Earlier this week newspapers were predicting that Tory Stephen Day might win Cheadle back from the LibDems. It hasn’t happened. The LibDems’ percentage majority actually rose.
And, on this occasion, a defeat for the Tories is not such a bad thing. A nasty Tory campaign deserved to be repudiated.
Earlier this week The Times foresaw the reasons for the Tory defeat:
”In Stockport’s affluent commuter belt, where residents are likened by some to the characters in Footballers’ Wives, there were signs that the Tories may have been too aggressive. One leaflet superimposed a local newspaper report of a rape over a headline saying “shocking crime record of Mark Hunter”, the Lib Dem candidate and leader of Stockport council. His party threatened legal action. Another ran a headline “Hunter in school cash scandal”, attributed to the Stockport Express, whose sister paper denounced it as a misrepresentation and attacked the Tory campaign in a front page editorial.”
The Stockport Times actually described the Tory campaign as "electioneering of the worst kind."
I know of two Tory MPs who refused to deliver one of the more controversial leaflets. They are writing to Party Chairman Francis Maude to complain about the campaign.
Stephen Day’s campaign was in some ways an echo of Michael Howard’s General Election strategy. Remember the heavy emphasis on immigration? Remember the ‘Blair is a liar’ attacks? It was an unbalanced and aggressive campaign.
The Conservative Party will not defeat the Liberal Democrats by giving more volume to already rejected messages. That doesn’t mean it should abandon its ‘core’ messages on crime, Europe and tax but it must blend them with compassionate messages on poverty-fighting and international justice. I call it the ‘And theory of conservatism’. The people and Tory workers of Cheadle deserve nothing less.