Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wiping Cameron's smile off his face

So, we’re told the Tories are back on the map. Last Thursday was their good-news day, we hear. Well done to them – but should they really look so smug?

The Conservatives in the past have had this problem: premature concentration. They – and their voters – have focussed too early on areas where they do well, rather than working to spread support efficiently across the constituencies they want to win. Have they learnt to master their unfortunate condition? The evidence from one patch doesn’t bode so well for them.

The Tories in Oxfordshire could celebrate this past weekend because they got a whopping increase in councillors in parts of the county – except, it was concentrated in the seats where they are established kings. In the Vale of White Horse, most of which is in their LibDem-held target seat of Oxford West and Abingdon, they managed, against all expectations, not even to hold their own. They lost out hugely to the LibDems, leaving Abingdon without any Tories at district or parish level.

In other words, in Oxfordshire, the Witney Wonder is winning votes – but not where it matters. They’re piling up their votes in their heartlands, but sliding back elsewhere – and they are still without any councillor whatsoever in the county’s capital.

The strange case of Oxford and the Conservatives is one I’ve mentioned long ago. The rumours persist that at least one City Councillor wants to put a smile on a Tory face. Whether there are enough of is another matter: the Colossus of the County, Kaiser Keith, is too shrewd an operator to accept just one or two city councillors changing allegiance. After all, on his own Council, two may be company, but nothing less than three is a group. And nothing less than four would look respectable if the Tories wanted to claim they were making a real break-through. But finding four humans in Oxford – let alone that sub-species, councillors – who would stand up for Cameron’s right-wing agenda, well, if the ‘new’ Conservatives believe they can do that, frankly, they’re out of their newly-drawn tree.

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