Sunday, May 8, 2011

‘Political’ Cambridge is not Eton with added colleges; it is Islington with medieval trappings.

The last set of local elections were difficult for the Cambridge Tories. The full results, helpfully provided by a local Lib Dem, can be found here while the AV referendum result is here.

There are three points.

The first is that Cambridge is unlike the rest of the county that takes its name. While everywhere else in the shire was against the voting change, the burghers and students of the city went for a "yes" to AV; along with the Guardianista heartlands of Camden, Hackney and Islington, and the academic rival but equally cloistered-in-mind city of Oxford.

The second is that Conservative support is spread across the city. There is no obvious Tory ward for the faithful to retreat into – or to be incarcerated by the ‘progressive majority’. The dispersed vote was the traditional fate of the Liberal Party who turned to worship at the altar of PR, hoping for a miraculous change of the voting system to give their partisans places on the local councils or a pivotal role in Parliament. However, the Tories 2010 performance showed how it was possible not to win a seat on the council and yet to come second in a General Election held on the same day.

The third is to accept that hard work is sometimes not enough. I have seen textbook campaigns leading to meagre results: the simple reason being a lack of a pool of sympathetic voters. For those who doubt this, examine the travails of Tom Woodcock and his far-left party in Romsey (there’s no point in providing a party name as it keeps changing). Tom’s always had a high profile campaign with posters, leaflets and canvassing, but nevertheless has lagged in the middle to bottom half of the results table for half a decade.

Some thoughts...

1. Accept Cambridge is Different.

The AV referendum showed us how ‘political’ Cambridge is not Eton with added colleges; it is Islington with medieval trappings.

Once you’ve grasped this point, it gets better!

Here, the language and conduct of campaigns inside and outside election time will be different to the rest of the county. It will always mean much tougher challenges for fewer electoral rewards. I met some people – even very well qualified professionals who in other settings seemed to be quite sensible – who could not grasp this. For them, their optimism bias meant bitter disappointment when a textbook campaign did not end with a victory as set out in the textbook, and would search for scapegoats inside the party. Or just leave in a huff after an attempt or two.

2. Candidates Everywhere; Campaigns in a few places

Getting a full slate of candidates across the city is always an achievement. It means Tories can declare themselves via the ballot box in even the most left-wing political neighbourhoods.

The Conservative way is to work at the local elections, taking our chances at the individual ward polls. The pious hope is for a rising national tide to take several seats across the city simultaneously… when the tide comes. However, in the real world targeted campaigns on those seats most likely to turn to us are essential. Choosing those seats, however, is an art and not a science. It depends on having the right candidates in the right wards at the right time.

3. Individuals Count.

If you are not involved in politics, you may refer to a ‘party machine’ almost with awe. If you are in politics, you know that it is actually Mr and Mrs Smith with Mrs Smith’s bridge partner who delivered all of those leaflets. If a few more Smiths volunteer to help a campaign then it really does make a difference.

4. You can make a difference outside the council

The politically correct euro-loving eco-loon climate obsessed ‘diversity’ spendthrifts are wrong. Cambridge needs value-for-money, front-line service orientated Toryism to keep them in check. Andrew Bower in Coleridge showed how someone who is not elected to the council can still get things done for local residents.

5. Don’t Give Up.

Ever.

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