By Tim Montgomerie
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The challenge for David Cameron at the next election, writes Michael Ashcroft in an article for The Guardian, is to simultaneously appeal to the voters who we have lost to UKIP and the voters wavering between the Tory and Lib Dem boxes on the ballot paper. He thinks it can be done but most commentators don't. They think any move to appease the UKIP Right will frighten the Lib Dem centrists. It's one of the laziest false choices in politics.
The choice isn't, in reality, about going to the centre or going Right – as pundits suggest – but instead it's about being a narrow party or a broad party.
In 2001 and 2005 we were a narrow party – focusing too much on issues like Europe, immigration and tax. We lost. We didn't lose because people didn't agree with us on those topics. They did. 60% plus people agreed with Hague on Europe and Howard on border control. They didn't support us because they also worried about the NHS, schools and pensions and we seemed unbalanced in our interests*.
At the last election we weren't so narrow as in '01 and '05 but we were still too narrow. Too focused on hard-to-understand concepts like the Big Society and lacking a retail message for blue collar voters worried about the cost of petrol and electricity.
The party that will win the next election will walk and chew gum at the same time. It will be Eurosceptic and concerned about the local environment. It will be committed to border control and to the NHS. It will want to send more repeat offenders to jail and it will want to rehabilitate them while they are there. It will want to cut benefits for shirkers and to increase benefits for low income pensioners.
In other words the party that advances won't be focused on the centre ground but on the common ground. It won't be camped in the middle of the stage but hungrily, ambitiously camped right across it.
* The strength of the economy and Tony Blair's political gifts also, of course, had a lot to do with Labour's win in those two years.