Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Why the Tories think they can win in Rochester

One of the bits of their Parliamentary party meeting this week that cheered Conservative MPs the most was a speech by Tracey Crouch on why the Tories could win the Rochester and Strood by-election. Many of her colleagues who like to spend their spare time staring at spreadsheets are sincerely worried that the party could lose the seat, leading to all hell breaking loose in the party.

Crouch, who represents the neighbouring constituency and will act as the campaign aide to the candidate once she is selected (the shortlist in the postal primary is a choice between two women), told the room that the demographic of Rochester favours the Conservatives far more than that in Clacton: it has fewer pensioners, more professionals and the voters are on higher incomes. This suggested they were less likely to be unhappy with their lot and angry with the system, she said. MPs came away impressed by Crouch, but unimpressed by the Prime Minister, who messed up a bit by failing to thank her in his speech to the meeting. One senior Tory said ‘typical Cameron to forget to thank Tracey as he was winding up’.

This is classic David Cameron stuff: he regularly forgets the importance of little civilities like thanking colleagues for their hard work and giving the impression that he’s interested in them. He does try to rectify it by holding breakfast receptions for MPs on momentous days such as the second reading of the EU Referendum Bill. But if he managed to manage his party properly, some of its worst troubles might have been rather smaller: indeed, when Mark Reckless defected, he gave the impression that it was a sense that he’d been snubbed by the PM that made leaving easier.

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