Sebastian Payne

Conservative conference: fighting and winning on the marginal front in 2015

Conservatives need to become more effective at winning marginal seats if they have any hope of gaining a majority at the next general election. But what exactly does the party need to do if they wish to improve on their 2010 performance? This was the question posed at a ConservativeHome fringe event this evening, where several MPs who took marginals in 2010 spoke of their experiences and recommendations for 2015. The successful marginal MPs — Jesse Norman, Nicola Blackwood, Robert Halfon, Richard Harrington and Martin Vickers — have written a pamphlet Lessons from the Marginals that will be published online shortly.

Halfon, who took Harlow with a 4,925 majority after a decade of trying, stressed the need for the party to ‘bring local issues to the doorstep’, not ‘Westminster Village issues’ . Halfon highlighted ‘local schools, local head teachers’ and his successful petrol prices campaign as what activists should promote. I caught up the Harlow member who gave some further thoughts on the strategic changes  Tories need to make:

Another area where the Tories need to up their game is the methods of campaigning. While Richard Harrington, who took Watford with a 1,425 majority, praised Tory chairman Grant Shapps as ‘king of the leaflet as a communication tool’, he also stressed the need to interest more younger people in campaigning as well as using emails to engage with voters. Halfon suggested use of the left-wing 38degrees campaign website as a useful method to gather addresses.

The role of Tory councillors and local associations was an area where the parliamentarians disagreed. Harrington rubbished associations for being 'not a campaigning structure but a social structure'.

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