There’s long been a sense on the Tory side that the party’s campaigning isn’t as sharp as it should be, that CCHQ isn’t up to the job. The Ashcroft target seats campaign was so valued not just because of the money but because of the organisational and management muscle behind it.
The new Tory Chairman Grant Shapps was sent to CCHQ in the reshuffle with instructions to address the place’s institutionalised incompetence. The early signs are encouraging. When Labour announced that it was launching a campaign in the 60 seats where the number of people on working tax credits, which are only going up by 1%, was larger than the Tory majority, Shapps had a Tory response in place in each of those seats by the time Labour’s campaign actually launched. Tellingly, the Tories are trying to emphasise that anyone in work is better off overall because of the increase in the personal allowance. The Tories know that while the public is keen for a tougher approach to those on on out of work benefits, its attitude to those on in work benefits is very different.
Significantly for the next election campaign, both the Labour and Tory campaigns are running only in these 60 seats. Internet advertising enables the parties to precisely target ads to particular seats. Expect to see a lot more of this in the 2015 campaign.