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John Stevenson MP: Blue Collar Conservatism is the key to winning the next election. Please join us next Monday.

John Stevenson is the Member of Parliament for Carlisle and the Chairman of the Blue Collar Conservatism Advisory Group. Follow John on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-05-08 at 20.02.33On Monday, I will be speaking at a Blue Collar Conservatisn event on perceptions of the Conservatives amongst ordinary voters and their implications for victory in 2015.  I will be speaking alongside former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox; fellow North West MP and Disabilities Minister, Esther McVey and the journalist Martin Durkin, producer of Margaret Thatcher: Death of a Revolutionary.

Going into this event, I believe that last week’s local election results are the perfect illustration for the challenge and the opportunity awaiting the Conservative Party in 2015.  Much has been written in the past week about what the results mean for each of the parties, with a good deal of advice about what David Cameron should do - ranging from tacking right to tacking left to doing nothing at all.

In the 2015 Election, I will be defending one of the most marginal seats in the country.  Carlisle is a traditionally Labour Northern, industrial and largely urban seat.  It is at the front line of the seats we need to hold, but is also representative of the kind of seats which we need to win.  Without Carlisle and the seats like it across the North and Midlands, we will not be forming the next government.  Yet despite the difficulties which the Party faced in the County Council Elections, I am actually more confident than I have been in a long time.

Do not get me wrong: we have a mountain to climb to win the next election.  No one can deny the scale of the challenge which the Conservatives face in 2015, just to maintain our current position, let alone secure an overall majority.

Without decisive action, we will find ourselves back in opposition.  Too many people still do not believe that we are on their side.  Amongst many of the voters which we need to connect with we are seen as not being for people like them.  Many are turning to UKIP, some will look to Labour and I will wager that even more of them will simply stay at home.

I became involved with Blue Collar Conservatism because I believe that it is these voters which hold the key to winning and holding seats like Carlisle.  At the 2010 General Election, the Conservatives received the largest swings from C2 and D voters and it is these same voters who are now considering moving away from the Conservatives.

The blue collar vote is now more fluid than ever.  This is perhaps not surprising, given that it was these voters who lost out most during Labour’s time in office.  In the North in particular ,it was these same voters which contributed significantly to the progress of UKIP. Nigel Farage has done as much to position UKIP as much as a blue collar movement as it is a recipient of discontent in the shires.

Many commentators have been quick to point out that Labour also has a UKIP problem.  However, I would contend that Labour’s UKIP problem is actually our problem - as the votes which UKIP is leeching away from Labour are the very voters we should be attracting.  As Labour continues to lose its grip on its old voting base, many essentially conservative C2 and D voters are looking to Nigel Farage’s populist protest movement rather than looking to the Conservatives as a vehicle for their advancement.

For the most part, UKIP is a symbol of the prevailing anti-politics mood.  However, I would argue that Labour’s alienation from the electorate runs much deeper than our own.  With the Liberal Democrats fast becoming an irrelevance through much of the country, Labour, as the sole major opposition party should be doing much better than it is.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls believed that the unpopularity of the Government would carry the electorate on a leftwards tide and marched Labour out to the left in anticipation.  Yet there is little evidence that the public want to see the Brownite solutions of the two Eds namely more borrowing.  Indeed, if anything the public seem to be lodging their protest with the essentially conservative, if vague agenda of UKIP.

Labour’s plan to sit back and watch the electorate move left has failed, but as you would expect from the ‘Plan B’ party, Labour has an alternative up its sleeve - the 35% strategy.  Labour is hoping that it can win with its 29% at the last election and around 6% from disaffected left leaning Lib Dems.  With UKIP eating into the Conservative vote and Labour’s advantage from the current boundaries, 35 per cent could be enough to deliver them with a narrow, lowest common denominator victory.

As Labour pins its hopes on a narrow leftist coalition, it leaves large sections of the electorate essentially ‘in play’.  Many of these will be the blue collar voters in the marginal seats we need to reach if we are to win.  UKIP offers them a protest in mid-term, or perhaps they have yet to be convinced to vote at all, but I believe we can offer them the agenda for government which they long to see - a government which is on their side and acts in their interests.

The polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft shows that many of the views and values of this demographic aligns best with the Conservatives, however, if we are perceived as not being for them then they are unlikely to put their trust in us come 2015.

How we show people that we are on their side will be our focus on Monday.  If you would like to join us for this important discussion please email: [email protected] to RSVP.


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