The Conservatives have released a rather silly leaflet for the Rochester by-election contrasting Mark Reckless with their candidate Kelly Tolhurst. As if to highlight that it might be a silly leaflet, it features the phrase ‘the straight choice’, which some thought had gone out of fashion in 1983. Then it goes through Tolhurst’s local credentials, followed by Reckless’s Establishment background.
You can see what they’re trying to do here, which is to undermine Ukip’s anti-Establishment pitch. That’s why the Conservatives held a postal primary to select their new candidate once Reckless had defected. But what makes all this sudden interest in local candidates for local people, open primaries and so on just a little insincere is that Reckless, that terribly non-local Establishment stooge, was selected by the local Conservative party. Oh, and that there are one or two other Oxford politics graduates hanging about in the Tories, too.
Some voters may not have noticed that he’s the same guy as the Tory who represented them until the end of September 2014. But others may notice that the Tories have changed their tune rather since Reckless was their man.
It now seems accepted that the Tories will fail to do as they initially thought and win the seat back from Reckless. In this week’s Spectator I look
at how they got the seat wrong, from hubris at the beginning to campaign glitches that helped Ukip. If Reckless does indeed win next week, it will be proof that apparently ‘straight choices’ aren’t quite as straightforward as mainstream parties believe.