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…

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  • mnob

    I cant believe the tories are intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Surely a much better tactic than all this pussy footing would be to point out :

    the scope and scale of stealth and obvious taxes and how they have been completely wasted in the new target driven civil service.

    the reduction in privacy and civil rights under the weight of ‘security’

    the inclusion of the UK in a war that many of its citizens are at least cynical and at most downright hotstile to.

    the gradual creep of a counter intuitive bureacracy monitored by daft measurements and enforced by crap legislation.

    How come given all this, they cant counter Labour ?

  • Phil

    mnob,

    There is of course the obvious open goal that the Tories have consistently failed to exploit to their advantage, the English question and Gordon Brown’s lack of any mandate to legislate for England on matters that are devolved to the Scottish parliament in his own constituancy. If the Tories were to make a pledge to the people of England to allow them to decide how they wish to be governed, a policy that would be political suicide for Brown as the answer would surely not be for the continuation of the status quo but for a national parliament with the same powers as Scotland’s as a minimum or possibly even complete withdrawal from the UK, then England would be theirs for the taking. They are already a party with minimal support outside of England, they just need to stop getting their knickers in a twist about their sacred union, come to terms with the fact that the empire isn’t coming back and that the world will not stop turning should the British “nation” cease to exist!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Phil, surely that is a matter of how much the Tories are willing to put a spanner in the works of the UK in order to get themselves elected ?

    Stealth taxes ? Pah. The Tories are just as fond of that themselves. How stupid do they think people are when they have to choose between either the stealth taxes, or public expenditure cuts, or increases in the non-stealthm taxes ? Which will the Tories cut ?

  • mnob

    Phil – interesting proposition but I think it could be done without breaking the union – in fact it might strenghthen it, as at the minute its a job half done. Scotland (and more interstingly Wales) already have devolved powers after all. Wales is more interesting because without the huff and puff of the folks up north they are gradually accumulating more and more powers.

    Comrade Stalin – I must be stupid then lol, because I would believe in public expenditure cuts especially as Tony seems to have wasted most of the extra taxes he has collected. There was a report out earlier this week that showed that the NHS spent on average £1500 per person to spend every year on cancer treatment, yet cancer survival rates were equivalent to Poland’s which spends £500 pp pa.

  • Dewi

    “Wales is more interesting because without the huff and puff of the folks up north they are gradually accumulating more and more powers.”

    Hmmm – it’s terribly tortuous I’m afraid and the nature of the process seems to divert the Assembly from a proper focus on the economy.

    Phil – sense as always – very best of luck mate.

  • Phil

    Dewi,

    Thanks for that, I might have to get that sentence framed so that I can point out to the wife from time to time that I do indeed talk sense!

    mnob & CS,

    There may be no need to break the union but as we are told that an English parliament would be a threat to the union by both the Tories and Labour and for that reason we cannot have any form of national political representation that does not involve people elected outside of England having influence over how England is governed, then in the interests of fairness don’t you think that we should be asked whether or not we wish to remain a part of the UK?

    The Conservative proposal that non-English MP’s be barred from voting on matters that are devolved to the parliaments/assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is not the answer either as it will be entirely unworkable in practice and pose an even greater threat to the union than that percieved by an English parliament IMHO.

  • the inclusion of the UK in a war that many of its citizens are at least cynical and at most downright hotstile to.

    Too many senior Tories are too Atlanticist for Cameron to pursue that line. Cameron isn’t, but some of his closest allies (George Osborne, for example) are.

    There was a report out earlier this week that showed that the NHS spent on average £1500 per person to spend every year on cancer treatment, yet cancer survival rates were equivalent to Poland’s which spends £500 pp pa.

    I don’t lack sympathy with the argument in general terms, but as far as specifics go, remember that it costs significantly less than a third as much to keep a Polish oncologist or a Polish cancer nurse happy with their monthly pay cheque than it does a British one. Important point, badly made by the media leaping on to a badly argued piece of advocacy ‘research’.