So, what is the Conservative Party strategy now?

In recent days we’ve had:

It’s not happening! It’s not happening!

Hence Eric Pickles telling the media the weekend that there was no Lib Dem surge detectable in the Conservative Party’s canvassing and Boris Johnson writing in the Telegraph that Nick Clegg was “by far the worst”. Yeah right.

Go right! Go right!

Hence William Hague warning of a European Union inspired catastrophe if the Lib Dems win. Guess he’s not on talking terms with Eric Pickles or Boris Johnson, because how could the Lib Dems win if they are both right? But also I guess he’s hoping we’ve all forgotten the number of similar apocalyptic warnings he gave in the past about what would happen if Labour won. Labour won; the apocalypse didn’t happen. And not perhaps the smartest of moves to revert to an approach that has failed so often.

Go in to hiding

Hence the Conservative Party declining to put up any senior figures for a slot on Radio 4’s Today yesterday morning. Hence too David Cameron finally agreeing to do a Paxman interview, but in a quieter Friday evening slot rather than a much higher profile Monday evening slot that he was invited to fill.

Ditch heir to Blair, it’s time to be heir to Clegg

David Cameron ditched his planned party political broadcast last night and recorded a new one – all about change, the need to make tough choices, the need for fresh energy and so on. In other words, copying just what made Nick Clegg so successful last night. Not so much vying to be heir to Blair as heir to Clegg.

Whatever the merits of any of the individual approaches, the scatter gun chaos of four such different approaches is hardly the sign of a Conservative campaign that has clear decisions being made and followed.

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22 Comments

  • This is just on the surface.

    What they are actually trying to do is detach Brand Cameron from the rest of the Tory party, which is being left to do his nasty work like misrepresenting Lib Dem policy, and make him seem leader-like, along the lines of “You may not like his policies or his party, but he is the man to take us out of all this chaos”. Complete rubbish, but it may just fool some of the more naive voters.

    Meanwhile, under the cover of an ash cloud, the swift boats are on the attack.

  • Philip Young 20th Apr '10 - 9:45am

    Eh? Is that the same Boris Johnson who has said we need to give an amnesty to illegal immigrants, so we can find out how many there are, and get them into paying tax…who is also the same Boris Johnson who has said we need prison reform because prisons are universities of crime?

    Nar…it must surely be some other Conservative with the same name.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 20th Apr '10 - 10:08am

    “I mean how do you score someone spitting at or slamming the door in your face?”

    I always used to put them down as “ANTI”. Is that not right?

    (I must admit I’ve never encountered anyone spitting at their door, though.)

  • T-shirt of the day.
    As they say on the site: “Frustrated that you have been a Libdem supporter for years and now EVERYONE likes them. Tell the world by purchasing a ‘I voted Libdem before they were cool’ T-shirt.”
    http://www.ivotedlibdembeforetheywerecool.co.uk/

    (I’m nothing to do with the site btw).

  • Portlllo not Dave 20th Apr '10 - 10:23am

    Sorry to troll (in a nice way) but I noticed you missed one: “Invoke the Brown stuff”
    Cameron’s bunker believes that Brown the bogeyman will win it. So we are to say ‘don’t vote Lib Dem cos they’ll let Brown in’. Unfortunately that implies that voting Conservative is daft where we are in third place, if the be all and end all is to get Brown out. ‘Can’t win here’ as I saw in gaudy yellow somewhere…

  • Peter Chegwyn 20th Apr '10 - 10:24am

    Well it’s tempting to hope that the new Conservative strategy is to pull out the plug and sail down the plug-hole but nobody should be so foolish as to write them off yet.

    You can bet the nasty party will show its true colours over the coming days with a little help from their friends in Fleet Street.

    It’s going to be an interesting few days!

  • Philip Young 20th Apr '10 - 10:38am

    Andy H: I was Lib Dem before they were cool….not sure how you intend to get those T-shirts into the UK from Germany, as DHL and air-mail rely on aeroplanes. Pity there isnt someone knocking out decent T-shirts (and polo shirts) in the UK, enterprising idea there from someone with a German T-shirt operation.

  • I drove through a key Lab/Con marginal to get to work this morning. Any Tory posters? Er, nope. Any Labour posters? Er, nope. Any Lib Dem posters? Yes! Two in a flat above a fish-and-chip shop!

  • I agree Liam Fox was truly pathetic.

    But the flack is starting to come and our less scrupulous political opponents will be repeating the following mantra:

    The Lib Dems don’t want to send burglars to goal.
    The Lib Dems are mad keen on joining the Euro.
    The Lib Dems are soft on immigration and will let millions of illegal
    migrants stay in the UK…and encourage more to join them.
    The Lib Dems will give up Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent.

    I have little doubt that our opponents are ‘push polling’ and focus grouping all of these ‘lines of attack’ (and there may be some surprising political opponents who are trying out lines of attack).

    How much ice it cuts with the British electorate is a test, in part, of the electorate’s maturity AND of our ability to explain that:

    Any country that continues with prison policies that fail to address recidivism rates above 90% in youth offenders is led by mad people – there is a better way and our criminal justice policy is the most soundly based and intelligent on offer.

    The Lib Dems have no plans to join the Euro at present but would hold a referendum before joining if they thought that membership made sense. Joining the Euro would only make sense in radically altered economic circumstances. The party believes we need to get through the problems we have in the UK, with Vince Cable as Chancellor, before contemplating membership of the Euro.

    A country that leaves 800 to 900 thousand people in the shadows, prey to blackmail and goodness knows what else, is asking for trouble…we support an amnesty designed to regularise the situation of hundreds of thousands
    people who have lived in the UK for 10 or more years and who want to live on the right side of the law. It isn’t simply the most humane thing to do it is the most sensible thing to do. Even the Conservative Mayor of London agrees with that and dismisses nonsense about triggering a flood of immigration as a result of offering an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for ten or more years as the nonsense it clear is.

    Lib Dems do not want a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident – our party policy is to maintain Britain’s defences but in a way that the country can afford and, very important, that matches the threats we really face.

  • The other strategy is to go ad hominem for Clegg – see the Mail, Sun and Standard

  • Liam Fox is a scalp there for the taking, if only we had the resources.

    A few points to make about Tory attacks on the Lib Dems:

    (1) Strange as it may seem, Tory policy doesn’t rule out membership of the Euro in perpetuity. The Tories would like us to think it does, but it doesn’t. And that is because if it did Ken Clarke would walk.

    (2) How patriotic and British are the Tories really? Whch party supported British involvement in an illegal war at the behest of a foreign (Vice-)President? And which party stood for British independence?

    (3) We need to point out how much it costs to warehouse petty criminals in prison.

    (4) How many Tory politicians and Daily Mail reporters have dined in restaurants that they know are staffed by illegal immigrants (paid less than the minimum wage in many cases)?

    (5) Trident is NOT and NEVER HAS BEEN an “independent” deterrent. It is an American system controlled from Washington and paid for by us.

  • Sesenco,

    (1) is interesting because, if you’re right, then Liam Fox directly contradicted Tory policy on this on Today this morning. I can’t remember the exact words, but Naughtie asked him about Europe and pushed him on Ken Clarke, and Fox was insistent that it was not Tory policy to join the Euro, ever.

  • David Allen 20th Apr '10 - 1:33pm

    Ed Randall’s post is the important one, but I’m pleased how well we are answering the scare stories. The key, I think, is not to get fazed by them. What people are responding to favourably is not so much the specific policy lines as the simple fact that Nick and Vince talk straight and understand what people are thinking. We don’t need to prove that we have got every little detail of our prisons policy right, for example. We do need to explain that we want to cut crime, and that if we can do something that cuts crime, it really doesn’t matter whether it is “hard” or “soft”.

    The illegal immigrant policy is probably our most controversial. We do need to explain that it is very far from a blanket amnesty and that we will take great care not to make Britain too attractive to illegal migrants. Then we can get back on the attack and point out the advantages of getting people into honest work and paying taxes, and the sheer falsity of Labservative promises to deport half a million hidden individuals. Together, of course, with the humanitarian concerns – which always matter a lot to us, but, never automatically dictate what we will do.

    Why are we winning? I don’t think it’s mainly about policy. I guess it’s something we always knew, and the public is now beginning to tumble to. Our opponents, apart from the occasional Ken Clarke or Alan Johnson, are just a pretty weird bunch of people. Whereas we, apart from the occasional mildly anorak interest in letterbox design or electoral mathematics, mostly do live within spitting distance of Planet Normal!

  • Philip Young 20th Apr '10 - 2:36pm

    I’ve just been reminded from someone in Eastbourne that the Tories are currently polling about the same level as Michael Howard delivered in 2005, and John Major in 1997, and William Hague in 2001, and that they have seen around 31 per cent pretty regularly in previous elections….that this might suggest there is something fundamentally wrong with the product.

    Yep, they might revert to type and get nasty, ratty, and even a tad desperate. After all, those who chipped in the 50 million quid to their warchest to get rid of Labour did so in the expecation of seeing real results.

  • Liberal Eye 20th Apr '10 - 6:12pm

    One of the Tory strategies they were talking about a few days ago was to put Lib Dem policies under the spotlight but so far all I’ve heard is gross misrepresentations dressed up as fact as per Ed Randall’s comment above.

    Could it be that this plan shows signs of backfiring rather badly?

    Like for example their plan to give some married couples a tax break of £150 per year – presumably the same couples who will spend an average of around £20,000 on their wedding.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Apr '10 - 10:21am

    I’ve never been a fan of the Euro, even when our party was mad keen on it. My reasons were not some UKIP “nasty frogs” mentality, but a realisation that the pound was seriously puffed up and a reordering of our economy which cut the financial services industry down to size and gave us a more balanced and stable basis for keeping ourselves going probably needs a degree of devaluation. The volcano thing has reminded us just how fragile modern life is when we build a dependency on global links for our basics. A weaker pound, leading to more diverse British industry and less reliance on imports, will set us up better to survive the future. I’m not against the Euro forever, but I’ve always thought so far that if we went into it, we’d be pegged at a damagingly high level.

    I’ve just read today’s Sun and Mail (we really should read them to find what the bosses are telling the people to think, but I confess I just can’t pay good money for them, I happened to find both left in the train today). Well, the stuff they’re putting out might have worked in the past, but I don’t think it will now. It’s like when you’ve really rattled the Labour Party and they put out the eve-of-poll nasty. They just can’t help it, but it doesn’t work. So long as you’ve run a good friendly Focus campaign, it just brings us more sympathy from the punters. The nasty only works to cheer up those who were never going to vote for us anyway.

    I think even the Sun and Mail’s readers, unless they are dedicated Tories and not all of them are, will be put off by this blatant propaganda exercise from their newspaper. Why pay money for a more biased rant than you’d get from an official Conservative?

    It looks to me like the Tories are now seriously into losing this election, what has let them down is that they are so out of touch. Our surge actually was based on local people campaigning and a knowledge of what works on the ground. Clegg’s TV appearance wasn’t all that did it, it just gave those who were uncertain the idea that actually the LibDems aren’t bad at all. What we need to do now is keep our nerve. Keep positive, keep friendly. Keep on delivering Focus.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Apr '10 - 1:18pm

    I reckon the Tories will have to fall back on their traditional campaign tactics. Probably something along these lines:

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