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The Telegraph reports an analysis compiled by Lord Ashcroft for the Tories, that indicates a third of those who voted Tory at the last election have now deserted the party.
The analysis includes a poll that puts UKIP on 9%, roughly neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats. That is pretty consistent with other polls that have been published recently. The poll puts the Tories on 31%. That is less than William Hague managed in the general election of 2001.
The article says:
The Tories are still seen as more competent in [economic management] and Lord Ashcroft’s research suggests they should focus on this rather than confusing voters with pledges about constitutional reform, referendums on Europe and an overhaul of the NHS.
Notice the approach there? The decisions on whether to try for constitutional reform, whether to address Britain’s EU membership, whether to reform the NHS, are not to be based on whether those things are right or not. They are to be based on what will win a few votes at the election.
It’s all tactical, all about grubbing for votes, and none of it about vision or leadership. So far so typical of the modern Tory Party.
Even on the tactics, however, Lord Ashcroft’s report misses the point.
The research also found that a majority of people believe the Liberal Democrats should have more influence on the overall direction of the Government.
Well, that isn’t really surprising, is it, considering the survey included supporters of the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour! Does Lord Ashcroft really think that Mr Cameron will win by deserting his own supporters and pandering to his opponents?
Mr Cameron is, we are told, a marketing professional. In that case, he must be familiar with the “New Coke” fiasco.
Pepsi had a marketing campaign based on the slogan, “the taste of a new generation”. They sponsored new rock music. They were trendy, and they were eating into Coca-Cola’s market share. The Coca-Cola management panicked. Pepsi was sweeter than Coke, so they changed the Coke recipe to match. They launched “New Coke”. The result? Their millions of loyal customers rounded on them. They were eventually forced to back down, and reintroduce original Coke.
David Cameron’s “New Conservatism” might be palatable to some on the left – but the people he wins by it are far outweighed by the loyal Tories he loses.
Wavering groups also need to be offered “reassurance” over the motives of the Tories, who still face problems with being seen as the “nasty party”.
Utterly pathetic. Of course Liberal Democrat supporters, the people that David Cameron wants to win over, think the Tories are “nasty”. Mr Cameron’s main approach has been to “detoxify” the Tories – I think that means remove people like me from the party – to make the party acceptable to the soggy centre, where, of course, Mr Cameron himself sits.
He is still pursuing that approach. It misses the point completely, for two reasons.
First, it has been successful in driving people like me out of the party into UKIP – and many more are defecting all the time. Regardless of the impact on the electorate as a whole, his activist base is being eroded by his strategy. The Tory Party is becoming steadily less able to fight election campaigns – and the expertise and experience of the defectors is being put at the disposal of UKIP, who are thus able to make their campaigns more and more professional.
I know from talking to many Tory activists and councillors, that most of them agree with UKIP on almost everything. The only thing – the only thing – keeping them from defecting is the belief that UKIP are too small to overhaul the Tories. As UKIP support continues to swell in opinion polls and real polls, they will increasingly question that assumption.
Second, the electorate as a whole tend to see very clearly when politicians tack whichever way wins them votes. Even if they disagree on some things, they will support a leader who seems to know where he is going, to have a vision for the future.
The media talk about Tory U-turns. The U-turns are in fact just a symptom of a leadership that has no clear idea where it wants to go. As events unfold and public opinion changes, they change with it. They end up looking weak and rudderless – and indeed they are weak and rudderless.
“U-turn if you want to – the Lady’s not for turning,” said Margaret Thatcher in that famous speech of hers. The majority of the country actually disagreed at that time with the direction she was taking – but they respected her for standing firm. Once her policies started bearing fruit, that respect remained and stayed with her for a decade.
David Cameron is hated by the Right for betraying Tory Party core values – and despised by the Left for not being true to himself. All he has left is the Centre. No wonder he clings so closely to Nick Clegg.
He is like the captain of a ship, steering straight for the rocks while concentrating on avoiding the seagulls around him. All his tactics, all the clever “ducking and diving” being urged on him by his advisers, all his U-turns and policy adjustments, all of that won’t save him – in fact, they are cementing his demise at the election.
The Tory Party that Mr Cameron leads is hollowed out. It cares much more about winning elections than about any principles, values or vision. It is long past its sell by date. Time to take it off the shelf and put it in the dustbin of history.