A senior member of the shadow cabinet has told ConservativeHome that the Damian Green affair had important lessons for the next steps of Tory strategy.
He said that the Speaker, Metropolitan Police and Home Secretary all had had big questions to answer over how Damian Green had been subject to such a heavy-handed operation but that the Conservatives had "played the whole affair wrong":
"The public doesn't care much about the rights of MPs. They should care more but we can't change that overnight. They do care that the Government has lost control of our borders and about illegal immigrants. We should have made made the immigration issue the story. We should have gone on to the TV screens with a 'We tried to tell you about the Government's immigration disaster and they tried to arrest us...' message."
Polling analysed by Anthony Wells found that 45% of Britons saw the Damian Green arrest and its fallout as a “typical Westminster argument that bears no relation to the lives of ordinary people.” "In this context," continued Anthony, "the Conservative drop in support doesn’t seem particularly surprising - they’ve switched from attacking the government over huge levels of debt and mishandling the economy, to battering away over an issue which apparently has barely any salience with the general public."
My shadow cabinet source said that the Tory leadership's continued reluctance to talk about immigration combined with the powerful movement within the Conservative Party that worries about infringements of liberty dictated the tactical path that was chosen:
"What happened to Damian Green was unacceptable and authoritarian but it would have been much better politics to have seen this as an issue of immigration and then moved more quickly back to the dominant economic narrative."
There are lessons in the weeks and months ahead for the Conservative Party. The Party has too many messages at the moment. It needs to have the discipline to pick a few key themes and focus upon them relentlessly. My shadow cabinet source said those three messages should be:
- The scale of public debt - personalised for every person in Britain;
- The scale of Labour incompetence - these people can't run anything;
- The scale of Labour deceit - big tax rises are coming;