Wednesday 26 October 2011

Conservatives must communicate better or be seen to be out of touch

If I were to say that elections are won on the centre ground most people would readily agree with me. This is a modern day political cliche that party leaders roll out when their party is looking out of touch with voters' priorities. True, the political centre ground does move slightly to the left or right over time but remains in line with what the majority of the population care about.

This is why it is well worth reading Lord Ashcroft on Conservative Home this morning. His basic argument, to which I am in complete agreement, is that Europe is simply not an issue of priority for the average family in this country. My experience of working for the Conservatives, when I saw occasional private polling, is that this has always been the case.

The priorities for families - the kind of people who swing elections - remain those which directly impact on their welfare, livelihood and life chances. Health and the NHS, education, the economy and perception of future economic performance always are top of the list of what matters to people in every region in the UK. As Lord Ashcroft points out, immigration is also their because of its perceived impact on these other issues.

Only political anoraks truly understand the effect Europe has on British businesses or on people's lives more generally. What people want are businesses to do well and the economy to prosper. Banging on about Europe without explaining why it matters is not connecting with voters; in their minds the Europe issue has very little to do with them. Worse still, it makes those seemingly obsessed with Europe to be out of touch with voters and their real concerns.

In opposition the Conservatives were disciplined and mostly talked about the issues that mattered, this in turn helped to demonstrate they were on the side of families. This kind of communication has to continue - or indeed in some ways re-start - or people will turn away from the Conservative Party thinking it to be out of touch. This perception, if allowed to develop - and Labour will push this relentlessly - is a fundamental flaw which undermines the chances of future victory in an election. So it is time to regain that discipline, talk only about the issues that matter in ways that resonate, while at the same time taking steps to make positive changes - taking powers back from Brussels can be part of this - in those areas which will make the lives of voters better.         

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