Conservative Diary


2 May 2013 07:18:55

Today's local elections. How to judge who polls well and who polls badly

By Paul Goodman
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On this election day, here's an encapsulation of Harry Phibbs's guide to how measure success or failure for the main parties.


Very good result: Retaining even one of the four counties they gained last time - Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Good result: Losing those four, but nothing else.

Bad result: Losing control of Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Suffolk, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire.

Continue reading "Today's local elections. How to judge who polls well and who polls badly" »

1 Mar 2013 08:30:09

Cameron's Conservatism is too small, too narrow, too unambitious, too unbalanced, too inconsistent

By Tim Montgomerie
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Cameron boxing Farage 2


We have the usual simplistic debate taking place on Twitter and on the blogosphere this morning. Some read yesterday's disappointing Eastleigh result as proof that you can't win if you move to the Right. Others see the UKIP surge as proof that Cameron has to abandon what they describe as touchy-feely conservatism and reject EU membership (Nile Gardiner) or form an "alliance" with UKIP (Dan Hannan).

It's certainly true we had a candidate in Maria Hutchings who had 'Ukippy' views on Europe, immigration and gay marriage. The Tory literature in the campaign was certainly old school in its messaging (my report here). Additional ammo for the 'move-to-the-centre' crowd is the very real moves that Cameron has made in recent months - notably on an In/Out referendum - to shore up his Right flank. People like Lord Ashcroft who've said that you can't beat UKIP by focusing on Europe will feel somewhat vindicated. UKIP is more of a protest party than a party pursuing a rational agenda. Its election literature in Eastleigh promised tax cuts for "everyone" as well as control of immigration and the restoration of student grants and better pensions.

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28 Feb 2013 07:54:30

Tory HQ think they can keep Labour to 35% of the national vote but that if UKIP splinter the Tory vote that'll be enough to install Miliband as PM

By Tim Montgomerie
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W1W 7PQ are being cancelled. Ministerial schedules rearranged. Day return rail tickets to Eastleigh are being booked. Looking at Twitter, a lot of Tory MPs are already in Hampshire, delivering dawn raid leaflets and beginning a constituency-wide telling operation.

The newspapers are full of speculation about the result of today's historic by-election - historic because it's the first between two coalition partner parties in modern history - and of the implications for David Cameron. Anything other than a win is going to be difficult for the PM. The Tories' general election strategy is based on winning up to twenty Lib Dem seats. Many Tory MPs will worry a great deal about that strategy if we can't win Eastleigh in the middle of the Rennard controversy and, much more significantly, when Clegg's party is positioned so badly in national polls. Tory HQ will legitimately reply that Eastleigh is not typical of our target seats - it is, after all, a seat where the Lib Dems have a total grip on the local council. I believe that every ward in the Eastleigh constituency is represented by a Lib Dem. There hasn't, nonetheless, been a shortage of Tory activists in the seat. Lord Ashcroft's final poll identified 90% visibility from the Tory campaign and 92% from the Lib Dems. The problem for the party is that we did not have a full canvass in place and we don't have local activists to ensure our door-knocking is of maximum persuasiveness. 

Continue reading "Tory HQ think they can keep Labour to 35% of the national vote but that if UKIP splinter the Tory vote that'll be enough to install Miliband as PM" »

16 Feb 2013 17:37:59

Lib Dems attack Maria Hutchings over her child's schooling

By Harry Phibbs
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The Mirror thinks it has a gafffe from the Conservative candidate in the Eastlegh byelection Maria Hutchings. It quotes her saying:

“William is very gifted which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him – impossible in the state system. He wants to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon.”

The Lib Dems also think this is a gaffe and have rushed out this leaflet. However is the Lib Dem attack so smart? Their leader Nick Clegg says he may send his eldest son to an indepedent school. Why should he be able to exercise the choice and not Maria Hutchings?

Iain Dale points out that the child in question may well be autistic.

If so the view that existing state provision is inadequate is shared by the National Austic Society. That is why they are involved in helping to start specialist free schools for children with autism. That will provide a choice for parents who can't afford fees. Such as this one for Lambeth:


The Labour candidate in the byelection John O'Farrrell may be interested in this as he is a Lambeth resident. Does he welcome the new opportunity the free schools provide?

16 Feb 2013 14:30:01

Eastleigh could give some early clues to tactical voting in the 2015 General Election

By Harry Phibbs
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The Labour Party only got 9.6% of the vote in the Eastleigh constituency at the last General Election. It was a very bad result for them not just in absolute but also in relative terms. Their vote share was less than half what they achieved in 2005. Nationally they went down sharply as well, of course. But from 37% to 29%.

No doubt many Labour supporters in Eastleigh voted tactically for the Lib Dem candidate Chris Huhne - in 2010 far more than in 2005 for some reason.

Yet in this byelection Labour seem to be fighting a strong campaign. They have put up a minor celebrity as their candidate, the comedian John O'Farrell. This well help enthuse their activists to come and campaign and is ensuring that the media don't ignore them. Ed Miliband was campaigning in Eastleigh this morning.

Normally we would expect to see a byelection producing more tactical voting due to the volume of campaigning. Ths means the constituents becoming unavoidably well versed in the local psephology, even in the midst of the barrage of claim and coounterclaim and dodgy Lib Dem bar charts.

Yet the battle hardened Lib Dem byelection operatives will face a challenge as they stand in the cold on the doorsteps pleading for tactical votes from the Socialists. Not just due to the coalition with the Conservatives. But also because have as their base 2005 when they evidently squeezed the Labour vote so effectively.

Continue reading "Eastleigh could give some early clues to tactical voting in the 2015 General Election" »

7 Feb 2013 07:41:06

Why Cameron must win Eastleigh

By Paul Goodman
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As soon as Nick Clegg announced last summer, in the wake of the collapse of Lords reform, that the Liberal Democrats would about-turn on the boundary review, I wrote that his prospects of winning a majority in 2015 were vanishing, that he would now hope to re-form the Coalition after the next election, and that his leadership was now at risk.  Nothing since has happened to make me change my mind - if anything, events have made a challenge more likely.  Risk is not certainty, and my best guess is that there is only a 25% per cent chance of a leadership ballot after the local elections, but is is impossible to make an accurate assessment.

The Adam Afriyie story identified only one of a number of plots that are swirling round Westminster.  It is a mistake to believe that what is needed to trigger a ballot is the click of computer mouse in some Portcullis House office, ordering 46 MP suicide bombers to go over the top, and send in letters demanding a ballot to Graham Brady.  If events take on a momentum of their own, and enough of the Judean People's Fronts and People's Fronts of Judea on the Tory backbenches are galvanised into life, Brady will suddenly emerge to declare a contest.  It is worth considering the news this morning in the light of that possibility.

Continue reading "Why Cameron must win Eastleigh" »

4 Feb 2013 12:48:40

For Cameron, Eastleigh will be no Oldham East & Saddleworth. He must fight to win

By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron was accused of pulling the party's punches at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, back in the halcyon pre-Av referendum days of Coaltion harmony.  But that by-election isn't comparable with the coming one at Eastleigh, at least in terms of the political geography of the constituency.

The Party came third in the Oldham seat in 2010 (though not a bad third at all: Kashif Ali gained 26% of the vote).  But it came a good second in Eastleigh: Chris Huhne's majority was 3864 over Maria Hutchings.  So Benedict Brogan is doubly right to say that the Prime Minister should throw CCHQ's energies at the by-election, when it happens.

Continue reading "For Cameron, Eastleigh will be no Oldham East & Saddleworth. He must fight to win" »

30 Nov 2012 09:27:02

UKIP's threat to... Labour?

Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 09.24.07
By Paul Goodman
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At the last election -

  • Labour got the best part of 17,000 votes in Rotherham.
  • And the Conservatives won over 6000 votes.
  • UKIP won just over 2000 votes.

Yesterday -

  • Labour won almost 10,000 votes.
  • The Tories gained just over 1000 votes.
  • And UKIP got well over 4500 votes.

Did all of UKIP's extra 2000 votes or so have come from people who voted Conservative last time?

It's possible, but I doubt it.

Some of them must surely have come from the 7000 or so people who voted Labour in 2010, but didn't do so yesterday (and not just from the 5000 people who voted Conservative in 2010, but didn't do so yesterday).

One could, of course, counter-argue that, despite yesterday evening's results in three Labour seats (UKIP came second in Middlesbrough and third in Croydon North), UKIP is primarily a threat to the Tories in true blue Conservative seats.

For this to be true, UKIP would have to be taking a significantly larger proportion of votes from the Tories than Labour in these constituencies.  It is claimed that this is so - and that UKIP cost the Conservatives up to 40 seats at the last election.

I will return to this assertion next week.  In the meantime, here is the unsurpassable Anthony Wells on the matter.

16 Nov 2012 16:16:17

The Labour-UKIP pincer movement on Cameron pays off in Corby

By Paul Goodman
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Here are the figures for the main candidates:

Andy Sawford (Labour): 17,267

Christine Emmett (Conservative): 9,476

Margot Parker (UKIP): 5,108

Jill Hope (Liberal Democrat): 1,770

Labour majority: 7,791

The BNP got 614 votes and the Greens 378.

In other words -

  • A very good - though not brilliant - result for Labour.  Mr Sawford got a very big swing - 13% - and a lot of fun can be had with projecting how many Commons seats Labour would gain on that uniform performance.  Grant Shapps is tweeting that Labour would have needed an 11,000 majority to match the Conservative gain in the last Parliament at Crewe & Nantwich.  What is certain is that Mr Sawford won 48% of the vote, a bit short of the 55% his party took in the seat in 1997.
  • A very bad - though not disastrous - result for the Conservatives.  The Tory vote fell by 16%.  This is a very poor result, but a long way from some of the by-election disasters of the past - such as Newbury and Christchurch.  And Christine Emmett won second place comfortably.
  • A very good - though not brilliant - result for UKIP.  The party gained 14%.  That's its best by-election result to date - though it failed to gain the second place some of its supporters were talking up this morning.  But the big message from its vote is: UKIP doesn't need a brilliant result in 2015 to hamstring David Cameron and put Ed Miliband in Downing Street.
  • A disastrous - not simply very bad - result for the Liberal Democrats.  The party lost its deposit.  Enough said.

Obviously, all will be different in 2015 - or whenever the next election comes - when the turnout is higher (though 44% yesterday was very respectable for a by-election).  The question is: how different?

Could UKIP take enough votes from the Conservatives - not all their votes will have come from the blue corner, of course, though a significant chunk of them will - to hand Labour the seat?  If so, what would that imply nationwide?

P.S: The swing to Labour was 13%.  Lord Ashcroft predicted...13% (see here).  I would label our proprietor Mystic Michael, were it not for the fact that his estimate was based not on intuition but on polling.

16 Nov 2012 09:43:31

Corby and Police Commissioner elections rolling blog

By Harry Phibbs
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7.00pm I'm signing off now. (Sorry Devon and Cornwall.)

With 40 out of the 41 PCC results declared, the Conservatives have 15 police commissioners, Labour 13 and independent candidates 12. Considering that Boris Johnson already has responsibility for policing in London and that many of the independents have Conservative views (Kevin Hurley in Surrey, Simon Hayes in Hampshire) it has been a good day for the Conservatives, for democracy and for policing. That will be the lasting significance long after the dreary media fixation with the low turnout is forgotten.

Obviously the event of the day was the magnificent defeat of Lord Prescott. The BBC have been anxious to ignore it. I'm not sure the press will be quite so discreet.

6.48pm Independent candidate Sue Mountstevens has won Avon and Somerset.

A Labour candidate has been elected as PCC for West Yorkshire, as expected.

Independent candidate Stephen Bett elected as PCC for Norfolk.

Congratulations to Conservative candidate John Dwyer on being elected PCC for Cheshire. This was a key Labour target.

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