If there is an autumn election few expect the Tories can win a majority. The party should gain a handful of seats from the LibDems – particularly because David Cameron’s ‘Waitrose strategy’ has worked reasonably well in the south – but the polls suggest that the party is approximately 10% below what it needs for a parliamentary majority. What is a very real prospect, however, is that the Tories could deprive Gordon Brown of his majority.
In an article for The Sunday Telegraph, Iain Martin notes that boundary changes have already reduced the Labour majority to 50. In a bid to scare Brown from holding an October 25th poll the Tories are therefore determined to show that they have the money, candidates, campaigning energy and policies to win at least 25 seats from Labour. On Friday we noted the distribution of hard-hitting literature across 70 target seats. The distribution effort will continue throughout this week as CCHQ’s ‘red alert plan’ accelerates. The Conservatives, Martin writes, are most focusing on constituencies that "ring the M25, are dotted in parts of Kent, on the M1 corridor and near the M4." Elsewhere in The Sunday Telegraph, Melissa Kite notes Lord Ashcroft plans £25,000 bonuses for seats that are judged particularly likely to deliver the ’25 seat strategy’.
Fraser Nelson makes a ten point case in today’s News of the World (not online) for Brown gambling on an autumn election. If you reframe Fraser’s arguments you get the arguments for believing that, events permitting, Tory chances are only likely to get better as the parliament progresses…
- Cameron has begun to get his team and strategy right – he’ll get better with Andy Coulson at his side moulding messages for strivers and ‘Morrisons voters’;
- Brown’s novelty factor will wear off – he can’t trade on ‘not-being-Blair’ for much longer;
- The scale of Government borrowing – the worst in Europe – is going to make tax and spending decisions harder and harder for Labour;
- Mortgage costs are rising and some experts are predicting 250,000 repossessions;
- House price falls will produce a dangerous wealth effect on economic growth;
- Immigration is an explosive political issue – the Cambridgeshire police chief’s intervention of last week is just a preview of how potent this issue might become;
- Increased winter fuel bills will have landed on voters’ doorsteps – all part of the increasingly tight squeeze on disposable incomes;
- For some unknown reason polls show voters are less likely to vote Labour next year;
- ‘Gordon Conservatives’, as Ben Brogan has dubbed them, and ‘Brown Tories’ as Fraser has called them, won’t be bewitched forever – they’ll start returning home if Cameron’s rebalancing – blending core vote and progressive messages – continues;
- Brown will look less legitimate and certainly less brave in the new year – he will have ducked the opportunity to win his own mandate.
So, in conclusion: (1) Tories hope to kill Brown’s thoughts of an autumn election by raising the likelihood of him losing his majority; and (2) There are plenty of reasons for believing that – with time – Brown’s chances of victory will get smaller and smaller.