and potential

Thirteen million Britons are in poverty, the majority of which are in low paid work. Especially when fiscal resources are increasingly constrained, Bright Blue will be exploring and devising credible and imaginative approaches to improve our welfare and education to ensure greater individual and national prosperity.

2.       Security and prosperity in the globalised world

The globalised, capitalist economy has increased living standards and opportunities for millions. But the composition of communities has changed, sometimes rapidly, and pressures on our resources and environment have mounted. Bright Blue will be suggesting ways to find a better balance between maximising the benefits and addressing the challenges of globalisation – such as immigration, environmental degradation and resource scarcity – to build stable societies and sustainable economies.

3.       The future of conservatism

Across the western world, societies are becoming more ethnically diverse and socially liberal. Bright Blue will be looking at how conservatism can modernise to remain compelling and inspiring in liberal democracies.

Bright Blue is excited and ambitious about our next stage. Thanks to everyone who has helped us get to where we are today. And please do get involved as we aspire to create influential and fresh policy ideas, and build a strong political identity and community for those on the liberal-right of politics.

Ryan Shorthouse is the Director of Bright Blue