Work hard. Get what you deserve. National pride. Respect for the law. Belief in the family unit. Tough on crime. Personal responsibility for your local area. Community spirit.
What party do these views align with most closely? Universal and inoffensive, they should appeal to all. These are the core tenets of conservativism. So why are opinion polls lackluster for the Government?
A poll released in September by Populus asked which of the main political parties represented ‘ordinary people, not just the better off.’ Crucially the Conservatives only received 30% of the vote. Labour received 52%.
Motives behind voter choice have been theorised, researched and debated many hundreds of times. But what this poll and many others like it demonstrate is that the Conservative Party identity in the British narrative is still lacking cohesion.
With universally appealing founding conservative principles, it is the additional representations in policy and the media that must be affecting public perception of the ‘party that means the most to me’.
Recent academic attempts to steer voters towards the ‘Red Tories’, ‘Blue Labourites’ or ‘Orange Book Liberals’ demonstrate a wish to craft party policy narrative in a way that is palatable to the masses. But this conflicting set of messages helps no-one. Highlighting the ‘squeezed-middle’ is similarly illogical unless you use economical definitions that arguably hardly strike a cord with the ‘ordinary voter’.
But do ‘normal’ people ever think of themselves as being ‘ordinary’? I doubt it. In today’s aspirant culture everyone has the potential to be great and with American cultural influences the Yes We Can attitude is making defining populist political narrative ever harder.
This is far from conducive to constructing the proud nationalism ideal of the big society or being ‘all in this together’.
The good news is that policy developments and news coverage seem to be influencing people in the polls. Their opinions are transient and likely to change on a daily basis so no reputational issue is too great that it cannot be overcome with canny messaging. The bad news is that the Conservatives currently do not have that messaging secured.
To secure general and electoral support from the public at large, the Conservative Party narrative needs to get back to basics. The identity of the party for the benefit of the working and aspirational classes needs to be highlighted and explained clearly and consistently as a philosophy. Gone are the days when the Party purpose was understood instinctively within the national narrative.
We should be focusing on extolling our core values. Over and over again. Anything else needlessly complicates matters in what is already a complicated and deterring system. Then come the big picture policies, but these can only be added after a strong identifying narrative is secured.
The nation has forgotten what the Conservative Party is all about. It’s about time we helped them remember.