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Twenty Years of Tory Rule?

20/05/2015 15:18 BST | Updated 20/05/2016 10:59 BST

Three weeks before 7 May, Tory campaign gurus knew they were going to win, and win well. Micro-targeted canvassing of wavering 'switch' voters in key marginals and micro-analysis of polls held in these constituencies, masterminded by campaign manager Lynton Crosby, allied with multiple social media contact with these voters, led Conservative Central Office to develop a carefully concealed confidence that they would get at least 305 seats. Not as many as the 332 they eventually secured, but way ahead of the total predicted by national polls.

To increase the number of Tory seats in parliament after five years of quite savage fiscal austerity was an extraordinary achievement, which betrays a sea-change in voters' priorities. The national psyche still hasn't recovered from the traumatic TV coverage of queues of desperate depositors outside branches of Northern Rock in 2007 and the memory of which party was then in power remains vivid. 2015's voters also wanted to enjoy personal material success and realized that the social services they care about the most, the NHS and schools, can't flourish if 'there's no money left' to pay for them, to quote Labour Treasury secretary Liam Byrne's 2010 handover note to incoming coalition ministers. This thought process would have been very unlikely before the financial crisis; the commonly held assumption then was that we were a rich country which would always have the means to pay for vital services.

Of course, most people don't have the time or the inclination to go into this level of detail on how they are thinking when asked their priorities by pollsters. It's 'nice', and more socially acceptable, to emphasize the NHS and social services, rather than one's own prospects or the nation's fiscal position and its potential effect upon services. This so called 'response bias' was a supposedly well-known phenomenon for the polling companies, and yet they failed entirely to correct for it.

So now this will be a Tory government unfettered by the LibDems, free to pursue deficit reduction, lower taxes and business friendly to the core. Except, what about the EU referendum? Sure, that will introduce some uncertainty, but Cameron will march to EU negotiations with head held high, backed by a strength of mandate of which he could surely only have dreamt for most of the last five years. Concessions will be given by the rest of the EU, as they are keener than commonly imagined to keep us in, and the referendum will yield a 'yes' to continued UK membership. Cue the collapse of UKIP support and the demise of the hard-right Tory euro-sceptics that have threatened to tear the Conservative Party apart for 25 years. There will be no repeat of John Major's agony; the party remembers that its internecine wars then over the EU were extremely destructive and unattractive to voters.

Meanwhile, like Einstein's madmen, the Unions are seeking once again to install their man as a suitably left-wing Labour party leader-Andy Burnham. How can they for one second contemplate a repeat of the same tactic which made the greatest single contribution to David Cameron's continued tenure, (except perhaps Nicola Sturgeon's promise to join with Labour to vote down a Conservative government, had she been able to)? Miliband's downfall was his total failure to read correctly the mood of the British people. He was obsessed with the apparent unfairness of the inequality in our society, caused in part by the financial crisis, whilst the voters were more concerned with their continued absolute prosperity, rather than their net wealth relative to their neighbour, or the families in the big houses down the road. They didn't want to risk what they had achieved over the last five years. By and large the British are throwing off their old tendency to resent success in others; this is fast becoming an outdated archetype.

The Tories have a real opportunity to become the natural party of power for twenty years. We are en-masse, (in England at least) a conservative country with a small 'c'. Thatcher understood and promoted the previous great change in national outlook in the 1980's, and her reign was only ended by the EU question. Sterling's departure from the ERM, (thank you God), put paid to Major, plus the EU, again, and this led to a 13-year hiatus, as Blair captured the national mood. Now Cameron has done the same and, absent back-bencher Eurosceptics silenced by a referendum 'yes' vote, can outlast Thatcher and Blair, now that the most relevant question seems to be what is Labour 'for' anyway? The Conservatives can move a little to the left, becoming the 'one nation' Tories that Cameron espouses by adding a little more 'caring' to competency, thus also stealing the LibDems ground, so what are they 'for'? Sensible controls over immigration can finish off UKIP.

Add a little judicious boundary change Gerrymandering, gifting the Tories another twenty seats, and hey-presto, Tory rule as far as the eye can see.

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