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The despatch box

We're you thinking what the Conservatives were thinking? Did you believe the Lib Dems were the real alternative? Is Labour moving forward not back? This blog will focus on all things political. It will be irritating, agitating and maybe just maybe it will get you thinking.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Their advice to us

In the latest issue of Fabian Review (and no I am not a regular reader), Andrew Gamble, Professor of Politics at Sheffield University looks at the electoral prospects for the Conservatives.

Now it doesn’t take a Professor to point out that the Conservatives will be electing “a new leader, their fourth in eight years,” under conditions which have meant that after May 5 2005 it was “the first time the party had lost three elections in a row since the establishment of full democracy in Britain.”

So the analysis points out things aren’t brilliant – but actually they aren’t terminal. The party “can still count on strong media support.” But is this enough?

The article rightly highlights the huge successes – not just electorally that the party had in the 1980’s The economic argument was fought and the Conservatives won it – but then what? What does the party now do?

I have to say I completely agree when Gamble writes, “Choosing a leader is only the first step, however in a Conservative recovery. The party has to decide in which direction it wants to travel and on which ground it wants to fight.”

The leadership election has spent substantial time on superficial considerations – how old is the candidate, what do they look like etc. I have never expected to hear a huge raft of policies from the candidates when the election could be months away. People need to be realistic – you don’t get huge ranges of policies from a party until an election is upon us – and you aren’t going to get the candidates to give you a manifesto to take us into the next General Election. What you can expect is a feeling from them as to where they want the party to go.

Now is there a scenario which means the Conservatives could win the next election?

Of course there is.

“ Labour’s spending plans prove unachievable, because economic growth is much lower than expected, as the world deteriorates. With growth slowing and the risk of recession Labour is forced into tax rises in fuel costs, and a collapse in the housing market. The Government loses popularity as a result, presenting a major opportunity to the Conservatives.”

Gamble argues that there are now generally four groups within the party, (though I have to say I seem to fit in all four depending on the issue in question!) They are traditionalist (The likes of Cornerstone/Tebbitt); New Localists (The likes of new MPs and candidates who are part of; Civic Conservatives (typified by David Willetts) and finally Libertarian.

According to Gamble, the best opportunity for the Conservative party is,

“If they can convince the electorate they are serious about maintaining state funding to preserve universal services, and their aim is to improve performance by decentralising delivery and empowering all, not just the privileged few, then they may have found a serious long term platform o which to contest Labour’s hegemony.”

A new Conservative leader may well be presented with the best opportunity to win an election in recent times. The economy will not be in such good shape, Labour will have made yet more mistakes - and the Conservatives will have a leader who can command the support of the whole of the party.

Gordon had better watch out!


  • At Monday, September 26, 2005 9:58:00 pm, Blogger James Hellyer said…

    I'm not sure Davis's plans (or at least the Reform manifesto) meets Gamble's requirements. It does have an emphasis on co-payment and social insurance, after all...

  • At Monday, September 26, 2005 10:05:00 pm, Blogger Jonathan Sheppard said…

    Gamble alos makes an interesting point - suggesting if the Tories think they can win now (when the next opportunity comes) they will go for Davis. If they are having a two election strategy - they will go for Cameron.

    I suspect things have moved on since then - but no politically party can ever say - well actually we don't think we can win next time, we have written that one off!

    Gamble makes no mention of Clarke which is interesting in itself.

    Either way - there is the recognition that Labour is not infallible.

  • At Monday, September 26, 2005 10:27:00 pm, Blogger James Hellyer said…

    I don't see Cameron as a two term project. Or even a one term project. His conduct has shown he has no convictions and really offers little beyond positioning statements.

    I suspect Gamble's suggesting it was Cameron or Davis showed he's been more in tune with the media portrayal then reality. The Cameron vs Davis contest was just handy for the media to report.

    In terms of confidence about winning, it's intersting that lots of advocates of Clarke (like Portillo) say we're going to lose anyway, but would lose less badly under Clarke. Their suggestion being that as we won't get into government, his policies don't matter...


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