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By Peter Hoskin
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That
quote above? It was uttered by Stephan Shakespeare in his presentation to
ConservativeHome’s Victory 2015 conference. Stephan revealed some new YouGov
polling which shows that most people think that, overall, they sit in the
political centre. That’s hardly surprising. But when he polled people on
individual policies the results were considerably more striking. Here, for
example, is how people responded to a question about NHS privatisation (click
for a larger version):

Image 1

But
here is how they responded on immigration:

Image 2

Which
is to say, most voters are what we’d normally call “left-wing” on NHS policy,
and “right-wing” on immigration. And there are plenty of other examples of this
bi-polarity. Indeed, Stephan said that one of the few policy areas where the traditional
bell curve applies – where people congregating around the centre – is tax:


Image 3

So,
what’s the lesson? As Stephan put it, politicians should spend less time
advocating a lurch to either the “left” or the “right” or, indeed, the “centre”.
When it comes to voters, those labels don’t apply in any substantial sense.
Individual people are a multiplicity of beliefs.

But
while there may not be, as Stephan put it, a “policy centre”, there is an “emotional
centre”. His point is that, rather than lurching this way or that, the
Conservatives should do more to wrap their policies up in language that
actually appeals to voters. People feel good, he said, about messages of
aspiration, community, reform, fairness, and so on.

Of
course, it helps if these messages seem authentic and sincere, which is rather
a problem for politicians at the moment. Stephan’s closing point was about how
to make voters less sceptical – and the answer, it turns out, is to two-fold.
First, concentrate on the practical (e.g. “the cost of living”) rather than the
political (e.g. “Big Ideas”) Second, take risks and do difficult things. Become
a dragon slayer.

I
shall leave you with Stephan’s own slide about the dragons that ought to be taken
on. Time for David Cameron to dig out his sword and shield…

Image 4

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