One part of the story of the Chesham and Amersham by-election was the complacent low key Conservative campaign, as shown every Sunday morning by the nearly adjacent Lib Dem and Conservative offices in Amersham with their contrasting opening times.
But that was by no means the only thing wrong with the Conservative campaign. Very poor political judgement about what the voters were thinking and worrying about played a big role too, as shown by defeated candidate Peter Fleet’s very odd take on why he lost. Tories didn’t turn out to vote for him because, he says:
These stay-at-home Tories want to hear more about traditional Conservative values. While they fully recognise that we had to commit emergency wartime levels of public expenditure to deal with Covid, they are now looking for clear evidence that their Conservative government will restore fiscal discipline at the earliest possible opportunity.
They fear a return to a bloated public sector which stifles private enterprise and demands ever higher taxes. They very much like and respect Rishi Sunak, and they do not expect fretful Tory backbenchers to push the chancellor into saying yes to every request for more and more public spending from the benches opposite. [Daily Telegraph]
Very wrong (and Peter Fleet’s whole piece in the Telegraph is remarkably graceless all the way through).
Some hopefully rather better analysis of the result will be in next week’s Liberal Democrat Newswire. Sign up below to get it direct to your email inbox.
I was though amused by his reaction to how often Sarah Green’s leaflets quoted Theresa May, pointing out her own concerns with government policy:
It did not help my cause that prominent Conservatives were quoted front and centre of the Lib Dem leaflets which advanced this pernicious charge. As a party we need to do better at conducting policy debates in private.