Instead of trying to work out what the general election result will be, it might be useful to try to work out what the Conservatives think it will be.
And the best guide to what they believe it will be (rather than what they say it will be) is surely the seats that the Party is targeting.
Which are they? We are not giving Lynton Crosby’s secrets away by suggesting that one might look at seats that opposition parties hold in which there has been a contested Conservative selection; or else keep a tally of which local papers the Party is advertising in. Mark Wallace is among those who have had a go.
But the most reliable means of all is surely to keep a tally of the seats that Theresa May is visiting herself. An intriguing assessment of her travels to date was put online yesterday by Chris Cook of Newsnight. Alas, it doesn’t list the individual constituencies in which she has campaigned. However, it does show that she has concentrated most of her out-and-about campaigning effort to date in a belt of roughly 70 Labour seats.
Cook does record the number of times in which the Prime Minister has visited each region or sub-region – as defined by ITV channels, for reasons he explains. So it is, for example, that she has made only one visit to the area covered by ITV Anglia, but five to that served by ITV Central, which covers the West Midlands.
Cook’s figures to date show a concentration on that region, on London and to some extent on Yorkshire. “That emphasis on the West Midlands and Yorkshire is telling,” Cook writes, adding that 28 of the 70 seats or so that Chris Hanretty of East Anglia University currently expects the Conservatives to take from Labour are in either one or the other of those two regions.
The Prime Minister is clearly in pursuit of what Nick Timothy, when writing for this site, almost referred to as Erdington Man (and woman). Andrew Gimson visited that Birmingham seat recently and wrote his account up for ConHome recently.
It may of course be that CCHQ’s estimate of which seats the Party can win is over-hopeful, and that its targeting is therefore awry…or indeed that a swing to it will yield more than Hanretty’s present estimate of 70 gains.
But if May pops up in, say, Tynemouth, as she did earlier this week, in pursuit of what she now calls “ordinary working class families,” her choice of campaigning location is telling us something worth knowing.