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The Conservative party then and now – the need to connect with a wider public

February 15th, 2014

Why Dave’s successor is not going to be another old-Etonian

Last night there was an interesting post-Wythenshawe discussion kicked off by the Tweet at the top by the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman.

Over the past half century just three Tory leaders have led their party to victory with overall majorities at general elections. They were Heath in 1970, Thatcher in 1979, 1983 and 1987 and the last, John Major, 22 years ago in 1992. What they have in common is that they came from modest backgrounds and were all state school educated.

The Tory John Major poster above is hugely powerful and sends out a big message to voters.

It was always hard for opponents to portray the Tories as privileged and I’d suggest that Major would always have scored well on the YouGov “In touch with ordinary people” leadership characteric tracker. Last week Cameron’s rating on this measure was 7%.

This has huge political implications as we see when the issue of reducing the top rate of tax comes up. The polling shows that the Tories are vulnerable to the charge that they are favouring the rich even though there’s an economic case to say that it will increase the overall tax take.

My long-term bets Cameron’s successor are on Theresa May and Phillip Hammond.

The last Eton-educated Conservative to lead his party to an overall majority was Harold Macmillan at the 1959 general election. The Conservatives had a 12.1% majority in Wythenshawe.

Mike Smithson

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