Tory MPs are currently hearing from Lynton Crosby at a special meeting of the 1922 Committee on his election victory. Many of them are wryly amused that they are having to applaud a campaign that they found restrictive, uninspiring and negative – and which they think relied on Alex Salmond as a bogeyman, not the Tories’ own appeal in order to win the election. But they will be applauding the Wizard of Oz nonetheless today because whether or not he did, as he claims, know all along that the party would win the election outright, he did run a campaign that led to an election win, and there’s not much point in arguing with that.
The Tories are in a jolly good mood indeed as they head into the summer recess, not just because they are in government, but also because Labour is doing everything that they hoped it would to make it easier for them to pass controversial legislation and occupy the centre ground. One jubilant MP jokes that ‘we could strap babies to foxes and then tie them up with badgers, shoot them, and Labour wouldn’t know how to oppose it’. That facetious analysis rather ignores the fact that the Tories didn’t manage to get their modest change to fox hunting legislation through, but the point still stands: the longer Labour is in a mess, the more powerful the Tories can become.
This self-congratulatory mood hasn’t stopped the Conservatives from launching into very organised 2020 election planning sessions already. Those present at strategy meetings and political cabinet meetings say the focus is already on the 2020 vision – even though the party will then have a different leader. This rather confounds the analysis from some quarters that David Cameron is quite happy to toddle off and forget about his party once he stands down as Tory leader, and instead he is concerned about the fitness of the party that he hands over to his successor.
It is worth noting that the meeting that’s taking place tonight is a 1922 Committee meeting, not one of the Parliamentary Party meetings where Crosby and Cameron would take control, rather than backbenchers taking the lead. This suggests that Cameron isn’t just concerned with the campaigning fitness of his party, but also with harmony on his backbenches. And that’s something that’s going to become increasingly important with a majority of just 12.