Tory lack of clarity gets candidates jittering
Posted on 18 March 2010 | 10:03am
There now follows an extract from this morning’s media monitoring report by the Labour Party….
‘Conservatives left puzzled by policy pyramid’ (Timesp4) – ‘Wired up but not fired up for IT elex’ (Ti p4) – Conservative MPs are warning Cameron that the party’s election campaign is too complicated and lacks clear messages says Coates. MPs and candidates were left baffled after being told at a private meeting to campaign on a combination of one slogan, three promises and six pledges. Letwin told MPs to think of a policy pyramid when talking to voters. The top of the pyramid has the slogan: ‘We can’t go on like this. Vote for change.’ The three promises – to change the economy, society and politics – have been criticised for being too negative. The six promises include to ‘Act now on debt’, ‘Get Britain working‘, and ‘Make Britain the most family-friendly nation in Europe‘, and were called vague and random by MPs. Senior Tory MPs, including frontbenchers, said that Letwin had ‘over-intellectualised’ the main message, which should have been simpler. Two said that they would ‘make it up on the doorstep’, while several felt the lack of a specific reduction target for immigration was damaging. Senior figure: ‘Letwin personifies the mad professor … You could have got colleagues to sit down and come up with something much simpler in a couple of weeks, but instead CCHQ researchers and think-tanks churn out over-complicated ideas.’ Shadow ministers have admitted that if there was a Tory victory it would not come with the same enthusiasm that TB enjoyed. Clark: ‘If you considered today’s circumstances, you’ve got an economy which is a major source or worry, people worrying if they will keep their jobs and the expenses scandal dealing a blow to people’s confidence in politics and politicians. That combination means that I don’t think for any party the same degree of euphoria is available.’ – Manifesto commitments, background policy information and regional anti-Labour data will be available to all Tory candidates on a secure application on their BlackBerry or iPhone says Coates. It will accompany, but not replace, the Campaign Guide, which has been produced by the Conservative Research Department before each election since 1950. Several MPs barely hid their dismay when approached by The Times to discuss the new platform. One MP showed how the new software had frozen on his BlackBerry, displaying the message ‘Downloading Campaign Guide’ for the past 24 hours. MP: ‘It doesn’t bloody work.’ Another admitted that he did not have a BlackBerry or iPhone. (Ti)’
…. All quite cheering really and among the reasons why, at a dinner for industry PRs I spoke at last night, so many people seemed to echo the view that the election had gone from being all over a few months ago to wide open now. From thinking not long ago that the Tories had a slick campaign machine headed by a supercommunicator in Cameron, the majority view seemed to be it had descended into something close to a shambles, propped up only by the media’s continuing soft approach to matter Tory.
The lack of clarity is a real problem for them, and Oliver Letwin probably the last man you would want explaining message to nervy MPs and candidates. But the problem is of Cameron’s making. He has not really had, or if he has he has not seen through, the difficult conversations about what the modern (sic) Tory Party really stands for. So even in their ‘pyramid’ they have an overflow of conflicting ideas and messages leaving candidates feeling they will have to ‘make it up on the doorstep.’
‘Vote for Change’ is fine for an Opposition Party, indeed blindingly obvious. But it is limited. And unless people have the answer to the question ‘change to what?’ its limitations are even greater. If the MPs and candidates don’t know the answer, and Central Office can’t send it to a blackberry without clogging the damn thing up, what chance does the voter have?
* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.