Conservative Diary

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The decline of the Liberal Democrats

Lord Rennard, the big brain behind Liberal Democrat campaigning for many-a-year, ends his career on a low note.  The Tories think they got the better of him at the Henley by-election and they are now delighted that Liberal Democrats are being beaten by Conservatives in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and North Yorkshire.  Yesterday's results put in to question Nick Clegg's ambition to fight Labour in the north and in urban Britain.  With their south western heartland and rural seats so vulnerable can he divert scarce resources to expansionary campaigning?

During my time in CCHQ yesterday there were many shouts for joy.  Winning control of the Red Rose County of Lancashire was probably the top moment but the victories over the LibDems brought the deepest satisfaction.

Westminster insiders agree that Liberal Democrats had the worst night in terms of relative performance.  PoliticsHome has just published the county council results against the benchmarks set by its polling of one hundred Westminster insiders.  Although Labour did "worse than expected" the Liberal Democrats did "much worse than expected" by the journalists, politicians and other insiders that make up the PoliticsHomeIndex:
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The rise of the Greens was a contributory problem for the Liberal Democrats but CCHQ put the Tory success down to two main factors:

  • The overhaul of the Tory election machine, overseen by Stephen Gilbert and Eric Pickles.
  • The whole Cameron strategy of ensuring the party talks about the environment, civil liberties and social justice as well as the so-called core vote issues.  In today's FT Robert Shrimsley argues that David Cameron has returned Conservatism to the more moderate state that existed before Margaret Thatcher.  It appears to be working electorally.  Time will tell if it's what the country needs.

Tim Montgomerie


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