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"If you want change, you'll have to vote for it - and that means voting Conservative."

Screen shot 2010-01-01 at 11.16.18 Tim wrote on New Year's Eve about the huge challenges that a new Conservative government will face.  I'll take up the same theme soon.  But too much similar fare can make for indigestion.  So I want today to write about something different - namely, how the Conservatives can get elected in the first place, without which we won't be able to do or be anything in government anyway.

The background is stark.  We need the biggest swing in modern times to win.  The electoral system works for Labour and against us.  British politics is becoming more continental: the two-Party duopoly has been breaking down since at least the 1980s, allowing the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Greens, and the BNP more space on the political stage.

The expenses scandal suggested that the gap between governors and governed may now be a gulf.  It's sometimes written that David Cameron has a mountain to climb.  Perhaps the gradient of the challenge is less like a Himalayan adventure than a space shuttle ascent.

However, this grim background offers the Party a golden chance. The factors cited above are bad for us but mostly worse for Labour, at least at the moment. Its poll ratings are broadly at 1983 levels or thereabouts.  Most of those who will vote in the general election will want a change of government.

So an election that's mostly about us will surely, by definition, be more difficult to win than one that's primarily about Labour and Brown (assuming he remains in place) - about bankrupt Britain, public service failure, the broken society and the McBride-isation of politics.

And the good news is that most recent elections have seen the acceptance or rejection of the government of the day rather than the main opposition party.  I'd cite 1992 and perhaps 1983 as exceptions.  Others may make their own judgements below.

It should thus be possible for the Party to help ensure that the coming election becomes a searchlight focused on Labour's record.  Obviously, David Cameron will want to offer a positive alternative rather than just negative criticism - we can expect lots of change, optimism, hope and "new politics" - but his most important pitch will be to that crucial third or so of voters who want change, but are presently minded to support other parties - the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and so on.  He must aim to concentrate their minds on the disaster of a fourth Labour term.

Sure, many of them will vote for those parties on principle or from habit.  But others have been focusing on Labour's record, don't want Labour back...but for many reasons won't vote Conservative, at least yet.  None the less, they haven't finally made up their minds.

What follows isn't perfect, but it's more or less what David Cameron should (and, I suspect, will) say both during the closing stages of the election, and long before, starting more or less now.

"I know that millions of you want this Government out.  And I know that millions of you, too, are deeply sceptical about the only alternative - us."

"In a way, I don't blame you. This has been a disastrous few years for all politicians and all parties.  Seeking your vote - and your trust - is a big ask.  Needless to say, here I am, making that ask - asking for the chance to change Britain for the better, in the ways I've set out."

"And as you know, there are in the end only two ways in which you can respond.  The first is to refuse that ask. This is your right, if you wish to take it.  But you also know what will follow - namely, four more years of a government you fear and shun."

"So you know, in your hearts, another truth - namely, that the only sure, stable, secure alternative to four more years of Labour is a Conservative Government.  In short, change won't come if you won't vote, or don't vote, or waste your vote on parties that aren't a real alternative government.  If you want change, you'll have to vote for it - and that means voting Conservative."

All this is the logical end-point of the Party's "Change" campaign launched yesterday and reported by this site.  It may seem a bit obvious, but in politics, as in anything else, the obvious should never be neglected.

Paul Goodman


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