Tories think the only way to win is to be like Lib Dems

If you can’t beat them, imitate them. Is that to become the new motto of the failing Conservative Party? Or should I say flailing party because it’s leaders and members are hitting out at everyone while disregarding their own failures to their party and the country and the world.

With local elections coming up in many parts of the country next May, a Tory councillor has been giving advice on how to get elected. Much of the advice could have come from Paddy Ashdown. Correction. Much of the advice does come from Paddy Ashdown.

In an extraordinary fess up that the Tories have been getting campaigning wrong for decades, Croydon councillor Mario Creatura said over on Conservative Home: “We must use the Lib Dems’ tactics against them.”

Creatura misses a vital point. In order to use “Lib Dem tactics” you need to think like a Lib Dem. You can copy and paste a philosophy and campaigning style that has taken decades to develop into a blog post but you cannot hope out of touch Conservative candidates who expect to be elected by right will suddenly be transformed into local activists.

The starting point for Mario Creatura’s article is the meeting of “100 activists, MPs, candidates and staffers” at Yarnfield Park in Staffordshire last weekend “for a supposed ‘secret’ strategy briefing from party officials. Their topic: Operation ‘Tory Takedown’ – a plan to unseat Conservative MPs in Blue Wall seats.”

Hardly secret. Just he wasn’t invited. And the implication seems to be that Tories don’t hold such meetings. If that is the case, no wonder they are in a mess.

It gets better:

“A poll of 2019 Conservative voters showed that 49 per cent agreed with the statement the Conservative MPs and local councillors are “taking people in the Blue Wall for granted” . It’s this flawed perception that the Liberal Democrats intend to repeat ad nauseum.”

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, this is true. We saw it in Tiverton and Honiton and even more so in North Shropshire. There the Tories parachuted in a candidate from Birmingham who was not allowed to speak to the media for a week because he had no idea where anywhere or anyone was in this deeply rural constituency. Most local Tories, angry with a candidate being imposed from outside, did not turn out to support him.

Creatura then quotes Paddy Ashdown at length including:

The Conservatives, too, though outwardly all-powerful and monolithic, had actually become rather tired politically. They overwhelmingly controlled all the local Councils, had a branch in almost every village, could outspend us many tens of times over… but they had become much more a social organisation than a political one, were used, at the Council level, to being elected without opposition, especially in rural seats and also generally took their vote very much for granted.

Creatura then goes on to cite Paddy’s eight commandments saying it is critical that the Conservatives learn from them:

“We must never be complacent. The safest seats, the bluest Councils, can turn with fierce speed. But there is clearly hope: we can repel their advances, boost our incumbency and still take wards held by opposition parties, irrespective of what’s happening nationally.

“Ashdown built a formidable campaign machine that slowly and consistently delivered significant gains for the Liberal Democrats – and we have their blueprint for how they did it. We know their historic campaign approach, we know their current messaging strategy, we can turn this against them by using their methods to boost our marginal campaigns and our incumbency.”

Creatura concludes by quoting Sun Tzu’s Art of War:

“If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

The reality is that Conservatives repeatedly repeat their mistakes. They think they are the party of the government. Only they can make the right decisions. They have a fantasy that they represent communities, and some Conservatives do that, but too many are distant from the problems day-to-day living and the views of people in their constituencies.

It is credit to the Lib Dems that the Conservatives try to emulate our culture and ways of campaigning. The reality is that the local Conservative are not up to modernising. The national leadership is focused on internal feuds at the expense of the welfare of the country. The Conservative Party is in decline and that can only be a good thing.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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18 Comments

  • Tristan Ward 28th Jul '22 - 8:59pm

    Bit concerning they knew the agenda – though the idea of Lib Dem activists “recieving orders” – let alone taking them – does amuse.

  • nigel hunter 28th Jul '22 - 10:38pm

    Yes. The Conservatives do think they own the country.Modernising after 100 yrs (plus their elderly members) they would find hard.However if they get a big enough drubbing that could change. Sun Tzu –know yourself– yes, but WE must also know our enemy and not get complacent.

  • ……Unfortunately for the Conservatives, this is true. We saw it in Tiverton and Honiton and even more so in North Shropshire…..

    The victories were not due to any ‘taking for granted’; both were won against a party whose representatives had been forced to resign and whose reasons for doing so had been media headlines for weeks…The Tory party was mired in sleaze and their share of the vote fell by two thirds in one seat and more than halved in the other (Labour voters also switched) …

    Our only hope of holding these seats, and gaining others, is to concentrate on Inflation, taxation, energy costs/profits, in other words ‘have clear and consise alternatives to the Tory record’.. I hope we can.

  • Andy Boddington 29th Jul '22 - 11:00am

    Sleaze was an issue in both by-elections. But the consistent message was that people were fed up with being ignored by their MP. “No one has come to talk to us before.”

  • Neil James Sandison 29th Jul '22 - 11:36am

    All parties can become complacent and no one has a monopoly on being a good councillor. Perhaps we should also refresh our act moving towards the local elections .

  • Is this what Lembit was telling them when he took the Tory shilling last year?

  • @expats: As I’ve said before in a different context, by-election voters tend not to hark back to the event that caused the by-election. In particular they don’t usually punish the child for the sins of the parent. Previous by-elections caused by resignations in disgrace (including one involving one of our own) were often held by the defending party. The last by-election before North Shropshire caused by disgrace of the sitting MP was Brecon & Radnorshire, where the defending party lost but the disgraced MP had stood again as the defending party’s official candidate.
    In North Shropshire and T&H (and perhaps Wakefield), the specific sins of the disgraced former MPs were seen in a general context of Tory sleaze. Compare this with Eastleigh and Peterborough, where the disgraced MP’s crime was a considered a personal not party sin and the defending party held the seat.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 1:20pm

    Agree with expats.

    The party needs radical,clear, social positions.

    How about being more brave and pitching to the most poor and economically vulnerable. Leave railway staff and strike issues to the ping pong of Labour vs Tories. We ought to be distict. We ought my view anyway, be for producers against consumers, but for consumers. We can openly say, but do not, that the NHS is something both great and terrible. Great in theory, terrible in the loality of most. We ought to be for the users of services .

    Why not have emergency bill to take over the ofgem and have it directly run by the Energy secretary with parliamentary scrutiny. Cap it at a massively reduced level.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 1:21pm

    Typo

    Should read,

    We ought not be for producers against consumers!!!

  • Bernard Aris 29th Jul '22 - 2:12pm

    The biggest problem the Tories have is that they have expelled (at least from the parliamentary party, but I guess from just any position of influence inside the Tory partty cadres) everybody who showed a minimum sign of “thinking like a LibDem”, like Rory Stewart, Gauke and others.

    Proposing things like: bringing back Grammar Schools, handling asylum claims in Rwanda (what did previous African dictators do to African Asians like Mrs. Patel’s family?), keep supporting Brexit even if its negative consequences become more glaring every month… that is not a party climate conducive to get LibDem-thinking dissidentes getting a hearing.

  • Nonconformistradical 29th Jul '22 - 2:16pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    “Leave railway staff and strike issues to the ping pong of Labour vs Tories.”
    Are you implying LibDems should not support working people who are struggling to make ends meet in the present cost of living crisis?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 2:36pm

    I am saying we ought to indeed support the poorest, no evidence the strike is for or by them. My research reveals it is, in my view, wrong to strike when deals are on the table, nearly 10% pay increase for those under thirty thousand, 75% discounted travel for them and family, these are not desparately suffering people. Try being on disability benefits or tax credits for the self employed with little work. I think it interesting nobody supports those struggling on levels of money people could barely understand. Benefits and support in the UK are amongst the lowest in the democratic countries. Similarly our energy prices are amongst the highest. Conclusion, those with clout get heard, those without do not. Liberalism is meant to favour a balance of power. We ought to keep out of both industrial disputes and culture wars, other than to help difuse things and relate to the truth. I am for strikes when thoe strikers are in dire straights. I see no proof in these current disputes.

    The truth is some can only dream of the clout of a union or a good income. We ought to be for raising these up. And capping energy for everyone is needed as we are favouring greed if we do not.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 2:43pm
  • Nonconformistradical 29th Jul '22 - 2:48pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin
    “I think it interesting nobody supports those struggling on levels of money people could barely understand. Benefits and support in the UK are amongst the lowest in the democratic countries.”
    What gives you that idea?

    And what are you personally doing to support such people?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 3:05pm

    I have been both in recept of support for people with disabilities, years of struggle in which my wife and I experienced a car accident from which she has permanent disability issues, and I have been an adviser and seminar leader for the most vulnerable. Sadly my work in that area largely dried up due to changes in priorities from govt, towards sanction ing and punishiong those who are struggling!

  • I’m puzzled by Lorenzo Cherin’s ‘research’ and his conclusions.

    A bit more careful ‘research’ reveals the reality for the folk working as train cleaners for outsourced cleaning companies such as Churchill. These folk are often at risk of infection during covid. They work through the night tackling the often very unpleasant mess left in lavatories and carriages etc., by the travelling public

    For what reward ? Outsourced Churchill pays large dividends to its owners, but their cleaning staff working on Southeastern, Eurostar and HS1 get £9.50 per hour. On Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, they get £8.91 per hour.

    Even before the recent sharp rise in inflation, the cleaners (many of them single parents and from ethnic minorities) were struggling to put food on the table and heat their rooms. In a recent survey of the cleaners, the RMT found that 61% reported they sometimes or regularly struggle to get by and have to resort to foodbanks.

    Come on Lorenzo, please don’t fall for selective propaganda in the right wing tabloid press whose proprietors are often mates of the Churchill type companies of this world.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '22 - 7:21pm

    David, my research is wider than the right wing press. I was merely saying the deal on the rmt table, which they didn’t put to a vote, covers the lowest paid.

    I do not believe the criticism you rightly make of companies such as Churchill are the targets of my comment. I support the cleaners. They are not the bulk of those now in the strike.

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin Thank you for your response, Lorenzo.

    Did your research reveal the fact that locomotive and train drivers have had a pay freeze for three years since 2019 and that current inflation is running at 9.4% ? Did it also reveal the amount of profits privatised rail companies have paid out since 2019, and do you think Grant Shapps has a good record on telling the truth ?

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