In an article for last weekend’s Sunday Express, Anne Jenkin of Women2Win claimed that the A-list was delivering on its promise to increase the number of women candidates and this helped explain why a recent Populus poll
put the Conservatives 12% ahead amongst women voters. This is unlikely – there are very few Tory women who are yet visible to the voting public. Cameron’s support among women is more likely to be a reflection of his meterosexuality – manifesting itself in the issues he tends to champion and his personal style.
Interest in increasing female support for the Conservative Party has certainly taken off in recent days. Both Fraser Nelson in yesterday’s News of the World (not online) and Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer noted that the gender divide may decide the next election. Both concentrate on the macho language used by Tony Blair during last week’s Queen’s Speech to describe how a Labour ‘clunking fist’ will knock ‘flyweight’ Cameron out of the ring at the next General Election. Samantha Cameron told her husband, Fraser reports, that the language summed up why women don’t like Gordon Brown. Women see the Chancellor as a ‘big clunking fist’ and they don’t like it. They also see through his attempts at makeover stunts like his New Woman interview.
Labour nonetheless appear determined to press ahead with their critique of Cameron as a "fey toff, a namby pamby," writes Rawnsley, whilst "the Conservatives want to portray Mr Brown as a bullying thug who will beat you to a pulp." Who will succeed will partly depend upon the mood of the electorate when they go to the polling station. Will they be wanting a security hawk to rescue Britain from big economic and other challenges or more someone to comfort them in otherwise benign times?
Mr Brown also appears to struggle amongst LibDem voters. Ludlow Tory MP Philip Dunne has received 6,400 replies from a direct constituency mailing of 38,000 voters and has discovered that – among Lib Dem voters – 50% want Mr Cameron as Prime Minister, 30% want Gordon Brown and just 20% choose their own party leader Sir Menzies Campbell. The same qualities that appeal to women may appeal to LibDems?
Commenting on the results of his survey – an excellent example of how an MP can build a reputation for listening amongst his constituents – Mr Dunne said:
"These are fascinating results. They show a collapse in confidence in Sir Menzies Campbell among Lib Dem supporters. It is quite extraordinary that local Lib Dems would rather have David Cameron as Prime Minister and that one in three Labour supporters favour Mr Cameron as well. This is a grave blow to the Lib Dems and suggests that they miscalculated badly when they got rid of Charles Kennedy. But it also shows that David Cameron’s moves to modernize and change the Conservative Party are striking a real chord with voters."
4pm, 21/11 update: See this comment from Philip Dunne defending the value of his survey.