Today's Conservative Parliamentary Party
awayday takes place at a mystery location in Oxfordshire – indeed and to
be more specific, in David Cameron's constituency, I am told. Downing
Street is presenting it as a chance for the Prime Minister to "listen to
the views and concerns of Conservative MPs". Predictably, Cameron will
address the gathering. Almost as predictably, so will Lynton Crosby.
Break-out sessions on policy will be led by George Osborne, Theresa May,
Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.
The Education Secretary will also
host a quiz at dinner this evening. And there will be a mixed team
football trial this afternoon. This seems to be a talent-spotting
exercise ahead of the annual match against the Lobby at Party
Conference. Number 10 says that about 230 Tory MPs are due to turn up. Which means that roughly three quarters of them will be there…which also means that about a quarter of them won't be there. Those attending include Adam Afriyie, Peter Bone Christopher Chope and Sarah Wollaston. Cameron will be as pleased to see them as they will be to see him.
Finally, it will be announced that the 40/40 target seats strategy is to be expanded. (Remember: that's 40 Conservative seats defended, 40 opposition seats attacked.) CCHQ is to set its sights on ten more seats: 40/40 will become 50/40. If all of the former are won, Cameron will have a majority of about 30. You must decide for yourself whether CCHQ is over-reaching itself, or whether it's sensible to aim for a bigger majority. Certainly, the recent poll of marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft gave no grounds for believing that the Party is making progress in them.