Mischa Balen’s website is www.mischabalen.co.uk
For all the hype surrounding the Tories, they still have an awful lot to do. They can win local elections, they can lead in the polls, but if they can’t win Northern, Scottish or Welsh seats then they won’t be forming a government anytime soon. A recent poll carried out by Populus has found that Labour is loved in the North and loathed in the South with the Conservatives in exactly the opposite predicament. What is therefore needed is a concerted approach to win over Northern constituencies.
In a first past the post system, the Tories can’t simply rely on boosting their votes in the South of England, something they’ve been getting quite good at over the last two or three years: they need to win seats in other regions if they are to form a government. Yet the North of England, Scotland, and Wales all risk becoming one party regions. One reason for this is that the Labour government has been pumping money into the North. As the Times notes,
"[P]ublic spending per head in some northern regions of Britain is 27 per cent higher than it is in the South. In the North East in 2004-05, the Government shelled out £7,167 per person for public services; in the South East it was £5,624."
What’s more, one in five people across England are employed in the public sector, but in the North East it’s one in four. This isn’t quite a case of Labour buying, and the South bankrolling, voters in the North, but it comes pretty close, and it is something which will require a strategy from CCHQ to win votes.
So, what are the problems and how can they be fixed? The first problem that the Conservatives suffer from is their image. Whenever Conservatives appear on Television, they sound patronising and, well, Southern. If voters in Northern and Scottish wards are to recognise that the Tories care about their day to day lives, then we need to have more Tory MPs and spokespeople who voters can identify with. Ultimately, this means that local constituencies should select local Tories for seats in the North, Scotland and Wales.
This problem is the same one that the Democrats have suffered in America. They are viewed as elitist, out of touch North East coast liberal intellectuals, who have no understanding of nor a wish to engage with rural folk in Mid West states. Exit polls in 2004 demonstrated that voters considered Democrats to be socially aloof while they felt that Republicans articulated their moral values. In other words, Republicans didn’t talk down to them. The Conservatives could learn a thing or two from their American counterparts.