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Granted one can't use the outcome of one by-election to argue that Conservative voters are fed up with David Cameron's strategy; but conversely, one can't use it to argue that we need even more change, as Francis Maude claims. The outcome owes a good deal more to our organisational shortcomings when it comes to fighting by-elections.

Opinion Polls are rubbish, every time an opinion poll shows a 6 or 7% lead for the Conservative Party most of the people on here seem to start planning a victory celebration and every time it shows things virtually level they conclude that the Conservative Party is doing unusually badly and yet the actual difference is so small as to be not only possibly due to statistical errors but well within the range of being accounted for by fashion regarding what people are prepared to admit and may also reflect an increased preparedness among Labour supporters to support Labour in a situation in which undoubtedly the Conservative Party has been recovering many former supporters.

Certainly David Cameron is somewhat policy light and is going to be for a bit (whatever he eventually comes out with), not a sensible position but something that has been known about for sometime (indeed the party knew this when they elected him - he offered the say nothing until near the time and try to copy Blair strategy and MP's and party members backed that) - so it should be no surprise that people are getting impatient.

but conversely, one can't use it to argue that we need even more change, as Francis Maude claims.
Even more change on top of changes that aren't even known about, then again what did the Conservative Party expect when they elected David Cameron - he promised little and said it would be slow for anything concrete to come about and so it was.

The Party should input the Bromley marked register onto BlueChip then write to every known pledge that did not vote and invite them to contribute to a survey to identify why.

Until this happens we won't know the reason for the poor result, whether it was the candidate, the leadership or complacency from the core vote thinking it was a safe seat.

I agree with all Sean Fear says above. It is also delusional for CCHQ to blame the local party. Parts of Francis's empire are not fit for purpose, but does he know that?

I would add that DC needs to focus on another process, policy co-ordination. Either he or Oliver Letwin failed on the HR matter with Ken Clarke. Cost of that was that DC could not use Charles Clarke's words to attack Blair in fear of Ken Clarke's words being thrown back at him.

A week of Tory own goals.

Another excellent point from Andrew Kennedy about using Market Research to understand what went on.

The fastest way to do this is a telephone survey to those without TPS and a registered number. Francis could have the results within a week if he acted quickly.

They have the telling inputs which should be 80% correct on who did/did not vote.

What I fear is that Francis just listens to the lieutenants he sent to B&C who will of course blame someone else.

Its not only the Cameroons or Camscetics clutching at straws at each poll move. Tory share little changed but Libs share down by same as Labours increases.

So Thursday Labour deserted at B&C and Libs cock a hoop; today Ming's party down at polls. Labour improvement looks like LibDems losses rather than Conservatives.

Lesson for us is that we are not yet making enough headway. I'd like to see a hardening of policy but only because without it the commentators & activists start to build the policy-lite agenda into a vision of vapid positioning. Did the LDS do well in B&C because of their policies or leadership?

The lack of thought through policy is a weakness when we really need to engage. This government's Achilles heel is the Home Office. So DC, Willets (and the kitchen cabinet?) should sit down with DD and other Shadow Cabinet membrs and agree a set of core principles & outline policies which enable us to attack in this area. We have a bit of prison building, a bit of Bill of Rights, a bit of homeland security - whats the narrative?

Blair's weakness, and conversly his genius, is in "moving on". If we can keep bringing it back to the point he loses it. Look how for two PMQs running he was a wounded beast when DC kept on about the Home Office. It was only Ken Clarke's stupid intervention that meant DC couldn't return to this last week.

Dont take anything from this Poll.
Previous polls from as little as 2 or 3 days ago put us on average about a 5% lead.
I realy dont think that public opinion can change so much in just 3 days.The bromley by-election wont realy effect the general public's opinion.The only ones to realy bother about that are the membership and supporters.

The strategy of opposing the government while waiting for new policies to be developed looked OK last year, but not now. We might infer from the poll showing that more voters would prefer Cameron as prime minister, that those voters would like to know more about what they can expect from the government-in-waiting. Without policies, we can't attain the level of credibility to break clear from Labour.

As to Chislehurst, it has been noted often enough that the LibDems play the "local" card extremely effectively in by-elections so the constituency should have realised what was going to happen. I don't subscribe to the view that an 'A Lister' would have done any worse, but the result shows that there may not be as many safe seats as the party would like to think. Further to that, Michael Portillo's article this morning says that the eclipsing of Labour in the South-East will help the LibDems position themselves as the only alternative to Conservatives i.e. "Labour can't win here". It's going to be a battle.

This poll was taken, before the by-election so that would not have had an effect. The yougov poll was just a day or two ago and that gave us a 6% lead. These knew shifts are well within the margin of error, and therefore it could just be a rouge poll. There might be an effect on us crashing out of the world cup though in the polls to come..... will Labour suffer???

P.S Labour's 'new' support is coming from the Lib Dem's, not us. Wereas you gov have always shown them on around 18% ICM usually put them in the 20's, further evidence this is could just be a rouge poll!

Rupert Murdoch - in case anyone missed it - was quite clear - AND RIGHT!!

"One of the [Tory MPs who approached him] , Graham Stuart, asked when his newspapers would be transferring their loyalties to the Tories.

Murdoch's answer was short and sweet: 'WHEN I KNOW WHAT YOU GUYS ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN" [my emphasis]"

Cameron doesn't HAVE any beliefs except generally being seen as a nice guy

Strange when polls give out a message that is liked, they are wonderful, when not, they are wrong: shoot the messenger!

First of all Polls are not rubbish, in most cases they are pretty accurate. What they are not is perfect, they are after all snapshots of opinion, relevant at the time they are taken: that is all.

Anyone who takes the time to look at the political scene in the (still) United Kingdom and compare it to the past, can see the difficulties of assessing accurately the state of public opinion.

First of all you have the flitting 5%, that is 5% of the voting public, that flits between the, Lab/Con/LD. They settle on the party that is getting the best headlines.
That obviously has happened this week. The Tories are looking a bit frayed, so its off to the LD's and so on.

The problem the Tories have is that the flitting 5% are left/liberal in their opinions and they are calling the shots. They don't like Labour because of Iraq, they are playing around with DC because his leftish stance on social issues, but their hearts are probably with the LD's.

People who contribute to this website, and comment on these things should look back at the history of political opinion over the last fifty years, and note how it has changed.

Fifty years ago the Tories were not a political party! they were a mass social movement. Fifty years ago, the Tory Party had approaching three million members. It was looked apon as a vehicle of self advancement for mainly middleclass and lower middle class people throughout the whole of the country. It's just another political party now. Many people in the Tory party can't accept this lowering of their status, which is why they have been crying foul over B&C. There is a sort of 'sword in the stone' attitude about elections. Of the 'we Tories are obviously the one and only people who should be running the country, and we shouldn't have to do much to get the prize,'

Well if you want it, you'll have to fight for it! The Labour party isn't the push over it once was, and neither are the LD's. B&C was your wake up call! Do you think your really up to it: I don't.

And how do you propose we fight for it John?

Stop believing in Socialism for the rich.
Say we believe in the free market, but we believe in it for everyone. No one will be shielded from its effects, (that includes the Monarchy) everyone will share in its benefits, merit will bring its own rewards, not social position.

Tell people, 'We have not interests, other than good governance,'

The first act of an incoming Conservative Government would be a symbolic one, the ending of charitable status for both trade unions and public schools.

Let us ignore the headline polls about the three parties' standing for a period and concentrate on the public's perception of our competence in the crucial matters, such as law and order, the economy, NHS, the Home Office etc.
To win a GE we have to have a substantial party, both in terms of people and polices. The last week has been appalling, with the Bromley organisation looking completely amateurish vis-a-vis the Lib Dems and also the differences between DC and KC.
Will DC ask all policy group chairmen to give interim reports on policy formulation to the Autumn conference and invite discussion? If that is promised, it will keep the likes of me quiet until then.
What also needs to be done is to move real heavyweight performers onto the economy and NHS sooner rather than later, so they master their brief in time for the GE.

This poll swaps 3% of Lib Dem support over to Labour. Big deal. It is already known that votes are highly transferable between Labour and Lib Dem, as the 80% collapse in Labour's vote in Bromley showed. I don't think that this ICM poll tells us anything we didn't already know.

In addition, if you believe that polls are substantially manipulated (as I do) then there is an obvious strategy here - to rebuild Labour's crumbling morale after two appalling by-election results.

Also to try to push out Ming Campbell and replace him with a stronger leader to help stop Cameron's progress. And third to try to hit project Cameron after its first near-reverse in Bromley.

Overall Cameron has achieved better media support for the Conservatives by going 'cryptic' - but this is hitting the willingness of activists and voters to get off their backsides and support him.

There is clearly a job to be done in building bridges between the Party leadership and members and supporters.

A message of concern, disenchantment or maybe only uncertainty about Cameron has been delivered by the voters of Bromley, which in the long run is helpful.

Conservative voters don't understand Cameron.

He must open up a little more and show that in his heart he shares Conservative values and priorities. To do this he doesn't need to get into policy promises. Those can come later.

We need more on values and ways of demonstrating that Cameron is more than just a media image creation, but also a living breathing man of action and belief capable of leading a nation at a time when it is losing confidence.

It was most unfortunate that Bromley selected Bob Neill, bless him. He's the wrong image for the renewal programme as well as being a known europhile. He was a lost opportunity to show the progress which Cameron speaks of so often.

Bromley will be forgotten about in a week, but the need for Cameron to build a relationship with Conservative voters has been demonstrated.

the ending of charitable status for both trade unions and public schools.
Public and Independent Schools get charitable status as does Private Health Treatment because they are providing services that otherwise would be being paid for by the state, ending charitable status could end up increasing public spending, in fact in exchange for charitable status they have to show that they are taking a certain number on no fee scholarships and providing certain services to the community, surely the aim should be to encourage Independent organisations to grow and shrink the state sector rather than pushing people into moving towards state financed schools and hospitals!

I wouldn't get too worked up by the polls at this stage either way.

What I find more worrying is the slight detachment from reality, bunker-mentality that has begun to emerge after the B&C by-election result, repeated by Tim Yeo in the NoTW today.

When you have a passionate right-wing eurosceptic MP who wins 51% of the vote and a 13,000 majority, his views were clearly very popular locally.

When your majority falls to just 633 a little over 12 months later, the fault is clearly not that the party has not changed quick enough, because the change is taking the party away from the direction that in B&C captured 51% of the vote.

There is simply not a one-size-fits-all strategy which is why people here like myself, Tim and senior MP's like Liam Fox have been banging on about, the need to fuse with traditional values with the conversion ones.

The failure of Cameron to do this, which would have admittedly meant a slower progress in the polls, but progress with solid foundations reveals a flawed strategy that will be difficult to fix because if he suddenly focusses on the traditional stuff he will be accused of "swinging to the right" again.

Of course the party needed to change; it needs to fuse, to balance its traditional core with the progressive 'and' issues.

You lost three elections through being, not too right-wing in itself, but too skewed on the traditional side. Being too skewed on the 'change' side will create similar imbalance.

The strategy is wrong.

That is the failing. Of course it is right to broaden the party's appeal and to bring in the conversion issues, but this must be balanced with the traditional values too.

In short, it's all about balance. From being imbalanced in one direction, the party seems to be heading for imbalance on the other.

Change was needed, change is good, but too much change will simply create imbalance and confuse people. That is not a basis for government.

A private school is a business it sells education. A private hospital is a business it sells health care. A Trade Union is a business it sells protection ( or workers think it does). By giving them charitable status, you are in effect giving them a subsidy. If an incoming government wishes to end the involvment of the state in education/health, fine put it in the manifesto, let the people decide: be honest!

William, if you think that opinion polls are being manipulated to aid the Labour Party etc. I'm sure there are more qualified people than myself,out there(Mr Shakespear perhaps) who will put you right. I think William you might be a devotee of the Nesta Webster (put her in the search engine) school of historical analysis.

My hunch is that this IS a rogue poll and the Tory lead is bigger than this although perhaps not as substantial as Labour's recent difficulties should have produced for us.

John @ 12.48: "A private school is a business it sells education".
This is true up to a point but remember there are no shareholders. If schools make a surplus (not "a profit"), it is ploughed back into the business to renew, maintain and improve it.
Also remember that the best independent schools are also ranked (externally) as being among the best in the world and still aspire to genuinely high academic standards. Many are opting out of offering GCSEs and A levels in certain subjects, because they are no longer very demanding to able pupils. Instead they are moving over to the International GCSEs or the IB.
The good independent schools (not all are good, of course)are surely one of the few things that this country can still take pride in.
It is only a pity that this government has, by its policies, denied access to these schools to able children whose parents cannot afford the fees.

John, if a private school is run to produce a profit for its shareholders, then it is a business and does not qualify for charitable status. If it's not run to produce a profit for shareholders, then (subject to compliance with charity law) it's a charity.

Overall, the taxpayer benefits hugely from the 8% or so who pay taxes to fund the state education system and don't use it.

If there are no shareholders, then there should be! If the market is to replace the state in health or education, then its time it started to offer a viable alternative.

It will not offer a viable alternative, because private education/health is happy with the present situation: why shouldn't it be. Private education is getting the best of both worlds. It's getting state support, with out the headache of dealing with all of the problems. Problems that it would have to deal with, if it had to educate 'the masses': remember only 7% of children will be educated outside the state sector, and its highly selective about who it takes in.

The same with private medicine, it couldn't have it better. The state does all the 'heavy stuff' it gets the 'easy/peasy stuff'. Including most of its staff trained by the NHS!

During the 1980's, the Thatcher government let both state education/health (don't deny it) slowly decline. They did this in the hope, that those that could, would move to the private sector. It was not a 'policy' it was a 'tactic' they hoped that on the health side BUPA/PPP would slowly take over. They hoped on the education side, private education would take up the challenge, re the University of Buckingham etc. This tactic failed, and it failed because the government was not honest. The government did not express it as a policy. The then government did not say, at any point, 'the state has failed you, its time to give the market its chance,' it said, 'The health service is safe in our hands,' The government then panicked, realising that it was losing votes on the issue of health/education, it did not expound an alternative, it threw money at the existing system, most of it missing the target.

If you honestly believe that the 'market' should be the main provider, for health and education, then the Tory Party should say so!

I am not a Tory, I am a radical I am an empiricist, I could not be a Tory, as I'm both a republican and an atheist. I'm not interested in tribal politics, I'm not interested in any side winning the next GE. why should I be, swapping TB/GB for DC is like asking you to choose which lung you'd like the cancer in.

If there are no shareholders, then there should be! If the market is to replace the state in health or education, then its time it started to offer a viable alternative.
Trusts without shareholders are nothing new, many public services were run by them in the past and indeed there are Foundations which have shareholders but are not for profit - it's a popular way of rich benefactors running not for profit services in the USA.

Indeed much of the public sector could be transferred to not for profit third sector organisations similar to Trinity House and Network Rail.

""I am not a Tory, I am a radical I am an empiricist, I could not be a Tory, as I'm both a republican and an atheist.""

John, do you think you should check your Favourites Bar? You seem to be on the wrong site. Perhaps one of the fantasy sites would suit you better.


The Tories will never call for the end of the charitable status of private schools in a million years. Nor will any other major party. "Old" Labour had it in their manifestoes of the mid-70s and never managed it.

When Eric Forth had a 13,000 majority over Labour the "left-liberal" or "anti-Tory" vote was split 52% Labour, 48% LibDem. With the spectacular collapse of the Labour vote in Bromley, most of the anti-Tory vote consolidated on the LibDem, so the split was 85% LibDem, 15% Labour, and the Tory barely won. There are actually quite a few seats where the Tory candidate wouldn't win if the anti-Tory vote consolidated in the same way, rather than being split.

the ending of charitable status for both trade unions and public schools.

How very peculiar !

Surely it is The State that should be ousted from Schools completely and they should all be privatised completely and charge means-tested term fees.

Messing around with Elizabethan Trust law and Charities will certainly tie up Parliament for years since it is not neatly compartmentalised like John's mind, it is very very messy since it predates most statutes.

You will of course face the inevitable challenges under THe Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention should you single out private schools or trades unions for acts of spite, and more power to them as the Judges (in Falconer's newly conceived Supreme Court) tie a future Conservative Govt in knots as everyone has a splendid time laughing in the aisles.

Future Governments will a) not have big majorities b) will have much more activist Judges

I'm both a republican and an atheist.

Atheist ? A man who knows.............! How narcissistic............what else do you know as certain truths ?

This ICM poll could be a 'blip' - a rogue poll.

That said, we are still a loooooooooooong way from appearing a credible government and I have a nasty feeling that peoples perceptions of David Cameron are hardening - and that he has been found wanting.

Why? Well for one thing all this focusing on modernisation may be of interest to the political classes, the media and those who want a slightly pinkish Tory Party, but the public are more sceptical and perceptive than the politicians and media often give them credit for. It may be counterproductive to continue with this obsessive self flagellation.

David Cameron's narrative to the British public can be summed up in two words 'we've changed'. Well so what? You're still a politician and when you cycle to work with your Lexus carrying your briefcase you ain't changed that much mate. Cut the crap and tell us what you will do for us, or to us.

Yes, the public is looking for a replacement for Blair. But are they looking for a statesman or a showman? I suggest the latter. Are they looking for a poser or a 'doer'? Most decidedly the latter I believe.

In both instances Cameron looks weak compared to Brown - he's a miserable sod but so's my bank manager. Cameron needs to demonstrate he's got the ballast, the gravitas and the surety of judgement that is absolutely vital in a PM. Brown has the trappings of office on his side - for better or worse.

What we may be witnessing in these polls is mere mid term blues that will be swept aside when the chips come down and votes are cast. We've made a start but it's time to turn to the next chapter.

Add a few words to the narrative about what the Conservatives will do that is beyond Labour's ken to achieve.

Well tomTom I know this, the Conservative Party has lost three elections in a row. I knows this, if it carries on believing that it can avoid radical change, it will lose a fourth. I think I'm right (little bit of self doubt here) come this August, it will have been out of power for longer than anytime in the last two hundred years. Bet your proud of yourself to be a member of a the least successful generation of Tories in two hundred years.

I don't think Trade Unions as such are allowed to have charitable status, although I am aware some of them have set up special charitable foundations, for example to provide educational services.

Richard @17.07: "The Tories will never call for the end of the charitable status of private schools in a million years. Nor will any other major party. "
I agree and why should they? Independent schools are a rara avis in Blair's Britain; they actually work very well on the whole and provide an excellent all-round education. They relieve the Treasury of billions of pounds on the education budget.
The sad thing is that Blair has made access to them for able pupils whose parents cannot afford fees much more restricted, having abolished the assisted places scheme.
Selection is, and always has been, anathema to Labour but perhaps we ought to make the case for it and pledge to widen access to grammar schools and independents in an attempt to restore a degree of social mobility again - and to raise educational standards in real terms, not just by grade inflation.

Whoever 'John' is, he doesn't sound to me like someone who has worked in education. Independent schools offer education to a range of people, many of whom cannot afford the full fees. They spend much of their income offering scholarships and bursaries. Not the mentality of a business, surely? John says he is not a Tory, in which case he would be advised to stop peddling his alien views on a Conservative activists' website. Conservatives should be more interested in crafting a system of state education that serves the individual needs of each student, offering education and training that is of real-life value to each individual student. That's why the Parliamentary Party needs more Conservative teachers, as well as more Conservative doctors and nurses to do the same in healthcare. But perhaps 'John' thinks that his ill-informed theories are of greater value than real-life experience.

Those of us who warned about David Cameron's insidious liberalism from the beginning also warned that alleged popularity does nto equate with votes.

By any standards the B & C by-election result bordered on a political catastrophe. But coming to 'Dave's' aid this morning is one national paper that warns Dave NOT to listen to the 'reactionaries' (ie. genuine conservatives) and to take his revolution still further. Oh...the paper..? The Guardian...

And no doubt those of us who warned about Cameron from the start will take no credit when the coming leadership challenge eventually exiles him to the backbenches. My prediction: it will take perhaps one or two more similar catastrophes.

More byelection 'catastrophes' where we also happen to win Peter?You surely live in a deluded world where the brand of Conservatism you happen to support is probably irrelevant to the Conservative party and certainly to the country at large.

"And no doubt those of us who warned about Cameron from the start will take no credit when the coming leadership challenge eventually exiles him to the backbenches. My prediction: it will take perhaps one or two more similar catastrophes."

And John Redwood will ride in on a white horse to save us, with Simon Heffer, Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips drafting our manifesto for the next election, which will see us rescued from electoral oblivion. Hurrah!

Get a grip.

so, is it the case that Toryism as represented by Messrs Heffer, Hitchens and Phillips has had its day? Should those of a similar view just fold their tents and creep away? I suppose maybe thats just what they did in B&C.....

so, is it the case that Toryism as represented by Messrs Heffer, Hitchens and Phillips has had its day? Should those of a similar view just fold their tents and creep away?

If you think that Heffer represents anything other than his own puffed-up arrogance, you're probably mistaken If you're asking whether the bile-filled Heffersaurus is better suited to his new mates in UKIP, you're absolutely right!

Those kind of egotist right-wing commentators aside, I think that we do genuinely have to show people we're delivering on the ground on the things that matter to them. Conservative councils are cleaning up our streets and recruiting PCSO's (yes, I know they're not full constables, but they're dedicated to their jobs and the best weapon we've been given) as well as fighting the "causes of crime". Funny, someone else promised to do that, some years ago...

Personally, I think it's my job to get that message out, as opposed to being nother "Tory critic". I am sure that there are many colleagues in associations across the country doing the same.

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