David Blackburn

Ashcroft has unleashed hell in the marginals

Ashcroft has unleashed hell in the marginals
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Alistair Darling’s sudden and poetic ejaculation is sure evidence that the government is a rabble of warring tribes. Against such opponents, the Tories should win, and win big. Daniel Finkelstein is adamant that they still could. He states the obvious: polls are general and do not account for specifics in key marginals.

In-built boundary bias created the assumption that Cameron needs an 11 percent swing to win a majority of one. Finkelstein rubbishes that thesis; parties that win by 11 points win landslides:

‘In 1997 Mr Blair’s Labour built a new coalition, winning support across social classes. They therefore won in suburbs and prosperous towns that had always voted Tory in the past. Labour swept in with a huge victory. Now precisely these voters in precisely these seats are returning to the Tories. Class differences in voting patterns are reasserting themselves.

This was the motive for the famous Tory “Heir to Blair” strategy — to win back his Middle England supporters to the party that their parents voted for. If it succeeds, the Tory vote will be very well targeted on the seats it needs to win, just as Mr Blair’s was in 1997.

The second reason why 11 percent would win big is that the Tories are fighting a focused campaign. Labour MPs are desperate to cut off what is known in politics as the “Ashcroft money” — a term that covers all spending by Conservatives in marginal seats, some of which is donated by the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft. But the truth is that even if Labour stopped Lord Ashcroft’s money, they wouldn’t stop Ashcroft: it is the organisational brain and the team running the operation that is Ashcroft’s.’

Labour reckons that the Tories will secure an outright majority with a mere six point lead - such is the success of Ashcroft’s strategy and the extent of Labour’s poverty. The Tories will be wary that their support has, frankly, collapsed; they should do more to arrest that decline, but it’s far from panic stations yet.