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Graham Brady launches inquiry into General Election result

Graham Brady and the 1922 backbench committee have initiated an inquiry into the Conservative Party's General Election campaign. Two new MPs, Charlie Elphicke and Robert Halfon - both members of the '22 Committee - will oversee the work.

After consulting with other MPs they will do two things:

  • They will make a confidential submission to CCHQ's own informal review into the election, being conducted by Stephen Gilbert, Head of Field Campaigning; and
  • They will put together a public document setting out best campaign practice.

This is very good news. It is important that we have an independent review of the campaign of the kind that Lord Ashcroft has also initiated. I hope, as ConHome recommended, the '22 assume a permanent responsibility for modelling excellence in electioneering.

6a00d83451b31c69e2013480b4d9fb970c-500wi-1 ConservativeHome's own election review concluded that the campaign failed on five fronts, in particular:

  1. It had no clear, consistent message - particularly on the economy;
  2. The Big Society message - never tested with proper market research - was confusing to voters;
  3. The decision to give the Liberal Democrats equal billing in the election debates gave Nick Clegg 'by-election status', causing predictable and predicted damage to the Conservatives;
  4. Important Get-Out-The-Vote issues like welfare reform and immigration were under-used;
  5. Cameron developed an 'authenticity' problem - because of Lisbon and other downgrading of traditional Conservative issues - with core Tory voters and newspapers.

An inquest into the election matters for four main reasons:

  • No adviser to Cameron is being held accountable for the fact the Tories added just 3% to the party's vote share in almost perfect electoral conditions. The same people who came up with the election campaign are now overseeing the very questionable drip-by-drip-by-drip release of public sector cuts. 
  • Specific CCHQ departments need a comprehensive overhaul. The unsuccessful New Media operation, for example, needs to be integrated into the campaigning infrastructure.
  • If, as Downing Street is arguing, the Tory election campaign was as good as it could have been, then the enthusiasm for electoral reform within Cameron's circle makes more sense. If, however, the proper conclusion is that the campaign was poor it is still realistic to believe that Conservatives can govern again on their own, under First Past The Post.
  • An election might happen earlier than Cameron and Clegg hope. The Coalition may not last. We need the best possible election machine in place as soon as possible.

Tim Montgomerie


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