Tony Devenish: We should not lose sight of the battle to win seats from the Lib Dems whenever the next general election takes place
With the election over and the coalition deal done, most of us have returned to our careers, families and friends after months - often years - of campaigning. To quote one new Tory MP, whilst we are "physically tired we are also humbled that the public has just about placed its trust in our party, we should all pause for a moment to record our very special thanks to those Tory candidates who fought and lost seats on 6th May, especially those who fought and lost Liberal Democrat target seats."
Many ConHome readers witnessed the battles that our individual candidates fought, some working almost full time for an average of three years (some for much longer). It would be wrong of me to single out for praise one or two of these candidates, but all those I have got to know were first rate in their very different ways.
Post 6th-May the BBC and much of the media continued to act as if Nick Clegg won the General Election or at the very least came a strong second (rather than accurately recording the story of a burst Clegg bubble). However; we Conservatives should all recognise that despite this reality and the sweet words exchanged between the now coalition partners at Westminster, Lib Dem HQ and their local activists will already be looking to see how to build on their successes in Eastbourne and Wells and how they can claw back their lost seats (whenever the next General Election occurs).
We Tories should be equally hard-headed, urging CCHQ to appoint a Lib Dem target seat co-ordinator with real political clout and agree which Lib Dem MPs to target now. We must begin immediately to work with local Associations to ensure all these seats have an In Touch financed and delivered constituency-wide before the end of June (we all know that early campaigning stops the Lib Dems filling a vacuum). Such Lib Dem target seats should adopt a PPC or re-adopt their PPC before our Party Conference.
If we have learnt one thing as a party since our 1997 defeat, it is that once a Lib Dem is elected in a former Conservative constituency, it is very difficult to defeat him or her. But we should not be defeatist. Many of our new MPs have followed the precedent of MPs like Richard Benyon in Newbury and Andrew Turner in the Isle of Wight and proved that a strong, prolonged local campaign led by an excellent Tory candidate can defeat the Lib Dems.
If we start now we can reduce the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party from 57 to below 40 at the next General Election. This is achievable. As an incentive, just think how we could wipe the smile off the BBC’s face next Election night: something which should really cheer all ConHome readers.