Last Saturday ConservativeHome held its second annual conference. It was a chance for Conservatives to gather, debate, argue and hear from Lord Ashcroft as he presented his much-awaited polling of 26 marginal constituencies that the Conservatives need to take if they are to form a majority Government next May.
The findings did not make for pleasant viewing for those assembled in Westminster. Lord Ashcroft’s polling revealed that of those who had voted Ukip in the European elections, 51 per cent would vote Ukip again in the General Election. The Ashcroft snapshot also suggested that 20 per cent would vote Ukip if there were a General Election tomorrow whilst this figure only dipped to 18 per cent when voters were asked to think about their own constituency.
As Lord Ashcroft told the room, this would give a 6.5 per cent swing to Labour resulting in a gain of 83 seats for Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. In fact if this snapshot held true then Labour would win 25 of the 26 marginal seats polled by Lord Ashcroft. Whilst in the one Conservative seat (Thanet South) the Tories would hold a lead of one per cent.
However this was a snapshot, as Lord Ashcroft repeated throughout his speech, not a prediction. The message to activists was clear; the picture isn’t particularly positive at the moment but there is scope to win back those Ukip voters with 69 per cent of those voting Ukip in the European elections saying Cameron and Osborne were best on the economy. More tellingly, 30 per cent of Kippers would like to see a Conservative majority government post May 2015.
How to get through to those voters was the main topic for the ConHome attendees. To help point Conservatives in that direction Rob Halfon gave a very well-received speech urging the party to focus on the concerns of what you might call the mainstream middle i.e. those households where the breadwinner(s) are on the average income (around £23k) and to start talking about issues that affect people outside London like the cost of fuel and the role of trade unions in supporting the majority of workers. The challenge that policymakers such as Rob Halfon have set, and the Ashcroft polling numbers support, is for the Conservative Party to reconnect with those voters who have migrated to Ukip but who have a high regard for the leadership of the PM and his Chancellor.
How, or indeed if, the Party can do that between now and May 2015 remains to be seen.
Written by: Cameron Penny, Account Manager at Cicero