Denis, I cannot say that I’m fully in agreement with everything that John has had to say on the Cameron project, and in the end the Lib Dem surge did not, of course, happen (the air came out of that tire far quicker than I expected), but this segment from his Spectator post was spot on:
In pursuing centrist voters [the Tories] were insouciant about losing voters to their right. Their desire to demonstrate Tory support for public services led them to embrace Labour’s budgetary strategy until shortly after the roof fell in. And they tried only fitfully to integrate their new ideas into the party’s tradition and sense of itself. Not only did this approach drive some traditional conservatives into UKIP, but it also gave an impression of inauthenticity and even cynicism. It prevented the Tories from deriving any political benefit from Labour’s budgetary implosion.
We shouldn’t overlook that UKIP factor. It appears that UKIP voters (who would, for the most part, otherwise vote Conservative) may have cost the Tories quite a few seats. It’s interesting to recall that the much bigger Conservative lead in the polls we saw last year began to narrow shortly after Cameron reneged on an earlier ”cast-iron” promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Cameron’s reason for doing so was that such a referendum had been rendered pointless by the treaty’s subsequent ratification. Logically speaking, that wasn’t unreasonable. Politically, it has proved very expensive indeed.