Good stuff from Lord Ashcroft this morning. Good because, obviously, he agrees with me that the Tory obsession with Europe and, just as importantly, the style in which that obsession is paraded before the public damages the party. As the noble lord puts it:
[W]e know that for many people, the main barrier to voting Conservative is that they do not think we share the concerns of people like them. But which issue has the last week shown still seems to exercise our party above all others?
Some will be inclined to blame the media for the back-to-the-nineties coverage of Tory turmoil over Europe. But the fact that we know journalists find the story irresistible makes it all the more ludicrous to hand it to them on a plate. […] There have been suggestions that some MPs rebelled as payback for various perceived slights from Number 10 which have nothing to do with European policy – which, if true, makes the rebellion more self-indulgent, not more justified.
[…] Do not be bamboozled into thinking it is only coalition-minded Europhiles who opposed the referendum motion, and only robust Conservatives who were prepared to speak out. Those who want to see an undiluted Conservative government after the next election should be the most committed to getting the issue of Europe into proportion. It is futile to say we want to gain the extra support we need to win, and then act in ways that make victory less likely rather than more.
Finally, some will say principle dictates that we should spend our time debating what we believe to be important, regardless of the voters (or “the polls”, as they usually put it when making this point). In which case, I hope they enjoy themselves. But let’s hear no more from them about that majority.
Quite. Much the same, again, could be said of the party’s willingness to talk more about the 50p rate of income tax than any other band. It is hard to think of a subject better guaranteed to suggest the party is uninterested in the things that actually matter to the great mass of voters who actually decide elections.