Monday, 19 April 2010

The Wheels Come Off

Guido has a fascinating post here of the panicking within Tory headquarters about the election. It's worth reproducing here in full (my emphasis):
"I said a prayer last night to St Jude the patron saint of hopeless cases but I doubt that even he will know what to do about the Tory Party campaign.

Something is happening with the electorate. Today’s YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems in the lead is astonishing. Perhaps the public anger with MPs over their expenses and the banking crisis will result in the body politic being smashed to bits. What was true on Friday may not be true any longer.

The stakes are now very high. If David Cameron does not become PM on 6/7th May the electoral system will be changed. The first past the post system will be abolished and there will not be a Tory government for a very long time if ever again. Perhaps John Major will go down in history as the last Tory PM.

This is the most inept Tory campaign in living memory. I know there have been some dud campaigns in the past. William Hague’s was pretty awful but in a way it didn’t really matter. Nobody believed he was going to win the election. This time all the Tory Party had to do was to ask the electorate a very simple question: “Do you want five more years of Gordon Brown?” The answer would be no. The election campaign strategy was therefore all about giving the electorate the reasons for voting against the PM. The M&C Saatchi adverts were a good start.

As I have mused before the Tory opinion poll lead was always based on the public’s loathing of the PM rather than any real affection for David Cameron. The election campaign should therefore have been negative in tone and focused entirely on the PM’s failings. Whatever the focus groups may say negative campaigning works.

There doesn’t appear to be any strategy. The ‘big society’ idea has come and now disappeared. The most popular Tory politician Ken Clarke has become the invisible man. He may be campaigning in marginal seats but he should be on our TV screens every morning, noon and night. And then there is the policy that dares not speak its name. Immigration. Every canvasser I have spoken to from every party has told me that the issue that keeps coming up on the doorstep is immigration. This is a Tory issue and yet I am told that there will only be one day when it is raised. What is going on?

The decision to agree to the televised debates may well have cost the Tory Party the election. It has elevated Nick Clegg from nowhere to equal footing with the PM and David Cameron. Whichever adviser or guru advised David Cameron to take part made a terrible mistake.

So is the election campaign lost for the Tory Party? I don’t think it is. Nick Clegg’s policy agenda is very attackable. As Alan Johnson put it in Saturday’s Times: “The Lib Dems are soft on crime, inept on asylum and bloody dangerous on national security.” How Labour candidates must wish he was the PM …

The Tory Party needs to mobilise its key assets such as Ken Clarke and talk about Tory issues such as low tax, immigration and Europe. It needs to connect with Tory voters and indeed anybody who doesn’t want Gordon Brown for another five years. Thatcher’s great strength was her ability to connect with ordinary voters, particularly those who wanted to better themselves. Politics is all about helping people to realise their dreams. We seem to have forgotten this.

Winning the election didn’t seem that difficult a task until the televised debate which should never have happened. Even now there is a simple message. Only a vote for the Tory Party will prevent Gordon Brown being PM for the next five years. Nick Clegg is never going to become PM but he could help Gordon Brown stay PM. This is all very reminiscent (in reverse) of the US presidential election when Ross Perot enabled Bill Clinton to beat George Bush.

I attended a lunch on Saturday at which many Tories were present. The conversation inevitably focussed on the election. There was a mixture of gallows humour and real concern. Nobody could understand why with the most unpopular PM ever and an economy on its back the Tory Party is polling at the same level as Michael Howard when he lost in 2005. The only solution was to have another glass of wine.

Perhaps this is all some terrible nightmare and I will awake to discover that I have missed the real campaign and that David Cameron is PM with a majority of 52.

Is the game up for the Tory Party? What does the Tory Party need to do to regain the political initiative? Will the Nick Clegg bubble burst?"

Ah immigration. I can absolutely confirm that so far for me, immigration is a major concern - it comes up on the doorsteps regularly. Of course there's a perfectly simple reason why the Tories are avoiding it like the plague and that is because they would have to be honest about the elephant in the room - the European Union. Kerry McCarthy, the Labour blogger also mentions the immigration issue, and again avoids the EU dimension.

And that's the problem, the main issues are being ignored or at least fudged and the British people know this. "I'm not voting, they're all the same", I've simply lost count of the number of times I've heard this phrase.

Peter Bingle's absolutely right, the Tory strategy has mainly been about 5 more years of Gordon Brown. But it smacks of sheer arrogance, aside from the fact that it's a damming indictment on Tory policy if that's all they have to offer - vote for us otherwise the others get in.

Just because Labour is utterly useless doesn't mean we should automatically vote for the Tories. Tory bloggers are quick to jump on UKIP as almost being at fault for a possible Gordon Brown win. But it's not UKIP's fault or anyone else. If the Tories don't win this election then it's their fault for failing to offer policies that the voters want. It reminds me of a Tory activist a few days ago who arrogantly raged; "you're stealing our votes". They're not your votes, they are the British people's votes, all we try to do is try to earn them.

Arrogance and complacency is the Tory downfall.

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