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After the 2010 election, the Conservatives had 306 seats.  After the 2015 poll, 330.  After this month’s election, 317.

In 2010, they won 36 per cent of the vote.  In 2015, 37 per cent.  This month, 42 per cent.

These facts should be the framework for any discussion of what the Party needs to do as it prepares for the next election, which could come as early as the autumn.

Argument about message, policy and image is already raging – as it was bound to do after an election in which, the polls agree, the Tory position took a big hit after the publication of the Conservative manifesto, with its social care proposal.  (To the point that most of the polls forecast a Tory win on the day before the vote, and were therefore wrong, we answer that the main reason for this was clearly mistaken adjustments by the pollsters in question.  But these notwithstanding, the polls showed the same broad trends, adjustments or no adjustments, whatever their headline figures.)

The evidence from Lord Ashcroft’s survey of 14,000 people on election day suggests that Labour did a bit better than the Conservatives with women voters (42 per cent to 40 per cent), a lot better with 25-34 year olds (58 per cent to 22 per cent), and even better with 18-24 year olds (67 per cent to 18 per cent).  Labour also won about half of last year’s Remain voters, according to this research, while the Conservatives took a quarter.  YouGov’s investigation, the conclusions of which are broadly in line with Ashcroft’s, found that the Labour vote rose alongside voter’s education levels.

This research looks like a very good rough guide to what happened – although since we await the findings of the British Election Study, widely viewed as the gold standard, any conclusions about what happened must be a bit provisional.  Obviously, the Party must ponder how it could do better with these groups.  The manifesto seems to have turned round what was until its publication a healthy Tory lead among women.  The age at which one can buy one’s first house has risen over time.  This may be partly or largely responsible for aligning the voting profile of the second-youngest group more closely with the youngest.

But until we have more evidence, much of this is guesswork.  Some of the suggestions for action already taking place, however, risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  For example, taking a more liberal approach to immigration and a more Remain-flavoured approach to Brexit would doubtless help the Conservatives in London and its hinterland.  But it would surely have the opposite effect in much of the rest of the country.  The Ashcroft research suggests that the Party led Labour among C2 voters (by 44 per cent to 39 per cent) and boxed even with them among C1 ones (41 per cent apiece).

There are a mass of these voters in the midlands and Yorkshire marginals that are crucial to any election. The Tories also won clearly among AB voters (by 44 to 35 per cent) – a reproof to those who muddle education with class or income.  The electoral trick is what Tim Montgomerie used to call, when editing this site, the Politics Of And – in other words, holding on to the voters you have while gaining more.  It is a statement of the obvious that this is more easily said than done.  Now let us return to those figures in recent elections for seats won and percentages gained.

They show that in terms of the latter, Theresa May improved David Cameron’s best share of the vote by five points.  This does not suggest that her form of conservatism, which was pitched especially at UKIP-type voters, is less electorally potent than his – the reverse, in fact.

When it comes to seat numbers in the Commons, the variation is not all that large.  Cameron won 14 more seats two years ago than May did this year.  She gained eleven more in June than Cameron did in 2010.

This should give all those debating manifesto and message cause to pause.  They would do well to concentrate just a bit more on machine.  Ineffective targeting helps to explain Cameron’s win in 2015, on a vote share five points lower than May managed this year, and her non-victory last month.  A tighter campaign would clearly have made a difference in the marginals.  We can say fairly safely that it would have given her a small but sustainable majority.  For a flavour of what went wrong, read Gareth Baines, Hamish McFall and Michelle Lowe on this site.

Here are those figures again.  After the 2010 election, the Conservatives had 306 seats.  After the 2015 poll, 330.  After this month’s election, 317.

In 2010, they won 36 per cent of the vote.  In 2015, 37 per cent.  This month, 42 per cent.

194 comments for: The crucial difference between a non-win this month and the win in 2015 was the failure of the Tory machine

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