Peter Hoskin

The story of the Tory campaign

The story of the Tory campaign
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If you read only one thing today, then make a cup of tea, sit in a comfy armchair, and make sure it's Tim Montgomerie's 7,000-word review of the Conservative election campaign.  Tim has opened up his address book and spoken with many of the main players in the Tory operation - and the result isn't all that flattering.  Here's a summary passage which gives a sense of it all:

"For a period, the 'Big Society' was put at the heart of the campaign. Amazingly, the Big Society was never tested in focus groups and it failed on the doorstep. One leading adviser to the campaign complained of a 'cavalier' approach to research. 'They latched on to research that backed their views and ignored any research that challenged it.'  The party had no powerful message on political reform, even though the expenses-gate had traumatised the nation's relationship with parliament only twelve months earlier. For twelve months the Conservative Party said that Britain's debts risked Greek-style problems but - perhaps astutely - it never spelt out a deficit reduction programme that was significantly different from that of Labour or the Liberal Democrats. Some of voters' top concerns - like immigration - were barely mentioned in the party manifesto. Immigration was never given a day in the party's election grid. A day was found, however, for a schools music competition. The Tory leadership promised change but only defined what change meant at the end of the campaign, via its 'Contract with voters'. A poll of Tory activists at the start of the election campaign called for more specifics from the Tory leadership. 97% said the campaign was too general."

"Osborne performed respectably during the two televised economy debates but the Tories ended the campaign with only a very small lead on economic competence. Given Labour's woeful economic record they might have expected to perform better.  A politician with brilliant antennae, immersed in the Party at senior levels for most of his working life, Osborne put getting the Conservatives elected before charming City movers and shakers.  His youth, inexperience in office and evident love of the political game combined to worry voters that he wouldn't be a heavyweight Chancellor. His unpopularity with voters may yet be a major problem for the Cameron-Clegg government. He is not the ideal salesman for very difficult spending cuts."

But true to the spirit of ConservativeHome, Tim also highlights the positive, and offers some advice for how the Tories can do things differently in future.  The piece concludes thus:

"And yet, there's hope and possibility. If, in government, Cameron can occupy the full political stage - blending traditional Conservatism on tax, crime and immigration with new messages on the environment, poverty-fighting and civil liberties - he could yet realign British politics. His alliance with Nick Clegg adds a fascinating extra dimension to that realignment narrative."