How revitalised Tory party burst UKIP’s Newark bubble
It wasn't just the victory in Newark, it was the way that it was done. Labour and UKIP should take note that the revitalised Conservative Party machine is going to be a massive new asset for 2015
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Newark by-election was meant to be an opportunity for UKIP to steal a seat from the Conservatives and proclaim that it had finally become a serious force in British politics. The reality was a decisive Conservative victory by 7,000 votes delivered by one of the most energetic and dynamic campaigns ever seen in the UK.
Whilst this result is no cause for complacency it is a reminder that when it comes to the crunch, the British people are looking for a party with a serious long-term economic plan for the future and that a Conservative victory in 2015 is very possible.
Those looking to dismiss this result should think again, Robert Jenrick is the first winning Tory by-election candidate under a Conservative prime minister since William Hague in 1989. These elections almost always bring with them disaster for the sitting party and jubilation for the opposition.
But whilst UKIP will be disappointed with the result, Labour should be on red alert. Under the leadership of the weird Mr Miliband the party’s vote contracted by -4.65 percent, a figure which should lead to serious questions about Labour’s chances of winning the next election and its poorly managed campaign operation which clearly did not deliver.
Some would argue that a major party like the Conservatives has the resources to throw the kitchen sink at a campaign such as Newark and that such a success would not be repeated at a general election. The same could equally be said of Labour and look how badly they performed.
So whilst UKIP is likely to increase its share of the vote at the next election, the theory that it will trigger a political earthquake and destroy the Conservative party is looking increasingly ludicrous.
There is however another more significant reason why the Newark by-election was a substantial milestone for the Conservatives related to the party rediscovering its zest for intensive on the ground campaigning.
Under the Chairmanship of Grant Shapps who pioneered the Team 2015 strategy of organising colossal campaign days in the party’s target seats, activists have been targeted by text and email to build a decisive and engaged team across the UK.
The Road Trip 2015 campaign is transporting activists from all corners of the country for a full day campaigning followed by beers and curry. Clarke freely admits that the Road Trip initiative is designed to counter Labour’s union-subsidised action days.
“I founded RoadTrip2015 after seeing in Tooting in 2010 how the unions bussed in hundreds of activists to swamp us. No association alone can compete with this. Afterwards, I and others promised to do our part to ensure that no Conservative MP or candidate would stand alone,” he says.
The structure is simple: the Road Trip 2015 team has installed energetic regional representatives across the country who liaise with local activists and rally attendees for the action days. Those leading the charge include some of the party’s brightest upcoming women, including Alexandra Paterson a Manchester based Barrister, Louisa Townson a UCL PhD Pharmacology student and Annabel Shaw from York University who repeated William Hague’s famous moment by addressing Tory conference aged just 15.
This structure has enabled the constant recruitment, training and rallying of hundreds of like-minded campaigners in dedicated target seats, putting spring into the step of the Conservative party.
Labour high command is reportedly concerned about this new sense of optimism in the Conservative Party, and it should be. The weak leadership of Ed Miliband hardly gives Labour party activists a reason to hit the doorsteps, and his debt-heavy policies give the British people no reason to vote for him.
Labour’s infrastructure is chaotic and confused, whilst under Grant Shapps the Conservative Party’s is looking increasingly decisive and effective.
The Conservative party can and will win the next election and thus ensure that David Cameron has a majority in 2015. This can only be achieved by grassroots activism and engagement on the doorstep and we all have a responsibility to do our bit. The structure is there, the activists are ready, and the party is now mobilised to support its members on the ground.
On a final note, those thinking of a cheeky protest vote to UKIP should look at the travesty caused by such actions at the local elections in Croydon, and Hammersmith and Fulham, where two historic Tory areas that have benefitted from managed finances and low taxes are now in the hands of the Labour party.
Such outcomes should encourage protest voters to take a long hard look at the grievous damage they have done, and remind them that doing it again will hand Mr Miliband and the Labour Party the chance to destroy our country once more.
Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist
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