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In a word yes.

The challenge is how to frame this where we are in a two way fight with the Lib Dems.

It does require a strong campaigning function from CCHQ. Which leads me back to my point of "where is our Rennard?".

But that's the point HF - when we're in a two-way fight with the LibDems we make it clear that only a Conservative MP can deliver a strong, stable and non-Labour government.

As Tories seem to be intent on occupying the same ground as NuLab- indeed even to trespass a little to the left of it - one has to ask whether it actually matters that votes for UKIP etc by Tory defectors risk denying election victory to the Conservatives, as the overall policy flavour would not change. It's not even as though you can guarantee a sleaze-free administration, because Lab and Tory have both let us down in this respect in modern times. Blair looked as squeaky clean in 1997 as Cameron does now! Both of you will be after public money to make up for the fact that you can't attract enough paying members to finance the running of your parties, arguing that the very foundations of democracy will crumble without tax-subsidised political parties. Both of you will continue to grant honours in exchange for financial assistance. The real sin there is that people are able, in effect, to buy themselves a position in the Upper House and thereby influence our governance. Both of you don't give a damn that devolution has disenfranchised the English (just another aspect of the lives of ordinary UK majority being dictated by sops thrown to vociferous minorities). Neither of you will countenance a referendum on Europe.

If you want to cast a vote for a Conservative Government of a sovereign nation, it seems that it has to be for anything but the NuCon Party.

I think the Editor has a good point but agree that it's pretty hard to frame the Tories as an alternative to Labour when their policies and image ape Labour. In these circumstances nothing will change and a vote for the Tories is also a wasted vote.

There's only one way to set the conservatives up as an alternative, and that's to be different and be perceived to be different to labour - different in principle and different in practice.

The fact is that the electoral arithmetic means that it is unlikely the Tories will have an absolute overall majority.

Attacking the LibDems in the way suggested is therefore unwise. "A vote for the LibDems is a vote for Labour" or "..a wasted vote" might look silly when they are in an Orange/Blue coalition.

There are some issues where the Tories and LibDems can and should make common cause. Human rights, international development, cilvil liberties, repeal of authoritarian laws and principled opposition to ID cards.

Fight hard at the election by all means, but remember that Clegg may well be sitting in the cabinet afterwards.

Is there any real ideological chasm between Clegg and Cameron?

I don't know if there is a big divide between Clegg and Cameron but what about Simon Hughes and Cameron? There certainly is a big divide between most Tories and most LibDem positions. I would highlight nuclear power, proportional representation, Europe, selection in schools and the war on terror. See here for more. A minority Tory government working with the LibDems on specific issues might work but I can't see LibDems sat around the Cabinet table with Tories.

I agree that there is far too much to divide us from the Lib Dems to make a coalition workable.

Immigration and crime would be two more significant points of division, to add to those listed by the Editor.

Editor, it is how to do it without driving more Labour voters to the Lib Dems.

There are also a lot of marginals that are Lab/Con fights. When you look hard at the numbers in such seats it is right that we need to target the Lab voters. Just getting our core vote out better in our good seats is vital but not enough. In a typical polling district it might produce say another 50 votes which is useful but not enough on its own. However doing significantly better in Labs strongest polling districts can have major effects. It heightens the disillusionment of Lab and any votes converted to us are a double whammy for Lab ie they lose 1 vote as well as us gaining 1 vote. In a large Lab ward which might otherwsie be poorly worked by us it could mean the difference between bombing out on 10% or coming second with say 25% of the vote. It seems to me that this is where we can make more significant vote gains,


It is a given that Labour should go, but what would be the point if it is replaced by another socialist party bent on keeping the EU happy. There is a total lack of thought and fight in the current "not the conservative party". This,of course is not new, at the last General Election, in the area where I live, there was little activity from the party and the seat went almost by default to the Lib-Dems. I suspect the same thing happens all over the country. And now Cameron wants the taxpayer to foot the bill, no way!

Editor, it is how to do it without driving more Labour voters to the Lib Dems

Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems are fine from our point of view. If, say, our vote is static, but there's a swing of 5% from Labour to Lib Dem, we gain about 3 times as many seats from Labour as the Lib Dems do.

At the same time, there are relatively few seats where the Lib Dems are within 5% of the Conservatives.

In reality, it's likely to be even better for us. In Con/Lib Dem marginals, the Labour vote has usually been squeezed down so far, that it can't fall any further.

Canrt say much more than what Ken Stevens has said. Well said that man.

The assertion in the article is correct, but I wonder if the author has really thought through its implications. It means an end to nonsense about Europe, it means getting to grips with the reality of family life in Britain today (no more talk of Vitorian values please) and it means saying we are not returning to Thatcherism. It also means being harsh with those who keep trying to drag us off the centre ground. They have had their day and led us to disasterous defeat in 2001 and 2005 (not to mention doing their best to wreck John Major's government).

People should reread the 1979 manifesto. Mrs Thatcher win from the centre ground - it was Labour that had lost the plot. We can only win again if we are a party of the centre, not one of the radical right.

That doesn't make very much sense, E. L. Marberyy. If Margaret Thatcher's manifesto was centrist, then surely a reversion to Thatcherism is what the party should be looking for.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "nonsense" about Europe (opposing the Euro, leaving the EPP, opposing the EU Constitution?) but I can assure you it is most unlikely that the Conservatives will revert to the europhilia of Ted Heath.

As to the "reality of family life", I'd say that Ian Duncan Smith has grasped that much of today's family life is pretty disfunctional.

"Frame the next General Election as a choice between Labour and the Conservatives."

The merits of this as an across-the-board strategy seem somewhat dubious.

Playing the two-horse-race card at national level seems sensible enough (and it would serve the Liberal Democrats right to use their preferred local tactic against them nationally - some sort of distorted, deliberately misleading bar chart might help too!) and I wouldn't rule it out in Conservative target/marginal seats either, but, as others have mentioned above, there are plenty of seats where the Liberal Democrats or the nationalists can serve as 'useful idiots' in siphoning support and seats from Labour.

Take, for example, Cardiff Central in 2005: voting Conservative would have been tantamount to spoiling the ballot paper in terms of how effective it would have been, so voting tactically for the awful Jenny Willott in order to unseat the Labour MP seemed to suit our purpose better.

One final thing - it's quite likely that Labour will try the same two-horse-race strategy (as they did in 2005), which means that both parties would be running the risk of garnering sympathy (we all know how the British public like an underdog) and the oxygen of publicity for the Liberal Democrats.

Attacking the LibDems in the way suggested is therefore unwise. "A vote for the LibDems is a vote for Labour" or "..a wasted vote" might look silly when they are in an Orange/Blue coalition.
The Liberal Democrats are hell bent on nothing short of being an equal partner in a coalition, the last thing they want is to be seen as merely an addon for one of the other 2 parties, if they were to end up having gained seats which is really the only way in which a Hung Parliament next time is likely then I imagine that they would want to portray themselves as the next Government, it is possible that Labour and the Conservatives could form a coalition and Menzies Campbell would sit on the sidelines saying that the Liberal Democrats were the only real alternative, however I remain convinced that Labour will increase it's vote and hold it's majority regaining some seats from the Liberal Democrats and Independents and losing some to the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats will probably not even do as well as they did in 1997.

Yes, I agree my post was confusing - what I meant was nop going back. The policies of 1979's centre ground aren't those of 2009

Incidentally, what is so wrong with a Lib Dem coalition. We could build a strong anti-socialist block and perosnally I have no objection to PR. If DC is serious about being a "Liberal Conservative" then we shouldn't discount this.

I admit, though, to being as tribal as the next Conservative when facing the Yellow Peril on the doorstep.

"All Liberal Vote is a Wasted Vote" -- a campaign along those lines would produce a lot of votes for Labour, and very few for the Tories. That's the problem, and it's not easily solved.

It would seem accepted by everyone that the Lib/Dems are an oportunist party being anything which goes down well at the time. Just read their "little Yellow book" of instructions to candidates. Any "real" party should be able to take a responsible, even honest, pose against these people. Most defections to the Lib/Dems took place during the 90s when many Tory voters were put off by the infighting and semi-hysterical demands from within the party to pull out of Europe willy-nilly and cut taxes when the voters main worry was the public services. These sort of voters would be very interested in a Cameron Tory party drawing attention to the likes of the "little Yellow book". I don't think "core" Tories realise how they allowed themselves to be painted as more or less immoral.

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