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        « Attracting defectors from Labour and the LibDems | Main | Can Robin Aitken 'Goldberg' bias at the BBC? »


        James Hellyer

        A very interesting article. I'll tackle each of the observations in turn if I may.

        (1) I have to say that I agree with O'Sullivan on this and find Danny Finkelstein's view incredibly patronising. The people he dismisses as having "less 'advanced' social views" are in fact often the very people who have suffered as a result of the liberati's policies.

        Nobody would choose to live in poverty. Nobody would choose to send their children to a failing school. Nobody would choose a life of welfare dependence. Nobody would choose to be afraid to walk the streets at night. These are all things that I believe can be attributed to more "enlightened" social policies undermining a civil society.

        So called "values voters" who want the opportunity to escape this and improve their lives are precisely the sort of people the Conservatives need. They have been let down by Labour. A Conservative party that wanted to strengthen civil society would meet their needs.

        (2) I totally agree with this point. In the late 1970s the Conservative Party looks like it was interested in ideas. It did the round of think tanks and lobby groups.

        We need to do that again, including involvement with groups that might seem hostile to us. For example, we need to re-engage with the major professions and convince them that out programmes are in their interests.

        (3) I think I'm a lot more receptive to this idea than you appear to be, Tim. As I understand it, one of the ideas behind the whole immigration business was to shore up the core vote and stop any further haemorrhaging to UKIP or worse. But I do have to wonder how effective beating up on immigrants was as a substitute for the "A" list foreigners those defectors really have a problem with.

        Certainly in my constituency, the UKIP vote cost us a lot of council seats as people who would otherwise have voted Conservative switched to UKIP. From the people I've spoken to, I got the feeling that UKIPers were disillusioned Conservatives and that getting them back on board would be vital step in the party's route forwards.

        I certainly think that on a local level, eurosceptic candidates can confront and win over the UKIP vote (when we were canvassing, a UKIP sign in the window was an invitation for us to try and win that person over).

        If so many of the UKIP brigade are natural Conservatives, it seems like folly not to try and win them back.

        Cllr Graham Smith

        Have you read Boris' analysis "why we lost":

        "There is certainly no case (or market) for some spastic lurch to the Right, or some hilarious attempt to ‘modernise’ and become less ‘weird’. All politicians are basically weird; the electorate accepts that, and they find few things more embarrassing than watching us pretend to be normal by wearing face ornaments or open-neck shirts or coming out as gay.

        "What we need is a bit more sensible, generous One-Nation Conservatism, with heaps of uplift, that is instinctively in favour of small government and makes a thorough-going attempt to re-establish the link — so universally broken by Labour — between effort and reward. On the whole, we want to be the party of aspiration, achievement, energy, enterprise and hope, not fear. How about that, just for starters? Get that right, and we’ll win next time, and win big."

        Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny

        It was actually the blogs who first noticed the UKIP effect, specifically Richard North at EU Referendum (four relevant posts: 1, 2, 3, 4).

        James Hellyer

        It's really a home goal for UKIP. All they succeeded in doing in stopping eurosceptic candidates being elected and helped return europhile Lib Dem and Labour candidates.

        Unfortunately, the Conservative party still has being the ones who signed Britain up the EEC and the subsequent treaties held against it. We need to make clear that past performance is not indicative of future returns, as a pension firm might say!

        Derek Buxton

        If, as reported, Conservative candidates have been told not to mention the EU, would someone tell me why? It was totally missing in the run up to the election and yet we are increasingly ruled from Brussels. I keep asking the question but they all seem frightened to answer. Simple question, who can "initiate, pass or repeal legislation relating to the British people?"

        James Hellyer

        I've had a bit of a think about O'Sullivan's first point. It does make quite a lot of sense.

        Rather a lot of the "middle" or "professional" classes are not bourgeois in the traditional sense of the word. Instead they are public sector professionals whose wealth and status depend upon an active, big spending government. Lower tax and less regulation are not in their interests.

        Meanwhile members of the "lower-middle" and "working class" are having pay more and more in taxes and receive failing services in return. They are the ones who suffer from crime and fear of crime on estates, from failing schools and dirty hospitals.

        The Conservative party should be able to appeal to them and show them it can offer them a lower tax burden, better services and a more civil society.

        simon clewer

        This party needs to get with the European Project or the project will destroy it.

        Until the party becomes positive about Europe it will fail to attract the thinkers that will define the new ideas for the 21st century.

        I offer this as fact rather than opinion - so here's a starter to kick off the ideas.


        Think about that ... its enabling and leads to lots of fun ideas ... lets grab the torch and show the lefties what intelligent thinking is all about.

        Hail Thatcher, Hail the Project.

        Daniel Finkelstein

        I am sorry that James Hellyer found my remarks patronising. I quite see how he formed that impression and the best I can do is tell him that this wasn't my intention. Perhaps he read my remarks only in the extract posted here. Readers of the full column will have realised that I employ a light style and was satirising party strategy rather than dismissing the views of others.

        My handful of regular readers (if such a group exists) would have seen my recent columns on marriage and immigration and would therefore not remotely believe me to be attacking the broad, popular and conservative views on these issues.

        However, my view and Mr Hellyer's on these issues and others is only part of the story. The Conservative party needs to attract support from those who voted Labour and even Lib Dem at the election. Of course we need strivers (a good word) but we also need to both persuade AB voters and (within reason) accomodate ourselves to the views of others when persuasion fails.

        We have fought two elections on the O'Sullivan strategy and it has not worked. We ran on Europe, we ran on tax, we ran on immigration. These are part of the mix, but if they are the answer then why didn't our vote go up?

        Sean Fear

        Is it not the case though, that in London and the South East, we attracted quite a lot of new support from AB voters? How else can we explain results like Southgate, Guildford, Putney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Wimbledon and so on?

        It seems to me that actually these voters are much more concerned about tax and economic issues than they are about whether we are a socially liberal or socially conservative party. Had we offered a much more convincing critique of the government's tax and spending plans, perhaps we would have picked even more support among AB voters in the South.

        James Hellyer

        "I am sorry that James Hellyer found my remarks patronising. I quite see how he formed that impression and the best I can do is tell him that this wasn't my intention."

        In which case I apologise for my sweeping comment.

        "We have fought two elections on the O'Sullivan strategy and it has not worked. We ran on Europe, we ran on tax, we ran on immigration. These are part of the mix, but if they are the answer then why didn't our vote go up?"

        Because they are not the answer on their own. In 2001 and 2005 one or more of the issues you namechecked became the defining things in the Conservative campaigns.

        The problem with this approach is that issues like immigration are ones that Conservative supporters rate the party more highly than Labour on, but play to the worst expectations of waverers.

        It's hard not to be seen as a "nasty party" when candidates are circulating literature that says "send them back."

        Instead we should make a strong, positive case for how we will improve provision of education and health services. That case should extend beyond grievance based arguments.

        On the subject of taxation, it's not enough to just promise cuts. The case for making tax cuts has to be made clearly. Again this was something that was drowned out by the shrill dog whistle of the immigration debate.

        Above all else the party should offer a vision of a better Britain, not just a better managed one.

        Daniel Finkelstein

        It seems that Mr Hellyer and I agree almost completely after all!

        James Hellyer

        "It seems that Mr Hellyer and I agree almost completely after all!"

        Indedd. Your "light tone" clearly sailed over my head!

        I agree with O'Sullivan that the Conservative Party needs to aggressively target working and lower middle class voters; however I think the best way to do that isn't to present scare stories about immigrants.

        Instead we should show that our health and education policies would deliver better services. That should send a particularly powerful message to those, who rely on those services and can't afford to go private.

        Similarly, law and order initiatives should be emphasised as being designed to make the areas people live in safer so communities can flourish (like Guilani's Zero Tolerance regime).

        Perhaps the best example of the sort of thing I'm thinking as a positive from the last election campaign was the pensions policy. Not only was that tacking the problems with out pension system, but also it would have provided the least well off with an incentive to save for their future.

        I think that sort of approach allows "core vote" principles to be kept intact, while addressing popular perceptions that the Conservatives are the party for the greedy and the selfish.


        I live in the US and actively campaigned for George Bush in the November 2004 election.

        So why did Bush win, despite an extremely impressive effort by Kerry and Democrats? Because the Republicans were able to reach beyond he froth of oh-so-smart liberal ideas, patronizing media personalities and confusing social schemes and connect with ordinary people. Most people are patriotic. Most people want more freedom. Most people are worried about the social and moral degeneracy of post 1960's culture, and want to see marriage strengthened and the unborn child treated as another human being rather than an inconvenient piece of trash.

        The Republicans understood this, and they built an agenda around this.

        "Oh, but that's America, with its religious right and its Bible belt. An agenda like that will never go down here in atheist old Britain". In answer to that, you should consider firstly that the above principles are natural to most people. Despite what those overly-intelligent fools at The Guardian and the BBC tell you, most people are patriotic, want Britain to do well, would like to keep more of the money theand are very uncomfortable about abortion, promiscuity and public displays of homosexuality.

        An agenda that believably addresses what can only be described as drift and weakness in all these areas will be a winner for the Conservatives. That, after all, is what REAL Conservatism is all about.

        Don't wring your hands, the Republican party in the early 90's toyed with adopting a more radical Bush-like agenda before it lost its nerve and offered secular watered-down liberalism ... and lost two presidential terms to the Democrats.

        So take heart and be bold, Conservatives!

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