Friday, August 19, 2011

51% of UK voters believe the Conservative Party appeals to only one section of society

The link can be found here (PDF). This is more bad news for the government.

We also learn that while the great majority of UK voters believe the government is not doing a good job - support is 80% amongst Conservative Party members. This suggests that their perception of the government is at great odds -- perhaps opposite -- the perception of most in society.

This statistic may concern Conservative Party leaders. There have been great efforts to "re-brand" (and detoxify) the Tory brand to the broader electorate, led by former PR man (now Prime Minister) David Cameron. These efforts involved claims that the Tories were the party of the NHS and a criminal justice position of "hug a hoodie" amongst other ideas. I half suspected that these efforts may have worked given the strong views of party leaders for party uniformity on core issues.

The problem may lie with the austerity measures. The Conservative Party's critics are always quick to label the party's policies as "slash and burn": cut public services in the name of "waste" and "new efficiencies" and sell off public assets to private firms at rock bottom prices. However unfair such allegations the government has -- for one reason or another -- moved forward with major cuts in public spending which only adds fuel to the standard criticisms.

The austerity measures seem to be undermining several years of hard work by Cameron & co. to re-brand the Conservative Party. While I don't yet believe the party is beyond the point of no return, the majority of austerity measures are to kick in shortly. If the government cannot win over more hearts and minds over the next 6-8 months, then I would suspect that Cameron's efforts to sell a "modern" Conservative Party (complete with scrawled tree party symbol) will not have worked.

The poll numbers are not too troubling yet for the Conservative Party (they are of great concern for Liberal Democrats), but this is primarily because the greater opinion poll support for Labour has not yet materialized in full at the ballot box. If support for Labour were to remain at similar poll levels and "harden" come election day, then we might expect a new Labour government (with a thin, but overall, majority).

While it may be early days, there is no room for complacency in the Tory party. Labour must harden its support; Conservatives must work much more to argue "we're in it together" and that they are a national party representing a broad part of the country. Liberal Democrats? Something bordering on sheer panic. Most essential is that they may require a charismatic new leader to replace Clegg (and instead of Huhne). And fast.

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