I'm now in Ottawa and - as in Washington DC - am constantly asked to explain why Britain's Tories are 'back'.
There are a growing number of explanations out there and they tend (in my opinion) to exaggerate the impoprtance of green issues and the decontamination project - eg James Crabtree, Jonathan Freeland and Jamie Boulding. I don't want people drawing the wrong lessons from our experience.
Tomorrow I'll be speaking to 150 or so Canadian conservative activists and I'd like your help in answering the question at the top of this post.
I've identified the following 13 factors:
- Time for a change: It's the most powerful slogan in politics: After a while voters get bored with a government. John Howard's government made mistakes but, most of all, Australian voters were tired of him and his party. It simply appeared exhausted.
- Labour's general failure: If longevity produces boredom, failure produces more active opposition. Labour's record on crime and immigration are factors in producing opposition among floating and right-leaning voters. My guess is that Iraq and civil liberties have been crucial causes of discontent within the ideas class.
- Labour's economic failure: This factor will probably grow over the next year and explain what will be a widening Tory lead. Few voters (me included) yet understand the implications of multi billion pound bailouts. That'll change as the consequences for the tax burden and public spending settlement become all too clear.
- Gordon Brown: Judging from doorknocking, Brown is a big negative for Labour; he certainly was when I was face to face with angry voters in Crewe and Nantwich. Where Labour strategists hope voters will see seriousness, they actually see boring.
- David Cameron: His personality. His message of change. His general leadership qualities.
- The strength of the Tories' 'TV team': Boris Johnson, Ken Clarke, William Hague, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith etc
- Positive Tory policies. For example: Scrapping inheritance tax/ Freezing council tax for two years/ A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
- The Tories' economic message that Britain is already indebted enough.
- Decontamination (getting rid of the things voters didn't like about the Conservatives): Certain things did need to be done for certain people to even consider voting Tory. Moving away from negativity towards gay people, for example. Creating a less male-dominated candidates' list. Ending the more general finger-wagging and Punch & Judy politics may have been another.
- The creation of a gentler, greener conservatism: David Cameron's messages on climate change and social justice.
- Wooing the BBC/Guardian: Hostility towards the Conservatives from the BBC is very damaging in a nation where broadcast media is so powerful (And the route to the brains/ hearts of many BBC big cheeses is through The Guardian).
- The strength of the party organisation: Lord Ashcroft's target seats campaign and the general quality of CCHQ's media and fundraising operations.
- The weakness of the Liberal Democrats as an alternative to Labour and the Conservatives.
I realise the factors overlap hugely - David Cameron's strategic choices, for example, explain many of the other factors. Nonetheless, please discuss these factors in the thread below but most of all I'd like you to take this survey and help me rate their importance.
I'll publish the findings tomorrow so don't delay voting!!