Extraordinary email lifts lid on 'incompetent' Tory election tactics

Written by David Singleton on 15 June 2017 in Diary

One candidate was told to ignore local issues and talk about Theresa May instead.

The first Conservative MP out of the blocks to trash the Tory election campaign was Anna Soubry.

After clinging on to her Broxtowe seat by just 863 seats, the straight-talking former minister took to the airwaves to vent her spleen.

"It was a dreadful campaign," Soubry said. When asked to explain what she meant by that, she added: "Well, where do you want me to begin?"

Soubry pointed the finger at Theresa May, but a couple of days later Tory MP Andrew Mitchell suggested that Conservative HQ was equally responsible for the mess.





Mitchell said literature provided to him was so bad that he refused to distribute it in his Sutton Coldfield constituency.

"It was an absolutely appalling campaign. I have fought nine general elections in my political career and this was by miles the worst," he told TalkRadio.

"At times we appeared almost to almost be campaigning against the record of Conservative-led administrations since 2010. And some of the literature was frankly so inept and awful that in Sutton Coldfield we declined to bother our electorate with it and didn’t put it out."

But perhaps the most damning verdict yet on the actions of the Tory campaign bosses has come in from the seat of Brentford and Isleworth, which the Tories failed to win back from Labour.

Tories involved in the campaign have said that the party HQ told Tory canvassers not to bother appealing to voters between 18 and 24 because they "weren’t on the dataset".

Even more remarkably, Tory HQ is said to have insisted that there should be no campaigning on local issues - either on the doorstep or online. Instead candidate Mary Macleod was ordered to effectively do nothing more than parrot the discredited 'strong and stable leadership' mantra for the entire campaign.

An extraordinary email from central office obtained by The Economist backs up the claims. It states:

"Research has shown that in this seat any mention of local issues will push voters to Labour. I know it is tempting to discuss local issues as this is Labour’s approach, but we must not be tempted. If we once discuss local issues on literature, social media or the doorsteps, we risk losing this seat.

"I know you have put together pledges that you wanted to get out in the final few days, this simply cannot happen now, if it does we will risk losing the seat. By discussing local pledges you'll push voters away from us."

One local Tory official told The Economist that "we were being bullied…CCHQ were arrogant, incompetent and misguided".

But - unlike Mitchell in Sutton Coldfield - Macleod appears to have given in to the bullying and done just what Tory HQ wanted.

An Evening Standard feature on the battle in Brentford and Isleworth published a week before polling day states: "Ms Macleod says the choice is between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn, and voters need to decide who will best stand up for the UK’s interests."

The result was a massive 13.6% swing to Labour in Brentford and Isleworth - and serious questions for Tory campaign chiefs to answer.



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