At the weekend, my fellow editor Tim Montgomerie posted a piece stating that "The Tories are heading for a landslide victory".
He went on to predict a Conservative majority in the Commons of 100 after the next general election.
Whilst this outcome would be desirable, I am going to assert my prerogative as co-editor of ConservativeHome on this occasion to take issue with Tim’s decision to make such a bold assertion.
Yes, the morning papers are now a miserable read for Gordon Brown on a daily basis. And yes, as The Sunday Telegraph’s Patrick Hennessy noted yesterday, all major opinion pollsters are predicting a good working Conservative majority when the election comes.
However, not a single vote has yet been cast at that election – an election which I believe is still over a year away – and to predict such a sweeping Conservative victory at this stage reeks of complacency and has the potential to suggest that we are taking voters for granted.
What’s more, if there is a general supposition that there will be a landslide on the scale Tim predicts – which would require a swing of 8.5% from the sitting MP to the Conservative candidate in the top 165 target seats – I would contend that we risk losing votes (and seats) that we otherwise might gain.
One of the most important tasks as the Conservatives seek to win even the
narrowest of Commons majorities – as the superb new party chairman Eric Pickles is only too aware
– is to try and win back most of the thirty-odd seats which the party
has lost to the Liberal Democrats over the last decade or so.
If they cannot be won back, that’s another thirty or so Labour seats
from lower down the target list which need to be regained instead.
One of the key arguments which I expect Tory candidates to be
deploying in those Lib Dem-held seats will be that if you want to turf
out this Labour Government, the only alternative administration on
offer is a Conservative one. In other words, voting for the sitting Lib
Dem MP rather than the Conservative candidate will only serve to lessen
the chances of a new Government being formed by David Cameron. (And
remember, many of those who have been voting Lib Dem in those seats for
the last decade are former Tory voters who deserted the party in 1997,
but who would surely find the prospect of Prime Minister Cameron an
Yet if those very voters get the impression that a Tory landslide is on the cards, then that argument loses all value.
If you’re going to win big, they might very well say, then why
shouldn’t I continue voting for my cuddly local Lib Dem MP who makes
sure the pavements are clear of dog mess etc etc and enjoy the benefits
of the Conservative Government which you say is an inevitability anyway?
That’s why I think that predictions of a Tory landslide are both premature and counterproductive.
Notwithstanding that disagreement, Tim was absolutely right in his
final four conclusions in his post on Saturday. The Conservative
frontbench does need to behave like a prospective Government and make
serious preparations for taking office, in the hope that by gaining
voters’ respect and support over the coming months they will be given
the opportunity to serve their country.