Friday, October 08, 2004

Do the Tories have a death wish?

Michael Howard has told the Liverpool Daily Post that:
I would love to win seats in Liverpool and other big cities in the north, but we
can win the General Election without doing that.
Any sensible strategy for Conservative recovery must involve an attempt to expand the party's appeal beyond the older residents of the Home Counties. Yet here Howard seems to be envisaging, not just gaining seats, but winning the next election without making significant advances in the North.

The obvious explanation is that the Tories have lost their collective marbles. But there are two other possibilities.

One is that they are gambling on an even lower next time and reason that in such circumstances mobilising their core vote will be enough to bring them victory. While it might win back some seats for them in the South-East, it is hard to see this strategy gaining them enough seats to overturn Labour's huge majority.

The second possibility is that this concentration on the core vote is a defensive strategy aimed at stemming the further advance of the Liberal Democrats.

The question then is whether the Lib Dem analysis is right. We believe that society is becoming more liberal and that the Tories' core vote is shrinking. And if that core vote is shrinking then there are fewer and fewer seats where a reliance upon it will be enough.

The irony is that, if only the Conservatives could find it in them to reach out to, say, ethnic minority communities, they would find many people whose values are instinctively conservative.

Yet the more the leadership flatters the core vote and its dislike of foreigners, the less they are likely to attract new supporters.

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