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Personally I would say it's too soon to say exactly what David Cameron is, or has instore for the Conservative party. He has left many policy decisions on the backburner - and it will only be in a year or two's time when the policy groups report back, that we will truly be able to assess Mr Cameron.

The "centre" is a collectivist myth as is MacMillan's "middle ground". Trying to define new types of centrism plays into the hands of conservatism's enemies. It gives credence to that myth.

The Conservatives should offer a range of attractive policies based upon its values and principles. The key to winning electoral support is to communicate them effectively to target audiences.

Editor - is it a quiet day for news? I think you are trying to over analysis, trying to label or pigdeon-hole Cameron. Its too early to perform your analysis. A more suitable subject for the framework you are suggesting is Blair.

To be honest editor, your criticism of the Economist as cookie-cutter is itself, cookie-cutter. If you cut down to basics, the concept of "x million disgruntled Conservatives" (the "more people voted for Major than Blair" argument) is exactly what the Tebbit strategy is, and the same thing has been mentioned by a number of regular posters on here. The problem is, of course, that it is arrant nonsense. The polls consistently show that non-voters favour Labour, and the drops in turnout are most pronounced in the safest Labour areas.

As for "Curtisland", I'm afraid that only exists in one commentator's head. Cameron is wooing moderate centre-right people across the country, including here in Salford which is hardly metropolitan elite!

The Economist article was still not really accurate Iain. Criticism of Cameron is *not* confined to the traditionalist right of the Tory party - it also extends to the more centrist sections of the centre-right (as today's Times leader demonstrates). Cameron should be concerned that people like Anatole Kaletsky, Tim Hames, John Clare, Irwin Steltzer etc view him with very considerable scepticism.

I would agree with those posters who say that it is far too early what type of Conservative David Cameron is.I'm also not sure if all the different type of 'Centres' you mention are actually valid.One thing we can all agree on is the fact that the political centre means very different things to very different people,somebody on this blog described me as 'leftwing' which is certainly not the way I would describe myself.
Regarding the Economist and electoral strategy I am inclned to support Cameron over Tebbit.As far as I'm aware there hasn't ever been a poll which urges the Tory party to adopt more core strategy positions.

It's a nice analysis - I'm not sure quite how well it fits Cameron vs Tebbit, but it's worth keeping it to hand, and presumably it will be used to score moves by Cameron and in due course Brown over the course of this parliament.

Chris Palmer: it's too soon to say exactly what David Cameron is, or has instore for the Conservative party.

Agree. There'll be a plan, but it's probably quite loose at the moment. No surprises, it will concentrate on moving to the centre, with perhaps a few notable right-wing innovations depending on how the polls run. We may well end up with examples of all three versions of centrism.

Selsdon: The "centre" is a collectivist myth as is MacMillan's "middle ground".

Yes - but with a caveat. Although the term is intellectually barren and meaningless, a lot of voters still consider themselves 'centre-ground moderates', probably for reasons of amour-propre. If Cameron panders to them it's because:
(a) He's being guided by the same thinking as with Enoch Powell's remark that a nation is any group of people who consider themselves to be a nation - i.e. a centrist is anyone who considers themselves to be a centrist. They have to be wooed: they have the votes.
(b) It's actually quite an easy-win to establish a change narrative, and in fact all Tory leaders after election go through this phase. The difference, as one MP put it to me the other day, is that this time it might work because it appears to be genuine.

Iain Lindley: the concept of "x million disgruntled Conservatives" (the "more people voted for Major than Blair" argument) is exactly what the Tebbit strategy is, and the same thing has been mentioned by a number of regular posters on here. The problem is, of course, that it is arrant nonsense. The polls consistently show that non-voters favour Labour, and the drops in turnout are most pronounced in the safest Labour areas.

Hmm - false dichotomy alert? There are two great theories for why we got junked in 1997: the "stab in the back" theory, that Major was too wet and 'our people' stayed at home; and the "nasty party" theory that we were out of touch and irrelevant. I don't see them as mutually exclusive: the strategic dilemma for the Tories is that both are probably true (Tories stayed at home AND defected straight across), and it's not obvious how to counteract one without blocking yourself out of recovering from the other. We can argue about which effect is more significant - probably varies from place to place.

So, I think you're wrong to describe what you call as the Tebbit strategy as arrant nonsense, but you might be right that it wouldn't work in Salford. I haven't fought an election in Salford and I'm happy to trust your view of your patch (and let you get on with it).

I suspect that turnout is down in safe Labour seats because Blair has done little to galvanise the genetic Labour vote that lives there - and because Blair hasn't looked like losing (good union men don't break sweat unless it's an absolute emergency).

As for polls and non-voters, don't polls tend to exaggerate support for whoiever looks most like winning at the time it is conducted? I vaguely recall that Thatcher tended to poll above her vote in the 1980s (Sean F will put me right if I'm wrong here).

Very interesting analysis. I've met too many people in their 20's and 30's who were brought up to hate Thatcher even though they have conservative values; up to now they voted New Labour and/or Lib-Dem. I backed Cameron simply because he wasn't associated with Thatcherism and therefore the public might listen to him.

Based on the analysis, is it possible to triangulate over the course of 12-18 months from an 'embracing centre' articulation of a problem to a 'perfect centre' proposition for the solution?

If so, then such an approach could have the following benefits:

1. Positions the leader as a very reasonable person and worthy of respect for his political skills in triangulation.

2. Allows a wide section of the population to agree with his analysis of the problems without the knee-jerk antagonism against Tory policies (the polls show this happening already)

3. Moves the analysis of the solution through a sustained period of why existing (government) policies have failed and onto why 'perfect centre' policies offer are a reasonable solution. By then, the Tory majority are back on board and momentum is built around a centre-right consensus.

This seems to explain the current policy approach. However, I'd be more sanguine about Cameron if it weren't for his proposal to allocate 'safe seats' to a central party slate of candidates, which is definitely more 'prescriptive' than 'perfect centre'.

On the point of non-voters, I think I have to agree with lain Lindley in that most of them are Labour voters, and most voter apathy is now towards Nulab.

Both parties have thier disgruntled few million, but I still think we've got most of our core to vote in the last few years. William Hague's save the pound and Michael Howard's immigration + NHS policies ensured this.

The problem has been the trust of the more moderate voters towards us.

I still see the curtisland theory as quite interesting however, appealing to liberal elite to make use of thier influence seems perfectly sensable. Perhaps get the BBC and friends on side first in order to sell more traditional policies.

I really hope the strategies aren't considered mutually exclusive however, I think there's more value in curtisland, but I don't think Tebitt should be completely ignored.

I agree with those commentators who say that it's too early to be certain of what kind of centrist Mr Cameron is (and said so in my initial post) but I was frustrated by the press' loose talk of his 'moving to the centre' without ever defining what it meant.

With this post I was attempting to define three different ways in which a conservative politician could stake out the centre ground. The second two definitions argue that you can be a centrist without abandoning "right-wing" positions.

I spent all of my five years at CCHQ arguing that the Tories embrace a social justice/ family-friendly agenda. I'm delighted that DC is doing exactly that. I hope he'll also stay faithful to core values on Europe and crime etc.

Although I don't pretent to know what his ultimate objective (beyond winning) is, Cameron's medium term strategy is clear - and absolutely right.

All this talk about 'attractive policies' misses the point. We are not talking about an SDP-type new party with a clean slate. We are talking about a new leader with a clean slate in charge of the Conservative Party - an organisation that suffers from a serious long-term problem of negative perceptions. No one (inc. DC) can simply wish these away.

Steve Hilton and other clever strategists have exhaustively analysed the nature and depth of these negative perceptions - and developed a way of overcoming them.

We can argue endlessly about why the Party is perceived as it is. Personally, I think it's 50/50. Some factors are our own fault: Back to basics/sleaze (Archer, Aitken, Mellor, Hamilton); Division/weakness (Maastricht/Major); Extreme/racist (Tebbit/Winterton/John Taylor/Townend); Economically incompetent (ERM/Black Wed); Uncaring (Thatcher/Miners/Biffin/Ridley) etc, etc, etc.

Of course not all of these things were bad per se (eg - the Maastricht rebellion was courageous and right, Mrs T was a national saviour) but they all helped to shape the image of the Party.

Add to that an additional key factor, the other 50 of the 50/50 - the BBC. One day we may truly understand the full extent of the role of the nation's most trusted source of information in undermining not just the Tory Party but right wing ideas in general. Each problem we've had has been magnified and distorted to suit the liberal/left agenda. Every right wing cause, from Europe to fox hunting and immigration to tax cuts, has been traduced and misreprented so that no 'decent' person could possibly support it.

This is Cameron's inheritance. Turning it around is a mammoth task and he's going about it in exactly the right way - breath of fresh air, NOT the 'same old Tory', open minded, liberal, etc.

To those who fear that the ideological pass is being sold I say this: what's your alternative? Impotence. Making the Party into an increasingly irrelevant standard bearer for the True Faith. Whatever we've said for the last few years, all the public has heard has been 'right wing, right wing'. In these circumstances the necessary tactical corrective is to say and do almost nothing right wing and instead focus on illuminating our moderate, even left wing, side. It may stick in the craws of those less savvy than Steve Hilton but it will, in years to come, give the Conservative Party permission to speak out on important Conservative causes without being effectively misrepresented by our enemies (esp. the BBC). As a new, safe, moderate leader David Cameron can become Prime Minister and in government we will be able to shape the agenda and the future in a way that no amount of emotionally-satisfying right wing argument-making in opposition could ever deliver.

We've had a hell of a lucky escape. It's amazing to recall that less than three years ago, under IDS's catastrophically inept leadership, we were in grave danger of sinking into third place. The brave move to oust him ushered in Michael Howard who was never going to win a national popularity contest but who instilled in our Party a sense of discipline, competence and self-belief JUST in time for the 2005 election. Now the Lib Dems are in disarray, we have climbed out of the 30-34% band in the polls for the fist time in a decade and we can seriously contemplate a future Conservative government.

Stop complaining - and start working to make it happen.

Some very good points Tory T particularly about the BBC

Thanks Tory T. That's the best case for Cameronism I've honestly ever read. Editor - you should republish it in the Platform section.

I personally think the "centre ground" phrase is pretty lazy. If dropping an immigration policy which was attractive to an overwhelming majority of voters is "moving to the centre" you have to wonder at just how out of touch Westminster is!

When he was ousted, IDS was neck and neck with Labour. Yougov polls for the Mail on Sunday gave him a 3 and 4% lead. Throughout 2003 he gradually eroded Labour's 7 to 9% lead from 2001/2. At no point during his leadership, were we ever in danger of slipping into third place.

Tory Thug is either ignorant or deliberately misleading.

As I have posted before, Michael Howard blew a 4% lead over labour during the 2004 European/Mayoral/local election campaign. We lost several European seats to UKIP.

Howard's share of the vote in 2005 was lower than IDS's poll ratings in the months before he was ousted. Michael Howard's electoral performance was dismal.

Ben was eaily duped by Tory T's dubious rant.

Senators - I appeal to you. Does Selsdon Man live in Rome or in some far off place of fantasy?

Please, PLEASE don't make me go back and trawl through all the evidence that IDS was a disaster. It would be too depressing. Just remember this - the Quiet Man is here to stay AND HE'S TURNING UP THE volume...

The polling figures speak for themselves. I am not saying that IDS was fantastic, merely pointing that he inherited terrible poll ratings from William Hague and drew level with Blair before being ousted.

Michael Howard enjoyed a six month honeymoon and his ratings then dived.

If Tory T can disprove these Yougov figures, I am willing to reconsider.

Whatever IDS's failings (and yes his public speaking was certainly one of them) I don't think he he ever fell into the "nasty party" stereotype -- most people thought he was a pretty decent guy (but weak).

Michael Howard, on the hand (a much more centrist leader in terms of policy) certainly was perceived as nasty.

I think this goes to demonstrate that you can appear centrist (or "caring" and "decent" -- which is what centrist means to most people) without abandoning right-wing policies. I think it also demonstrates that abandoning right-wing policies is not necessary for David Cameron (i.e. it's a choice).

I think the most important thing is being "seen" to be positioned at the centre. I think, using this strategy, that the public can grow to like and accept certain right wing policies if they percieve the party to have centrist values as well. This is what I'd like to see from Cameron - some traditional Tory principles coupled with a more moderate stance on other issues. This could get us the best of both worlds - electability AND policies that this country needs. I'm particularly interested in the "social justice" policy direction, and think it's one of the most important aspects of policy for the party to address. This country is in need of greater social justice. It would be good to see this become the target of Cameron's campaign.

Tebbit's argument is not entirely flawed BUT I tend to believe that the public only support more "radical" parties such as Thatchers Tories in the 1980s because of two major factors; an alternative seen as unacceptable by the public, and a time of percieved "crisis."

We won in 1979 because we were willing to advocate decisive measures to sort out the country. We could afford to be radical because our country was doing disasterously under Labour, who were seen as an unacceptable alternative, too close to the unions. Because of this, we won - and we won a further 3 times because of the weakness of opposition. We won in 1992 because we successfully communicated that Labour was an unacceptable alternative, using the "tax bombshell" argument.

Labour won big in 1997 because the Tories were seen as tired. Blair could probably have afforded to be more radical, simply because we were discredited. He wouldn't have won big, but he would probably have won even if he had been advocating more traditional Labour principles. My belief is that we were always slated to lose 1997, whoever we had faced as our opponent - Kinnock, Smith, Brown or Blair.

Labour have been kept in power because they've managed to satisfy two things - people THINK Britain's doing alright - it (and their money) is relatively stable in their eyes - and there's no need for "radical" change (ie, what our right-wing policies were percieved as in 2001 and 2005). Also, we haven't appeared as a credible alternative.

Cameron is doing the right thing - by appearing more centrist, he is ending our association with "nasty, radical right-wing" ideals (despite what those ideals might have been like in reality) and as such is attracting votes. He's decided that people might not feel that the country is at crisis-point in 2009, but that they may be ready for a change of focus and image, and will vote for a credible opposition party percieved to be "centrist". I think it's a sensible aim.

I hope all of that made sense!

IDS was undermined by the enemy within - the "Betsygate" conspirators.

"Senators - I appeal to you. Does Selsdon Man live in Rome or in some far off place of fantasy?

Please, PLEASE don't make me go back and trawl through all the evidence that IDS was a disaster. It would be too depressing. Just remember this - the Quiet Man is here to stay AND HE'S TURNING UP THE volume..."

Actually Tory T, Selsdon is right. If I hadn't been camped over at Smithson's site all day, I would have picked this up earlier and provided the statistics to back it up. As it is, I've got a prior arrangement to attend to this evening otherwise I'd do it now, but in the meantime, I'll ask you to do your homework before you make such silly assertions in future.

Makes perfect sense Elena. I thoroughly agree.

Elena, if you think, as I do, that this country faces real problems, and challenges, that this government has ducked, or made worse, do you think it is right to explain this to the electorate, or pretend that everything's okay?

Ian Duncan Smith was a great leader for our party and no-one should speak against him like that. true he wasnt the greatest public speaker in the world, but i genuinely believe we might have won the 2005 general election had we kept him and not been so disloyal. after all, why should the country vote into government a party that only 6 months before had ousted a leader.

he was the one who got social justice onto the agenda of the conservative party, and i reckon he was more in tune with what people in britain want than even david cameron is now.

Our defeats in the last 2 elections can be based on the old adage that "Oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them".

Irritating as New Labour has been to us, it has not been seen to be visibly clapped out or economically incompetent in the way that we were in 1997. I don't think that the 2001 or 2005 elections were ever there for us to win. There was not a mood in the country for a change of government.

That is why the Conservatives were right to adopt a "core vote" strategy, to hold on to what they had left after 1997.

The core vote strategy was not the cause of the defeats of 2001 and 2005. It was the reason why the Conservatives did not fall below 100 seats in those elections, as some polls had predicted at the time. If the Conservatives had ditched what remained of their core support and tried to pander to an overcrowded "Centre Ground", that is what would have happened.

If there was a core-vote strategy, it was utterly the wrong thing to do. Our core would vote for a gerbil, provided it was a Conservative gerbil.

Just as lost-sales analysis is essential to a business, lost-votes analysis is essential to political party. The lost votes are the ones that define what you're doing wrong.

Can we get away from arguing the past and concentrate on how we are going to win the next election. I can't remember in 1978 discussing how Margaret Thatcher would win the next election if she took lessons from Churchill's campaign of 1951 - the same time distant as 1979 is from us.

By the time of the next election in 2008/2009 it would have been 16 to 17 years since we last won an election. To win we need to incease our percentage of the vote by a nearly a third from 33% to 42/43%.

So how do we get 1 out of every 6 people who voted Labour or Lib Dem (rest being Nats, N Irish etc.) to decide to give us a chance. There may be an unforeseen crisis but its more likely that we'll need to present ourselves as the safe alternative to an increasingly tired & stale government, but a government that has a new leader, hasn't got a record of mass unemployment or raging inflation, has its "heart" in the right place.

Putting forward the same old agenda which the 1 in 6 we want to move across isn't comfortable with won't change their minds, addressing their issues with a mixture of embracing centrist and perfect centrist just might. So lets couch our arguements in terms of where we are and where we are going to be.

Mark Fulford,
Surely the lost votes analysis isn't about why people voted Labour or Lib Dem last year - lots of people did that, the party decided that it was because we needed to change so we voted for change. Done, move on.
It's about why they support them and not us today, and next year about why they support them and not us then.
It's good that we've moved about half of those we need to move in a couple of months with a new leader, talking in lightweight term about the future but we need to make sure they stay with us and get the next lot to come across.

Ted, yes, lost votes analysis is an ongoing thing - not a one-off exercise to do after each election.

I should also be clear that analysis doesn't mean blindly following an agenda dictated by the BBC (btw, that article tonight on Gordon Brown was so friendly that I can taste sick in my mouth). In some areas we need to move towards the voter, in other areas we need to portray ourselves better.

Do you think we should ask for a DaveDaq to match Gordondaq on Newsnight - surely BBC bias reporting on only one of the likely contenders for PM.

The "Gordon is even Nicer than Dave" PR campaign - suddenly he's talking publicly about the loss of his daughter, what must have been a great personal tragedy for himself and Mrs Brown, letting it be known John has had the MMR, making himself available for interviews without even the hook of a policy announcement - is presumably the result of recent Gould/Campbell activity.

We need to set a terrier on to the Pensions crisis; Gordo's tax policies, rules etc having destroyed a pretty healthy occupational pension set up in private companies. It shouldn't be Osborne led (he can support) but a strong backbench led campaign (as for example DD did in Public Accounts building his reputation). If we worry away at his reputation he'll be defending that rather than campaigning - all the articles say he can only deal with one problem at a time.

I havnt got a degree in politics or anything flash like that. I am just an ordinary foot soldier, canvassing etc,etc,etc. But i do read the blogs every night, and come to conclusions.
12. DC should not worry too much about a few unreconstructed old buffers. I have one right here at home, and I can feel the datedness.
2.DC knows exactly what he is up to. I have the gut feeling that he is sort of plugged into the Zeitgiest of the UK. It may feel kind of strange sommetimes, but just trust him.
3. As a party we have a dreadful track record of our individuals versus our collective. The joy of these blogs, is that we can all get on with it in the comparative privacy of Conservative Tory diary, and not frighten the horses too much
4 We are not going to win the next election, get used to it. Next time, it will be hung!
5.WE will win with DC in 2013. We still have to work hard. Gordon B. will end up as tailend charlie according to a friend of mine, after taking the lead, and falling flat on his face!
Regards to all bloggers, Mystic Meg

"Our core would vote for a gerbil, provided it was a Conservative gerbil."

Mark, the whole point is that John Major drove our core vote away, with over a million of them voting for Goldsmith and UKIP, and another million staying at home in disgust. Our core vote can not be taken for granted. 1997 proves that. Had we not adopted a core-vote strategy post-1997 we would have lost by more.

This is entirely consistent with a lost-votes analysis. We lost votes because we were visibly incompetent, particularly over the economy, blatantly clapped out, and in addition, upset many of our core voters, particularly over Maastricht, a core-vote issue.

With regard to the future, the Conservative "brand" is clearly tainted with the issues listed above, and I agree with the leadership that a re-branding exercise must be undertaken before we can be taken seriously over any kind of policy issues. That is a two-stage process to be undertaken before the next election, and a credible strategy for winning it.

"5.WE will win with DC in 2013. We still have to work hard. Gordon B. will end up as tailend charlie according to a friend of mine, after taking the lead, and falling flat on his face!"

One would have thought that, if we have to wait untill 2013 to see a Conservative government, then it wouldn't really be necessary to morph into New Labour to achieve it.

Annabel Herriot: WE will win with DC in 2013.

I see into the crystal - the clouds are parting now....

Ah yes, the 2013 Election, what fun we'll all have. A seismic event in British political history which will set the parameters of debate for the rest of the century.

Who would have predicted that David Cameron's New Conservative Liberal Progressive Green British National Democratic Ratepayers' Countryside Alliance Party would gain a 300 seat majority over a divided and out-of-steam Labour? But his radical manifesto will catch the mood of the public with its core policy of interning asylum seekers and using them to power treadmills to generate renewable energy, fed only on a diet of mango and avocado smoothies.

This result will be an even bigger shock than the surprise development of late 2012 when Gordon Brown and his entire cabinet were arrested and jailed for being caught smoking in a pub and Labour imaginatively drafted as their new leader Michael Portillo, then coming to the close of his third career as a popular ballet dancer.

It will be a campaign filled with controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Mark Oaten, will be censured for a sermon which some people will feel strayed over the traditional boundary between state and church. ("A church consists of three things: Faith, Huhne and Kennedy, and the greatest of these is Kennedy, for without him we were as nothing.")

For many, the defining televisual highlight of the evening will be the capture of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central for the Tories by Tara Palmer Tompkinson to unseat Chancellor of the Exchequer Mohammed al-Fayed. "Fugging on the Tyne, 'snot mine, 'snot mine, innit," the outgoing MP will say in a typically graceful concession speech, before being shot by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh who will be speeding by a white Fiat.

And who in 2006 would have put money on Julian Clary as the new Minister of Defence, parachuted in via the Gold List?

I am going to get the last laugh. You wait and see.

"Centre" ground is a myth. What really needs to be attacked is the "common ground" where the majority of voters are at. Think about what Blair did. His "centre" ground was that people were happy with an economically liberal country, were upset by financial instability and wanted better public services. The common ground in Thatcher's time was personal and economic freedom from an overbearing Government. "Centre" is what people who focus too much on the political process think while those who look at the commonground in politics are those who ultimately win. What constitutes "common ground" is a question that will be fiercely debated though.

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