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One is just inevitably reminded, once again, of what I will now dub the 'Spirit of Bromley and Chislehurst'.

Cameron seems cursed in all by-elections.

This is very, very, very bad.

You cannot compare ES to B&C, in Ealing it was brand Cameron all the way, whilst he was really kept off the literature in Bob's election.

The problem with the Conservative party at the moment is that is seems to insist on having an ideology. It never used to - it was Labour who had ideology and lost, we just looked to gain power to benefit OUR voters.

We infected ourselves with an ideology in the 80s and we need to recognise that nothing should stop the pursuit of power. Without power you can have all the ideology you like - it won't help the country one iota.

This is two by-elections in very safe Labour consituencies. Labour have lost serious amounts of vote share in 2 years. To be honest I don't think we did badly.

It's worth pointing out that Southall is a pretty special constituency. When the Tories won in 1979, doing especially well in the south-east, it was the only constituency that did n't swing to them at all. In fact, if Labour had to have a by-election in London, they were very lucky it happened to be in this seat. While I share the reservations about the Tory candidate, I honestly do n't think the choice of candidate would have made much difference in this seat.

It's worth pointing out that Southall is a pretty special constituency. When the Tories won in 1979, doing especially well in the south-east, it was the only constituency that did n't swing to them at all. In fact, if Labour had to have a by-election in London, they were very lucky it happened to be in this seat. While I share the reservations about the Tory candidate, I honestly do n't think the choice of candidate would have made much difference in this seat.

I came across this comment on William Hague's time as leader written in The Economist on 1 September 2001:
'Mr Hague's problem was less a failure of political ideas or positioning than a personal failure to impress himself on voters as a credible and attractive alternative PM'.
I feel David Cameron is on the right course - he does appear credible and attractive in a way that none of his 3 predecessors did.

Why the doom and gloom? ConservativeHome can even make progress look like failure.

With our first officially branded and high profile 'David Cameron's Conservatives' candidate, we didn't just maintain our third place, but we also saw our share of the vote increase by around half the increase of the Respect Party's candidate.

We're on our way!

Yes the results are dissapointing, but given the nature of these areas (not Tory) and the recent leadershiop changes we shouldn't be too surprised. That said, David Cameron has a lot to learn from this, from the candidate to setting expectations and just how immature the progress of his plan is at this stage and the implications for an early election. We need to roll out a mini manifesto soon and use it as the platform. Until then the exercise is nothing more than preparing the ground. People cannot occupy that until we get specific on policy.

I am sure there is lots of thinking going on in Camerons office just now. There better be.

The campaign Cam's way stood still, the campaign the old way (B&C) was a disaster.

We put in a strong effort indeed and nothing changed in ES. It also did not change for the mighty LibDem campaign machine.

Tony Lit was and is a great candidate. Sorry but no other Tory would have done as well.

If it's time for plain speaking, fair enough, here is mine. Cornerstone, in shaping perceptions of our party, have helped to cost us three elections and they are busy working to cost us a fourth. Gordon must love them to bits.

David Cameron is enduringly more popular than brand Tory and he must not let up. He won the leadership election by two thirds.

Does ConHome believe he would not win it as soundly if it were held again today?

He would. He must widen and deepen the compassionate Conservative Thatcherism he has practised.

I hope Tony Lit is a Tory candidate again. And I passionately believe in what Cameron is doing.

So...David Cameron's Conservatives - Labour donors one moment, 'Tories' the next - have been tried and found disastrously wanting.

Cameron's fingerprints were all over this total disaster. The naive triumphalist drivel that was written again and again on this blog by his servile supporters should be quoted against them every time they attempt to justify the debauching of our once-great party by the PC socialist Cameron and his sycophantic clones.

And they're still yapping on. I'm reminded of those severed heads that continue to talk after the body has been guillotined. I wish I had some of whatever it is that Tory T is on. Don't tell him the bad news anybody.

He's failed, and so has his ridiculous instant Tory protégé. It's time for the 'men in suits' to start sharpening their stilettos.

I'm looking forward to the end of the Cameron stunt and the return of our party to tried and tested ways of doing things.
Does ConHome believe he would not win it as soundly if it were held again today?

No. He would be soundly thrashed, and Lit - exposed as a two-timing clown - has fought his last election.

This was one each-way bet - as Norman Tebbit felicitously put it - that didn't romp home.

Disappointing, although I'm not sure you can draw the conclusion that without Cameron the party would have done better. The previous by-election, in a safe Tory seat, saw the locals completely distance themselves from Cameron, and saw a massively reduced majority. Here at least the votes for the party stood up.

I put this on the "live blog" thread just now, but this thread will presumably be the ongoing one this morning, so I repeat it here:
"As Ali Gledhill said in the middle of the night (on the other thread):
"For what it's worth, these are strong Labour seats, both with complications. The "Blair Factor" is still at play in Sedgefield, and Ealing is complicated by the huge "ethnic minority" population. Tories are not expected to do well here, and they haven't. Big deal. This is not a test of Cameron's leadership in the way it was for Ming."

The reason people are going to be disappointed was because of the hype and huge leadership investment in Ealing Southall. But who knows how much we would have been sweezed without the hype and razzmataz - so you are probably hung either way. The Cameron bashers have been out in force of course (some no doubt Labour wind-ups). In the end we retained our share of the vote and the Lib Dems failed to pull their usual by-election trick. If you discount the last 3 weeks and someone had shown you these ES voting figures the day the previous MP died, an objective Tory would say it's not too bad at all considering Brown would be bound to be having some sort of honeymoon. You then have to add to that the fact that the general opinion is that Brown hasn't made a bad start (he hasn't impressed me much, but I heard Tory voting relatives at a family event last week-end saying this).

In a strange way Sedgefield is more disappointing - once you lose second place it's always difficult to get back for us. ES was always going to be freakish - it's a very unusual constituency. It was just that certain people, including bloggers, led us to believe that the freakishness would play into our hands, and it didn't. How many Tories can really judge from the outside what goes in in internal Sikh politics?

There will be lessons to be learnt of course. If it's true we did not work properly, and in the old-fashioned way, the better (non-Asian) areas of Ealing, then that was crass. The turnover was low, despite all the media interest, so getting your habitual loyal vote to turn out should always be a major focus of the campaign on the ground, whatever is happening in the media. Many will also question the wisdom of putting the party leader's name in the ballot paper - I presume they thought it would help in Southall, but did they think of the effect elsewhere? I am not anti-Cameron but it would annoy me for my party to change its name on the ballot paper and there will always be a minority of regular supporters for whom whoever is leader is not their cup of tea. Those who really like the leader don't need his name on the ballot paper to support the party's candidate."

It's not the time for a debate on project Cameron so far - discussing what should be done now in terms of rolling out the policies once the policy groups report over the next 2 months fine. Recriminations in the tone towards which Tim is going on his general comments above - no. Of his 7 sins in Tim's eyes, 3 to me are positive virtues anyway (A list, green issues & changed attitude to the US).

The big story today anyway is going to be the cash for honours outcome - not good for us either (in a narrow party political sense) but thank God Cameron had the sense not to try to make political capital out of it whilst it was going on.

"The turnover was low"

That's really disappointing actually. It was a really fiercely fought battle, it would have been nice to see people turn out to vote.

The Tory campaign at Southall was naive and misconceived at every possible level.

I can imagine what my late father might have had to say. As a former Indian Army officer who commanded Sikhs, Gurkhas and other martial peoples, he would have seen the pitfalls of race, religion and tradition which Cameron and the bizarrely named Grant Shapps so blithely ignored.

The Sikhs are a proud and deeply religious people. Large numbers of them do not take at all kindly to 'Mechanised Sikhs' who shave and cast off the turban and the other accoutrements of the Sikh religion.

The Mechanised Sikh Tony Lit would have lost vast numbers of votes from his own co-religionists, and that's before we take account of non-Sikh voters - very likely to be anti-Sikh voters.

Of course none of this matters to the anti-tradition rationalist Cameron who sees only 'Asians'

He's learning that centuries of history do not vanish at the wave of a PC wand accompanied by a mantra worthy of Pollyanna - 'Let Sunshine into your lives'

Look out of the window Dave. It's raining cats and dogs this morning.

And of course in Sedgefield, an almost entirely locally run campaign with a more traditional candidate, we slipped to third.

Absolutely correct, how ridiculous the whole Tony Lit affair was, and how sidelined Cameron is by Brown - once again, left without a policy to stand on. When will it be ok to come out as 'right wing'? I'd love to have to opportunity to vote for a party with real integrity, consistency of thought and policy, and the guts to have an ideology.

Agree wholeheartedly with H Quinn. I've voted Conservative in every election since I got the vote in 1980 - except the recent local elections. When your party has some real tory policies, I shall vote for them again. Cameron is mistaken if he thinks the core vote will stand up as he moves ever leftward; that assumes that either most tory voters are dim and would vote for anyone (or anything) wearing a blue rosette, or that he is deceiving the electorate and would shift radically to the right soon after gaining power.

Agree wholeheartedly with H Quinn. I've voted Conservative in every election since I got the vote in 1980 - except the recent local elections. When your party has some real tory policies, I shall vote for them again. Cameron is mistaken if he thinks the core vote will stand up as he moves ever leftward; that assumes that either most tory voters are dim and would vote for anyone (or anything) wearing a blue rosette, or that he is deceiving the electorate and would shift radically to the right soon after gaining power.

What a wakeup call (in both senses)!

We got creamed! Time for a rethink. This means another six months or more of pain unless someone, somewhere takes our problems by the throat.

This is not "David Cameron's Conservatives": this should remain the Party of Pitt and Disraeli, Salisbury and Balfour, Churchill and Macmillan, and Margaret Thatcher herself. None of these felt the need to impose themselves as a brand: to do so is the hubris of a political pygmy.

Time to return to good Tory principles. Let's have clear blue water, family policies, meritocratic education, choking the Euro thing, definite promises on tax cuts, an assured line on privatising, cleaning up and breaking up the NHS and any other State monopolies (are those last two the same?) Give us the tools and we'll finish the job.

It is a consummation definitely to be wished that by Conference time the men in dark suits the pistol primed and ready.

I hope we never see Tony Lit again. Surely he was asked the standard question "Is there anything in your past that could be used to embarrass the party"?

Anyway - enough of this wretched electoral racial top trumps. Boris is coming!

ES was the first by election in 17 yrs where the LDs failed to win from 2nd place in a govt seat. A little progress but not good enough. Probably overall a C- grade.

I believe that our problems with by elections are mainly organisational. Having part time mps (Hague and Schapps) heading them up is not going to achieve anything. A D grade to both for believing that these are part time jobs.

Where is our Lord Rennard?

Both local associations had FAILED to select candidates, but where was the push from the Regional bodies that oversee them? An E- to the Associations and the Regional bodies for failing to do their job in the first place.

As to the "CCHQ experts" in ES. Well the candidate selection and preparation of Mr Lit was inadequate and you were behind the Lib Dems in the effectiveness of the literature. D- for the candidate preparation as our opponents used it against us. Another "3 jobs Bob". Also a D for the literature operation as it was not as good as the Lib Dems (hint, they got more votes than us).

I can't see the point of the editor's attack on Cam at this time of the morning. Can't he wait to ask for views and then sum up in a week's time based on fact and comment from the campaigns? This is not necessarily going to help his credibility with the bosses.

The results were not bad, Lit was a good candidate, and Cam has already learned the error of his lefty ways. He is working to come up with core policies and to attack Gord whom he knocked around on prisoner release. Why not support him when he is doing well? Personally, I could do with an open season of debate rather than a lot more 'leadership', but he is probably moving in that direction as well.

I agree totally with Boris for London, but would like to add this.

For the first time in well over a decade, the Lib Dems were unable to squeeze the "third" candidate - all of their increased votes came from the top candidate. And this happened in BOTH by elections. Effectively, in Ealing Southall, the Conservatives stopped a Lib Dem win.

The Lib Dem strategy at all elections is based around squeezing the third candidate. They use totally made up or spurious opinion polls to get people to believe that only they can win against whosoever is the sitting party. The surge is always in the last weekend and this they simply failed to do. This is an area of election law I have long suggested should be changed - the use of spurious data.

In fact, looking at council by election results, the squeeze factor has worked less and less for the Lib Dems for the last 6 months. It certainly did not work in May's local elections except in very few instances such as Eastbourne.

Both seats have no real Conservative Association to talk about. We will only ever suceed where is there an organisation on the ground at constituency and ward level who work 365 days a year.

That is how the successful parts of London operate. There are many examples of where some London Boroughs have virtually all their councillors and/or gains in one constituency and little or none elsewhere.
Examples of this are Croydon, Redbridge and Barnet.

Until the party starts to invest money in professional staff back into constituencies again and builds up an army of foot soldiers, the Party cannot hope to win by elections, yet alone a General Election.

A few days in Rwanda as the floods in Yorkshire fade from the screen should do wonders in key marginals....I wonder if Belgian or French TV will be filming in their former colony ?

Until the party starts to invest money in professional staff back into constituencies again

What money?

"Without adequate involvement of the local Association, CCHQ imposed Tony Lit as the party's Ealing Southall candidate."

Yes but Mr Editor, this was an urgent by election where we had NO leading candidate and we were in 3rd place. The ES Association people that moaned to you should have been apologizing to the party for failing to sort out their candidate in the 2 previous years.

Two wrongs do not make a right. But the first failing started with the Association.

Tony Lit may well have done as well, or badly, as any other Conservative we could have put in to this by-election, but what the wider public is going to remember is that we were desperate enough to choose someone who palpably was not one of us, and we still lost. We did not even have enough sense to ask him about his background, so thrilled were we he was willing to stand for us. Labour may have been cleared of selling honours, we are giving away our principles.

Some quick thoughts, firstly our vote in both elections held up. In my recollection in most recent by-elections it has gone south faster than ducks in winter. Secondly yes there are lessons to be learnt because we want to see our vote increase sizeably at by-elections, however in order to win a majority we need precisely neither of these seats.

There are lessons here for by-elections and wider elections too. Pick candidates early (clearly by-elections sometimes make that difficult) and give them time. Chip away slowly and steadily, don't expect to be able to breeze in like a tornado. This can even be modified to by-elections held at 3 weeks notice. Use media non-coverage as a virtue. Don't ditch candidates because they don't win a seat at the first bash, if you are saying your candidate is right for an area believe it and stick with it. To that end I would advise Ealing Southall and Sedgefield to stick with their candidates and now plug away. Keep up at least some of the momentum from these campaigns and use it as a means of proving that we are serious about reaching into areas and that there are no no-go areas for this party.

I can't see the point of the editor's attack on Cam at this time of the morning.

Henry, this is where CH speaks for the grass roots who were not consulted about the imposition of this tenth division Celeb and total outsider.

CH's critique is all the more powerful because it comes from a source that has in the past shown many friendly intentions to the Cameron project. It's to the credit of the editors that they were prepared to take an open-minded approach to new ideas, however wrongheaded those ideas have turned out to be.

But the time has come to take the gloves off. The middle ranks of the party are packed with angry, frustrated, men and women of talent who were pushed aside to make way for the Cameron clones of the 'A List'

It's time to let slip the attack dogs!

Ok. As someone who passionately wants to see the back of Dave as Party Leader, I am having a really hard time stopping laughing at this personal disaster for him.

Oh dear, never mind. What i expect we'll hear from Dave and co. will be that more change has to happen. Perhaps they think it'll be a good idea to put a joint Tory and Lib Dem up against Labour in future by elections? They spat on local associations and activists by nominating Lit, why not just throw the towel in and concede everything to the liberals now. Let's be honest, that's what Dave's plan has been from the beginning.

Didn't Labour often come 3rd in by-elections in the nineties? They went on to do quite well in the 1997 General Election I seem to remember.

Cameron musn't waver from modernising the Party. In fact these results should encourage him to increase the rate of modernisation.

Change to win...remember, we elected him to do just that.

Love him or loathe him, Gordon Brown has so far done a very good job of shooting "the heir" to Blair's fox. So much then for "David Cameron's Conservatives". At least I did not vote for him.

"A few days in Rwanda as the floods in Yorkshire fade from the screen should do wonders in key marginals"

Just where is the Tories shadow minister Anne Mcintosh MP during the floods?

She is a Yorkshire MP

I think that we should all take note of these results and out them into perspective.There was no way that we were going to win either of them.However it is pushing for second place and failing that should concern us.We should really look at where we are and has this drive to airbrush out our triumphs of the past really worked?There is little evidence to support that.What it has most certainly acheived is to alienate our grassroots and traditional Tory voters. This nonsense of quotas in candidates selection is only one of many dilutions of Tory principles.The only way we should be choosing candidates is by merit alone together with a ability to demonstrate a record of committment to the Tory cause. That way, will ensure that when the going gets tough as it most certainly will in politics then they will not show weakness. There should now be an examination of role CCHQ played in the choosing of candidates and the rules which are dictated to constituencies as to the leeting of candidates especially those who previously stood in a seat not to be placed on the short leet unless they can make the first interview from which they were unable to make due to business and/or family committments. That does not allow the constituency to make a considered choice knowing the experience of their former candidates. Let us now look at all these matters and then go on to win the General Election when it comes.

It was a clear rejection of the "David Cameron Party". It is time the Con Party woke up and realised that "Conservative Liberalism" isn't going to work. True blue Conservatism is the way forward, clear blue water between us and the rest.
Promise us a Referendum on the new EU Treaty David, and you will trounce Gordon and get the key for No 10.

I would be grateful is some of the commentators here would stop talking rubbish.

HF says: "Both local associations had FAILED to select candidates".

Before the by-election the Ealing Southall constituency was seen as being so unwinnable that CCHQ refused to let the constituency chose a candidate until more winnable constituencies had had the pick of candidates. It was impossible to respond to silly comments in a similar vein during the campaign without damaging our chances so I have had to bite my tongue until now. So please don't talk rubbish HF.

Top of the shot: "Both seats have no real Conservative Association to talk about."

ESCA is a small association but it managed to get 9, YES THAT IS NINE, new Tory councillors elected in 2006 chucking out 9 Labour ones. SO AT LEAST NINE OF OUR MEMBERS ARE COUNCILLORS. So you are talking rubbish too Top of the shot.

Sorry but I'm not in a good mood this morning.

We should give ourselves credit for one thing, we ran a brilliant campaign, it was highly professional and very well organised, I'm not convinced picking a candidate who had been in the party for 20 years would have made the slightest difference to the result.

At the end of the day we came third in an seat we were already in third place in, that's disappointing and there is no use pretending otherwise, however as a guide to the next general election Labour holding a very safe seat has very little to tell us.

"This is not "David Cameron's Conservatives": this should remain the Party of Pitt and Disraeli, Salisbury and Balfour, Churchill and Macmillan, and Margaret Thatcher herself....Time to return to good Tory principles"

Interesting choice of figures-which principles would that be then? Pro-free trade? Anti-free trade? Pro-reform? Anti-reform? Liberal? Conservative? Pro-Europe? Anti-Europe?

They all stood for one or the other, most under the same Conservative banner.

This party always used to look down on ideology. I wish it would remember that.

"Our vote stood up".

Believe what you want, but that's just not good enough. The vote doing little more than "holding up" in a by-election is a pretty sorry indicator for a general election.

Of course, if Cameron actually made a lot more noise about free markets and leaving people, instead of blathering on about polar bears and windmills, we might just have a chance.

Disappointing yes, I had hoped we would do better than this in both polls but as the Editor rightly says they will preserve Ming for us which might turn out to be a great positive for our party.Personally I thought the imposition of Tony Lit was a risk worth taking and I'm sorry it hasn't succeeded.I'll be very interested to hear from campaigners on the ground what they thought.
Far far more disappointing for me is the news from the BBC that it appears Blair and his cronies are going to get away with it again on the Cash For Honours scandal.I think this will reflect badly on the whole political class and will bring state funding of political parties another step closer. An absolute tragedy.

By-elections are a bit over-rated in importance, in my view. I don't think the criticisms of the campaign are particularly fair or constructive. Because of the high profile, it was pretty much inevitable that the central party would impose a candidate, and they found one to give them the sort of face they were after on TV - and why not a handsome young ethnic minority chap that had not had much to do with the Party before? Isn't that precisely the image Cameron was after?

I only went along campaigning on one day - I'm sure lots of people here did more - but I thought things seemed to be pretty well organized. The one thing I would say - and I think there might be a lesson here - was that the canvass seemed a bit light to me, relative to the leafletting. I suspect that's inevitable when (a) almost all of your activists either come from outside the constituency or have only very recently become involved in politics; and (b) there are no clear national messages to push. The combination of (a) and (b) would presumably mean that most activists would have no idea what they would say on the doorstep, and so preferred to leaflet.

Later, once we have developed some settled lines of argument - some picture of why the Conservative Party is different from Labour, and why we believe we are better - then canvassing should have a higher priority, I suggest.

One last thing. Please, *please*, let's not have any more candidates, as Tony Lit did, putting themselves on the ballot as "David Cameron's Conservatives" or the like. We aren't a personality cult.

Phil, thank you for the response as I was unaware that CCHQ would refuse any Constituency wishing to get on and select its candidate. I apologise for labelling the ES Association in this way.

I would have thought that the Ealing Council gains in May 06, allied with the fact that the late MP was one of the most likely to pass away, would have elevated the selection priority. A no brainer. But someone made a bad mistake.

So the failure for this clearly resides at the door of either the London Region people or CCHQ. Will our new Chairman investigate it? Or will she just overlook it as she is only part time?

I mention the "Regional people" because part of the problem in our party is in this area as they play a vital in getting the Associations properly focused.

I see the nutters are out in force this morning and the Editor is keen to encourage them.

Compared to all the Parliamentary By-elections under Hague, IDS and Howard we actually did well – our vote didn’t collapse as it always does in by-elections. If anything that vindicates the Party’s strategy and DC’s approach. There is little point in an orgy of self flagellation or demands for DC to perform a u-turn. We are on the right track, let’s keep focused on the real battle in marginal seats across the country. Change to Win.

Expectations management is the key thing to be learnt from this debacle. The intense spinning from CCHQ led to people expecting us to win a seat which we hve never won before and came third in in 2005.

Our candidate was not the shining knight we hoped for (We really need to stop expecting these...) and the skeletons in his closet ought never to have been there to be discovered.

On the whole the performance from CCHQ was poor... however the result would not have been so bad had expectations been managed. We increased our vote share and were not squeezed my the Lib Dems - There is a silver lining to the storm cloud heading Dave's way, and if lessons are learnt from this venture I imagine we shall do better in future.

Its difficult to discuss this objectively with so many, how can I put it, wrecking balls flying around on this thread. I suggest you set up your own site to slag off Cameron and rant to your hearts content there.

Anyway. I would say the only real mistake Cameron made was to believe that he could storm labout stringholds with ease. His strategy simply hasn't matured into anything like a serious Labour bashing instrument. We need policy and soon. As for the ealing candidate, I don't agree with Tory T. That was a dissaster and I'm surprised that he did so well. Putting Camerons name on the balliot paper also was a big mistake. We need to be careful there isn't a bunker mentality growing in CCHQ.

Sorry about the spelling above.

I didn't have a problem with Cameron being on the leaflets per se. However, the A5 magazine went too far with Tony Lit's words: "I even called my son Cameron". Sorry, but that was pure OBN.

Good post Oberon. Anyone saying that the events of last night were actually good is living in a fools paradise. The party took a risk and it didn't work.We must learn from that.
Equally I think I could have predicted the sort of posts from the same bunch of people hiding behind their pseudonyms as soon as I heard the results.Somtimes it makes reading Conhome a frustrating and deeply depressing experience.

Let's get some perspective here. i used to be Treasurer of Ealing Southall Conservatives (admittedly, some time ago) and the constituency is like no other anywhere. It is hugely divided along racial, religious and political lines, has strong pockets of serious wealth but equally strong (and larger) pockets of relative poverty. Whole swathes of the constituency are occupied by people who don't speak English as a second, let alone first language and many women i used to speak to when they opened the door would simply say when asked how they intended to vote "my husband will decide". This is not a place the Conservatives could ever have won and if we had come second it would have been a miracle. The vote held for us, that is a credit. More to the point the whole party seemed to swing behind the campaign, we made Labour work for their victory (and the Liberals too actually) and we have proved we can fight hard.
Cameron should not be villified for this, and nor should those who ran an excellent campaign. What we should be doing is looking at how so much literature was delivered in so short a time and seek the same commitment from volunteers to roll such a campaign across target seats. Mine's Eltham if anyone wants to come and help!!

At last this thread is attracting some more sensible comments - indicators that some of the suspected "spoilers" are drifting away again.

A disappointing result, no doubt about that and no point spinning it any other way, but what would be even more disappointing would be if Cameron listened at all to any of the Cornerstone blowhards urging a return to the battles of Europe, immigration et al. We tried that last time, and the time before, and even the time before. Didn't work then, won't work now. Cameron's on the right track. That's not to say everything is perfect, but the thrust is right.

Let's learn the lessons of the last few weeks and move on, but it's no time to panic, whatever the dear Mr Humphrys and the Today programme might have us believe.

In a nutshell, Ealing proves that we have just wasted two valuable years trying to attract a part of the electorate who will never vote for us anyway. There ARE no go areas for major parties in British politics.
For gods sake, never mind Labour, we have just finished 2,000 votes behind the Liberals despite them having the worst Leader in their history.

I hope Tory MPs are reading some of these posts because they articulate real frustration that not only are we failing to represent OUR people- who need us- we are not even bothering to articulate their views either, so cowed have the Leadership become by the Blair/Brown orthodoxy.

I am talking about white van man, the pensioners stuck on a crime ridden estate, the young hetrosexual couple who cannot afford to buy their own home. Where is the Tebbit of 2007 ready to go on Today and Newsnight and articulate their views?

We are not interested in civil partnerships, hugging hoodies, closing tax loopholes and strangling grammar schools.

We respect these views but would like ours heard too.

13,000,000 people voted for John Major in 1992. I am not confident that Cameron and Osborne have any chance of getting them back.

Ealing Southall proved it.

"David Cameron's Conservatives"

SAYS IT ALL.If you claim ownership the defeat is all yours.

I want DC to go. I'm not standing on any more doorsteps saying I'm a Tory. I'm ashamed to be a part of a Party of power-hungry opportunism.

...spoke too soon, they're back...

here here

that 'here here' was to the 'I want DC to go. I'm not standing on any more doorsteps saying I'm a Tory. I'm ashamed to be a part of a Party of power-hungry opportunism.' comment by the way

I see a small rankling above. Good.

Try this for a non-ideology:

"The fundamental principle of the Conservative Party has always been, and will remain, to maintain the institutions we have evolved. These institutions embody the principles of British representative democracy. They include Parliament, general elections, the secret ballot, and personal liberties. They do not include any form of Gestapo, or any variety of tyranny, whether of the Left or of the Right."

That's Quintin Hogg is 1945.

Since then the Tory Party has sold out on "British representative democracy", preferring the oligarchy of Europe; has preferred focus groups to presenting the electors with clear, clean choices; has doggy-paddled on personal and economic freedoms; continues to conspire with vested interests in imposing unnecessary burdens on the tax-payers; preaches localism but repeatedly over-rides it; values the married state at £20 a week of beer money, and has sold out to the totalitarian cult of personality (thank you, Mr Lilico, for that one). Etc. Etc.

Conservative Associations, in Hogg's time pumping the life-blood of each and every constituency (and not merely in internal Party matters), are now the creature of a central politburo.

These by-election results should sent a shiver along the Front Bench, in the hope of finding a backbone to run up. Until this Party rediscovers its bottom and its spine, there is no hope in us.


Some of these comments are classic.

"Oh noes, we didn't win!"

Well what did you expect? Neither was winnable. To even stay/move into in second would have been an achievement.

Those weren't seats you guys were ever likely to win. So it makes me think that some people commenting aren't Tory at all - real activists would have had realistic hopes.

Matt K | July 20, 09:47
"..Cornerstone blowhards urging a return to the battles of Europe, immigration et al.."

You may or may not be right.
Problem is that without the Europe etc aspects, the Tories have nothing distinguishable from Lab or Libdem.

How do you propose to differentiate your brand in a manner clearly apparent and attractive to voters?

It certainly isn't going to be done by PR and bezazz. However sincere, articulate and personable Mr C is, we've been there & done that with Blair and aren't going to fall for it again. Dour, stolid Mr Brown is paradoxically refreshing after his smarmy predecessor. If he changes tack and mounts an EU referendum (I doubt he'll tackle the fractionally lesser priority WLQ) then the Tories will be dead in the water for years to come.

I'm not taunting you, as that is not what I want to see happening and I wouldn't waste my time on this site if I wasn't of friendly disposition towards you.

In Sedgefield the net Labour to Conservative swing is 7.3%. We often forget to include the Labour drop in the swing (-14.1%). In ES the Conservatives have had a net swing, Labour to Conservative, of 4.2%. Labour’s drop is -7.5%.

Usually the Conservatives are hugely squeezed by the Lib Dems at by elections, but this time it failed, as the Conservative vote actually increased as a percentage in both constituenices. These are in fact the best Conservative by-election results in more than a decade. For example, this is a huge improvement on Bromley, just last year.

Oh dear, what a mess- especially in Ealing... I said all along the candidate saga was hilarious, and i'm glad to be proved right. The Party SHOULD be performing better in by-elections. If the swing to the Party was negligible (under 2%) some serious thought about why should be going on at Cambo towers. My gripe all along about DC is that he appears to be too 'ok yah' centric. That will not win us a General Election. Policies that aid people on housing, public services ( ie)Council housing for those earning under £18,000 pa; bringing ALL dental care back under the NHS remit), Europe, and dealing with immigration- will. I echo the other comments here when the only good thing about the results is that the LibbyDems Bearded Assassins won't move against Ming!

simon, if you hold your vote constant, and that of your opponent collapses as much as Labour's has done in Sedgefield and Ealing Southall, you have achieved a bigger swing than it looks on first impression. It's around a 5.75% swing to Conservatives from Labour over the two seats. Not bad.

I told voters in Ealing that it was a close race between Labour and the Conservatives, and that the LibDems weren't in the running. As I was told to. Incessant lies and posturing. What on earth do we stand for any more?

Ken Stevens: "How do you propose to differentiate your brand in a manner clearly apparent and attractive to voters?"

You're right - differentiation will be the key. Something that Brown is doing bizarrely well at despite actually being the architect of almost all of Labour's domestic policy since 1994. "Change" is a resonant message.

However, the differentiation Cameron should be going for need not be on issues that turn most people off (Europe) or many floating voters away (What the BBC would call "Right wing" issues like immigration).

There is plenty of room for differentiation on issues such as personal liberty (something Labour have done very well at taking away), REAL NHS and public sector reform, choice in education (incidentally, I disagree with the grammar school position, that WAS an error), sound environmental policies and simplified and lower taxes. i.e. a combination of centre ground issues and sensible Conservative policy. No lurches to the right, just sensible policy ideas.

IDS' report was a good start, let's see how the others do.

"These by-election results should sent a shiver along the Front Bench,"

Well, not really. Both seats were Labour strongholds, the vote held up in both (which I think is unusual for the party in by-elections) and on a narrow comaprison, the seat in which CCHQ was involved in did better than the one that it wasn't.

Tapestry @10:16- oh! Nigh on 6% isn't that bad a swing at all! Off to electoral calculus!

My wife, who is Indian, still thinks that there is a considerable amount of racism in the Conservative party and is reluctant to get involved as a result. I have personally heard some disgraceful racist comments made by local councillors and others who should know better. Usually these remarks are made by older party members who don't have a clue how offensive they sound. I think this feeling among the Asian community, often based on firsthand personal experience, was a significant factor in the Southall result. As a party we need to look honestly at ourselves and challenge any racist comments whenever they are made, however flippantly or half-jokingly, if we really want to change this perception.

This is a disappointing editorial for a disappointing result

The idea of having to choose between Cameroonian PR spivery and Tombstone Toryism is profoundly depressing.

Come on editor, you can do better than this.

There was a huge effort in Ealing but Phil Taylor is right. It is a very different electorate but there were Conservatives who had a handle on it. There had been a lot of work going on in the constituency previously the success of which was demonstrated by the new councillors who were elected in the Spring and by the genuine defectors during the campaign. CCHQ took a big gamble on a candidate who offered himself out of nowhere and it might have worked but there were obvious blunders in the background checking which must be part of the process of selection however speeded up. It is vital that, alongside the targeted marginals project, there is steady work in every single seat. Someone asked where the money would come from for an agent in every seat. Part of the answer is that in every seat there is local money if you go and look for it and part of the answer lies in safe prosperous seats. Ealing is beginning to be well supported by people who have moved out of Southall into Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. The real damage done by the Lit selection and skeletons is to the confidence and morale of genuine hard working ethnic minority Conservatives of whom there are more and more and who want to help but who would appreciate some recognition and consistent support. Incidentally the same applies to beleaguered conservatives and Conservatives in other Labour seats whether or not apparently safe. It sounds trite but real growth of that Tory tree will come not just from sunshine but from roots and we must not be impatient. Performance currently is simply not consistent and it is that we must aim for

Well, based on the BBC's swingometer- a swing to the Conservatives (of 6%) would mean a Labour majority of appx 10 seats. In a marginal by-election we must do better than this to show we have a real chance at the next election.

I'm not too surprised at the results but I am a little surprised at the mild jubilation that they might lead to the LibDems keeping Ming on as leader longer.

That would be fine if he really was an electoral liability and that with a different leader they would be likely to win a lot more seats. But is this really true? They are already at their strongest modern position in terms of seats and Ming doesn't seem to have eroded this.

Its clear that Cameron's press operation has been poor since he became leader.

We can only hope Coulson improves things - he hasn't been around long enough to bring about an increase in professionalism yet.

But it is disappointing that the same characters who have mishandled expectations in the by-election are still gong to be around.

DC can not afford to stick by people just because they worked on his leadership camapaign. he won that on his own merits not on the basis of those handling his press. Indeed he arrived in power with possibly the most hostile press facing a newly installed Tory leader.

Come on shape up and ship out!

I do find some of these comments absolutely incredible!!!

Labour seats of over 11'000 and 18'000, majorities cut in half and by two thirds. We came third which I can see why people think is disappointing.

But how people can be questioning Cameron's leadership I find utterly ludicrous, he has been ahead in the polls for 18 months, only just slipping behind to Brown (who will have been planning his first hundred days when Cameron was still at Uni!!)

A lot of the commenters seem great at casting their mind to Thatcher and further backwards!

Can they just think back to May in the local elections (which or unless I am not mistaken no-one has mentioned!) when we obtained 41% of the vote compared to Labour 26%. In addition we obtained over 900 councillors, this is when a wide range of the country were voting.

Cameron is working, anyone who wants to revert back to the old traditional policies should perhaps think back to before Cameron. They might have liked the policies but since 1997, no-one could even be bothered to listen to us.

Well said BUCF.

The selection of Tony Lit was a disastorous decision by Cameron. Lit might be a decent chap but he isn't a politician and had no idea what conservative party ideals and values were let alone policies. His selection was positive discrimination of the worst kind and sent a meesage to all asian candidates in the party that its not ability but other factors that are important. the defection of the 5 councillors to us just shows how little CCHQ understands ethnic voters and how they fell for an absolute gimmick. What we were saying is that if you're bitter about losing a selection, prepared to ditch principles and policies that you have believed in for 25 years and won elections on, then come and join us - because the current leadership is also doing the same! If we had to have an asian candidate then why couldn't we get someone who is experienced and knew a little about the conservative party such as Kulveer Ranger instead of getting a person who a few weeks before wasn't even a party member and was beaming from ear to ear standing next to Blair giving a cheque of five thousand pounds made payable to the Labour Party?

"Both seats were Labour strongholds, the vote held up in both (which I think is unusual for the party in by-elections) and on a narrow comaprison, the seat in which CCHQ was involved in did better than the one that it wasn't."

Well, that's all right then. That's written off by-elections

I just cast my eye down the by-elections of the 1997 Parliament, when we were doing really badly and steeling ourselves for the next thrashing. I reckon that the swing against Labour in Labour-held seats averaged something like 10.25%: in every case the big swings were when the vote switched to LibDem or ScotNat. This time round, there was also a swing against Labour. It was consistent with the pattern of the 1997 Parliament: 5% to the Tories in Southall, but 11% to LibDems in Sedgefield.

The message seems to be for Tories to return to their constituencies and prepare for another drubbing.

"authenticity is now the number one issue for the party."

I agree strongly with this piece. The party leadership does need to take stock and rethink its approach. They need to think more about what Conservatism actually is, and what we stand for - not merely the pursuit of power or the 'centre ground'.

Trouble is Hilton's forte is rebranding, positioning and image.

In an ideal world he would be thanked for his services and quietly moved on and an older more substation figure would come in looking to define Cameron in substance.

Unfortunately Tory politics doesn't work like that so expect a lot of squabbling but no clear strategy to take things forward.

So you decided to trust that CCHQ knew what it was doing? Have you that little experience of our party? Whenever CCHQ decides to walks all over local associations it has never paid off. There are far too many people in London who haven't a clue about how local associations and ordinary member work and they don't care. They believe that being close to the leader grants them divine like knowledge and ability and it frequently comes up short. Picking a candidate who wasn't even a member was a disaster waiting to happen and doesn't show how we've changed but how we haven't - another election drubbing coming up fast ...

I went down to Ealing on a number of occasions. We delivered leaflets and knocked on doors till the electorate cried out "enough". By Thursday afternoon people were heartily sick of the mountains of paper landing on their doorsteps.

What was interesting was the number of times people on the doorstep made comments about the candidates track record (or rather lack of it) in the party, and these were not party members.

Here is an opportunity for Tony Lit to make a name for himself and to silence the critics. Stick around and work the seat. Seek the selection for the next GE. If he doesn't then all the criticism will be proved right and CCHQ should apologise for the experiment and promise not to try again.

Tony brought a large number of friends, family and other contacts who worked their socks off during the campaign. I believe he broadened the appeal of the party and brought new people in. I worked with them, and it was a pleasure to see the enthusiasm they brought.

If we can harness that for the next two to three years, then we might realistically expect to win the next time round

Probably time for an end to lookism as well as racism in the Tory party. Brains before beauty in the selection of candidates would be a move in the right direction. Also, some record of involvement in the party and understanding of what conservatism is all about would be nice.

Ellesmere Dragge

"Well, that's all right then. That's written off by-elections"

HAHAHA! This is great. I'm getting such a happiness boost from the moronic comments!

No, how about it's written off by-elections that REALISTICALLY YOU WERE NOT GOING TO WIN! Now, by-elections in swing seats/marginals you CAN expect to do better.

The marginals couldn't have been up at a better time for Gordon in some respects because he's still got his poll bounce. He might not have wanted the bother, but really it should never have been trouble for him to hold on to both. But the fact the majorities were down in both seats isn't good reading for him.

So, yeah, it's not fun you were third in both seats. But it's not fun for Labour that they lost so many votes. And for the Lib Dems, well...... anything that keeps Ming as their leader should make you lot happy.

By-election results offer no read across for national opinion.

In a by-election it's all about who the voters believe can beat the incumbent...who has the momentum and is the most effective candidate to receive your protest vote.

The Lib Dems are brilliant at distorting the political facts and working harder than everyone else to convince the electorate that it's..."a two horse race" and..."the Conservatives can't win here"

This is what the Lib Dems did in Sedgefield and the Conservatives allowed them to do it unchecked - despite the Lib Dems actually coming 3rd in 2005!!!

So Tim, let's not use these results to try and steer Cameron back to the right. Let's discuss how we campaign in by-elections and why we still haven't learned how to out perform the Lib Dems.

The amusing thing about this site is that there are a load of you who clearly believe you are the master tacticians – the answer to all our political ills. You are very similar to the people who attend football matches and slag off the manager and players throughout the game whilst maintaining a running commentary as to how the game should be played. I can almost build a photo-fit of you. Most of you won’t have been anywhere near Sedgefield or Southall but will have been hovering over your keyboards waiting for the results to come in last night. Apart from the LibDem and Labour plants, (of whom there will obviously be a considerable number because, let’s face it there are few easier ways to stir up disharmony than appear anonymously on your enemy’s discussion site) the Conservatives amongst you probably consider yourselves pretty loyal Tories. Yet you think nothing of criticising every aspect of the Party and its organisation in full view of the nation’s media and your opponents. The fact that you are prepared to do this suggests you are actually politically inept, ironic indeed considering that most of the time you are criticising the political judgment of others. The concept of keeping your disagreements in the family, behind closed doors etc. is a traditional Conservative value of common sense and decency and again many of you spend much of the day bemoaning the lack of traditional Tory values.

The Conservatives have not won a by-election since 1982 and in that time have had numerous leaders, chief executives, chairmen, campaign gurus and dozens if not hundreds of staff have passed through the portals of Smith Square, Victoria Street and wherever the Party is now based. Presumably these people have been uniformly stupid and without any ability and the mistake they have made each time is not to hand the whole show over to some blog nerd with a pro-tory pseudonym. Perhaps that is the answer for next time. Alternatively you could recruit Lord Reynard, but the only problem there is that he might not be quite as successful if his task was other than shooting constantly into the “plague on both your houses” open goal. His campaigns are very formulaic, with the same leaflets, the same distortion of truth and the self-same phrases. Whilst you may notice this formula at Parliamentary by-elections, you only need to look further at local government by-elections and you will see that the same formula often results in them making no progress, losing vote share and even seats. Phrases like “everyone knows Labour can’t win here” are tediously deployed with the result that Lib Dems come a poor third behind Labour and Tories. Yesterday’s result was not a great vindication of Reynard’s campaigning skills, because if you are the third Party then winning a by-election is the one and only opportunity to make your mark and gain any momentum. So if I was Conservative Central Office, I wouldn’t be rushing to sign up Lord Reynard for the task of running campaigns for a serious Party with a genuine prospect of government – you might even be better with the blog nerd.

The nutters are out in force

Nutters hold delusional beliefs and the definition of a delusion is an obsessional belief held in the absence of evidence to the contrary. As I am a doctor if you email me your address I will come round and sign the papers

6% swing was an OK result in the midst of the Brown bounce but
1) CCHQ was mad to emphasise a by election we had no realistic hope of winning
2) CCHQ was mad to so identify his leader with a by election he had no hope of winning
3) CCHQ was mad to choose a candidate that could be so easily be made a laughing stock and had so little connection with our Party.
4) CCHQ was mad not to have forseen the Brown bounce and to programme in some eye-catching policies or stunts to throw him off balance

I blame Hilton, who has got to go.

These results and the bucket of whitewash from the CPS ("Arise Sir David, for thy knight is come") make an October election inevitable. Brown is not going to repeat Callaghan's mistake.

We have three months, one of them August, to pull this around.


"Let's discuss how we campaign in by-elections and why we still haven't learned how to out perform the Lib Dems."

A very sane point - something the Conservatives should improve on. Watch what the opposition do and spring on it immediately if it can be exploited/defended/presented a better way.

I can only assume that the initials of the poster AS stand for "Absolutely Surreal".

Matt K, I thought that David Cameron had madde it a point of principle that there would be no serious reform of the NHS and public services because that would be too "right wing"?

It is to be hoped that Mr Cameron's strategy has merely stalled, not fallen apart, because the forthcoming general election could not possibly be more important. Having disavowed much that conservatives (and Conservatives) care about, Mr Cameron must show the value of his changes in terms of electoral success - or what is his point.

It is clear that Mr Brown is going to revert to type, and adopt an Old Labour approach to the public services, anti-American sentiment in foreign affairs, embodied by the extremely ill-judged appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, and the final abandonment of any pretence of national sovereignty within the EU.

The Conservative party cannot afford to fail.

There will probably be a general election within the next twelve months. One of the most important decisions facing the new adminstration will be action to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, precipitated by Iranian nuclear armament. A nuclear arms race raises the possibility of the acquisition of nuclear or radiologically contaminated conventional devices by Islamist terrorists, either Iranian backed Shi'a or Saudi backed Sunni. The present strategy of sanctions is failing spectacularly - led as it has been by the European Union. Israel is not militarily capable of disabling the Iranian nuclear programme, short of using its own nuclear arms, which it won't do. This leaves only the coalition of US/UK/Australia to challenge Iran. Brown (if the appointment of Malloch Brown is any measure) will take decisions only through the UN. By this means the theocracy of Iran will simply acquire a nuclear device. The strategic consequences of nuclear arms in the hands of truly evil, and highly religious, fanatics will leave no part of the world unaffected. It must not be allowed to occur.

These issues will require politicians with the courage and strength of will to confront Shi'a, as well as Sunni, jihadism. Brown is not capable of this, as the threat develops he will retreat to the comforting illusions offered by the international institutions. Whether Cameron is more capable remains to be seen, but we'd best hope so! If he loses the election we'll never know, and a nuclear Middle East will be that much more likely.

I wonder if CCHQ brought in anyone experienced in campaigning in Ealing Southall to advise like I don't know Philip Treleaven who ran in 92'. He (and I) approached the Asian community sometimes against opposition from then Conservative in ES.

How can Cameron have made "great in-roads" when they are still stuck in third? I mean he would have been by all rights able to declare some victory for a second but a third?

He made a collosal mistake in staking so much on ES. Its a tough constituency for the Tories and any basic research would have made this patently obvious.

Gordon Brown has been a disaster for this country. Pensions, Taxes, war, you name the problem he has had his oily mitts as Chancellor all over it. He has turned us in to an overtaxed illiberal hell.
With David we have someone who has the potential to restore much of the value that made us great.
The lesson we must learn from Labour is one of discipline. To win elections Labours machine ensure everyone was on message. So please if we want to see an end to this miserable government, STOP THE WHINGEING ESPECIALLY FROM THE SHIRES, BACK THE LEADER , SUPPORT, SUPPORT SUPPORT. The “Good old days” such as they were are gone, and thank goodness. I remember doing business under Thatcher it was not great. Give me Cameron any time.

We should all calm down.

The result in Ealing was not a disaster. We were third and we remained third, increasing our share of the vote.

Not a good result, but not a disaster. Of course, we must learn all we can from the campaign and improve in future.

But I really must take issue with the notion that somehow if we had a different candidate or were more right-wing, we would have done better. The point is surely that we are still at the beginning of a journey in places like Ealing - proving to people who don't trust us that we have really changed. This will be a long process, but it is nevertheless a process we must continue. The very worst thing to do would be to turn back to our old ways - this is just what our opponents are aching us to do AND what too many people in Ealing suspect we will do.

You don't turn around perceptions overnight, so you can't turn around perceptions in a place like Ealing overnight. David Cameron is on the right track and he must have the courage to stick to it - courage that eluded Hague, IDS and Howard. The right wing fantasy island may be alive and well on this site, but it doesn't exist in real Britain.

The message remains stark: modernise, or die.

As Sunrise turned to Sunset before it even Lit us up, I have only these parting words to offer:

"If we shadows have offended,
think but this; and all is mended
that you have but slumbered here
while these visions did appear
and this weak and idle theme
no more yielding but a dream.
Gentles--do not reprehend
if you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck
if we have unearned luck.
Now to scape the serpents tongue.
We will make amends ere long
else the Puck a liar call.
So--goodnight unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends.
And Robin shall restore amends."

Midsummer Nights Dream
(in the morning all Tories will be well again)

Thanks Raj. It was frustrating in Sedgefield, because as Richard says in his post, Lib Dems use the same formula in every by-election - only the name of the candidate changes.

So why wasn't the Party ready to counter this? Apart from one leaflet at the end of the campaign in an attempt to set out the facts, the Lib Dems were given a free run to push us into third.

Not having the organisation, hunger and determination to win was one issue and is much harder to overcome, but not anticpating Lib Dem tactics in campaign literature and tactics was an error which should have been avoided, particularly following the Hartlepool by-election in 2005!

I feel that local activists who worked so very hard were let down by Party organisers in terms of by-election tactics and strategy.

Given the efforts to embrace the diversity agenda, the Ealing result remains unconvincing in an area where one could expect some success.The campaign was a disaster for central casting and the Cameron/Maude faction.The weekend photographs made the party look silly.

Cameron cannot win an election from slighly left of the Lib/dems. Brown has the money and the impetus to win within the next 12 months. As was seen in Wales the other parties will queue up to support the Labour administration no matter what they say before the election.

Project Cameron is a re-branding exercise.Unfortunately, he hasn't really worked out what he is trying to sell. His problem is that there is no room on
the left for his type of progressive conservatism.

He has no policies that make a difference. Most people don't believe they are in a broken Society. They don't want to be told how to manage their life.

However they might welcome some commitment to national independence, strong defence, rational foreign policy and less law and more order.

Changetowin, I fear that your approach is better summed up as "modernise....and die anyway." Your reference to the rightwing fantasy island raises the perennial question - why vote for a Party whose sales pitch is that it will do the same as Labour and the Lib Dems but a bit better?

"I remember doing business under Thatcher it was not great."


Why did the campaign team talk up our chances in an election that nobody expected to win? This is bad news for grassroots tories because it illustrates that Shapps and Co got excited and talked themselves into thinking we could win this by-election and CCHQ belived them!!

We need professional campaigners fighting elections not talkers. The party structure looks great on paper, but in reality our campaigning ability remains incredibly limited and parochial. Events like this will not persuade members in other areas to come and help as they will not believe the hype. We need to fix the campaign machine on the ground and cut out the rubbish now!

As has been mentioned by others, managing expectations is crucial prior to a by-election and it does not appear that this was done particularly well this time.

The Party set itself up for a fall when it talked up its chances so much.

"Most people don't believe they are in a broken Society."

I'd like to see some opinion polling on that. I don't get the impression that the British are generally happy with their society the way it is.

Much that was good about these campaigns has been lost in the appalling background checking of our candidate and, once again, in the disasterous mismanagement of expectations

In B&C CCHQ were told before the campaign started that the result would be tight due to Eric Forth's good personal vote and the collapse in the Labour vote in the local elections a few weeks earlier. With the Conservatives on 24,000 and the LD's & Labour sharing 20,000 votes in 2005 the local view was that it would be down to a few thousand majority.

Instead of managing expectations the next five weeks saw the press briefed that our vote share would go up, that this result would be a vindication of David Cameron and that B&C was safe.

Little wonder then that Conservative voters would not abandon their Barbeques or Winbledon to vote or that holding the seat, despite the total collapse of the Labour vote, was regarded as a disaster for the Party.

In Ealing Southall, starting in 3rd place, we were facing obliteration.

We picked an attractive high profile candidate who immediately got good media attention - tragically (and unforgivably) he had not been checked out properly and this rebounded.

But the main problem was once again expectations, having got a good candidate we got carried away with briefing that we might win. When we didn't the modest increase in our vote share from a 3rd place start looked a failure - when actually it was quite an achievement.

I echo the sentiments above - by-elections require seasoned political camapigners working to an agreed strategy, not the part time leadership of MP's who, however good their own campaigning skills might be, lack the time to be completely hands on and possibly the will to report accurately the problems with our campaigning when those problems lie with our policies or with the image of the leadership.

C- must do better

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