Saturday, February 24, 2007

Responding to Frederick Forsyth

I am honoured that Frederick Forsyth has written a letter to the Telegraph commenting on my article on Wednesday. Here it is...
Sir - Iain Dale ("Tories' Champagne should stay on ice", Comment, February 21)
tells us that David Cameron "wanted to make Lib Dem voters feel that they could
come home to the Conservatives".

Problem: the 4.5 million Conservative voters who voted for John Major in 1992
but refused in 1997 did not switch to the Lib Dems. Nor did the extra 1.5
million who walked away between 1997 and 2005. Had they done so, Sir Menzies
Campbell would now be Prime Minister.

The slowly rising Lib Dem harvest of seats derives not from former Tory votes
for the Lib Dems, but from the falling vote of their two main opponents. Mr Dale
might address himself to the conundrum: what happened to the 10 million voters
who, across 13 years, have refused to turn out for anybody? Even if 20 per cent
have died or emigrated, that is still a huge missing electorate. David Cameron
does not need to convert Lib Dems. He walks into Downing Street if he can find
the missing Tory voters and bring them back.

Second problem: they were mostly traditionalists when they walked off in
disgust on May 1, 1997, and being now 10 years older probably still are.

Frederick Forsyth, Hertford


He raises some good points. Let me respond. Of course it is not just LibDem voters Cameron needs to attract. My point was that it is voters in the centre - whether Labour or Libdem - who need to feel that the Tory Party is a decent Party and can relate to people like them. The phrase 'good for me, good for my neighbour' sums this up.

Forsyth is wrong to imply that it is not Libdem voters which should be targeted. Many of their 63 MPs won their seats because former Tory voters went over to them in 1997 and 2001 - North Norfolk, Taunton, Winchester, Eastleigh, Harrogate, Kingston... Need I go on?

Forsyth is, however, right to ask why 10 million people now do not vote at all. In the 1000 words available to me I was addressing other issues so did not cover this, but I would say that one of the reasons (and there are many others) is that they felt the Tories had moved away from their values. It is Cameron's task to appeal to this group too, and I believe he is making good progress with them.

I do not agree with Forsyth that most of this group were 'traditionalists' and even if they were, I suspect they would have been in the upper age groups and after ten years are a rapidly diminishing number. No, most people who don't vote tend to take the 'plague on all your houses' approach and are a very difficult group to entice back into the polling booth. It's even more difficult when there is relative economic stability.

However, we should also remember that many people didn't vote last time and the time before because they thought it would make little difference to the result. That will be different next time.

36 comments:

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Sad to reflect how hard women fought for the vote, considering how many of their granddaughters can't be bothered to.

Dave Bartlett said...

There was a thread on this over at Conservative Home yesterday.

In Big Bang Localism [PDF 527kB] Simon Jenkins argued that declining party membership, and presumably political engagement, was a result of the emasculation of Local Government during the Thatcher and Major years.

From the book:
The greatest loss was from local politics. The decline in participation through membership of political parties was phenomenal. A million Tories simply evaporated. The most serious losses were of suburban and county activists for whom executive power on local councils was a quid pro quo for loyalty at national elections.Visiting a group of Hampshire Tories at the time, I found them bitterly marginalised by the Thatcher and Major governments. They were no longer trusted to fix their rates or spend them responsibly. Thatcher had abandoned a celebrated tenet of her hero,Hayek,that,“Nowhere has democracy worked well without a great measure of local self-government... it provides a school of political training for the people at large as much as for their future leaders.”

All over Britain the Tory Party’s “little platoons”packed their bags
and went home.

Anonymous said...

The Olympics is a farce. For London to be staging it is bad.

There is no need to waste vast sums every 4 years, with crazy building and infrastructure projects that will be largely unused afterwards. i thought we were supposed to be limiting greenhouse gases and saving the planet.

I've no problem with a world sporting contest but this could be staged in locations wherever there are suitable facilities already. It is largely a TV event anyway.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Forsyth says 'The slowly rising Lib Dem harvest of seats derives not from former Tory votes for the Lib Dems, but from the falling vote of their two main opponents'.

So he thinks that the Lib Dem vote has held up whereas those of the other parties have fallen away. That says that Lib Dems are more committed and have more faith in the democratic process than the rest of the population. Is this likely?

I'm not convinced that his description of those who did not vote as 'Traditionalists' is accurate. Surely it's not simply that? Even so, I'd be interested to see a closer definition of that word. My guess is that one should examine the thinking rather than the profile of the non-voters.

Your comment about the diminishing numbers of the elderly is not, strictly, accurate. We have an aging population, as you know. It's also true that the older members of any population tend to be more conservative (small 'c'), so constant change and 'initiatives' are disliked.

Attitudes and personal circumstances do change as people age. My guess is that Cameron would do well if he can persuade the populace that he stands for real stability, traditional values, and the wholesale reduction of State interference. Throwing out some recent legislation would be a good start - witness public reaction to David Davis' recent remarks.

mitch said...

I think his point is the Conservatives should adopt (re-adopt?) those policies that the 'missing' voters liked before and want again.

If this happens the Lib Dem voters are not crucial because they will be outnumbered by the returning voters.

His concern is the Conservatives are changing to suit Lib Dem voters when this is not required, and is in fact anti-Conservative.

He is of course entirely right.

You're argument seems to be a) the missing voters won't return whatever we do, or b) they'll be dead next time anyway, or c) (the real reason) actually they represent a political view we don't want to represent anymore.

a) and b) are nonsense. If you believe c) then at least say so.

Man in a shed said...

I seem to remember Lord Tebbit making a very similar point in a recent interview ( Tory radio ? - haven't re-listened to it so I can't be sure ).

I think it an issue that needs to be thought about creatively - as both Tebbit and Forsyth have a point - but so does David Cameron. ( He has done a great job, but has wobbled in recent months.)

My waking nightmare is the thought that a David Cameron would lead a government which makes little difference to that lead by Tony Blair. You can argue all you like - but the feeling is there. My head tells me it can't be the case, but the hearts not so sure.

And that is a problem for David Cameron - as he goes after the hearts of Lib Dems and the pollster's fickle voters, not Torys.

Anonymous said...

I must have been 1 of those 10million ,voted for Thatcher the first time ,then just got disgusted
never voted since ,but I loved when the the arrogant politicians called me names ,shame they didn't sit down and find out why I didn't vote ,think if the polling slip had, had put none of the above they would have had heart attacks.

I will be voting this time Con or UKIP even BNP.

Probably like a few others will be keeping a close eye on Cameron

2br02b said...

True, "... many people didn't vote last time and the time before because they thought it would make little difference to the result. That will be different next time."

However, that cuts both ways. There is no particular Tory consolation in that, I'm afraid.

neil craig said...

I suspect the main advantage to being in the "centre" is not that you pick up votes but that you don't piss off enough Labour supporters ti actually vote either. Beyind whether Forsyth is right or wrong & you acknowledge that he is at least partly right, the fact that ever fewer people can be bothered to vote at all should be deply worrying to anyine inclined towards democracy.

I have said before that PR, whatever its other points, gives people the chance to vote for somebody they like without knowing they won't win. I have seen no refutation.

javelin said...

There are 3 deep currents involved with the Lib/Labs whose momentum seems bigger than any party at the moment.

(1) The left have failed economically in the 90's and now have failed socially - they have no where to go.

(2) If the SNP win Scotland the left in England will not be in power again and must make some serious changes.

(3) The environment is begining to impact heavily on the political adgenda.

I think the natural resolution to these problems will be if the Labour party and Liberal merge in a specific way - so that the Labour party takes on the Liberals policies. Any one of the above COULD cause this to happen all WILL cause this happen.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Tory activists who refuse to discuss Europe, immigration or in fact anything that might require an opinion for fear of derailing the 'project' are the real enemy. They wont entertain these ideas because they are tainted with 'failure' - the evidence of three election losses proves their point they claim!

They will of course have been supporting those policies during 3 losses and fail to see that they are consequently not best placed to judge the 'mood' of the real world.

The Tory Party lost 3 elections because they had nothing to achieve after Thatcher. They should have lost in 92, saved only by Labour ineptitude. 2005 should give us a clue to the outcome next time. History will rightly ask how it was possible for a bunch of failed liars and cheats to get a third term. they did but it doesnt make them any less inept, corrupt or spineless. It certainly doesnt make traditional Tory policy wrong or superfluous does it?

Stop being afraid of a government so utterly discredited, so utterly despised, so utterly corrupt staring down the same barrel Conservatives are familiar with.

It is not risky, controversial or radical to offer the public a real alternative to this governments toss. Time to be bold.

Anonymous said...

I had a go at Iain over his ads saying why not have an ad on getting people to vote ,vote for anybody but vote but Iain must have thought I was mad and never put it in the commentry ,am I mad or is a hung parliment looming on a very low voter count

allan said...

Javelin, what are you talking about? The 'left' were only in charge of the UK for three of the ten years of the 1990s, during which time the economy was the healthiest it had been all century - how this constitutes 'failing in the 90s' I have no idea.

As for the Labour and Liberal Democrat (I assume that's what you mean by 'Liberal') parties merging - I suspect that the Labour and Conservative parties merging is about as likely, they have about as much in common now.

javelin said...

allan said...

Javelin, what are you talking about? The 'left' were only in charge of the UK for three of the ten years of the 1990s.

Who mentioned the UK.

towcestarian said...

Forsyth seems to have deliberately avoided the highly contentious issue of those of us who are unlikely to vote for the Conservatives, because of ithe party's lurch to the left.

In the absence of a credible party to represent us (the "headbanging right" in Mr Dale's crassly arrogant opinion - political moderates if we lived in the USA) the number of stay-at-home voters is likely to increase, not decrease.

Anonymous said...

I cant see any difference between NuLab and NuCon and that will not get many people out to vote for them,my feeling is LibDem will do well in the locals and scare the hell out of both parties, making them go back and rethink.

Cameron is no help following on the heels of Blair wherever he goes,people are fed up seeing the same rubbish spouted by these two,it reminds me of when Smith was around and Blair using every opportunity to be seen on tv ,rubbish still gives you rubbish even when it has a coat of Nu paint.

wills said...

I'm aged but no way diminished.
I voted Tory in '97 as usual. This traditional Tory seat was lost to a Blair babe since superseded by a nu labour male. He is an excellence constituency MP, certainly better than Nick Budgeon, and I cannot see a single reason coming from David Cameron not to change my vote to Labour for the next election.I'm hear plenty of how good it would be 'for the country' but just how good would it be for me?

Umbongo said...

"we should also remember that many people didn't vote last time and the time before because they thought it would make little difference to the result. That will be different next time."

Iain: I shall not be voting for any of the three major parties particularly because it will make little difference. Whatever I vote, as far as I can see, I will get high tax, no opposition to continuing bureaucratic garbage from the EU, climate change fascism and crap education, criminal justice and health systems. Oh yes, on top of that I have to pay for body obsessives (or, as they call themselves, athletes) to take part in a useless and expensive competition while being cheered on by politicians preening at their generosity in funding all this waste.

hg said...

A lot of people are staying below the radar by not being on the electoral register or the census, cheaper in all sorts of ways.

Pogo said...

Umbongo... You took the words straight out of my mouth.

As an ex-Tory I'll be voting UKIP next time as there's no way I can bring myself to vote for Cameron's "Green with a touch of Blue" Conservatives... It might be considered a wasted vote or one for "None of the above", but it's a more honourable option than spoiling my paper or not voting.

Anonymous said...

Cons lost because they were sleazy(Pre Edwina remember)but more importantly financialy incompetent.
Forsyth is right and there are many Cons who will either not bother to vote next time or vote UKIP just to make a massive point.
Finally it matters not a jot who the Party Chairman is if Hilton is still pulling the strings the wrong way.

Anonymous said...

The departure of Maude is a long overdue blessing.I agree with ANON 11.20 there's no point in a change on the bridge if Hilton's still down in the boiler room.

Anonymous said...

At last some comments with which I can agree.Why not make the tea lady Chairman-same result!

Anonymous said...

The shadow cabinet changes planted in the DT look interesting.The Hurd appointment will strengthen the ever growing band of old etonians who will have massive appeal in the north of England and Gove who is very much a mans man is an inspired choice.
Nice one Dave.

Lerxst said...

"they felt the Tories had moved away from their values. It is Cameron's task to appeal to this group too, and I believe he is making good progress with them"

Well, as one of those who has spoiled his ballot paper since 1992, for my part, the first part of your analysis is true. A treacherous coup followed by that wet haddock, Major, was enough to show me that the Tories weren't worth voting for. However, the second part is pure tosh. Dave has done nothing whatsoever to re-engage those of us who were disillusioned. Quite the opposite - he seems to be swinging even further to the left, pursuing whatever crank cause he thinks will get him votes. Leadership? He's shown no such thing.

garypowell said...

Iain I agree with you. Forsyth is a very clever man that I have much respect for, but I think his wishfull thinking has got the better of him.

The public is not stupid just largly disinterested in all senses of the word.

People voted Tory in 1979 because the country was in a dire mess and there was simply no alternative.

The situation is different now but wont be so different in 2 or 3 years time.

Nobody waxed on about the free market either in 79 or 97 the public understands economics about as much as they understand Quantum Physics. Same gos for crime health education and defence. But they do have common sense eyes in their head and they do get bored.

There just is a time when the people are ready for a change and that time is coming soon.

It is not a matter now, whether the Tories get back into power. It is how long they will last when they do and what they do when they get there.

One very important factor is whether Labour gets THEIR core vote out. A lot of Labour voters like Tory voters before, get fed up making excuses for the government that they helped elect and almost start wishing for opposition.

As we know governments and their parties dont win elections, but they sure as hell can loose them.

The Tory party much to Forsyths dismay is a libertarian based party and its young members are especialy so. Thatcher started to believe her own and the BBCs propergander about herself.

However all the really good things she did that lasted were when she looked to her libertarian and liberal roots.

garypowell said...

Just to lighten your day a little.

On the doorstep, during what little of it I have done resently, I met at least 10 people that voted Labour in the last election that tell me they will never vote Labour again. Two of them are definately voting Tory even if it rains. Both of these people have never voted Tory in there lives and also never thought they would.

The only people I have met that say they are considering voting for the BNP, which is more then is comfortable, are people that have never voted before for anyone. So they are very likely not going to bother next time either.

I did not meet any Conservative voters that voted in the last election that do not intend to vote Tory next time, not one.

Anonymous said...

Given the time of the last two posts I assume they didn't originate in Britain or Hilton got someone out of bed early.

Anonymous said...

So dave likes to shoot stag.He should have a care that he doesn't end up with "dave at bay"

antifrank said...

Perhaps I can offer a floating voter's perspective. I voted Tory in 1987 in Durham, Lib Dem in 1992 in Lewisham East (an anti-tactical vote on local matters, I detested both major party candidates), but then spoiled my ballot paper in 1997 (again in Lewisham East).

My reason for doing so was that the Conservative government was a complete shower, I deeply distrusted Tony Blair as a fake and the Lib Dems seemed totally unsuitable. I actually had a home-made poster in my window saying "Don't Vote", I felt so passionately about the matter. It attracted quite a bit of attention.

Anyway, I guess that makes me one of Frederick Forsyth's missing millions. I can assure you that while I may be fairly idiosyncratic in my thought processes, I am emphatically not a traditionalist hang 'em shoot 'em flog 'em type, that I warmly welcome David Cameron's change of tone, and that more Conservatives need to sound like they like the country they live in and don't hate its people.

A clearer commitment to tax cuts would be nice though.

Voyager said...

People voted Tory in 1979 because the country was in a dire mess and there was simply no alternative.

Actually it was the 5% Incomes Policy that caused much frustration and the inflation, together with an £8500 pa cap on those receiving salary increases because Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon said so.

Thatcher pledged to have no Incomes Police and let the free market decide pay rises which sounded ideal to trades unions striking that winter to breach the 5% pay norm and Ford workers who wanted 35%.

delroy said...

Voyager said...
Actually it was the 5% Incomes Policy that caused much frustration and the inflation, together with an £8500 pa cap on those receiving salary increases because Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon said so.

Thatcher pledged to have no Incomes Police and let the free market decide pay rises which sounded ideal to trades unions striking that winter to breach the 5% pay norm and Ford workers who wanted 35%.

8:41 AM

I'd nearly forgotten that.
I was an EETPU shop steward at the time and negotiations with Thorn Group were quite straightforward because they could only give us 5% because our Labour government had said so. Thorn's profits were more than enough to afford more they were so said that only shareholders could get some of it. I mean, the managing director could only have 5%. Of course, his 5% was a lot more than the fiver a week it represented for me at the time.
The 5% didn't apply if you had a seriously important job like dustbin man.They went on strike and the streets were overflowing in rubbish and rats. Old Labour couldn't govern, Nu Labour is nothing to do with Socialism and I had high hopes, badly let down, for One Nation Conservatism. As I said somewhere, I've never lived in a Socialist utopia.

Anonymous said...

delroy-when the general election comes you'll need that poster again.

The Remittance Man said...

Anon of 10:17 will "be voting this time Con or UKIP even BNP"

Well, that's a pretty wide spread of ideas.

You've got an openly libertarian, small government party with a hint of amateurishness, an establishment party with a vague hint of small government (maybe), and a very pro state party with a rather nasty hint of racist philosophies.

About the only thing these three have in common is that they are all wrongly branded "right wing" by the lefties and the press.

With the greatest of respect, Anon, might I suggest you do little more background reading into the policies of all the contesting parties? Perhaps then you might be able to refine your choice.

Anonymous said...

I have neighbours who have for all the time I have known them been 'true-blue.' They voted LibDem last time (and a prat of a candidate) because the Tories supported Tony playing toy soldiers with the British Army in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Mr Forsyth

Can you make that 10,000,001 . The ultra-Blairite borders policy announced today ends my interest in Cameron. At this rate the next election may pass unoticed outside westminster.

" we have made record investment in border police since 2009.... and his party voted against it"

Sound familiar?