The Tories and Change

[I started the blog post earlier in the week but didn't get time to finish it. The announcement of the "Vote for Change" message has spurred me on to retrieve it from the bin]

James Forsyth’s fascinating piece about the Tory ‘dead shark’ dilemma confirms to me that what we are witnessing is not, as some commentators would have us believe, a natural tightening in the polls before an election.

It’s more significant. It’s the consequence of short-termism, compromise and a failure to embed change in the Conservative Party.

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson rediscovered social democracy for Labour. They struggled and won many battles in order to achieve this.

David Cameron has failed to redefine his party. He compromised with his right wing instead of taking them on. The nearer we are to the election, the more it shows.

If you look at the Times today, you can see where Conservative attempts to market the party as new and fresh comes unstuck when you look at the data. One in 16 new Tory candidates are related to past or present Tory MPs! Half of them were recruited from within the party machine, the lobbying industry, The City or the Bar.

Not for the first time in recent months, the media are behind the British Public in their thinking. The Sun front page accusing Gordon Brown of being the “Prime Monster” received almost universal ridicule in the thousands of conversations taking place in the social media space. Sure, the Tories score short-term hits with well-spun news pieces but they’re not telling the whole story. And voters sense this.

The truth is, people know that David Cameron failed to face down the Conservative right. A majority of the electorate may not be enamoured by the European Union but they know that the Tory position is so illogical that they look ridiculous in Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

And more importantly, they know that the Tories were all over the place on the economy. If you need reminding of their inconsistent position, here’s the Sun promoting George Osborne condemning the nationalisation of Bradford and Bingley.

They’ve not changed themselves enough and near an election, people are seeing this. I can’t find the story from this week that reflected the poll showing that a third of people say that they don’t know what the Tories stand for but it’s a dramatic statistic.

So  I think to open up an election with the message “Vote for Change” is extraordinarily naive. A third of voters don’t know what change they’ll be voting for. Worse, many people still think they offer the wrong kind of change. It’s a complacent message. It builds on the Tories’ hubristic belief that the election was gifted them last year. It lacks hope and optimism. It’s devoid of a future offer. They’ll regret it.

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