How do you win an election?

There are interesting debates going on within the main parties over how they should approach the last few weeks before a General Election. Should they try to appeal to floating voters, seeking to win over the least convinced voters from the other main party and trying to squeeze the Liberal Democrats, or should they seek to please and buttress their core supporters, to make sure they all vote? Do traditional Labour and Conservative voters mean it when they say they might vote for a fringe party that cannot win a single seat, or might stay at home if their party does not do more to please them? Would talking about their concerns make it impossible to win over the floaters needed to secure a majority?

It has always been the case that parties have tended to try to woo the floaters “in the middle” of politics, taking their natural supporters somewhat for granted. Modern pollsters and strategists are right about this. It was also the case, however, that winning parties always tried to change the salience of issues in ways which favoured them, which in part could cut against wooing the “centre ground”. When Conservatives won they usually stressed the importance of the economy, taxation, immigration, Europe, defence, issues where they traditionally had a good lead in the polls. Labour usually stressed public services, especially health and education, and support for minorities, where they often were ahead, even during periods of Conservative government. Blair’s strategy in 1997 when he won was to stress the Labour areas of public service as his main theme, whilst trying to neutralise the economy issue by promising to stick with Conservative spending plans and Conservative income tax levels. Margaret Thatcher won on turning round the economy, allied to a strong message on national security.

My sense of the current public mood is that there is no longer a large group of floating voters in the middle who can be attracted to vote for whichever of the main parties is the most “moderate”. Many more people today think abstention or fringe party voting is an option for them. Fewer think it their civic duty to vote, and fewer want directly to help make the main decision about whether to have a Labour or Conservative government, as they say they do not like either. Many more people are single issue people, strongly preoccuupied by one important matter and judging all political parties by a standard of purity on that issue that no broad coalition party capable of forming a government is likely to match.

In the past, for all the love bombing of the centre, after party cross dressing and all the polling, the approach to the economy has often been the crucial tie breaker. It has been difficult to win an election if a party is widely distrusted on the economy. This election will be, above all else, an election about the economy. I think the two main parties have no choice but to slug it out on that central raft of issues. The economy as an issue encompasses public spending and debt, inflation, taxes, returns for savers, mortgages and house prices, jobs and the business environment.

The public sense that we face a serious debt crisis. Worse still, private sector workers are well into the sharp decline in their living standards which low wage growth and high inflation are now delivering. Public service workers are about to experience the same thing, as the government starts to squeeze public sector pay. There needs to be more debate and more enlightenment for the public on when and how the deficit has to be cut, when and how inflation is brought down, when and how living standards start to rise again, when and how Uk manufacturing can be turned round, when and how our balance of payments is in surplus, when and how the public sector can deliver more for less.

Labour will argue that more borrowing and more money printing is the way to go “to see us through” recession. Conservatives will argue that you cannot have a sustainable recovery without controlling the deficit. So far the markets have been hinting at problems ahead, with a further slide in the pound against the dollar and a further rise in the cost of government borrowing. If the Conservatives are to seal the deal they need to reinforce their messages that we are in a serious mess and they can show us a way out of it. If Labour is to steal the deal they need to explain how they can avoid going the way of Ireland and Greece, and how they are going to get some balance back into a very lop sided and public sector heavy economy.

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55 Comments

  1. Michael
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    John, I will vote for you on this argument.

    But, please do not ignore the growing threats to freedom of information and freedom of expression. FOI and FOE are even more important than economic policies, because without them, the economy is guaranteed to fail.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    For many of us, the Conservative Party is not conservative enough. There is too little difference between a (very discredited) Labour Government, and the few promises that Mr Cameron is making.

    There are also many of for whom voting is pointless. "My" local MP (sic) is in a safe Conservative seat, and my vote is effectively irrelevent.

    Perhaps the Tory message is aimed at target swing seats; intended only for their ears and cunning pitched. However, it seems more likely that Mr Cameron just doesn't want to commit to anything. The last cast iron commitment he made eventually lost him votes….

  3. Donna W
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    It might help if Cameron, when he goes into interviews with the likes of Jeff Randall, has done a bit of prep so he knows where the Government is currently spending the 72 billion described as 'Others' in Treasury documents.

    I find it completely amazing that the man who has destroyed the UK economy even more completely than Callaghan and Healey is getting away with claiming that he is the man to fix it. The Tories are failing on this key battleground.

    Also – whenever the Ashcroft question crops up, why on earth doesn't EVERY Tory spokesman/woman immediately refer to Lord Paul – the non-Dom Labour donor. Instead they go on the defensive every time. Labour attack the Tories at every opportunity and at the moment, Cameron seems prepared to just soak it up and not fightback. No wonder your polls are down.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Why doesn't Ashcroft just explain what the situation is? Then ask what Lord Paul is up to?

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        backofanenvelope

        Yes, So simple isn't it.

        • APL
          Posted February 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          backofanenvelope: "So simple isn't it."

          You would think so, but then you need to factor in the BBC.

          Cameron really, really needs to get a grip (preferably around its license fee) on the BBC and squeeze.

  4. Citizen Responsible
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    JR “There needs to be more debate and more enlightenment for the public…If the Conservatives are to seal the deal they need to reinforce their messages that we are in a serious mess and they can show us a way out of it.”

    Goran Persson, Sweden’s Finance Minister in the 1990’s, was interviewed on Radio 4’s PM last week. He took office when Sweden’s deficit was more than 12% of GDP and had to make massive cuts to the country’s budgets. His government became unpopular when the cuts hit people’s wallets but they managed to win a second and third term in office.

    His advice was – be honest about the financial situation, communicate well, explain the pain, and distribute the pain with taxes as well as cuts. He said the people came to realise they had to contribute to restore the public finances.

  5. waramess
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    You are right of course, it all comes down to trust, Can we trust Gordon Brown to look after our interests having spent the past twelve years looking after his own at our expense and do we trust Cameron and Osborne to manage the economy after demonstrating quite clearly over the past year that they have not got a clue.

    Neither assumption might be correct but perceptions are far greater movers of opinion than fact, just look at climate change.

    People don't have to be expert in any field to just listen and form judgments and normally those judgments are pretty spot on.

    Many will vote for Cameron because of the fear of another four years of Brown, which fear gave rise to Camerons fortunes after the resignation of Blair.

    Others will vote for neither and the turnout will again be low; probably lower than past elections.

    The only way you can win votes is through trust. Nothing else and if a low turnout prevails it indicates that there is not much trust around

  6. david
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Well looking at the latest polls by sacking Cameron and Osborne

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    A shrewd analysis no doubt influenced to a degree by contributions to this blog. So far I think it is fair to say that the Conservatives have taken their "core" vote for granted and at times with some contempt. The economy is the dominant issue. We are in a dreadful mess but your party has failed to express clearly how they would deal with it and their determination to so do. There have been too many contradictions and at times an apparent lack of understanding of where and how all the taxes and borrowings are spent. If the Conservatives are not the natural party of sound money and economic competence I see no point in voting for them as they have adopted policies in too many other areas with which I disagree. In addition, I repeat that there are too many in the shadow cabinet who don't seem up to the job.
    Time is fast running out to "seal the deal"!

  8. Norman
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    'If the Conservatives are to seal the deal they need to reinforce their messages that we are in a serious mess and they can show us a way out of it.'

    I'm looking forward to the Conservative Party leadership explaining the way out of it as you state above. This is the key issue for many. So far we have had the idea floated of swingeing cuts in an emergency budget, no cuts, some cuts, and the impression one is left with is that we should all cross our fingers and hope things turn out all right on the night.

    Not exactly a crystal clear message to your membership and core voters so imagine how independent voters feel.

    I can't help but feel (but I must be wrong as only a few like yourself are putting this idea forward) that instead of flip-flopping on whether or not we need swingeing cuts in public services we should be encouraging investment through a radical tax cutting policy would have your core voters talking about the Party in positive terms and inspire confidence in independents to back the Conservatives.

    That's all water under the bridge now though, how are the leadership going to go forward in the next few weeks? The 'let's not say anything controversial' policy of the last few weeks certainly isn't bearing fruit.

  9. Derek Duncan
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I like the "seal the deal" and "steal the deal" juxtaposition in your two final sentences!

    Now I can work out which side you're on!

  10. Matt
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Mr Cameron isn’t pointing to a credible way that a future Conservative government can reduce the deficit this is being picked up by the country.

    In many areas he is incredibly vague and, in my view, ludicrously ring fences the NHS and overseas aid from cuts. (Can anyone really believe that there isn’t money to be saved in the NHS after a un reformed system has been fed vast resources foie gras by Labour?)

    People can sense that, either isn’t sure what to do about the deficit, or that he does have a blueprint but isn’t forthcoming.
    It’s a tightrope, he doesn’t want to frighten the horses and give ammunition to Labour, but hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs have sprung up under Labour and a huge part of the deficit must “Walk on two legs” yet Mr Cameron is almost silent on this point. He should be more bold.

    If the Conservative position is vague, then Labour’s is enveloped in a thick fog. They have given no indication as to how they will half the deficit – their approach is to try and win the election and hope something turns up.

    Mr Cameron’s approach of trying to be “All things” is maybe riskier than setting out tough public spending proposals.

    Labour can at least take their vote for granted in the North east of England and Scotland. I don’t think the Conservatives have the same luxury of such large bedrock areas.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      I very much agree with your second paragraph. Government to government foreign aid benefits neither donor nor recipient. "Paying yourself for your own exports" and "The insolvent giving to the insolvent" are two of the kinder descriptions given to it. Professor PT Bauer and Enoch Powell did an excellent demolition job on the benefits of foreign aid in the sixties. More recently (1989 revised 1991), Graham Hancock, an ex World Bank insider, wrote "Lords of Poverty". The sub-title on the front cover is 'The freewheeling lifestyles, power, prestige and corruption of the multibillion dollar aid business'.

      Regarding the NHS, do we need regional health boards at all? I do wish that John Redwood would address this issue.

      A second NHS item is the poor value for money that we now get from doctors. There is no harm at all in junior hospital doctors working 72 hours a week. They have a lot to learn, they learn from experience and because they are young they can hack it. We should tell the EU to take a running jump. GP salaries are higher than the law of supply and demand dictates. Also, GP practices should be responsible for out of normal hours services; by all means let them sub-contract, but they should be responsible for the quality of the work of the sub-contractors.

      • Matt
        Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, aid to Africa hasn’t been a success story, but still it rumbles on.

        Much of it, I suspect, ending up beneath the streets of Zurich, or used to bolster Mercedes sales.

        India has an active space programme, launching satellites to the Moon and is a nuclear power. They receive aid.

        GP’s I know couldn’t believe their luck and ran rings around John Reid and his staff in their negotiations.

        Yet we are told that no savings can be made here, this at a time when over 20% of our taxes will go on interest payments!

        It’s difficult to see where Mr Cameron is coming from, other than “I will cut the deficit more than Labour” providing scant evidence that he has a plan.

  11. Stewart Knight
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    How do you win an election?

    Well, Mandelson and Campbell have demonstrated it perfectly over the past few days by killing the story of how Brown is a(an alleged-ed) bully and making him a victim. Also, Cameron has demonstrated how to lose and election by being soft and not fighting on Mandelsons terms, or at the very least allowing to dictate to the Tories how they will fight.

    It seems incredible, but Cameron just might be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  12. English Pensioner
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Ho do you win an election?
    Well a good start would be to give the electorate some idea of the party’s policies; so far all I seen to hear is spin and waffle!. Yes, there are a few outspoken Tories who tell us what they would do, but there is no indication that the leadership have similar views.
    The new views on the ‘Post-Bureaucratic Age’ leave me unmoved. In practice they don’t seem to mean less bureaucracy, just moving it elsewhere so that it becomes even less accountable. The Tories did this before when they were in power, simply moved work from the Civil Service to Agencies and Authorities which reduced the number of Civil Servants but actually increased the number of bureaucrats.
    I am familiar with the scenario as I was one of those who was moved from the Civil Service to an Authority. It resulted in a net increase in staff overall, because the “sponsoring department” then had to have a section to liaise with the Authority whilst the Authority also gained a board and a section to liaise with the civil service.
    Of course Ministers like this, as they can avoid the blame for anything these Agencies do whilst still maintaining control and justifying an ever bigger budget!

    The Tories might also try explaining the difference to the electorate between the government deficit and the National debt, as many seem to think they are different names for the same thing, failing to understand that the deficit is the amount by which the government overspends each year and thus adds to the National Debt. Promises to reduce the deficit do nothing to reduce the debt, but I’ve heard people say that the government has promised to reduce the deficit, so all will be well.

    • Naomi Muse
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Agree with the thoughts on the PBA, for it can all go online and be cloud computed completely losing any chance of accountability. Raising this kind of subject at this point will only make people think that politicians are chasing yet another red herring.

      That said, I have written several books on the use of the internet etc going back to 1996 when many folks had not seen it so I'm not a technophobe..

      The problems with the department that actually does the work being further from the ministry and ministers is that it gets more and more difficult to administer and to have fully accounted.

      Accountability is enough of a problem when ministries have files on which is stamped 'not to be seen by auditors' and other such legends, which indicate deliberate avoidance of full accountability.

      Reining in ministries and agencies of all sorts to enable proper accountability is essential.

      As to the government deficit, I suspect that if most people thought that this was not the same as the National Debt they would be horrified.

  13. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    If the Conservatives are to seal the deal they need to reinforce their messages that we are in a serious mess and they can show us a way out of it. If Labour is to steal the deal they need to explain how they can avoid going the way of Ireland and Greece, and how they are going to get some balance back into a very lop sided and public sector heavy economy.

    I agree entirelu.

    Added to which, the fact that the Tories seem to be unable to land sustained punches on the current administration could also lead one to conclude that they do not have the strength of character to turn around all the mistakes made by Bliar and Brown

  14. Lola
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    "It's the economy, stupid" was true but not all true. In fact the whole of the UK is 'an economy'. The economy is not separate from public services or minorities. It is everything. It is just another word for human action. Cannot someone stress this, rather than differentiate it? Inn other words focusing on the 'economy' is focusing on making everyone wealtheir, especially less well off and those using 'public services'.

  15. Ian Jones
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Labour is following the Liberal Democrat policy of both having your cake and eating it. Labour say they can cut by cutting spending on the rich but keep spending more on the rest thus the middle classes are fooled into thinking they are not included in the rich category……

    We will only find out on election night if people actually fall for it.

  16. Slightly Green Conse
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I shall vote Conservative again (although it won't count in my Labour dominated constituency), as I have done since the days of Mrs. T. It will be a reluctant vote though, as although I am a natural Conservative, especially on the economy, I'm not particularly impressed with the current front bench. I would be a lot more enthusiastic if you, John, were Shadow Chancellor rather than the present incumbent; I admit to in the past having misgivings about you, but having read your blog for a few weeks now, you are spot on about the economy every time.

  17. DBC Reed
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Keep hammering the deficit issue and the Conservatives will lose the election:their poll lead is slipping the more the differences on the deficit become explicit.They might have a chance with a hung parliament if they can draft in Cable (or reel in the Cable).At the moment the voters are faced by nasty cuts administered by
    Osborne ,who cannot shake off his Bullingdon wastrel background, or slower more regretful cuts made by the more reliable looking Brown/Darling duo.Also not all the private sector wants the public sector impoverished; there's plenty of businesses that rely on contracts with the public sector.Equalising the impoverishment doubles it.

    • Michael Lewis
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      The country can't afford this ponzi economics anymore! Businesses can't expect handouts from the state, directly or indirectly. That's why we have a colossal national debt.

      • Mucker
        Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink

        Agreed, everyone worries about the jobs lost. HEard of public sector crowding out?

  18. alan jutson
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    John

    Would certainly agree that the economy usually is the battleground for the election, and this time it should be no different, BUT this time I believe it is complicated by other factors:

    Labour have over the last 13 years created a huge number of people who now rely upon the State for financial support. Those people are unlikely to support a Party who will be more likely to cut such support, than one which says (although it may not) it will continue.

    Have totally blurred the Huge rises in taxation with clever but misleading statements. Such statements which seem to have hoodwinked the media.

    Have successfully labeled the Conservative Party and its supporters as still representing the advantaged, even if this is not the case.

    Have successfully hidden a gross amount of financial waste, which they called investment in both Education and the HNS, which has produced very little performance improvement.

    In short Labour have got away with it because of the lack of spirited opposition from all other Party's over the last few years, who have failed to expose these shortcomings.

    The wait and see tactics by the opposition in the expectation that Labour will self destruct has failed.

    Who would have thought that a Government who took us into war on a lie, is fighting another on a budget, who's Regulations have led to the self destruction of our Banking system, who have overseen the biggest National Debt in our history, who have taxed our Pension schemes, who have encouraged unwanted and increased immigration for Party political advantage, would even stand a chance of being voted into power again.

    I do not now pretend to have the solution or the answers for the opposition, to what will now be probably the most important election in my lifetime, but if they had been seen to have opposed many of this Governments actions for many years, then we may not be in such a close call situation that we appear to be now.

    As it is, the Government has failed the people, and so for years has the Opposition.

    If Labour win again with Brown in control, I genuinly fear for the future of this Country, and for those who want some control over their own lives, without increasing State interference.

  19. Derek Buxton
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    "Our civic duty to vote", that's a questionable statement to start with. We have been betrayed by all main parties since the unlamented Heath, with the unusual period of sense on one occasion. The "right to vote" also includes the right to with-hold the vote. This is where the whole house of cards collapses, no one can demand our vote, they can only ask politely and lay out their ideas for the future. We can then decide whether to loan them the vote, loan it to someone else or with-hold it altogether. Your piece suggests that MPs have the right to our vote, but no, they are our "representatives" in Parliament. To this we owe the disaster that is our Country, we are NOT the servants of the elite, they are supposed to serve us, the people. What is the difference between the lib/lab/con parties, so slim as to be negligeable and we are expected to vote for one of them?

  20. Michael Lewis
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    You win by not actively going out and throwing the game. Lets face it, it is a comment that belongs in the inbox of G. Osborne esquire.

  21. Mike Fowle
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Wish you were shadow chancellor, John. You analysed what Brown had got wrong with his "independence" of the Bank of England several years before Saint Vince and others told us what had gone wrong

  22. Neil Craig
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    In Clinton's charmless phrase "Its the economy stupid". That Labour have any chance after the current mess shows how much Cameron has failed on the economy.

    I doubt if there are many "centrist" floating voters to be got since there really is no "extremism" to rail against (unl;ess believing we are all going to fry &* drown unless we stop using fire counts as extreme). Most elections arec won by getting your core voters out & with the turnout likely to be below the normal 60% that is clearly enough to swing most constituencies.

    I also doubt if the single issue fanatics matter much. Mostly they are understandably loud on their issue but not only are there fewer of them but mostly have already made up their minds. How many watermelon Green activists are actually going to vote Tory because of Cameron. I suspect it is about the same number who will switch to the BNP because they are the only party to have publicly denounced KLA/NATO police dissecting living people.

    To win the Conservatives have to convince the people that they can & WILL, with a real cutback in the 200bn increase, after inflation, that Labour have made in parasitic state spending, get the economy right. And that Labour are taking us to the precipice. The Conservatives will not deserve to win & probably will not if they stick to soft soap. The electorate are not stupid & can be told the truth.

  23. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    John, you ask "Do traditional Labour and Conservative voters mean it when they say they might vote for a fringe party that cannot win a single seat….?" The answer depends, at least for me, on what you consider to be important.

    You can be sure that every party will claim that the votes it has received are an endorsement for ALL its policies. You may like some of a party's policies, but you might not like them all. And if at least one of the policies you do not like is of such paramount importance that you are not prepared to have your vote counted in favour of something you are totally against, then you will not vote for that party. The fact that your vote may achieve nothing in terms of which candidate is elected is irrelevant – it is a matter of principle. You hope that there is enough like minded people such that the total number of votes cast is large enough to make an impact, and through that impact you can collectively influence future directions.

    The elephant in the Conservative party room whose name they dare not speak is, of course, the EU.

    It has often been queried in replies to this Blog as to why the Conservatives do not take a far more eurosceptic approach to the EU, for by so doing they would receive much greater support. I too wonder. The only thing I can think of is "to follow the money".

  24. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    We need to do some serious negative campigning, a demolition job on labour. As far as I can tell, Labour proposes to reduce the fiscal deficit only by 50% during the life of the next parliament. Since there is no detail in their plans to cut public expenditure, I surmise that their actions will consist of axing capital expenditure and raising taxes, leaving current expenditure and the public sector gravy train largely untouched. If you bear in mind that we are commited to Olympics expenditure and to Crossrail, that means even less available for other projects. All told, Labour's policies would be disasterous for the country because it would stagnate.

    I would not normally recommend this, but I think that some of our manifesto should be devoted to a demolition job on future Labour actions. How about including a simple column chart showing how debt interest is set to rise dramatically as a proportion of total public expenditure, giving even less value for money?

    What should the title of our manifesto be? It is very tempting to borrow a line from a popular song of a few decades ago:

    "Gordon is a moron"

    If we want to be more constructive, a rerun of Mr Churchill's slogan would be in order, provided that the content lived up to the title:

    "Set the people free"

  25. Kevin Peat
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    'It has always been the case that parties have tended to try to woo the floaters “in the middle” of politics'

    This is why the vast majority feel disenfranchised and why democracy has failed in Britain. We watch from the sidelines in dismay as our values and sensibilities are ridden roughshod over.

    Where is 'the middle of politics' exactly ? Way over to the left in actuality.

    I wish there were a 'none of the above' option on the ballot paper. Thus parliamentarians would see that the public are far from apathetic and would have empirical data to show how abandoned we feel.

  26. pipesmoker
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    This one means what he says having waited since the1960's for a free and fair vote on this country's membership of the Common Market/EEC/EU. Edward Heath was the first to promise he would not join without the consent of the public and parliament.

    Ken Clarke's visit to Barrosso says it all, I would vote for you, I would vote for Sir Ivan Lawrence were he still my MP but the prospective Conservative candidate will not even answer my emails so sorry this time I will abstain.

    • Amanda
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      I too have a Conservative PPC who will not answer emails – too busy. He's too busy to represent his potential constituents, even though he is trying to win a Labour marginal !! However, I suspect subjects such as

      Immigration
      The EU
      Climate Change

      are just too 'political' for him. He's a reasonable local councillor, but he's no MP.

      The Conservatives could do better than to start showing through their candidates that they mean it when they talk about local democracy and representation. The 'goings on' over 'politically correct lists', and forcing areas to accept Cameron approved candidates, just prove they dont' mean it. This is another autocracy, it's not democracy. Why should I vote for it? At the beginning of the year I was going to vote Conservative, holding my nose very gently. Now I'm much more of a mind to protest vote UKIP or BNP. And I think the latter might be the biggest mud I can fling at a rotten 'ruling class'.

  27. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    certainly not going to win with a performance like that on the Daily Politics, and it wasn't as if Brillo was giving you a hard time

    Time to have a conflab with DC and actually hammer out the information that you can share

  28. Paul from MK UK
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    How do you win an election?

    By keeping one's integrity and remaining credible with the electorate. In short, by being honourable.

    If you had asked, “how do you lose an election?” I would have said "by promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and then not honouring it".

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted February 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      This is why the Tories are stalled at 40%. It doesn't matter whether you are for or against the EU – a promise is a promise.

  29. David Belchamber
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    One thing is very important; it would seem that the next intake of conservative MPs will be very talented, as well as being much more diverse (and not tainted by the expenses' scandal).

    Can either Labour or the Lib Dems claim the same?

    However, it would be good to bring them in on the back of a working majority, so a few things are needed to improve our presentation and tidy up some loose ends before the election is announced.

    * Phillip Hammond should front as much as possible on the economy.
    * Lord Ashcroft's tax status should be revealed asap.
    * a much more positive line should be taken on the EU.
    * there should be a rethink on grammar schools; either abolish them all (because they are too successful and therefore elitist) or accept that, as in France and Germany, they give able children the type of education they need and let us have one in every town. This should not conflict with Michael Gove's excellent work.
    * above all, all MPs need a briefing note on (a) ways in which Brown harmed the economy and (b) what measures the conservatives are going to take to rectify Brown's mistakes.

  30. Naomi Muse
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    How to win an election?

    Firstly, how to win the electorate.

    Party politics seems to be getting in the way of clarity rather than giving it.

    There are policies of which you spoke on The Daily Politics, but they are not clearly and consistently put.

    Tories generally seem to be holding their punches and letting Labour have a go at prospective Tory policies rather than having a go at the current Labour policies and the mess they have got us all in.

    The banks are hit but the regulators did a duff job too so hitting Broon about that at every opportunity will go home with the electorate.

    This time there seems to be so much introspective party political posturing which has no audience outside the Westminster Village – Why do they do that when the electorate want clear concise policies and outline plans for the future.

    On fiscal plans, addressing the deficit is essential but having one set of economists one weekend stating that one party is right, and another set of economists the next weekend stating that the other main party is right, is a sheer waste of time and turns the electorate to apathy. So many of these economists were wrong about the credit crunch and aftermath. Polarising the arguments that one is right and one is wrong does not help at all, for a middle ground of some sort is probably the correct path.

    Economics is not an exact science but a broad set of principles to apply to events, and even then it can be wrong. Quoting economists, bankers, regulators and politicians won't warm the electorate at all.

    A pied piper who makes sense and boxes the politicians ears is what the electorate want.

    Having been frightened to death by the promise of no more boom and bust, never ending credit and living on credit coming to such an abrupt end, followed by the MPs expenses debacle which rumbles on, and lack of trust, perceived and real, clarity and integrity combined with overt common sense is the way to win the election.

    Tory tactics currently are not working and seem to be muddying the water.

  31. Freeborn John
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s too late for the Conservatives to ‘seal the deal’ now. The impression of Cameron as a politician without any value other than the pursuit of power has been burnt into the national consciousness already, and won’t be undone in 80 days.

    The best case scenario now is a hung parliament followed by another election in October or 2011, with a beefed-up Conservative policy to regain real power from Brussels. It’s well over 20 years since i voted Conservative now. I won’t vote for Labour or the LibDems this time (because of the lies in their 2005 manifestoes about a referendum on the EU Constitution) but I won’t be voting for the party of Maastricht either. For the first time in a general election i will vote UKIP. You can call it a wasted vote as often as you want, but a vote for a Conservative government not prepared to use a 5-year parliamentary majority to demand real power back from Brussels is the biggest waste of all.

  32. A Griffin
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Keep the message simple, friendly and easy to understand. Explain where state money comes from and what will happen to people's daily lives if we get a sovereign debt crisis. Offer some hope of rescue from all this, to avoid apathy and inertia. You have got to sell fiscal continence to people who have lived off credit! The great detail of ideas in policy is facinating to me but will be a big turn off to those who just want a job to earn the shopping. A lot of people live in the short term and don't want to look at what's coming. There must be a triumph of hope(Conservative) over fear(labour). I think the Conservative party website is poor, I can't find out things from it easily. It's all ideas and concepts, there needs to be clarity and some simple practical message to lead on. Imagine you are a young student in debt wondering whether to risk changing from a government that you have grown up with, and trying to find a clear simple message of what the party stands for and will do from the website. It just isn't there. Please go on TV. and radio as much as possible as you are crystal clear on the strategic picture and the message has to be got across to gain traction. It is the economy election and that is about money and jobs. The other big one is the moral backlash (greed, trust, honesty etc.) and here I think the politicians and media havn't realised how far the public have moved forward.The boom was decadent, the bust dishonest, the mend has to be decent or failing that rebellious. I wonder what a middle class riot looks like!

  33. gac
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    How do you win the election?

    1. Sack the focus groups who, like consultants, learn to tell you what you want to hear.

    2. When asked about Ashcroft, hammer on about Lord Paul et al and ab nauseum.

    3. Regardless of what questions are asked about policy etc bang on about 13 years of labour mis-rule, rant about them having no policies to reduce the deficit to manageable proportions. Refuse to be deviated from this.

    4. Always emphasise the difference between the deficit and debt. Go on and onand on about it because Labour are getting away with allowing the two to be the same in the minds of the populace. Many people think that Labour will have halved 'both' in 4 years so doing it more quickly dies not positively resonate.

    5 Always add the PFI debt to the debt figure.

    6. Stop wasting our money on overseas despots under the banner of Thirld World Aid. We are no longer a wealthy Nation.

    7. Promise to get more bang for our EU buck, which includes our massive trade imbalance. When asked, as you will, what if the EU says NO, easy – say we shall stop giving them our money.

    8. Stop trying to win the Election – make Labour lose it – big time!

    9. Learn from Labour – get all the front and back bench MPs on the same message!

    10. Sack the focus groups – just in case they have snuck back in.

  34. adam
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    There is no way i am voting for any party that is associated with Philip Blond

  35. hatfield girl
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    How to win an election? Until an election is called there is no point wasting anything on Labour's barren future. Once called then every opportunity and its exploitation opens out for discussion.

  36. Bob
    Posted February 23, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I want to see an end to the two party system, which is why I support UKIP.

    I want to see the Grammar School System re-established, and the flat tax system introduced. I want to see the tax workers (HMR&C, tax accountants and IFAs) released to find productive and worthwhile work instead of spending their time trying to outwit each other over the interpretation of our bloated and over complicated tax legislation. If these people were re-trained we would have no need to poach medical staff from poor countries to staff the NHS.

    The most important thing is that we regain our independence, and freedom to rebuild our economy including manufacturing, farming, fisheries etc.; to my regret the modern “green and liberal” Tories are just not signed up to this objective.

    Labour as always will try to create division, envy and resentment to achieve their aims, but I think that their traditional followers have seen what sudden mass immigration has done to their job, housing and educational prospects and will finally begin to think for themselves instead of blindly following their old habits which may result in a boost to the smaller parties who do not currently have any representation in Parliament.

    The perceived weakness of the Labour and Tory’s respective positions may embolden people to take a risk for once and vote for real change.

    I would urge everyone to vote, especially for the small parties and independents, even if it only allows them to keep their deposits it will serve to encourage new blood into politics and eventually clear out the old dinosaurs.

  37. Malcolm
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    David Cameron needs to remember that the most successful leaders are those who are not afraid to surround themselves with other equally strong and successful people. He needs to look beyond the current circle that surrounds him and bring into the Shadow Cabinet some heavyweights with proven political experience. Can the Conservative Party really afford not to use the talents of people like Michael Howard and David Davis. This may mean having to do "deals" but then that's what politics surely is about and the successful politician is the one who is best able to negotiate the course. Mr Cameron needs to add some "beef" to his team and soon.

  38. mad tony
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Being a lifelong and now disillusioned Labour supporter, I do not know to who vote for. If the election had been held 3 months ago I would vote Tory but now….
    Here are my concerns: 1) Ed Balls may become chancellor – I actually think Darling is doing a good job. How would you handle the fact that your predecessor and now your boss did a bad job! ; 2) The agressive nasty New Labour leadership; 3) The Tories taking too long for their messages to be clear (eg P Hammond saying have the Bank of England manage the bad banks until a new owner / resolution comes along now makes sense but it took far too long for me to understand it and would have stopped Lloyds failing; 4) Gordon Brown's massive list of statistics telling me I should be well off…I've worked only 11 days in 27 months…and no benefits for 16 months and counting. 5) Apathy about everything is popular. 6) Targets matter but they don't when things go wrong! 7) I don't like my current Labour MP – too smug and enjoying the gravy train too much.
    In short, I don't know what to do!

    • alan jutson
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Mad Tony

      "In short I do not know what to do".

      Clearly you are suffering as many of us, and or some of our family members and friends are at the moment.

      I would suggest you at least vote for somone. Just to withold your vote means you are prepared to simply accept what others vote for, without protest.

      Do you think that Labour after 13 years of lies and manipulation, are going to change their ways in the next five years. NO

      Do you think that the Conservatives, who have failed up to now, to come forward with a sensible and clear policy mandate will be better. LET US HOPE SO.

      Do you belive that the Liberals offer any sort of a solution. VERY UNLIKELY

      If you do not like your own existing MP or any of the main Party's then do not vote for them. Vote for someone who does appeal to you who is standing in your Constituantcy, they are after all supposed to be representing you.

      The only way we are all going to get out of the mess we (the Country) are in, is to get business growing by giving them incentives (less tax) to expand so that the financial risk of running a business is worthwhile, which in turn should produce more employment.

      I agree that the present system weighs heavily in favour of the larger Party's, and therefore some people vote on a tactical basis, but do not belive that not voting for one of the major Party's is a wasted vote. A wasted vote is when you do not vote at all.

  39. Neil Craig
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    We here are all political anoraks who will vote but for every vote that goes to "a small party that can't win anyway" my guess is about 5 will just stay home. Of these 3 would be Tory, 1 labour, 1 LibDim. So basically the Tories are losing 3 more votes than Labour (including the 1 who actually comes out & votes UKIP). If UKIP get 2.5% that is a 7.5% swing against them – certainly enough to stop them winning & perhaps enough to make labour the biggest party.

    That is what Cameron has lost by convincing eurosceptics, free marketeers & if I may say so the sort of people who think John Redwood's sheer intellectual economic competence should be on the front benches, that the party doesn't want them.

  40. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    If you prioritise the (public) sector that has seen a decline in productivity during Labour's tenure, at the expense of the (private) sector that has seen increased productivity, you can't expect much economic growth unless the public sector is reformed.

    Put simply, they have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs.

    Anyway, how do you define productivity in the public sector? Take the NHS, for example. Does it show higher productivity if there are more patient treatments at hospitals and GP surgeries, or is higher productivity indicated only by an increase in overall life expectancy? Because the public sector does not in general respond to market forces or use the price mechanism, defining a measure of productivity is intrinsically difficult.

  41. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, this latest effort was intended to be a response to "Easy money, tight money". Please transfer.

  42. JohnRS
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I have voted in every election available to me since I became an adult (rather more years than I care to contemplate). In all of those I've voted for the Conservative Party at national and local level.

    However in this election I dont think I can see the Conservative Party – despite me living in a safe seat with an MP who has a massive majority in their name. The policies being announced don't seem to be conservative at all. If I mail my MP with my concerns all I get is cut'n'paste rubbish taken from some Central Office database somewhere.

    Every day I see so-called Conservatives mouthing spinelessly acquiesent leftist positions on every major topic…defence, tax, benefits, education, health, EU, liberty, surveillance, the environment, energy etc etc. All centrally controlled, all just increasing the power of the state. Nothing at all on personal responsibility and self-reliance. No reward for personal endeavour.

    How to win an election?

    You could start by giving me recognisably conservative policies!!

    • Bob
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      I wish I had said that.
      Well articulated – hear hear!

    • APL
      Posted March 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      JohnRS: "Every day I see so-called Conservatives mouthing spinelessly acquiesent leftist positions on .."

      Agreed and why I refuse to vote Tory.

      It might seem odd to CCO, but if I propose to vote Tory, I expect to get Tory 'right of centre' policies.

      I want to hear from a Tory party which intends to roll back the Labour 'reforms' of the last fifteen years and them many of the reforms of the Labour party in the sixties too.

      I want to hear from a Tory party which intends to roll back the size of the State, with some targets we can measure them by.

      None of these thing are on offer from Slick Daves Tory party.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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