Tories: right message, poor tactics…

Tim Montgomery, head honcho at Conservative Home, has a fascinating piece on the state of Tory strategy in the post Blair era. Simply put, Gordon has pulled a fast one, which has the Tory rapidly preparing for electoral battleships. Tim’s verdict: strategy good; tactics bad:

But if the last few days have been reassuring on strategy, the summer has highlighted real weaknesses in the Conservative machine. The NHS campaign was almost spoilt by errors in that list of hospitals facing cuts or closure. One of the few things an opposition party can do is to competently run its own affairs. So this mess-up was very unhelpful. Even more unhelpful was the MP Henry Bellingham’s decision to enter the controversy by apologising to his local hospital for being put on Cameron’s watch list. Added to the problem of looking slightly incompetent the party risked looking disunited, too.

His solution? Downsize, and make the team leaner and meaner:

Too many of David Cameron’s frontbenchers are part-timers. It was recently revealed that they hold 115 outside interests between them. They appear to lack the hunger to win that characterised Labour in the 1990s. Senior journalists complain that they hardly receive any calls from Conservative HQ but are constantly briefed by Team Brown. The Scottish party has resisted Cameron’s reorganisation plan and has only just started to seek candidates for general election target seats. Cameron knows there is no time to put these things right now but if Brown chooses to delay an election he must act. He should set strict commitment tests for frontbenchers and a strong CEO at Central Office must free the chairman to campaign around the country. The party will then have a machine that is as strong as its message is becoming.

The kind of sensible stuff that Michael Howard put into action in his tenure, though arguably, he didn’t quite connect with middle England. The trouble is that even after all of this, the election would still seem to be Gordon’s to lose…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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