Allister Heath tweets praise for Fraser Nelson's "great piece" in today's Telegraph, but in truth it swerves away from its most interesting observation.
He concentrates on narrative explaining how "tricolour" Britain in becoming divided into four party zones - SNP Scotland, Labour north of England, Conservative southern England, and Lib Dem south west England. This brings the parties problems:
Becoming more popular in northern cities is as useless to Labour as becoming more popular in southern shires is to the Tories: both parties need to win seats, not grow majorities. The opinion polls do not reflect this struggle.As he remarks, "cutting back public spending and welfare is not a vote-winner in the many parts of the country where those on benefits, or those employed by the state, make up the majority of the electorate". So far so static. But then:
When the Tories last commissioned a study about the North, it concluded that the geographical aspect was a red herring. The greater problem was the lack of a message for the blue-collar workers who make up a greater share of voters in the North. These people are worried about crime, schools and the cost of living in general – not the environment, overseas aid or Lords reform.Are southerners then exercised mainly by "the environment, overseas aid, or Lords Reform"? This southerner thinks far less should be spent on overseas aid, for instance. It's wholly mystifying why Cameron thinks boasting of boosting it is good politics. Lords Reform is risibly irrelevant - though maybe in the south west they talk of little else but this Lib Dem priority. And consensus policy on the environment is ludicrously expensive and almost wholly wrong.
Are southerners by contrast uninterested in crime, schools and the cost of living? If by the south you mean Primrose Hill or Notting Hill Gate, then perhaps that's true. Outside those political enclaves, these issues will feature large. Yet the Tories turn a blind eye to the rising cost of living, or pursue policies which set out to make energy dearer, and daily life more expensive for everyone. Is this because they are posh toffs who think the cost of living doesn't matter? Or because they are stupidly fixated on their own priorities?
The Tories' recent astonishing burst of ineptitude suggests that it might be both.
Fraser's conclusion is that
The surest route for a party to break out of its heartland is to focus less on the Westminster chess match, and more on finding an agenda that enough people think is worth voting for.So why don't they?
With that study in front of you, Fraser's conclusion looks obvious. Padding his piece with local examples, Fraser runs out of space to ask the central question: why are the parties not doing this?
Rather than deliver what the electorate want, they seem more concerned to talk up their own fixed policy positions. They crouch in their trenches and lob mortars at their opponents' positions - no way to gain even an inch of new territory.
There is a law now on fixed term parliaments. Did it also require policies to be fixed for five year terms?