As the polls tighten, the election looks more and more like an exercise in differential turnouts. Eyes therefore turn to the operation – or malfunction – of the competing party machines, something this site has looked at in great detail over the years.
After the fiasco of 2017, the Conservative campaign machine can expect particularly close scrutiny. There are some signs of lessons learned since that grim experience; I hear positive reports of many of the campaign managers, for example, who were recruited and kept in place between elections as this site recommended. It’s certainly the case, too, that the Tory digital campaign has been more pro-active than before (see www.labourmanifesto.co.uk for a reminder). Various of the more analogue tactics, such as sending a letter from Ian Austin, the former Labour MP, to targeted groups of potential Labour-Tory switchers in key seats, are also an encouraging improvement on what went before.
Unfortunately, it isn’t good news on every front. While some candidates were selected before the election began, too many Tory-held and target seats were still vacant late in the day. Despite general agreement, in public at least, that lessons had been learned from the demoralising and clumsy over-centralisation of candidate selection in 2017, the same parts of CCHQ made several of the same errors again this year – suggesting more fundamental reform is required to resolve the issue. And I can reveal that apparent problems with the central ordering and printing of literature meant that for some target seats election addresses failed to arrive before postal votes went out, denting the opportunity to capitalise on early poll leads among a large subset of voters.
Reform and improvement of the party’s campaign machine is likely a never-ending task, but having made a start we intend to press for more. It will be a few more days before we know the outcome of the election. It will likely be a while after that before we can assess in detail what kind of difference, positive or negative, the operation of the campaign made to that result. Whatever happens, we must be able to assess with clarity what functioned well and what did not.
The work to answer that question starts early, and it starts here. ConservativeHome’s readership includes people at every level of the Party, in every part of the country, taking part in all sorts of campaign activities: please share your insights and experiences of the campaign’s operation with us by clicking here. All sources’ anonymity will be protected, as ever.