Conservative Diary

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Tory honesty is rewarded and Labour's dishonesty is punished in Norwich North

Some observations on yesterday's by-election victory for Chloe Smith and David Cameron:

Telegraph&FTNorwichPositive campaigning can triumph: The Conservatives fought a relentlessly positive campaign in Norwich North and won.  As we noted yesterday, massive efforts by the parliamentary party contributed enormously to the success of the campaign.  This checklist records the scale of the Conservative victory.

NorwichPensioners Voters are not believing Labour's lies on spending cuts: David Cameron described Labour's campaign tactics as "despicable".  He was referring to the ways in which Labour leaflets attempted to frighten pensioners and vulnerable voters with the idea that the Conservatives would cut and Labour would not.  This haunting image of a frightened pensioner was a Labour low point.

If Labour is being punished for its dishonesty the Conservatives are being rewarded for their truthfulness about the budget deficit: Matthew Parris captures this in his Times column and wonders how much more honest the Tories will be: "How much dared they say about spending cuts? Tightening their course slightly, they spoke of “constraints” and “tough decisions” — and still the sails stayed firm. Then the Shadow Chancellor, sailing into a stiffening breeze, spoke openly of “cuts”. Still the sail did not flap; the craft held her course. Two recent polls, one in this newspaper, have suggested that the electorate are not flapping either, and perfectly ready to hear talk of the tough times ahead. Well, Norwich North was the first real-ballot test of how well this honesty is working. And the result suggests that Tory support is staying firm. So now — in the remaining months before the end of the year — is the time for Conservatives to keep their nerve and, emboldened by how sanguine the electorate has so far proved, set as stiff a course as they dare in preparation for government."

The Liberal Democrat election machine is rusting badly: The yellow machine no longer produces fear in Tory hearts.  The Liberal Democrats spluttered in Crewe and Nantwich, failed completely in Henley, retreated throughout the south west in June's County Council elections and lost vote share in Norwich (despite/ because of relentless negativity toward the Greens and Chloe Smith).

Other parties are on the rise: The weakness of Labour and the Liberal Democrats should encourage the belief that David Cameron will be Prime Minister after the next General Election.  More worrying for the Tory leader in the long-run is the growth of the smaller parties.  In Norwich North the vote share of UKIP and the Greens rose from 5% in 2005 to 28% on Thursday.  This won't be a bad thing if it splinters the anti-Tory government vote but time will tell.

The fight is going out of Labour: Two usual suspects are in the media this morning (Charles Clarke and Barry Sheerman) attacking Brown but there is no sense that the PM is facing a serious threrat to his leadership of the Labour Party.  There's a good analysis of this from Steve Richard in The Independent: "A lot of Labour backbenchers have more or less given up. There is no energy for insurrection. Some do not seem to mind if they lose."

Tim Montgomerie 


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