Osullivan_johnShortly after last May’s General Election John O’Sullivan encouraged the Tory Party to recognise that it would struggle to keep its vote amongst the professional chattering classes and that it should woo strivers and the blue collar vote (as George Bush and John Howard have successfully done).  At the time this blog noted that The Times’ Daniel Finkelstein was recommending a very different approach (and one since largely adopted by the Cameron leadership).  Mr Finkelstein wrote:

"Conservatives have been trying to replace [professionals] with other people, people with less “advanced” social views. It’s not been a core vote strategy, it’s been a transfusion strategy. It has not worked. It will not work. And not just because the number of AB voters is growing and turns out in higher proportions. It’s also because AB views rub off on everyone else. The Tory party can try to change the opinions of AB voters. Or it can accept those opinions and adapt to them. What it cannot do is ignore them. The thing about the chattering classes, you see, is that they chatter."

Loveactually7Mr O’Sullivan, who advised Mrs Thatcher in Downing Street, hasn’t given up, however, on his thesis.  Writing for today’s FT he finds it odd that David Cameron is going in a different direction from Bush and Howard.  He thinks the Tories have been hypnotised by Mr Cameron:

"The Tories think they have elected Hugh Grant. In doing so, they believe, they have solved a nagging existential problem. Until the mid-1980s, the Tory faithful felt themselves the natural party of the middle class. But since then they have drifted apart as the Tories became Thatcherised and the middle class changed its self-image, political opinions and sensibility – became, in a word, “Curtisland” after Richard Curtis of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love, Actually, in which a multi-faith, multi-ethnic London middle class swears terribly but is otherwise awfully nice and holds excruciatingly nice opinions. This is a global phenomenon as parties across the English-speaking world change composition with blue-collar workers moving right and others left. But the Tories don’t know that and would like to be accepted in Curtisland once again."

The success of ‘the Curtisland strategy’ will depend upon whether the number of chatterers attracted by Cameron’s eco-friendly and civil libertarian Conservatives are greater than the ‘striving voters’ made homeless by the absence of a party championing their concerns.  Those concerns include homeland security, Gordon Brown’s European-level taxes, uncontrolled immigration and unreformed public services.

It isn’t too late for the ‘politics of and‘ but the possibility diminishes with every retreat on such issues as grammar schools and patient choice.