Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Limiting choice doesn't win elections!

The Conservative party seem to have a problem, well several actually, but I note three of importance. Firstly, they are behind in the polls; secondly, the news agenda is most interested in possible splits between left and right, modernisers and traditionalists; thirdly, the only policy that hits the main news is their pledge to stick to Labour spending plans.

The problem therefore is that public perceptions of the party, leading to lower scores in the polls, are likely to be driven by an impression of division and lack of direction and that they have no original policies. While there is currently an online initiative to consult which is gathering pace (see here), this is ignored as it is not entertaining news.

Perhaps the pledge to stick to Labour public spending plans, which to an extent undermines their open consultation, is an attempt to capture the agenda but this is flawed. It worked for Labour in in the run-up to 1997, but because the Major government was in disarray and there was a need to reassure the floating voters that a Labour government would not incur and economic collapse; in this instance fine. But Labour's record on the economy is Brown's strength, providing this lack of choice will give people the choice between a tried and tested brand and an unknown alternative, but for the same price (or risk if you like). The choice will be Labour.

While it is not for me to comment on which policies the Conservative Party should or should not lead on, they need to talk about those things the public are concerned about but offer a more attractive alternative to Labour not more of the same. This is the only way any party can steal the ground from a party of government that have not yet lost the support of the public completely. Maybe they need to do more research, maybe they need to consult more widely, but it seems that if this is all they can offer then a snap election would present an open goal for Brown.

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