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Wed Jun 14, 2017, 06:14 PM

Anatomy of a doomed campaign: Lessons from one marginal constituency on how not to run an election

ON THE Tory battleplan, the seat of Brentford and Isleworth, on the western fringes of inner London, was definitely supposed to turn blue on June 8th.

Like other seats in west London, it was a close win for Labour in 2015, and the Tories were confident of winning it back by a good margin. Mary Macleod, who held the seat from 2010-15, was picked to fight it again; she had to overturn a Labour majority of just over 400 votes. At the beginning of the campaign, in late April, Ruth Cadbury, the Labour MP, was clearly nervous as to whether she could hang on.

In the event, Mrs Macleod was humiliated. The election last Thursday ended with a massive 13.6% swing to Labour. Ms Cadbury romped home by 12,182 votes. It was much the same story in other west London marginals: even the Tory bastion of Kensington fell to Labour.

Tories involved in the Brentford and Isleworth campaign have spoken to The Economist to describe how it went so badly wrong. They are mainly angry and frustrated with their party's central office. As they see it, the most serious problem for local campaigners was that Conservative Central Headquarters (CCHQ) insisted on taking almost total control. In particular, staff at central office insisted that there should be no campaigning on local issues, and then tried to micro-manage local canvassing. A list of 10,000 voters was produced from CCHQ data-crunchers; these were the people whom central office had identified as the swing voters who would bring the seat back to the Tories. Local canvassers were supposed to have “10,000 conversations” with these voters, and these voters alone.


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Reply Anatomy of a doomed campaign: Lessons from one marginal constituency on how not to run an election (Original post)
Denzil_DC Jun 2017 OP
T_i_B Jun 2017 #1
Denzil_DC Jun 2017 #2

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Thu Jun 15, 2017, 01:51 AM

1. Chimes heavily with what I saw

Last edited Thu Jun 15, 2017, 02:50 AM - Edit history (1)

I got deluged with Conservative campaign literature at this election, but it was almost all from central office with Theresa May dominating the campaign material. Mention of the local area, the candidate and even the name of the party was kept to a bare minimum. This also had the effect of making the Tory candidate look like something of a party lickspittle.

The Conservatives were very fortunate here to be facing a very poor Labour campaign. It had far less top down central messaging, and Jeremy Corbyn did not feature at all in Labour's local campaign. However, the (outgoing) Labour MP fought a "triangulation" campaign and at times seemed determined to alienate as many voters as possible.

It's a pretty grim state of affairs when British politics has become about who can screw up the least!

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Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Sat Jun 17, 2017, 07:12 AM

2. From the campaign on the ground to the campaign at the top:

Revealed: How Theresa May's two aides seized control of the Tory election campaign to calamitous effect

Shortly before the general election was called, Sir Lynton Crosby sat down to write a highly confidential memo for Theresa May’s inner circle. It boiled down to a simple piece of advice: “Don’t do it.”


Crosby, the plain-speaking architect of the 2015 Tory victory, is a hard man to ignore. But the Conservative Party, just two years after he crafted its first overall majority for 23 years, did exactly that.

Theresa May’s decision to go to the country on June 8 was the boldest stroke of her nine-month-old premiership. But it led one of the greatest self-inflicted political disasters of all time.

Now, seven days after the last votes were counted, Tory MPs, ministers and campaign officials have given fresh insights into a dysfunctional operation, in which seasoned experts were overruled by May’s inexperienced close aides. A campaign that set out to be a coronation but ended in ruination.


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