Peter Hoskin

The Pickles approach

Over at ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie has an intriguing post on what Eric Pickles hopes to bring to the role of Tory party chairman.  Here’s a snippet:

“An aide to the new Party Chairman tells me that this visit communicates two of the big themes that Eric Pickles wants to characterise his tenure at CCHQ: graft (he promises to match the sacrifice of volunteers) and a focus on the LibDems.  With opinion polls pointing towards a perhaps decisive increase in the Tory lead some party strategists are recommending a significant shift of battleground resources into unseating Liberal Democrat MPs.  Eric Pickles is a big advocate of the lovebombing tactic.”

Tim goes onto describe the “lovebombing tactic” as one by which the Tories “flatter [the Lib Dems] and appear to agree with them on key issues” in order to hoover up Lib Dem support.  Of course, there are dangers with this kind of thing – the Tories don’t want to dilute their own message, and merely “appearing” to agree on something could cause trouble further down the line – but extra emphasis on, say, a fairer tax system for low income earners, or civil liberties, could prove popular with Tory voters as well.

One thing to look out for is whether this tactic causes any trouble among Lib Dem ranks.  Nick Clegg is generally seen as quite keen to work with the Tories – so might be quite receptive to all that lovebombing – whereas Vince Cable, and a slew of backbenchers, lean more naturally towards Labour.  Might Pickles be sensing an opportunity to at least encourage a split?  The new Tory chairman’s certainly a wily enough political operator, so don’t bet against it.

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