Published on 12 May 2015

Cameron reaches out to the shy – or self-loathing – Tories

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron's holds his first cabinet meeting after winning the general election at 10 Downing Street, in Westminster, London

I’m not sure whether blue-collar workers do a lot of desk banging when they welcome people into the room, but that’s how Tory ministers decided to welcome David Cameron into the Cabinet room for his mission statement to serve working people.

Mr Cameron said the Tories would become “the real party of working people.” He said, slightly dismissively, that some commentators called it “blue-collar Conservatism” – he might be interested to know some of those “commentators” work at the same address as him and brief the term out.

This was David Cameron trying to seize the advantage and make a land grab on Tory voters who were reluctant, “shy” or perhaps even profoundly uncomfortable with their voting choice.

Talking to pundits, failed and successful candidates and, yes, pollsters over the last few days, I come away with the strong impression that the factor that got the Tory vote up to majority status included (a component, not the whole answer) a sudden and largely undetected shift of people who’d voted Labour in 2010 (and probably in every previous election they’d been allowed to vote in).

These voters you might classify as not “shy” but “self-loathing” Tories. Some will be so ill at ease with their decision that they may never tell their children.

I’m not sure how much they were part of some marginal constituency strategies but the Tory hired guns, Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina, have always thought them potential supporters.

When he first took over the Tory campaign, Lynton Crosby said the Tories in 2010 had managed to let vast potential support slip between their fingers. With a proper campaign in 2010, Mr Crosby told Tory chiefs, they might have got to the high 300s in MPs.

The other person at the heart of the Tory  machine who thought there was more potential support out there than most would’ve thought was Jim Messina, the former Obama aide who masterminded the data analytics that crunched the Tories to victory.

Mr Messina, arguably a better ex-Obama hire than David Axelrod in the circumstances, predicted 319 Tory MPs on the eve of the election.

His approach, now even more retailable than ever, is not to look too hard at headline voting intention but instead at analysis of what drives voters.

In the Obama 2012 campaign, Mr Messina claimed a 97 per cent successful prediction rate, telling you who will be in your party’s support column by asking a whole load of questions that don’t include party preference.

Today’s Cabinet address from the PM is about trying to hold on to this electoral windfall. The speed and unpredictability with which many voters ran to one end of the boat at short notice and undetected by many polls highlights the trickiness of that task.

(Since I posted this an interesting post-election interview with Jim Messina has been published here. And you can read some more about Mr Messina’s approach here.)

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4 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    Well, the blame-laying lying farce is over.

    The tories can no longer blame everybody else except themselves and – especially – the transnational bankers for what they are about to inflict on this country and its most vulnerable citizens.

    They’re on their own. From here on in they’re the sole guilty parties, as they always have been. No amount of disgusting propaganda and lies will stop the inevitable flow of history. We have been here before.

    Last time it took two world wars and mass poverty and misery before political consciousness rose sufficiently to flush them and their evil socioeconomics out to sea. What will it take this time?

    The usual distractions are war and demonising of hate figures. You know, as per George Orwell and “1984.” So fasten your family seat belts everybody. The remnants of democracy are in real danger.

    In short, they have run out of alternatives to the usual. Now even the most ignorant cannot avoid the logical conclusion.

    But what terrible damage will be done to decency and fairness in the meantime!

  2. Andrew Dundas says:

    Two Ed Miliband speeches gave victory to the Tories. His leadership launch speech that gate-crashed a Fabian Society meeting was a study in naivety: he claimed to have only ‘discovered’ how desperate poverty is, after he’d been elected as MP for Doncaster. Ed’s ‘acceptance’ leadership speech in which he famously appologised for the previous Labour Government’s successes. Labour did not recovered from those idiotic remarks, and has now paid an high price for Ed’s lack of understanding of economics.
    The only excuse Labour can offer is that neither a majority of Members of the Labour Party, nor its MPs & MEPs voted for Ed. They voted for the only viable alternative: Ed’s older brother David. [I liked Diane Abbott’s approach, but she lacks leadership qualities. So I voted for David].
    The trade unions who voted Ed into the leadership have most of their membership activists in the public sector. It’s inevitable that Ed committed himself to their public sector interests, and ahead of those who are Labour Party supporters. In praise of Ed, I can suggest that breaking with those TU votes has been his greatest advance. It makes it possible for the new leader to concentrate on addressing the aspirations of working people and their children and the vital pensioner contingent. Moreover, Labour’s publicity materials reflects that naivety and has to change too.
    However, voter turnout was low because very many Labour voters simply didn’t vote. [Rather like the mass abstentions of the Tory voters in 1997 and 2001 elections; some of them voted Lib-Dem as an alternative to not voting at all].
    People will vote Labour if its leadership once again addresses their political concerns about inequality and unfairnesses. Just like absent Tory voters eventually returned to their ‘normal’ voting preference in 2010.

  3. anon says:

    there is an interesting truth regarding Conservatives and their relationship with people in Government. at least at local level you will often hear that the people local government officers get on best with are conservatives as opposed to people from other parties.

    I guess if you have made your way up the ladder a bit the culture is one of working together to solve a problem rather than other approaches which generate perhaps less light,

    maybe that is what the Prime Minister is reaching out for? the sort of people we need to come to the fore?

    by the way taxing the so called rich is ok except that some people earn their money in easier ways or ways less useful to the community.

    say you apply the mantra of taxing people more heavily and a medical person at the top of the profession earns the same as say a used car salesman, estate agent etc, is it really fair to tax someone -who helps society so much- at the same rate as those who arguably -do not ?

  4. Colin Kerr says:

    Says it all about the cynicism at the heart of current politics -Messina an American who ‘got Obama in’ has now got Cameron in and is lining up Boris. Voters are a commodity like any other to be bought and sold. There was more honour in good old fashioned electoral bribery.At least it was transparent. Now our leaders’ messages are packaged by men from afar without any allegiance to these islands and the electorate massaged accordingly. Then the leader who wins claims a great personal victory. What is this? Democracy? Would you call it democracy?

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