The Tory strategy revealed: What the Lib Dems need to do to counter it
15 February 2012 2 Comments
There is a lot of talk about the Lib Dem strategy and whether we have got it right. But equally important is the Tory strategy and how this impacts upon us. Here is the Tory strategy, which they call a ‘blended strategy’, which makes for interesting reading and has implications for a counter-strategy beyond differentiation – which the Tories consider to be a sign of weakness.
A blended strategy consists of appealing to aspirational working class Labour voters by focusing on their fears, for example by imposing caps on immigration and benefits. They then seek to attract Lib Dem voters and so use softer language that sounds pragmatic about Europe, reasonable on human rights and open minded on Lords reform.
This then works alongside pushing the Lib Dems aside when it comes to claiming credit for the Coalition’s record. This will be seen most prominently in them claiming credit for raising the tax threshold to £10,000, they say Mr Clegg can talk about it, but it will be the Chancellor who delivered it. This will be repeated in most policy areas. While the Lib Dems have made our strategy known i.e. differentiation, the Tories response will be to stick close to the Lib Dems on each issue, ‘like a persistent suitor chasing a rich widow around the dance floor’.
This strategy is of course mainly down to the Tories private polling. While many in the Tory party despise some of the positions Cameron has taken such as bashing the bankers, this isn’t because of an influence by Mr Clegg but because that is what they think the voters want. The Daily Telegraph quotes one Tory Cabinet member who said: “David would be doing all this even if Nick Clegg wasn’t. Differentiation is a sign of weakness. By embracing the Lib Dems, we place ourselves where the public is. And that is where we stand our best chance of winning in 2015.”
This makes sense from a Tory point of view. But what it doesn’t do is appeal to traditional Tory voters as the Daily Mail put it: Cameron must stop appeasing the Liberal Democrats and embrace real Conservatism. But as the Daily Telegraph says ‘he is prepared to suppress his inner Tory, in favour of a distinctly different kind of Conservative that his colleagues will not recognise’.
What this means for the Lib Dems is that no matter how much differentiation we make, they are prepared for this to continue to appeal to our voters. What we need to do is to produce a counter-strategy to this. We need to differentiate and we need to allow Cameron to follow us, but at the same time we need to tie this with the fact that his party won’t follow him. Show his party do not agree with Cameron, and therefore the Lib Dems, and we show the country a divided party with no authentic vision for the country. Show the Tories a leader out of step with his party and we increase the likelihood of a leadership challenge.
Cameron is probably right in that the public are probably more liberal and compassionate than his own party but his party do not believe this, which offers us an opportunity. ‘…but that wasn’t the core problem. The core problem was that voters looked at the Conservative Party and saw people who didn’t understand what it was like to worry about running out of money before pay day arrived’ the Daily Mail write which is probably also true. But the important bit here is that the Tories do not believe in Cameron’s diagnosis of the problem.
We need to be more aggressive in distancing ourselves from parts of the Conservative Party and not just differentiation of the Conservative Party as a whole. Show the county they are divided. Show the country they do not believe in the positions they take to gain votes. Show the country they not liberal, compassionate, or in touch. This will make their ‘blended strategy’ much less likely to work and more likely soft Tory voters will vote Lib Dem.