OTTAWA - Conservatives are gathered in Ottawa this weekend discussing how best to spread their party's message.

And they've been told that one way to do it is by knowing when to shut up.

The message comes from Preston Manning, founder of the Reform party, which gave Stephen Harper's Conservative government its start.

Manning says the Achilles heel of the conservative movement is members who discredit it by speaking their minds.

He referred to Tom Flanagan, the veteran party strategist who was recently ostracized for suggesting that people who look at child pornography shouldn't be jailed.

Manning said Conservative governments, parties, and campaigns can't afford such blindsides.

Flanagan, who Manning called a friend, had been scheduled to address the conference but was dropped.

Manning said the movement had to dump him.

He added that Canadians have every right to ask whether those who can't govern their own tongue can govern the party.