Rightly, the internal debate since the election result has focused on questions of policies, personalities and strategic errors. Each of these issues needs analysing, assessing and thrashing out. Some, like Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have already fallen on their swords. Others may yet have slightly more unwilling encounters with swords before the aftermath has run its course.
But there’s another issue we need to address in order to ensure the Conservative Party is fit to win again in future: its misfiring machine, both at the centre, namely CCHQ, and in the regional structure.
I’ve written for this site several times about worrying problems on this front. After the 2015 victory, I highlighted failings with campaign technology and the urgent need for a long-term solution to the grassroots gap which Team 2015 had temporarily filled. A week before the Copeland by-election, I reported practical problems with the ground operation, from the management of selection and literature to the lack of a replacement for Team 2015 to ensure troops were available.
On both of these occasions, it seems that those concerns were ignored on the basis that we won, so it couldn’t be that much of an issue. Rather than treat victory as a window of opportunity to fix problems before they became more damaging, there appears to have been no serious effort to do so. Resting on laurels was a risky decision, particularly given that the 2015 majority was founded on the decision of just 901 voters in key marginals going Conservative rather than Labour.
As a result of that decision, the Conservative Party went into the recent election with a weaker machine than it needed, and suffered a series of demoralising and damaging problems in its campaign as a result.
Perhaps with better policy, better leadership and better circumstances, those problems would again have been concealed by victory. Instead, the Conservative Party fell 287 votes short of winning enough seats for a working majority, and 1,688 votes short of winning a full majority. A machine that worked properly could have made all the difference – but we lacked one.
To discuss this failure isn’t to detract from policy problems and other errors. But for the good of the Conservative Party’s future, it must not be swept under the carpet again. To that end, over the coming weeks I will be investigating and report exactly what went wrong in the campaign machine – and ConservativeHome will press hard for the problems to be fixed.
We have already gathered many activists’ accounts of various issues, errors and outright failures from across the country. If you would like to share your experiences to contribute to our investigation, please click here. We will, of course, strictly honour any requests for anonymity on the part of sources.