The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Robert Simpson Headshot

The Failure of Cameron's Decontamination Project

Posted: Updated:

Ever since Cameron won the party leadership over David Davis in 2005, he has tried vigorously to press home the point that in the eyes of so many people across the United Kingdom The Tory Party was the symbol of Mass Unemployment, Disregard for the vulnerable and strained relationships with ethnic minorities.

While the dire state of the nation's finances left by Labour have contributed massively to the austere economic policies, the fact remains after seven years of leading the party little progress has been made and the party's dire image of privilege and ignorance as only increased following the budget and the fuel crisis that never was.

Some of key architects of the modernising agenda like Francis Maude and George Osborne have been largely responsible for the veil being removed from the slick Tory image and exposing an underbelly that shows nothing's really changed.

The public are cottoning onto this fact also, recent polling shows a large proportion of public believe the Conservatives are out of touch and a party of backslapping old boys. The inability of the Conservatives to attract members and candidates from a wide socio-economic background is a major factor in their perception problem.

Even though the pool of Tory MP's from ethnic minority backgrounds increased to 11 at the last election many of these were from well off backgrounds, coming from sectors like financial services.

The conservatives need candidates who come from as diverse an economic background as possible. Conservative support in ethnic minority communities is still shockingly low, no more alarming than in the recent Bradford West By-election.

Recent calls for Sayeeda Warsi to step down as Conservative Co-Chair are extremely misguided. However unpopular her message maybe to conservative associations that they need to be more open, it has to be persevered with otherwise without this change no matter how great Cameron's detoxification strategy is, perception by the public will not change.

You only have to look at how well Mike Penning was received by the public and the Tory rank file when he was sent out on the frontline to clean up Maude's mess.

Penning's background is one that very few Tory MP's have and more worryingly very few Tory candidates have. The working class Tory supporter is becoming an almost extinct species. They were the backbone of Thatcher's three election victories but have almost vanished since the fall of the last Conservative majority.

Cameron has always had a strong suspicion of the Tory right and in his desire to break from them and forge his own path he has aligned himself with like minded people, who all happen to be from the same elite metropolitan London set.

In so doing so he has fallen into the trap that so weakened the Blair's New Labour project where everything was focus grouped into submission while at the same time government policy and the reality on the street seemed to diverge alarmingly.

While ridiculed at the time John Major's soap box politics during the 1992 election showed how a Tory leader can connect with the public or at least show he was trying to and not just stand behind a podium at endless press conferences. This disconnect from the public has only increased the perception that Cameron is himself out of touch and from a background which means he can never understand ordinary voters problems.

The irony is the man he beat to the leadership, David Davis, has a background which is not one of privilege but he was portrayed as an old school Tory who didn't have necessary skills to modernise the party and bring them back to power.

Without doubt the Conservatives face an uphill battle to alter the perception of the party and it will not change overnight. Perceptions run deep, old scars have yet to heal and new ones are opening up but if the Conservatives ever want to have a serious working majority in the house then they need to be united behind deep rooted change in the party. No matter how inept Miliband's leadership of the Labour Party may look at present, Cameron and his party have much work to do to convince a sceptical electorate that they deserve a full second term.