Sunday, 30 December 2012

Conservative Home: 2015 Election Is Already Lost

Paul Goodman, Executive Editor of the influential ConservativeHome website has written in the Telegraph, describing how with two years to go, the Tories have already lost the next general election .

Four Factors Conspire To Make A Tory Majority An Outright Impossibility

No chance of an encore: David Cameron, flanked by his wife Samantha,
takes power after the 2010 election Photo: AP

The first of these apocalyptic horsemen is the Conservatives’ plight among ethnic minority voters.

That it is probably the least significant is no comfort for the Tories. In 2001, one in 10 voters were members of an ethnic minority. By 2050, that will have risen to one in five. Yet Mr Cameron’s party scraped a paltry 16 per cent among these voters in 2010, and that total is likely to fall even lower. Pakistani-origin Muslims, black voters, and Indian-origin Hindus have spread from Labour’s urban heartlands into the marginal suburban seats the Tories need to win.
Alok Sharma MP, has been put in charge of a drive to raise support. But aware though it may be, No 10 is still not aware enough. Mr Sharma needs more people and money to make the kind of long-term impact that his party needs.
The same-sex marriage plan is also a contributor to the Tories’ second big problem

The rise of Ukip, which is poised to top the Euro-elections in 2014. Its support doesn’t all come from former Conservative voters, though polling suggests that this is now increasing. Nor are its ratings driven by hostility to the EU, though this is certainly a factor: immigration and crime enrage its supporters more.

In short, Ukip is not so much a political revolt against the governing class as a cultural one – an angry Poujadist movement of largely male and mostly older voters. No wonder Nigel Farage is flying the flag of opposition to same-sex marriage, just as he has long brandished that of support for grammar schools. He is wooing former Tory supporters by presenting Ukip as the Conservative Party they used to vote for. It won’t win any seats in 2015. But by filching many of the Tories’ activists and former voters, it is splitting the Right.

The third problem for the Prime Minister is the converse of the second – that the Left is remarkably united.

Respect has failed to take off. The BNP, which during the last parliament was competing with Labour for white working-class votes in some seats, has collapsed. Most importantly, Left-wing Liberal Democrat voters have decamped to Labour en masse – which is why the Coalition’s junior partner has been fighting with Ukip in some polls for third place. Ed Miliband is finding it very hard to persuade voters to switch from Mr Cameron’s party to his. But he doesn’t need to do so in order to nudge Labour’s poll share, come 2015, into the mid-30s or higher: all he must do is to hold on to those Lib Dem defectors.

This brings us to the fourth and biggest problem for the Conservatives. Britain’s electoral geography, whereby Labour’s vote is spread more efficiently, has placed the Tories at a disadvantage for the past 20 years.

Under the proposed boundary review, the Tories would have had to lead Labour by four points to win a bare majority. With the review dead in the water, the required lead stretches to seven points. Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, Mr Cameron is being asked to do all the running he can just to stay in the same place.

“If you want to get somewhere else,” she tells Alice, “you must run at least twice as fast as that.” So it is for Mr Cameron. To outpace Mr Miliband, he must raise his party’s share of the vote by four points or more. No governing party has succeeded in doing so in modern times. The next election may allow him to form a minority government or try to re-form the Coalition. But not even Scottish independence, which would release the Tories’ natural majority in England, can come in time (not that it is likely to happen, in any event) for him to win outright.

This is less a complaint than a simple observation – the inevitable outcome of the failure to win in 2010. Labour has won three of the last four elections. It is set to dictate the terms of the coming one in 2015. Losing older voters on the one side, failing to win ethnic minority ones on the other, and all at sea in Scotland and in parts of the North, Conservatism has been living through a crisis for the past 20 years – one which opposition after 2015 may not relieve.

Paul Goodman is executive editor of ConservativeHome

You can read the article in full on the Telegraph website.

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