Why the Tories didn’t win
I am a great admirer of Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Sussex, whose The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron is a model of contemporary history. He has a short article in Parliamentary Brief this month, which has the best three-paragraph encapsulation of what happened at the 2010 election I have read:
The key task facing Cameron when he took over in late 2005 was reassuring voters that the Conservatives could be trusted on welfare and public services. All the market research suggested that this was the sine qua non — a necessary if not a sufficient condition — of a return to office … Just as important were the signals sent out to people working in the public sector — and not just those in the supposedly sacred ‘front line’– that the party no longer regarded them as a waste of time and taxes.
When the global financial crisis hit and Britain’s budget deficit ballooned, however, this task remained unfinished and work on it practically ceased. Gambling on the fact that they would be given brownie points for honesty, and believing that, as the most likely next government, they should start softening up the public for inevitable spending reductions, the Tories switched from reassurance to rhetoric about the age of austerity.
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This, far more than an admittedly lacklustre campaign, was what did for them at the election: Labour may have been a busted flush but it was still able to scare enough voters about the Conservative’s intentions to deny them an overall majority.
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