Conservative Diary

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The number one electoral reason why Cameron wanted to get into government

The Tory membership is split - according to a ConHome survey - as to whether David Cameron's negotiating team got a good deal from the Liberal Democrats. The Mail on Sunday reports how key Liberal Democrats think the Tories were willing to pay a high price in order to get a deal. Danny Alexander, part of Clegg's negotiating team, told his fellow MPs: “If they are offering up all this, is there anything they will not do?”’

A controversial interpretation of the Tory negotiations giveaway is the belief that Cameron wanted to 'stuff the Right'. 47% of Tory members subscribe to this view.

While I don't discount this motivation I'd give more weight to another interpretation. Interviewed for The Sunday Telegraph Michael Gove repeats what I have been told three or four times by Tory insiders in the last few days:

"We have five years when Conservatives can vanquish some of the myths that have grown up about us."

Looking at the failure of the party to win among three key voter groups; (1) Scotland, (2) in constituencies with large numbers of people dependent upon the state for their income and (3) among ethnic minority communities, Tory strategists believe that there is only so much reassurance that can be offered in opposition. Only by being in government can the Conservatives prove to these three key sections of the electorate that they are not two-headed monsters.

The difficulty with this strategy is, of course, the fiscal crisis. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition will be taking very tough decisions that may (however unfairly) only reinforce misperceptions.

Cameron's visit to Scotland on Friday - the first of his premiership - confirms his determination to avoid a London/Edinburgh rupture but, in narrow electoral terms, Cameron might find it easier to win more English seats with over-taxed private sector workers than Scottish and northern seats with large public sector populations. Within ConservativeHome's General Election Review I, today, expand on my recommendation that the Scottish Conservatives become functionally independent of the rest of the Conservative Party.

Tim Montgomerie


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