Conservative Diary

Northern challenge

26 Oct 2009 08:59:22

The Conservative plan to paint Britain blue for a generation

C-Home-UK-blue There are times when the Cameron project appears inadequate.  Whether it is public spending restraint, immigration control or the repatriation of powers from Brussels there is not enough gunpowder in the policy arsenal. But there are other times when I'm not so much impressed by the ambition of Team Cameron but completely bowled over.

Political scientists talk of realigning elections when what comes to power is not so much a familiar party but a new coalition.  In realigning elections politics isn't changed for four or five years but for a whole generation. 

I want to explain why - if things go well - the Conservatives can re-establish themselves as the natural party of government.  In a year's time David Cameron could be the most important centre right leader in the world - not just leading Britain but defining the future of conservatism around the world.

Continue reading "The Conservative plan to paint Britain blue for a generation" »

24 Sep 2009 08:58:35

Labour's collapse in the North since 2005 gives the Tories huge cause for optimism in the region

Picture 5

Earlier in the month the Telegraph carried a report claiming that the Conservatives were failing to make a breakthrough in the North of England - which was swiftly rubbished by the authoritative Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report. I covered it all here.

So it is equally reassuring to see today's Financial Times reporting a collapse in Labour's support in the North of England and a swing to the Tories in the region which goes into double figures:

"The FT’s analysis of the most recent aggregated polling data, which allows sufficiently large sample sizes to show reliable regional and demographic trends, paints a bleak picture for Labour. The Tories have built a narrow four-point lead in the north, eradicating the 19-point Labour lead in the region that underpinned Tony Blair’s last general election victory, the research shows. The 11.5 percentage point swing from Labour to the Tories in the north since the May 2005 poll is the largest for any region of Britain."

By my calculations, such a swing would deliver nearly thirty gains from Labour in the crucial battleground of the North West, more than a dozen seats in the Yorkshire and the Humber region, as well as three or even four seats in the North East.

The fourth North East seat would be Sunderland Central, which the FT considers in some detail as a potential "Basildon of 2010" which could provide an early indication of Tory success on election night (assuming the votes are counted on the night... but that's another campaign). Lee Martin, the now full-time candidate for the seat wrote about his campaign there in this week's Diary of a PPC.

There is one note of caution in the FT coverage of its polling analysis, however, in its suggestion that David Cameron must be careful not to alienate the lower middle classes:

"The greater resistance to spending cuts further down the socio-economic scale may help to explain why Mr Cameron is finding it easier to woo the ABs, the upper middle and middle classes whose jobs are largely immune to Whitehall culls, than the C1s, who include a lot of public sector professionals in relatively junior positions."

Jonathan Isaby

7 Sep 2009 16:59:43

The Telegraph is wrong: today's YouGov poll does not show that the Tories are doing badly in the North of England

One of the stories which the Telegraph wrote up this morning on the back of its latest YouGov poll - covered in this ToryDiary post last night - was that the party was failing to make a breakthrough in the North of England, Scotland and Wales.

I was somewhat surprised to read this after the party's very encouraging performance at the June elections, where we gained control of Lancashire and the key North Midlands counties of Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and in the European election won more votes than Labour in Wales for the first time in history.

I have also blogged before - here for example - about the advances the party has made in the North under David Cameron.

So I was interested to read Anthony Wells of the authoritative UK Polling Report this afternoon rubbishing the Telegraph analysis of the regional breakdown of its YouGov poll:

"I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time telling people not to look at regional splits in polls and get all excited about them, so here goes again: regional splits in individual voting intention polls rarely tell you anything at all.

"The Telegraph today has looked at their Yougov poll and decided it shows the Conservatives doing badly in the North. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t even do that - it shows the Conservatives 2 points behind in the North, an aggregate of government regions in which they trailed the Labour party by 19 points in 2005 - so it actually shows a swing to the Conservatives of 8.5 points in the North, marginally better than this poll suggests they are doing in the country as a whole.

"That, however, is beside the point, since even if the Telegraph had correctly interpreted what the figure meant, it would still be meaningless. The regional breaks in polls have sample sizes of only a few hundred, meaning they suffer from a much larger margin of error and are far more volatile."

Read his full post here.

Jonathan Isaby

6 Sep 2009 23:45:50

YouGov poll for the Telegraph puts Tory lead at 13% - but the details suggest David Cameron will struggle to attain a big majority

Benedict Brogan has blogged that tomorrow's Daily Telegraph carries a new YouGov poll with the following figures:

YouGov Comparisons are with the YouGov poll for Thursday's Sun.

The paper's political editor Andrew Porter draws out a number of other conclusions from the survey which will remind Conservatives of the need to guard against complacency:

"Nearly two thirds are still unconvinced about whether there is substance behind David Cameron’s words. And more than half agree that it is hard to know what the Conservatives stand for at the moment.

"A dangerous north-south divide shows Mr Cameron making progress in the south, but Labour still polls better in the north with 33 per cent backing the Tories and 35 per cent Labour. With few Tory gains expected in Scotland and only marginally more in Wales, Mr Cameron needs to improve his standing outside the south if he is to deliver a sizeable Conservative win."

He goes on to state some some facts which echo my a previous blog post of mine in which I cautioned fellow Conservatives to take a reality check every now and again, look at the scale of the task ahead and remember that not a single vote has yet been cast before talking about the scale of the Tory landslide to come:

"Today, in a detailed analysis, the Telegraph reveals the true extent of the electoral mountain Mr Cameron has to climb if he is to win power. To win a majority the Tories need to hold every seat they won in 2005 and then find a further 117 others.

"Not since 1931 have they made that many gains. In 1970 and 1979, occasions when the Tories won power from a Labour Government the gains were only 77 and 63 respectively.

"The swing from Labour also needs to be 6.9 per cent to secure that prized majority. The previous best under “normal circumstances” was in Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 triumph when the swing was 5.4 per cent."

Jonathan Isaby

29 Jun 2009 06:37:53

Should the Conservative Party be apologising for the policies of the 1980s if it is to make electoral advances in the North of England?

Picture 1 The above question is inspired by last night's Sunday Supplement at the end of the Westminster Hour (45 minutes in), in which the Evening Standard's Anne McElvoy presented the first in a short series considering the potential for Conservative advances in the North of England.

Since the 1997 general election, swathes of the North of England have been Tory-free zones in parliamentary terms, although recent local elections results - in Lancashire and North Tyneside for example - bode extremely well for the next general election.

But would the party be aided in its efforts to make gains in the North it it were to apologise for the policies of the 1980s which saw the end of coalmining and other industry - and associated unemployment - in many areas?

Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove - who described feeling "more like one of Thatcher's orphans" rather than one of Thatcher's children growing up in Scotland in the 1980s - had this to say when interviewed by Anne McElvoy:

"We have got to acknowledge that the action that was taken during in 1980s to ameliorate the pain was insufficient. We simply didn't get the extent to which not just the economic future but the dignity, the culture, the society of parts of the north of England was built around those institutions and we were insensitive to that and I think we've got  to show in what we say and do that we appreciate that. I think a simple  'sorry', frankly, would be inadequate actually to the scale of what is required".

Continue reading "Should the Conservative Party be apologising for the policies of the 1980s if it is to make electoral advances in the North of England?" »

2 Jun 2009 13:03:15

William Hague says that appearing on Have I Got News For You is incompatible with being a Front Bencher

William Hague happy 2 Earlier today we published a first tranche of William Hague's answers to the questions you recently wanted to be put to him.

In this second tranche, covering a mixed bag of party and personal topics, the shadow foreign secretary seems to suggest that he thought it wrong of Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons, to appear on a recent edition of Have I Got News For You. Mr Hague explains that he opted not to make further appearances on the show himself after joining David Cameron's Shadow Cabinet on the grounds that it was in his view "incompatible with being on the Front Bench".

Here he also reaffirms that he will write no more books while he remains in frontline politics, he reveals that he can only drink "a few" pints in a sitting, and states that he is optimistic about the progress the Conservative Party is making in the North of England.

ConservativeHome: Boris excelled and broadened his fan base by doing Have I Got News For You and you too endeared yourself to the public by your appearances on the show (although perhaps now you're shadow foreign secretary you regret referring to the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"?) That said, your friend and colleague Alan Duncan got himself into a bit of trouble with his recent appearance on the programme. Would you advise other colleagues to do the show and what advice would you offer to any Conservative politician who has decided to appear on it?

William Hague: I had a really great time hosting Have I Got News For You on several occasions, but I took the view that appearing on it is not compatible with being on the Front Bench. It is always fun, but the trading of insults that is a necessary part of the programme is best suited to people with relatively few responsibilities so while I don’t actively discourage anyone from appearing on this excellent programme, I would always advise Front Bench colleagues to bear this point in mind.

CH: You are Chairman of the Party's Northern Board. How optimistic are you that inroads will be made in the North in the next election, and will it prove a problem for the party if serious inroads are not made?

Continue reading "William Hague says that appearing on Have I Got News For You is incompatible with being a Front Bencher" »

4 May 2009 16:46:01

Northern challenge

Click here for previous posts.