It has long been argued by myself and others that the key characteristic that voters look to when whey make their choice is their desire for competent government. We might not like what a party is proposing but most of all we want politicians who are ready to take unpopular decisions which are right for the country.
One of the characteristics which has always been a strength of Tories has been the reputation for providing just this. The Thatcher government is a classic case. It did many things that large number of people were opposed to but it gave the impression of being competent.
The long period of Tory rule which had begun with Mrs. Thatcher’s GE1979 victory ended in 1997 because the huge divide by then over Europe allowed Blair to portray it as incompetent and that the Labour he led was able to provide a competent alternative.
Clare Foges, a Number 10 speech-writer during the Cameron era sums it up well in the Times this morning.
” The Conservative Party does not need to worry about being likeable. Its currency is not likeability but respect. For decades there has been a belief that while you might loathe the Tories, they get the job done. Yes, they could be arrogant, high-handed bastards but at least they were competent bastards. They were capable. They could envision and see through big, nation-changing projects. This is the fatal thing about the current state of the Conservative Party. The reputation for competence is gone — and with it the grudging respect that brought millions of people to vote Tory.“
Looking back I think the moment Tory reputation was lost during this year’s election campaign was the Monday after the controversial manifesto launch and the U-turn by Mrs. May on the dementia tax.
My initial reaction to the proposal was that it showed a government that was willing to make highly unpopular decisions on what is one of the biggest issues of the day which other governments of all shades had been avoiding for decades. I thought it was an election winner because of the messages it sent out about competence and willingness to take tough decision. which would be unpopular with core Tory voters. Then the policy was watered down and TMay has suffered ever since.