The Wilted Rose

Charting Labour meltdown 2007-2010

Why the Tories need a “Northern Strategy”

The latest Populus poll for the Times has Con 39%, Lab 35%, LD 17%.

But, as the detailed figures show, amongst men it’s Con 38%, Lab 35% but women are Con 41%, Lab 32% – with the Tories around 20 points ahead in the South, Wales/SW, and the Midlands, and Labour well ahead in the North and Scotland.  As a writer in the Salisbury Review observed a few years back, the Conservatives need a “Northern Strategy” (á la Nixon’s phenomenally successful Southern Strategy).

I’ve argued before that it’s less a Brown bounce, than an Osborne bust.  The Osborne effect, but also worryingly more widely the malaise that has fallen the Tories on matters economic (and especially fiscal), has allowed Labour to claw back a considerable portion of its former support.

Whenever the General Election comes, and Brown must surely be weighing up his chances next spring with this latest ‘vindication’ (or vindictive?) poll, the Labour Party is going to offer 4-5 years of the same as we’ve had over the last 11.  And that is not good for Britain – a surefire way of breeding more Karen Matthewses and more tragedies like the death of Baby P.

Ed Balls (with Mandy spinning away in the background, doing more damage than even he did in Brussels) has carefully transferred the blame to the hapless Sharon Shoesmith.  Yes, it happened on Ms Shoesmith’s watch – and, whilst it was the murderers who killed Baby P, it wasn’t social workers (who are being increasingly demonised in the name of political expediency, exacerbating the recruitment and retention crisis in the profession).

It’s partly ideological, but it’s also systemic, and it’s a polical failure (as Camila of Kids Company has argued), which means that many Social Services departments are rotten to the core.  But, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the even more hapless Government and the clearly out-of-his depth Mr Balls. 

At the same time, Labour looks in a better position in the polls when it has overseen 11 years of economic (eventually after the apparent but false ‘boom’) and social (drip-drip-drip) collapse. 

It’s time for a change but a large part of the population doesn’t yet realise it.  But then, whatever happens, as they used to say in the States, the “welfare checks [sic] will keep comin’.”

One way that the Tories could kickstart a “Northern Strategy”, which is doable as they won the otherwise inpregnable Labour stronghold of Crewe & Nantwich in May this year, is to bring back David Davis who appeals to Northerners like the Oxbridge boys don’t.  The next step, just as they did beautifully in Crewe, would be to tell the people of the North what the Tories can do for them economically and socially.  Voilá.


9 December, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I disagree with your conclusions. I live in Surrey and I sometimes go up North on business, and I really do not see how we as Conservatives could possibly win seats in the North. It truly seems a different country to me. Would you not agree that we should be focusing our attentions on matters that relate to the Conservative-inclined people of London and the South East?

    Comment by Lisa | 9 December, 2008 | Reply

  2. What the Tories need is some kind of English strategy.

    Comment by Wyrdtimes | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

  3. The problem the tories have got int he North is that the truly talented Conservatives who have been ripping Labour to shreds in Sunderland, Wakefield, Trafford, Salford et al are sadly hamstrung by an abysmally dysfunctional team of ‘professional’ operatives who have absolutely no autonomy whatsoever from the national party.

    I live in the south, but have friends who are councillors in the north, and I can honestly say that their campaign tactics outstrip anything the party south of the Watford Gap can muster when they are given operational control of elections (as they are in local elections). If they could only be afforded such a luxury in parliamentary seats Labour would lose a good 2 dozen seats at the very least.

    Comment by rightwingery | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

  4. It is interesting that David Davis is not considered an oxbridge boy: he isn’t, but he did attend Harvard briefly, which is America’s equivalent.

    That said, he is from York, and is clearly not from any sort of upper class background. Far from it.

    Comment by BIGDAN | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

  5. You’re dead right. I find it absolutely outrageous that every time a Tory stands up in the HoC he sounds like a plummy voiced retired air force captain. It makes me livid! There’s nothing wrong with going to Eton, but there is something very, very wrong with a party who’s representatives self-consciously belong to a single political class. People aren’t stupid, they notice how the Tories are made up by a certain type of person. No wonder this right wing country can vote Labour. Open primaries would sort that out, and prevent Tory members from choosing ‘one of their own’.

    Comment by Thomas | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

  6. I agree with this.

    The Conservatives also need a Scottish Strategy, a Welsh Strategy and a Northern Irish Strategy.

    Otherwise it will never shed its reputation of being a South East England Party.

    Comment by Ron Davalet | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

  7. Re Ron’s post – We pretty much have a Welsh strategy and a fair degree of autonomy and generally speaking it has worked well because we have adapted to the local conditions more. Other than this I tend to agree with parts of the article that a grittier more focused approach would help to build the Conservative position even further especially as Cameron has successfuly earned us the right to be heard and made the party more rounded and caring. We have a good foundation now that we can build on for election success.

    Comment by Matt | 10 December, 2008 | Reply

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