My Conservative Party Diary – Sunday

It has become something of a tradition in recent years that on the first day of Conference I present my latest research to set the context for the week. At the last ConHome event in May, when I unveiled my first round of marginal seats polling, a blogger called Hopi Sen observed that I delivered the news like an old testament prophet. But I’m not here to spread gloom, just to make sure we know where we are. Come along to the ConHome marquee at 2pm this afternoon to hear the news – including the latest state of play on the battleground.

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As I say in my Sunday Times piece this morning, many voters have a dilemma to solve. On the whole they prefer Labour to the Conservatives, but Cameron to Miliband. They doubt Labour can be trusted on the economy, but also whether the Tories can be trusted on all sorts of other things. Meanwhile, many UKIP voters want to make their point but wince at the idea of Mr Miliband in Number Ten. They will all make their decision 222 days from today…

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No invitation to the Labour Party conference this year, so I am unable to report on the mood of the comrades. By all accounts it was pretty dismal, and I’m not surprised given the week they had. David Cameron’s first conference speech without notes in 2005 was a gamble that paid off in launching his leadership campaign, but ever since then I have wondered why leaders put themselves through the ordeal. What is it supposed to prove? Does anyone imagine that they are speaking from the heart just because they have memorised their lines?

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Much has been made of Mr Miliband forgetting to mention the deficit. But he didn’t mention it last year either. If he was serious about trying to appeal beyond his current supporters he would have started talking about it four years ago, not last week. Reassuring people that Labour can be trusted with the public finances just doesn’t seem to be part of his plan. He seems convinced that given the number of Tories switching to UKIP, with his core vote and left-leaning former Lib Dems he already has all the support he needs. That is a much bigger gamble than speaking without notes.

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