By Paul Goodman
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Senior CCHQ sources tell me that plans for fighting the next election are already being mapped out. These have less to do with policies or even delivery (which are presumably covered elsewhere) than with "values" – presumably on the ground that if uncommitted voters don't like or at least respect you, they won't vote for you.
Indeed, "values" is the foundation on which the five points to which I refer above are built. In this context, the word seems to mean convincing floating voters that David Cameron is "on the side of people who work hard, want to get on and play by the rules", as his post-local elections Daily Telegraph article earlier this month put it. The other main parts of the plan are:
- Addressing the "wrong track" issues. This is the sense that Britain's economy and society are getting worse rather than better. CCHQ recognises that success at the next election is inextricably linked to reversing it.
- Winning support on the NHS. Never forget the stress that Mr Cameron put in opposition, second only to restoring the party's reputation for economic competence, on trying to establish that the NHS would be "safe in his hands".
- Closing the gender gap. Traditionally, the Conservatives were propelled into office by women's votes. New Labour reversed this position; Mr Cameron began to restore it – but has run into problems since the 2010 election.
- Winning non-white support. The number one driver of not voting Conservative is not being white. Tim Montgomerie and I have explored the problem here and (for example) here. So has Lord Ashcroft in a major report.
- Organisation in marginals. The bottom line ambition is to win roughly 35 Labour seats and 15 Liberal Democrat ones. This relatively modest ambition seems to be a reflection both of psephological realities and the difficulty of winning seats when in power.
I understand that party organisers:
- Are conducting extensive focus groups among non-white voters in 40 marginals.
- Now have the capability to explore voting records and intentions by ethnicity and religion.
- Will focus particularly on about 15 seats with large ethnic majority populations, with an MP working closely with the local Association in each one. These MPs will have experience of such seats themselves. Names mentioned to me included Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East and Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central.
- Have asked Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, and Paul Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton South-West, to write a campaign guide on working with ethnic minority voters. Both are of Indian origin and their role may reflect the party's better performance among such voters compared to voters who originate from Pakistan.
- Will be taking advice from Jason Kenney, Canada's conservative Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism , as has been reported previously.