… came from Lord Ashcroft, taking to task fellow Conservatives for their obsession with Europe. Instead, he rightly says, the party should focus on what matters most to voters:
If there is one thing that unites Conservatives it is the desire to win the next general election outright. Certain things follow from this. The first is that we need more votes at the next election than we received at the last. This means attracting people who voted for a different party last year. This in turn imposes two requirements: to address the things they care about most, and to show that we are changing the things that put them off voting Conservative in the past.
You may think this is so obvious that is hardly needs stating. Indeed, Conservative audiences always nod earnestly when you tell them. Yet some Tories have an apparently limitless capacity to detach this objective from the way they actually behave.
What do we know about voters’ priorities? We know they are anxious about the economy, in terms of growth and jobs, not just cutting the deficit. We know they care more about the NHS than they think we do, that they believe it is subject to cuts and that they do not know how our reforms are supposed to benefit them. We know they are not sure whether our promises on immigration are being delivered. We know they do not think this government is dealing as effectively with crime as they hoped and expected. And we know that for many people, the main barrier to voting Conservative is that they do not think we share the concerns of people like them. But which issue has the last week shown still seems to exercise our party above all others?