The Tories know what it's like to be a minor party in cities like Oxford. Here, they haven't won a seat in this millennium and recently have only picked up hand-me-downs on the Council.
The Conservatives have polled very poorly in all by-elections since 2006. Going back to that year's main elections, when half the city's seats were last contested, they came behind the Greens. But, at least at that point they focussed their resources, fighting seats they thought they could win (like -- oh, dear -- my own Headington); this time, they are attempting the strategy of stretching themselves as thin as skin undergoing cosmetic surgery.
Bad choice, guys.
The electors know it's a sham, an attempt to fool the electorate into imagining the party which once called itself nasty -- probably because it was considered a brand-leader in xenophobia and homophobia -- has some chance in a tolerant city like Oxford. They don't.
The New Tories, who desperately try to be Blairite ten years after that went out of fashion, have written to all Oxford households encouraging them to 'go green'. That's even though the Conservatives locally are not in favour of the city's recycling revolution. But, at least, if Tory voters took their leader's advice, they would be voting for the third-placed party rather than the usual Conservative doldrums of fourth and final place.
It was a Tory Prime Minister who, on achieving that office, proclaimed: 'I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.' His latterday Oxford colleagues are still slithering at its foot.