Paul Maynard is Conservative Member of Parliament for Blackpool North and Cleveleys. Follow Paul on Twitter.
This is the second part of his two-part guide to winning votes in the North. The first part was published yesterday.
We must start by understanding demographic change, and what demographics are. As a party, I often hear us talk of areas moving away from us. We rarely hear of areas moving towards us. But considering the demographics of the North, and changing patterns of habitation, it is true. Anyone who drives the M62 from Liverpool to Manchester won’t pass through a Conservative seat, yet it is the ultimate commuter belt! Whether it is the income domain of DCLG’s Indices of Multiple Deprivation from 2010, or Experian’s Mosaic data with which so many of us are familiar, there is no lack of information allowing us to determine where we could be doing better. The missing element in all of the appraisals of our electoral performances is whether we are ‘under-‘ or ‘over-performing’ against demographically similar areas. Mosaic is too often rejected on the basis that it said that voter X was Mosaic category Y when she is a multi-millionaire. We can all find an example of a nonsensical category if we look hard enough. Yet Mosaic remains a powerful tool for analysing the totality of an electorate, and understanding what Conservative areas could, or should, look like.
This is a crucial piece of the jigsaw, since it allows us to ask the right questions. No longer can we determine target lists of wards merely by the number votes we are behind, but we can identify wards where we ought to be doing better than we are, and then, critically, look at what the reasons are for under-performance. And that is where the novelty is here. I’m not just saying “Do as your Campaign Director says or else”. Under-performance is a concept that I think we have fought shy of for too long. It isn’t about castigating a particular branch or Association for not winning a ward. It’s about the wider Party family asking itself the right questions, identifying where value can be added to existing campaigns, or initiating where there isn’t much to build on. We can know where we ought to be winning, and we can try to do something about it.