Monday, May 1, 2017

The Conservative Party has a Problem!

The following article was published on the Conservativehome web site on 1st May 2017

 Conservatives must not let the polls lull them into complacency

John Strafford

In recent days the following stories have all appeared in the press: that the Conservatives have hit 50 per cent in the polls; predictions of a 200-seat majority for Theresa May; that the Tories may be the largest party in Wales and take up to 12 seats off the SNP; and that UKIP is a busted flush.
Given that, it’s not hard to see why Party strategists might be tempted to get complacent. But it would be very foolish to do so – for beneath the good headlines the Conservatives face serious challenges – not least of which is that, due to the Boundaries Commission proposals not yet being in law, the Conservative Party starts this campaign with a 20 seat disadvantage.
As for the polls, as the campaign develops our buoyant scores will drift downwards from time to time – and seem to have done so in recent days – with increases in Labour’s share of the vote allowing the Opposition to claim that they have got momentum. At some point the Conservative Party will have some bad news, most likely when the decision is announced about whether there will be prosecutions regarding election expenses, regardless of what the decision is.
The Labour Party also has a financial war chest greater than the maximum amount it will be allowed to spend, due to a vast increase in membership subscriptions, so in this general election it is unlikely to be outspent by the Conservatives, unlike in the last election.
Membership could be a serious handicap. Just consider the numbers for the main parties contesting this election:
·         Labour: 520,000
·         Liberal Democrats: 100,000
·         Scottish Nationalists: 120,000
·         Conservatives: 150,000?
With activists of about 10 per cent of membership, Labour is the only Party capable of mounting a ground campaign across the nation. But our other two opponents don’t have to: the Liberal Democrats will concentrate their forces on the seats they lost in the last election, and the Scottish Nationalists only fight the 59 seats in Scotland.
The Conservative Party does not have sufficient members to fight a ground campaign across the United Kingdom. To compete at the same level as the Scottish Nationalists do in Scotland, but on a national basis, the Conservatives would need a million members.
So how do the Conservative overcome this discrepancy? In the last General Election they targeted the 40 most marginal seats held by the opposition (mainly Liberal Democrat seats) and supported the 40 most vulnerable seats held by the Conservatives. The problem in this election is that not only do we have multi-party politics but tactical voting alliances intervening in the constituencies.
I do not need to remind you that in addition to the parties already mentioned we have UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, plus the Democratic Unionists and sundry other parties in Northern Ireland, whilst organisations such as Gina Miller’s Anti-Brexit group ‘Best for Britain’ and Open Britain will also be intervening.
Given this confused picture, what and where are the marginal seats? Some “guess work” will be required to decide where to put our resources – but it is “guess work” and it could go horribly wrong.
The chickens are coming home to roost for the Conservative Party. For too long the membership has been neglected, and to prevent such a situation like this happening again radical action will need to be taken after the general election. More effort will be required in the use of social media and modern electioneering technology, but that can only do so much at the crunch to get out the vote on election day.
I have been a member of the Conservative Party for over fifty years, and I do not recall during that time a more important general election than this. The only Party with the ability and the power to take to take us through the Brexit negotiations is the Conservative Party and we have been fortunate at this critical time to have in Theresa May, as our Prime Minister, someone capable of doing it.
This election is about taking back our sovereignty, regaining the ability for our Parliament to decide our laws and thus the right of the British people to elect – and eject – those who rule over them. It’s about bringing the interpretation of those laws back to our own judiciary, schooled in the British legal tradition, and restoring our ability to conclude treaties and trade with the world.
Compared to the usual election fare these are existential questions, and the Conservative Party cannot and must not lose this election by default.  Every member must stretch themselves to the maximum to overcome the obstacles in our way.
But before that can happen we need to recognise that these obstacles exist, and high poll numbers alone won’t lift us over them.


  1. Well, yes, the falling membership of the Conservative Party since the great days of 3 million members has been a creeping disaster, which could well be about to catch up with us. Even more worrying, perhaps, is the age profile: most branch and association committees will have gone to a better place in a few years, and there are very few young members to take their places. But John, you illustrate the problem yourself. All this pro-Brexit stuff about loss of sovereignty and taking back control is the hang-up of the old fogeys who run the Party. Younger voters were and still are overwhelmingly pro-European. Why shouled they want to vote for,and still less join the Conservatives as they noz are?

  2. Hi John,
    This is a brief e-mail as I am unsure whether it will get to you.
    Terrible to say, two terrorist outrages have occurred since I last wrote to, Manchester and London Bridge.Unbelievable.
    I see you are your usual self: trying to reform the unreformable.
    The election is a cert for T May, but that will not do the UK much good as the Conservative Party as it now exists is only a stepping stone for froth such as Amber Rudd etc. You go through Hell and back to win two world wars only to get such a dismal lot. Sad.
    Well anyway, you enjoy the next few days.
    Peter (Dublino)

    1. Peter,
      I agree with your sentiments. Let us see what happens tomorrow!

    2. Great to hear from you,John.
      I bet you can nearly call every constituency. I image it will be the usual couple of million Andy Burnham clones going Liberal or anything else in the Flight from Jeremy. Jeremy's economics are antediluvian but on a personal basis he seems a pleasant, companionable type of sort when compared to Worzel Gummidges like Lord Hague and Nigel Evans etc. As you have so often pointed out the decline in Tory party membership is an absolute disgrace,a party hat has no blue-collar basis is doomed. I am working bit by bit so that I can exit from Social Market Eire, the land of the 10,000 Regulations. Brexit Britain is the only ray of hope in Europe, but T May doesn't see the deep cunning the Latter- Day Juncker and is too much of a cap doffer to the captains of British industry ( a huzzah for fund managers!)who still insist on full,open door immigration, and could never conceive of a Manhattan Project to rescue millions of low-skilled Britons.
      Regardless of all that, John, I hope come 11.00am on Friday morning you will be down in the Crown and Anchor with your friends watching the results as they come in with a few good pints of Bitter before you,and some lovely fresh ham sandwiches on the finest thick batch loaf.
      Best regards,