Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Tories must not ignore the inner cities – morally as well as politically

Looking at the raw results from the general election, we can make some simplistic assertions. Labour suffered a beating across the country, causing them to lose some of their key marginal seats. The Conservatives had some tremendous successes, as well as a little misfortune in failing to do even better than we did. The Liberal Democrats have suffered once again from an unfair electoral system, and deserve much credit for reducing the Labour vote in cities across the country. With the exception of one or two cases, such as in Bethnal Green & Bow or Blaenau Gwent, where George Galloway and an ex-Labour Welsh Assembly member pushed through the boundaries of expectation to take those seats, these assertions apply throughout the nation.

This general election has differed from the previous two in many respects. Not least, the Conservative Party has done better, in terms of raw seats in the House of Commons, than in the previous elections. But more importantly for me, as a Conservative, is that our result has not been treated like a disaster from which we will never return.

There can be no doubt that the Conservative campaign was a skilled one. As this election was never going to bring in a landslide Tory government, we were obliged to focus our efforts on those key voters in marginal seats across the country who have a great deal of influence in deciding who governs these isles. In doing this, the strategy we employed has paid off. We only need to take a glance at our successes in constituencies which were low on our presumed target list to see this. Enfield Southgate, Reading East and Gravesham were three English seats that we needed to take to return to government, but not if our only objective was to make inroads in certain pockets throughout the country.

However, we must not assume that all will be rosy now that Tony Blair will face inherent difficulties in overcoming opposition to his dangerous and foolish plans. When one considers the Prime Minister’s inability to lead his own party, and to inspire the rest of us to agree with him, it seems likely that he shall struggle. My only advice to the Prime Minister: expect some defeats.

Despite the smug look the Conservatives deserve to have on their faces whilst the economy founders and whilst questions over the Prime Minister’s leadership go on, we must not forget that in terms of the national vote, we have made only an insignificant success. Where Labour and the Conservatives battled closely, we have succeeded. Yet one can handpick seats in cities throughout Britain where it is not my party, but the Liberal Democrats and others have succeeded. In Leeds Central, a constituency I often look to with interest as it is the place where I was brought up, Hilary Benn’s share of the vote fell by 6.9%. Yet it wasn’t the Conservative candidate who reaped the benefits – he lost 1.1%. It was the Liberal Democrats and even the British National Party who are winning up there.

If we intend to win an overwhelming majority in the next election, then we need to enter government as a party which represents the whole nation, not just the useful bits down south. Our strategy worked considerably in this election, but next time round we need to take our cause to the forgotten inner cities, particularly in the north, in Scotland and in Wales. One might argue that the Conservatives do not stand a chance in Leeds Central, so why bother? But I think that is pessimistic and arrogant. The Conservative Party can not go into government dependent on rural votes and a smattering of marginal seats alone. If we intend to change the political landscape, we should plan to shake the ground under the cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Leeds. We should fight to be heard in the valleys of Wales and by the lochs of Scotland. We can not afford to ignore the people who live in the northern inner cities, or the people who have suffered from the decisions of both parties when in government. We should never say that a Tory MP for Blaenau Gwent is a crazy thought, because if a lowly independent can bring down the Welsh Establishment, then so can a Conservative Party which focuses its efforts on bringing salvation to the forgotten corners of our island. All we need are the right policies, the right people and the right strategy, as well as a touch of optimism.


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