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        « When you go home, tell them of us and say: for your tomorrow, we gave our today | Main | A road to smaller government and social justice »

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        James Hellyer


        It sounds like an amazingly misjudged campaign.

        All the grievance based, tabloid style campaigns does is galvanise voters to keep the Tories out.

        Rather than energising our base (who are already on side with core issues like crime), the campaign confirmed the worst suspicions of wavering voters.

        Until we can show people that we stand for a positve vision, I see little chance of the Conservatives being returned to power.

        Cllr Graham Smith

        The sad thing is that I really believe that a Conservative victory in Cheadle was possible. As in last year's Leicester South by-election, the Conservatives had an excellent candidate and a small, but hard-working team of local supporters already in place.

        As I understand it, the middle and lower ranks of Central Office and field staff involved worked their socks off, ensuring that the campaign was run in a highly professional manner.

        I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that those senior staffers who drew up the campaign strategy must shoulder a share of the blame for the Party's continued failure to make progress.

        Would it be too much to ask for them to take a lesson from those parts of the Party that are achieving electoral success - senior councillors and their local agents whose positive campaigns have helped ensure that for the first time ever the number of Conservative Councillors has grown to a point where Conservatives now control the Local Government Association?

        People don't want to hear politicians fighting amongst themselves. Whilst they accept that we fly our party colours at election times, I am convinced that for the rest of the time the vast majority of the British people want us to put party considerations and personal ambition aside and work for the good of the people who have elected us!

        buxtehude

        You're completely right, Councillor. It was possible. But they mucked it up again. It was a shameful campaign, the very worst that Michael Howard's 'strategy' has to offer. I shall be so glad when he disappears from view altogether.

        And what of Francis Maude? What happened to The Great Man Who Understands The Modern World? Yet another miserable failure...

        Adrian Owens

        Graham is correct a victory was possible in Cheadle. This time there was no personal vote for Patsy Calton to factor in. Moreover, because it was a by-election, Labour voters did not have to worry about following their convictions rather than voting tactically for the LibDems to prevent a Tory government.

        Labour ran a strong campaign in Cheadle. When I was helping on the ground in Cheadle there was more evidence of Labour activity than LibDem activity. I talked to two Labour activists handing out balloons outside a school who said they were aiming to poll 5000 votes and they certainly campaigned with energy.

        Unfortunately at this same time we were delivering a leaflet to every household stating that it was a 2 horse race and neck and neck between us and the LibDems. While this would have been fine for a get out the vote message, in a leaflet for general distribution it seemed guaranteed to keep Labour voters in the tactical voting camp.

        We should have run a positive campaign and talked Labour up locally. Instead our campaign reminded the Labour/LibDem faction why they didn't like us, and this, coupled with press predictions that we might win, saw even larger Labour tactical voting than last time!

        Elementary mistakes, which I assume come from the party's centre - the centre who wish to strip us mere "amateurs" of much of our independence. Doh!

        Graeme Archer

        We were saying this on one of the other blogs weren't we. That "grievance based" politics is doomed to fail, that however much people agree with any individual "spike" we flare up on, about crime or (the one that makes me cringe the most so apologies for re-mentioning) gypsies, or whatever - that without a solid base of decent values and a compelling, optimistic vision of Britain - the spike attacks look like what they are: cheap and nasty and worthless. Another ten thousand professionals shake their heads in sad disgust and resolve to give the LibDems or New Labour another try.

        Everyone I work with is middle class by the modern definition, most of them hold PhDs, and I'm the only "out" Tory at work. What on earth are we doing wrong?

        The contrast between what one reads about the Cheadle campaign, and what is expounded in Tim's (wonderful) article in today's Times, makes it hard to believe that both come from the same party.

        Just hopeful that this site and the prolonged leadership discussions help get us out this horrid stuck-needle form of really unpleasant campaigning. In Hackney South, we win wards when we focus on - this isn't rocket science, so don't hold your breath - getting windows fixed, security doors installed, when we shame Labour over the lack of swimming facilities. In other words, and though I haven't thought about this before, when I reflect on what I'm hearing about Cheadle I'm quite proud, and I think it matches the views of the Councillor who wrote above - in other words, I think we win when we focus on really local issues (the "old" localism? :-0) ) and we've never, ever, made our campaign negative or personal.

        William Norton

        You have to distinguish between "aggressive campaigning" and "negative campaigning". A positive message is important, people need a reason to vote for your candidate, but you do have to demonstrate that there is also a reason for throwing out the incumbent.

        For example: the Millwall by-election in 2004, when we elected the first ever Tory councillor in Tower Hamlets.

        (1) You need a good candidate who genuinely wants to make a difference to his neighbourhood, and who had spent 2 years getting to know the community and being known. If you haven't got that far, forget it.

        (2) We did outline a positive message of what difference a Tory councillor could make on issues we knew were important; but

        (3) This meant highlighting very specific local grievances - not just by polling district but also by council estate and in a few leaflets on a road-by-road basis.

        (4) To illustrate why electing another Labour candidate was a waste of time we highlighted some of their negative qualities (a particular success was a leaflet pointing how much they were all claiming in expenses).

        So, what's the difference between the two approaches? "Negative campaigning" is when it's being handled by someone who doesn't know what they're doing, or doesn't know the area well enough, and you lose. If you have an incompetent/idle enemy you've got to go after them and use whatever ammunition they hand to you. If voters have grievances, it's a reasonable assumption that they might vote for someone who offers a credible solution.

        James Hellyer

        "If voters have grievances, it's a reasonable assumption that they might vote for someone who offers a credible solution."

        I think the issue is the grievance based campaigns we used in the last election were based around grievances that appealed to us but not necessarily to anyone else.

        Everyone would agree that MRSA is a problem. Would they agree that it's grounds to throw out a government? Probably not and certainly not if the only solution offered the 21st century is the return of Hattie Jacques.

        It sounds like Cheadle went down the same sort of route. Beyond ridiculous literature about how "local" then candidates were (the Lib Dem live *gasp* three miles further away than Day did), the campaign looks like it tapped into Tory core issues like crime but in such a way as to repel anyone else.

        Graeme Archer

        William, you've got what I definitely don't - the ability to turn my inchoate thoughts into coherent, elegant exposition. I agree with you and also that the street-by-street, estate-by-estate message is vital (certainly in inner London).

        Jack Stone

        The party needs to attract the middle class voters who have deserted it since 1997 if it is to be returned to power. I do not see how your going to attract them if the party is so negative and aggressive in its campaigning. It needs to sound less nasty and show people it cares more and is not just all about money. Lets talk more about how were going to improve peoples quality of life both here and abroad.
        I think people want to live in a kinder, gentler country and its about time that the party stated to respond to that.
        David Cameron and George Osborne are I think articulating a stratedgy that would make people respect the party once more as it would show people a party more interested in country than party, a party that cares and a party that is about much more than money.
        The party can of course keep its principles but it must totally change its vision about how you can put those principles into action.
        Far too many people in the party would rather see a party totally reflecting there own beliefs than a party capable of winning.
        Politics is about compromising,you cannot have everyone agreeing totally what the party stands for. A lot of people in the party have got to start to learn the art of compromise if the party is to ever win again.

        David Sergeant

        I have read that the Tories copied Lib/Dem methods at Cheadle. It seems that the party still han't got the message that, since about 1992, it has left the political debate to everyone else. And, of course, everyone else has painted us as black as possible. E.G. most electors think we cut the NHS, hence, they will never believe a Tory policy statement on the NHS until someone gets down to writing the real history.

        This all means that agressive Tory electioning looks nasty while agressive Lib/Dem electioning looks like little nice guys fighting the big bad guys for the good of whoever.

        PS What on earth did they think they were doing puting out a leaflet saying it was between us and the Lib/Dems? Were they trying to make sure Labour voters voted Lib/Dem?!

        john metcalfe

        Least we forget Labour lost their deposit! Our opposition to the Lib Dems needs to prove not only we are the alternative to Labour but also the Lib Dems are not a third party but a Labour subset who cry Blair at any opportunity. (proved on record in many so called alliances)We must be ready to attack marginal seats and remember to highlight our differences to deserve support not echo already established Conservative policies. (Immigration, Crime etc.)This needs a Wellington type approach fight the battles that matter and chose the ground.

        Edward

        I've always thought that negative campaigning only really works where you have relatively undereducated electorates that can easily be scared.

        Why Steven Day has been allowed to lose that seat 3 times though is beyond me, this was a real screw up, and a missed opportunity to put the Liberals under pressure, which we really need to do.

        Wiiliam Norton

        Everyone is against negative campaigning - it's just that when you analyse it, what they really mean is a campaign which didn't work; when it works it's called making a connection with the voters.

        You can't just throw together a collection of grudges. As someone mentioned previously, if you are going for grievances, pick one that actually makes people feel aggrieved. Judge the tone correctly, and put forward the case for why you would make a difference.

        A purely nasty campaign never works - it either repels people or confirms the view that "they're all as bad as each other". Equally, however, a Fotherington-Thomas purely nice campaign ("Hello trees! Hello sky!") will bomb just as badly: OK, so you're nice, but why should I junk the clown I voted for last time?

        I can't comment on the Cheadle campaign, but a good example of how NOT to do it was the BNP leaflet in the Becontree council by-election which highlighted a picture of the destroyed No 30 bus. For an election being held on the same day as the 2 minute silence it completely misjudged the mood of most (but not, unfortunately, all) of the voters. Not only was it tasteless, it was irrelevant. Residents are quite aware that whatever else it might get up to, Barking & Dagenham council did not invade Iraq and is not running the war on terror.

        Kevin McKenna

        Because of the appalling campaign literature put out by the Conservatives in Cheadle, I have today resigned from the Conservative Party.

        Besides the word "nasty", I would use the word "silly". Stockport has 300000 people covering three constituencies and a party picks a long standing councillor who is also the leader of that council. The Conservatives describe that candidate as not being "local".

        It is unintelligent. I was not involved, thank God:I don't think that Stephen Day's defeat reflected his pleasant. moderate and reasonable character - it can only be a reflection of the politicians from London. They will not learn, of course, because they cannot read ordinary electors.

        James Hellyer

        "Because of the appalling campaign literature put out by the Conservatives in Cheadle, I have today resigned from the Conservative Party."

        I think you have more chance of influencing the future direction of the party from within than without.

        Ian Lewis

        If you are looking purely at the official campaign period, the Conservative campaign was probably the best. The problem is that the Lib Dems don't rely so much on the official campaign because they do so much beforehand. It's no use CCHQ arriving for the official period if the voter says they've not heard from us for four years. 20 leaflets over the previous two years would be more impressive that 20 leaflets in two weeks!

        Derek Buxton

        I find it difficult to understand how a car rich area like Cheadle, not the only one by any means, can vote for the car hating bigots that are currently running Stockport.

        Incidently I seem to recall that Hunter was shipped in when Stunnell went to the London fleshpots.

        Derek Buxton

        I find it difficult to understand how a car rich area like Cheadle, not the only one by any means, can vote for the car hating bigots that are currently running Stockport.

        Incidently I seem to recall that Hunter was shipped in when Stunnell went to the London fleshpots.

        malcolm

        Well Derek.Wake up they did

        Derek

        I wonder what effect the lack of a permanent leader had on the conservative vote. I believe we will not make any progress until we have a new leader who can show real leadership and charisma.

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