THE BLOG
08/11/2011 18:31 GMT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Conservatives Should Worry Less About Women and More About Winning the Arguments

The legacy of Labour, the higher taxes ordinary people will be paying for years as a consequence of Labour's debt, means that this country cannot afford a Labour Government. We need to raise our game in making the arguments so that everyone understands that the Conservatives are on their side.

Recent polling evidence by Lord Ashcroft and others have suggested that the Conservative Party is losing the support of women.

Party strategists are right to be concerned about this, but in considering how best to address this, they should resist treating women as a minority group. The Conservative Party will reconnect with women by being sharper at making the case for the broader political programme, not be seeking some Holy grail of the women's vote.

The simple truth is that the decline in support for women is symptomatic of the broader challenge facing the Conservative Party.

People move their voting preferences because of the impact or perceived impact of policy on themselves, their families and the broader society.

So the same poll which showed that the Party was doing less well with women also showed it was doing less well with public sector workers. No one was very surprised by that statistic given the public spending reductions, but it should be noted that women make up a good proportion of those employed in the public sector.

The poll also showed that that only 27% believed that the party was "on the side of ordinary people", as opposed to 46% who thought that of Labour.

This particular statistic is the one that Party strategists should be worrying about more. It should be noted that at the last General Election the Conservatives only achieved 36% of the vote. To win a general election and govern with a majority will require us to achieve in excess of 40% of the vote, and we will only achieve this by reassuring ordinary people that we are on their side.

We have won the argument regarding the need to tackle government debt and borrowing, but beyond this we are losing the narrative regarding the broader aspects of the coalition's programme. The result is that, yes, more than at any other time we are viewed as the party of economic competence, but we risk being seen as being all about money.

But we do have a programme which is tackling the concerns of ordinary people.

On immigration we are tackling the chaos we inherited - we have dealt with sham marriages and bogus student visas

On welfare we are reforming to make sure work pays and the culture of dependency is tackled.

We are setting schools free to give parents more choice, and we are reforming the NHS to make it perform better.

As a Party we need to do better at communicating that not only are we "all in this together", but that we are also "on your side."

Government needs to get a lot better at explaining and taking the people with them. We have become less effective at communication and as a consequence, are losing the agenda.

One of the main reasons for this is that we are now in Government and Ministers are more concerned with implementing policy than winning the argument in the media. That is the exciting thing about being in Government.

But we must make sure we are doing all we can to take the people with us. As a party we must become a lot more effective about making the case for change.

Others will hijack the agenda if we don't.

Take the debate about the 50p income tax rate. A rate which affects a tiny proportion of income taxpayers. A debate therefore which makes us look totally out of touch with the millions of taxpayers. Why aren't we out on the front foot articulating our commitment to make sure that everyone should be able to keep more of what they earn?

And despite the fact that the Conservative Party is broadly united on the need to repatriate powers from Europe; despite the fact that the Government has enshrined its commitment to hold a referendum in law; the Conservative Party managed to look once again like a divided rabble.

The stakes are too high. The legacy of Labour, the higher taxes ordinary people will be paying for years as a consequence of Labour's debt, means that this country cannot afford a Labour Government. We need to raise our game in making the arguments so that everyone understands that the Conservatives are on their side.