The Tory electoral position is weak – they’ve just admitted it

27th November, 2012 12:14 pm

The Tories are around ten points behind in the polls, but they still display an admirable amount of bluster. They stride about the Commons as if they owned the place (although they did that in opposition too). Most still (publicly at least) refuse to countenance the idea that in 2015 Ed Miliband could be Prime Minister. They puff out their chests at the idea. They snort.*

And of course, despite their bluster, they’re right to say that Labour’s position is not as strong as it appears. This week we’re defending three “safe” Labour seats in by-elections and there’s a credible threat in two of them. But – tellingly – it’s not the Tories we’re worried about. It’s not mainstream parties at all. It’s Respect and UKIP – the parties of the fringes. The parties of disillusionment with politics.

UKIP are of particular interest to the Tories. The widespread belief is that all of their voters are Tories who got lost somehow on the way to the ballot box, and if only Cameron could woo them back into the Tory fold, there’s a parliamentary majority to be won.

Tory vice-chairman Michael Fabricant went one step further yesterday, when he advocated a formal pact with UKIP ahead of the next election. According to Fabricant:

“The Conservative Party might well win the 2015 General Election on our own.But a pact with Ukip on clear terms could deliver 20 extra seats.”

There are a few leaps of faith for the Tories here. To deliver 20 extra seats would require the vast majority of 2010 Tories to stick with the party, and for the vast majority of 2010 UKIP voters to switch to the Tories on masse. In my experience the electorate are rarely as compliant as such a strategy would require. (Although of course, the same could be said for Labour’s apparent Labour+ 2010 Lib Dems strategy for 2015).

What Fabricant has really shown is the desperation in the Tory ranks. For once, the mask has slipped. To take a punt on working with UKIP, with no gaurantee of success (and a potentially party splitting EU referendum surely added to the mix) seems a remarkable gamble for 20 seats.

A pre-election pact is a sign of weakness, not strength, for the Tory Party.

More remarkable still are attempts by Downing Street to claim that Fabricant’s pact plan isn’t official party policy. They may have forgotten, so I’m happy to remind them. Michael Fabricant is the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for campaigning. Arguing that he doesn’t speak for the Tories is ludicrous, even by the standards of Downing Street denials.

Perhaps most interesting for Labour people is the simplistic way in which the Tories talk about UKIP and their voters. They talk about them as if they are aggrieved that they are “splitting the vote”. It’s the way Labour once spoke about the Lib Dems. But as we found out to our cost, these parties that infuriate you and “split your vote” can often turn out to be very different from the simple caricatures we have of them. One day the Tories will discover that about UKIP too. And that the only way to win isn’t to form a pact.

It’s to win over their voters.

* – in fairness there are a number of Tories who take the Labour threat seriously, but pragmatic, reality-based Tories appear to be a rare breed at present.

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  • NT86

    The Tories’ problems are far deeper than UKIP taking their votes. Of course UKIP’s votes in 2010 was a contributory factor in preventing them from winning a majority, but is there much evidence that they wooed over Labour vtters/ Many labour voters probably stayed home or went Lib Dem, because no matter how disillusioned they were with their party, I couldn’t see many of them wanting to vote Tory.

    • aracataca

      Good point NT. My guess (and it is a guess) would be that the number of switches direct from Labour to Tory was comparatively small in 2010. In 2015 this trend is likely to continue (IMHO) while the collapse in the Fib Dem vote could be pivotal for Labour.Two caveats however, the Tories and the Fibs might not stand against each other in crucial seats and the Fibs might stand as ‘Independents’ as we’ve witnessed in the most recent elections.
      By the way Mark surely only Rotherham is really at risk this week?

  • Charlie_Mansell

    On the subject of the Euro elections, UKIP have polled 16% and 17% in the past two. They do well already and may not rise as much as people think. What is happening is their domestic election polling may be catching up with their Euro scores as they become the new party of protest in the gap opened up by the Lib Dems vacating it. We may see this in Middlesbrough and Rotherham on Thursday. In 2014 there is a good chance of the Lib Dems polling just 8% (based on their declines in London and Scottish list elections) and coming 5th behind UKIP and the Greens. Assuming Labour picking up a lot of that decline it will only require a 3% further swing to Labour from the Tories from the disaster of 2009 to top the Euro poll in 2014. That would be psychologically good for Ed and the Party (though we ensure we avoid any 1999 Hague hubris) a year before the 2015 General election. Perhaps the party should be developing its message for those elections (domestically in particular) to make the most of them, rather than just assume it is UKIP’s election?

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • Serbitar

    Fabricant’s ‘Crown Topper’ is as daft as the brain beneath it!

  • kb32904

    Anthony Wells has written a post today wrt this claim of Fabricants and the number of seats lost to UKIP.

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/

    One paragraph from his comment says

    “This is nonsense of the highest order, but however often the argument is knocked down it refuses to lie down and die. At the last election there were 21 seats where the number of votes that UKIP got was larger than the number of extra votes the Conservatives needed to win. Where the argument that UKIP cost the Conservatives up to 40 seats comes from is beyond me, if every single UKIP voter has instead voted Conservative they would have got 21 more seats, no more”

  • There is an excellent piece on the “myth of the 20-40 seats” claimed by Fabricant by Anthony Well in UK Opinion Polling website, which I would urge anyone to look at. Whilst UKIP take votes disproportionately from the Tories than Labour or Libdem, a sizeable number of UKIP voters were (and never would be) tory voters. The reality is that UKIP may have/may cost the tories between 1-5 seats.

  • There is an excellent piece on the “myth of the 20-40 seats” claimed by Fabricant by Anthony Well in UK Opinion Polling website, which I would urge anyone to look at. Whilst UKIP take votes disproportionately from the Tories than Labour or Libdem, a sizeable number of UKIP voters were (and never would be) tory voters. The reality is that UKIP may have/may cost the tories between 1-5 seats.

  • There is an excellent piece on the “myth of the 20-40 seats” claimed by Fabricant by Anthony Well in UK Opinion Polling website, which I would urge anyone to look at. Whilst UKIP take votes disproportionately from the Tories than Labour or Libdem, a sizeable number of UKIP voters were (and never would be) tory voters. The reality is that UKIP may have/may cost the tories between 1-5 seats.

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