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stephan shakespeare

Ken, yes I agree, that should be ‘and/or’.

Graeme, firstly on the 51-49, of course few would want to place a single large bet on that, so it’s not necessarily rational except for traders! But that precisely makes my point: most people, being risk-averse, need a big difference to persuade people to change. That’s why branding isn’t nearly enough.

On Black Wednesday, Graeme: sure, Conservatives will want to minimize negative voter associations, but if that means not talking much about the economy, they also give up the key ground on which voters need to be persuaded. Risk reduction can only work if the existing option (Brown) is then seen as the bigger risk, ie one is hoping for Brown to get it badly wrong. Maybe this is the correct strategy but it is essentially passive.

Jonathan – “People don’t work out statistics when they vote” – that’s only half-true. We instinctively calculate our risk all the time, and I think that’s a much stronger driver of voting behaviour than lifestyle branding, for example.

“Brown possibly going to mess up? Come on Stephan. He's messed up our economy badly.” Tapestry, I wasn’t making a point about the real state of the economy but about people’s perception of it. They clearly are relatively satisfied, whether or not they ought to be.

“Maybe others just want him to fail. Maybe they quite like Gordon Brown. Maybe they’re the secret lefties.” Stephen Daisley, I for one made it clear that DC is ‘the only show in town’. Agreeing with the current strategy and wanting him to succeed may not be the same thing!


There is often a perception that the rank'nfile are of one hangem'nflogem, slaughterallsinglemums, opinion. They are not - there are as many shades of opinion as there are amongst MPs, MEPs and Councillors - so 'doing what the rank and file' want is a pointless exercise.

The property market is starting to crack up, London Transport is starting to crack up, education is largely crap - and when that is perceived by a majority of people, with the help of our elected politicians, we might start making a difference.

However, if the majority of those politicians continue to mouth placatory platitudes, then the death of politics will have further advanced.

Stephen Daisley

Stephan, just want to clarify. I didn't intend my post as an attack on you. I think your article is well-argued and perfectly reasonable in its main points. What I objected to is a lot of the other posters on this strand who seem to be taking five minutes out from work just to give David Cameron a blogging/e-kicking. As I said in my post, I think forums like ConservativeHome are the way to influence the leadership and remind them that their constituency is a little broader than Polly Toynbee and polar bears. Also, I heartily agree that Mr Cameron has to get to the 'core proposition': if not detailed policies - though these would be nice - at least a projected vision for what his ambitions for Britain are.


Most real world people are not interested in the academics of politics or the mathematics of risks.

To get switchers while retaining the confidence of the loyals, we need a combination of emphasis of the wrongs of Labour, the risks of a continuing Labour government, the wastage of votes on the Lib-Dems and the benefits of a Conservative replacement, with reasons focused according to the anxieties and wishes of each individual and group but without losing sight of the common sense direction of the majority.


Excellent article and I think you nail the problem on the head regards the electorate changing party at the next GE.

"He meant that up to now the modernising project had lacked the necessary ruthlessness, and that DC should stop feeding the party’s ‘baying right’."

If I had one complaint about David Cameron it would be that he and the whole parliamentary team have not been ruthless enough attacking the whole Labour government and equally not ruthless and focussed enough in working as a team and showing the hunger for power as the next government.
I don't think there should be a DC vs the Right because the way that more than a few MP's behave is slack and very much to an individual agenda as if they are in some loose collective rather than the main opposition team.
I really do thing we concentrate too much on Cameron's faults when the political weather is rough and bleat too much if the press concentrate on him when times are good. We really need to see this as a problem for all of us from the top down to the grass roots and until we do we will fail.
Brown desperately wants to show Cameron as vacuous and at the moment he has much larger team desperate to hold on too their seats and retain power. Only by backing Cameron and moving every step of the way with him can we prove that claim is not true. How about matching that hunger after 3 GE defeats and 10 years in opposition with less than 200 MP's?
Now I don't propose that they should all become New Labour Clones MarkII, but equally they need to be a hell of a lot more on message than they have been. I don't think that some inside the Westminster bubble even now realise just how damaging the more obvious and public disloyalty shown by some has been.
It hurts us if someone defects, but equally it damages if they behave in that way while remaining in the party.
The policies will come and with them much debate, but we have to make sure that we include the public in a positive way rather than have the usual spates in public while ignoring the outside world as if they don't matter. It looks obsessive and is the worst kind of naval gazing.

Andrew Lilico

[email protected]:16

Stephan isn't saying that most people are interested in the mathematics of risk. But that makes no difference to the validity and interest of his claim - which is that an opposition cannot win by offering merely incremental improvements over the government. Stephan claims that this is true because, by nature, people are less inclined to give up what they already have (e.g. the government) than they are inclined to give up gaining what they could have (e.g. the opposition).

This is a very interesting claim. I'm not saying that it is a correct one (either as an account of human decision-making - in my view prospect theory is part of an ill-disciplined research programme that is vastly over-rated, but I won't bore you with that discussion - or as an account of British political realities). But it is certainly an interesting one. Don't you agree?

dog biter

The questions to ask at the moment are would I entrust the country in the hands of
a. somebody who bypasses the local membership and gets someone who has been a member of the party for not much more than 5 mintues to stand at a by-election with disastrous results?
b. somebody who thinks it is more important to fly off to Rwanda when he should be at the side of his countryman back home who are facing a flooding crisis?
c. somebody who appears have no strong views on anything - except possibly global warming....and Rwanda?
I tell you this, if Brown, as it is strongly suspected he might, suddenly announces he is going to greatly increase the band of inheritance tax or even scrap it altogether, then the Tories are toast.
Dave's a nice bloke, and he's darned good at coming over as a nice bloke, but it's time he started being himself and stopped listening to all that cuddly , people pleasing nonsense coming out of Hilton and the rest of that chippy lot. Gordon's putting on a thumping good show. Blair lite ain't gonna work anymore.


"This seems unfair. ‘The right’ has never been better behaved. It has preferred to mutter under its breath rather than make trouble, constantly reiterating (correctly) that David Cameron is ‘the only show in town’, accepting that there is no alternative."

I think that backs up my argument very concisely and yet again shows that it needs more than Cameron or any leader to bring electoral success.
I think time and again people underestimate the strength of the WHOLE New Labour machine in all area's, we repeatedly make the mistake of concentrating solely on Cameron's message, the press operations weaknesses or where the balance of policy should be almost daily on this site but ignore this at our peril.
At some point we have to move out of the comfort zone and take on the Labour party and the electorate instead of each other.

Michael McGowan

Scotty, I agree with your last sentence but this requires the Tory Party to start doing something which, for the most part, it has not done since 1945: challenge the agenda of the left rather than conciliate it. This is a huge undertaking: for decades the Tories have allowed the left to take over more and more of the Commanding Heights of society. The politics of eternal retreat have literally left them with their backs to the wall. I expect quite a few of the uber-modernisers to defect to Labour and the Lib Dems before the next election.


"I expect quite a few of the uber-modernisers to defect to Labour and the Lib Dems before the next election."

Michael, I think a real sign of success will be it some of the uber-modernisers from Labour or the Libdems defect to us.

Tony Makara

Its very important to understand that most votes are non-political. A paradox. They see the world through headlines and often confuse statement with fact. That is not a patronizing view of the electorate but is the way most people see politics. There is serious disaffection with Labour. However, true to form, opinion polls have reflected a favourable public response to Labour party 'statements' since Gordon Brown took office.
David Cameron's undoubted skill as a communicator is a boon for the Conservative party and should Brown call an early election I'm confident that David will know exactly how to get the Conservative message across. This will become easier once an election is actually called because there will be public focus.


I worry that there's something in the idea that voters are risk averse and therefore might stick with New Labour.

I think people grew to really hate Blair and I wonder if the good result in the council elections was more about a last chance to give Blair a kicking (legacy?) than anything positive about the Conservatives. Now that Blair has gone has the boil been lanced? Brown is going out of his way to look different to Blair - even dumping some of his policies - and if you believe the spin all Brown has been doing for the last 10 years is looking after the stable economy and putting money into the NHS. Why would people vote for a change to something untested?

The challenge for the Tories is to either show Brown to not be capable of running a government (he still looks very weak compared to DC in PMQs) or somehow convince people that he was as (more?) important than Blair in the bad policies of the last 10 years.

Given the current pro-Brown media this could be an uphill struggle.

I guess what I'm saying is that no amount of great policies from the Tories will win the next GE. It has to be done on voters losing confidence or better still hating New Labour.

Tony Makara

Arthur, I'm convinced that the thing that will undo Labour is the overheating economy. The way I see it there is serious underlying inflation, largely fuelled by government spending. There are basically two ways to control inflation, with either a strong currency or with interest-rates. Labour cannot rely on sterling because the currency is already hitting record high levels. That just leaves interest-rates as the sole mechanism for control, and of course Brown has handed over that responsiblity to the Bank of England. So what can Brown do when inflation really takes off? He is in a quandry, all he can do is sit and watch voters squeal as the cost of debt goes up.


I think Stephan's article is a good one and is entirely right. However I don't see the perception of Labour as something we can do nothing about. I think this is the lesson Labour truly have learnt and as a party we are yet to truly take on board. Every single member of the Labour party pushes a narrative where they are more interesting, nicer, stronger and more effective than the conservative party. They will imply this whenever possible so Campbells diaries (interesting), 90 day detention (stonger), Global poverty (nicer), economic growth (more effective). It is enforced constantly through simple sound bites and it is done in the same way a small businessman tries to make sales i.e at every single opportunity.

It seems to me the Conservative party has for far too long accepted this narrative. If we are to convince people to take the risk as Stephan puts it then I don't believe we have to passively sit there and hope for things to turn pear-shaped for Brown. We must put across our own narrative that more closely reflects reality. So to put Labour in perspective stating just how deceitful (pretty much everything), idealogical(europe, despite the spin), damaging (unlimited immigration), biased and unfair (West Lothian), Incompetent (Plenty of things but everything to do with Prison, probation, prisoner relases, planning for numbers etc), wasteful (billions on NHS), unecessarily authoritarian (ID cards, 90 days). Im am sure you can come up with better but some example soundbites "same old Labour same old lies", "Gordon is a total waster", "Labour wants to close down your hospital, never forget Hazel's heat maps", "Labour would lock you up for not getting an ID card but look on the bright side there are no prison places left" etc etc

Matt Wright

Yes but we do know, and I have learnt from experience in campaigns, that positive propositions are much better than negative ones. The reason is that voters start from the premise that politicians are going to hoodwink them or slag each other off. If you start by attacking your opponent their antennae are primed to say "you would say that" and then switch off from the message you want to get across. It is far more effective just to say what practical things you want to do. Let me explain it another way. Problem solvers sometimes use a technique whereby they get themselves to imagine what it would be like when a problem is solved - what would it look like and feel like. In elections a key part of the task is to put across to the voters what it would feel like if you where their AM, MP, councillor etc. The issue is the same for our party. This is part of what Tim is saying when he talks about authenticity and is an element of the stuff Stephan is trying to get across,



Matt Wright "Yes but we do know, and I have learnt from experience in campaigns, that positive propositions are much better than negative ones."

I think both are needed as at the moment most Conservative MPs come across as blandly agreeing with the picture Labour have painted. The Labour party through the media are at it again today, Apparently Brown has purpose and is serious, Cameron is Spin. We are meekly accepting that. The truth is the only thing Brown is serious and has purpose about is winning the next Election. Why are we not saying that. He is serious about lying to the public as he has on xx previous occasions. I appreciate my negative soundbites are not really suitable but they at least try and get away from Labour's relentless narrative. It needs to be counter-acted, just watch how Labour do it, it is much more subtle and giving them a warm feeling of what the tories might do is not going to make people take the risk. if we get them at least to hear a different side then when something does go wrong for Brown people are far more likely to come down harder on him.

Matt Wright

Voreas, of course we will also need to point to Labour failures and in fact we need to do so more quickly and loudly to rebut their propositions before they gain credence eg housing and flooding at the moment. However this will fail if the public falsely percieve that we are insubstantial or unserious and just being opportunist. We need to relay a clear message about what we stand for and illustrate this with practical ideas that hang together coherently. DC has appeal and has made great progress, it would be a tragedy to fall down at this stage when people have been warmed up but are yearning to know what it is all about. We have begun to touch on this with the social responsibility stuff and some hard focused work put in now could put us ahead again and on course to win. The policy groups are generating info and ideas but it needs some really innovative thinking to pull it together.


Tony Makara

I was told as a child that if you always tell the truth you are always in the right and cannot lose an argument. So the Conservative party must simply stick to the facts, make the information understandable, and expose Labour's failing. Its very important to appreciate the value of catchphrases.

Prior to 2005 Labour MPs were like poll-parrots repeating the phrase "The economy is good under Labour" at every interview. Before long this catchphrase became currency and when discussing the election with non-political people several said "Well, the economy is good under Labour" yet when I asked them to explain what was so good about the economy they were all unable to give an answer.

It would be a mistake to think that the majority of voters understand politics beyond a very rudimentary level. I may well be slated for making such an assertion but that is my experience. If the Conservative party can condense policy it will help greatly. Labour recognised this approach with their pledge-cards.


Tony Makara "It would be a mistake to think that the majority of voters understand politics beyond a very rudimentary level. I may well be slated for making such an assertion but that is my experience. If the Conservative party can condense policy it will help greatly. Labour recognised this approach with their pledge-cards."

I agree with this but we should not do the pledge card as it has been done by Blair and will just look silly. I think we need to be much more subtle in the means of transmission, so like Labour it should be done through journalists and third parties where possible and if not, through Question Time etc.

Tony Makara

voreas06, I'm not advocating the use of pledge-cards as such but something similar that will stick in the minds of the public. I'd like to see posters with one-line messages such as "Britain is broken" "Conservatives are change" etc. It might sound like very basic stuff but it sticks in the mind. Slogans, catchphraes are very effective. Of course these are not meant to be a guide to policy but are to jolt the minds of those who don't follow politics closely. Many voters know that something is wrong but are unable to articulate their concerns. The right slogans such as the classic "Labour isn't working" will strike a chord with many voters. I'd like to see "Use your vote-Kick them out!" as a slogan.


These floods will slow the economy dramatically before a winter where nurses have October 13th as a demo date to protest about a staged pay award bringing them 1.9% with inflation running nearer 5.5%. This is not a happy country.

But it is likely the focus will be on where MPs were during these floods which could stretch from July into the onset of winter rains so it continues in one form or another until March....when the constituents of Witney ask why their MP abandoned them in an hour of need.

He pulled out of the CBI Conference without warning to go to school in Hull.....but leaves his own constituents unattended so he can visit Rwanda and Pakistan.......not a clever move.

I should think the Conservative Party is going to be beleaguered by the autumn and hyardly regarded as suited to any crisis - a lack of leadership - such events as these are gifts to politicians and the Conservatives are below the parapet


I'm not advocating the use of pledge-cards as such but something similar that will stick in the minds of the public

You are detached from reality - people have flooded homes, no water, no elecricity, businesses going bust, and a long summer of fretful children to entertain while trying to reconstruct their lives..and you talk of something t stick in the minds of the public

How about a pledge card for MPs...on the lines of I am elected to Serve my Constituents

I should be there in their moment of need

I should be working night and day to alleviate their distress and protect them from the failures of the Executive and its Agencies



Kavanagh: Labour set to win big and then win again

In The Sun this morning Trevor Kavanagh dismisses the Tories chances of winning the next election, writing:

Gordon Brown is going to win—and win big. In the process he will likely set Labour up for a fifth term and 20 unbroken years of socialism.
Why? Not because he has necessarily delivered a better Britain over the past ten years – though he has been fiendishly clever.
But because the Tories are still soft, arrogant and – some say – idle.”


Remember 1979 Guadeloupe ?

"What is your general approach, in view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?"

Callaghan replied:

"Well, that's a judgment that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos."

This reply was reported in The Sun under the headline:

Crisis? What Crisis?.



Cameron is not currently in government and as such there is a limit to what he can do to resolve the flooding crisis except give moral support. His constituents affected will have problems for weeks/months to come and I'm sure he'll be there to help them then.

You might do better to vent your anger on the people who *are* in government for deliberately cutting the budget for flood defences to pay for their cock up with the implementation of the single farm payment scheme, whilst knowing full well that flooding was likely in the near future.

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