Coffee House

The Tories take tips from Obama in Eastleigh

19 February 2013

Eastleigh could be a turning point in by-election history. Not because the Tories are looking like they may well lose, as the Times (£) suggests this morning, but as the moment the party woke up to the possibilities of digital campaigning.

Online election adverts in UK politics are nothing new – the 2012 London Mayor race saw both Ken and Boris plaster websites (including this one) with a variety of colourful attack messages. What is different in Eastleigh is the drive for data gathering. Take some of the adverts CCHQ are running on the websites of two local papers — the Southern Daily Echo and Hampshire Chronicle:


The main purpose of these adverts is not to encourage voter turnout, nor to get them voting Tory, but to complete the survey. CCHQ hopes to use the information from this form (if they can solve their technical issues) to build a database of voters — including their contact details, political attitudes and postcodes. Come the general election, this will provide them with the ability to target voters on issues that interest them with far greater accuracy than ever before.

The campaign also shows the influence of Lynton Crosby, who has firmly settled into David Cameron’s inner circle. While not exactly pretty, the adverts are concise and avoid openly advocating the Conservative Party. Both ads are pushing Crosby’s famed dog-whistle issues, in this case the EU referendum and benefits. The first has the added bonus of targeting the Ukip vote while the latter highlights bread and butter Conservative issues the party hopes will connect with voters.

Britain has long lagged behind America in the use of voter profiling. This story from Willard Foxton about how the Obama campaign guessed his income is a perfect example. The Tories are not alone in their quest for data. The Times reminded us (£) last week that Lib Dems are trying to capture the Obama magic by using the Voter Activation Network software for the Eastleigh battle. But they still lag behind the Tories on the data, as highlighted in Isabel’s leaked briefing.

Although the Tories still have a decent way to go to reach the level of sophistication seen in American campaigns, Eastleigh suggests they will take data seriously at the next general election. If this is just the beginning of what not just Grant Shapps and Lynton Crosby, but also the other parties can cook up, the 2015 campaign could be the end of blanket political campaigning as we know it and the arrival of highly-targeted messages to address each voter’s interests.

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  • Geo Shepherd

    Saatchi and Saatchi and Y&R were profiling and segmenting voters for the Tories in the 1980’s – do keep up!

  • Jimmy Sands

    I think the tories’ idea of digital campaigning is two fingers to the electorate.

  • barsacq

    Now I know who’s behind them, I shan’t be answering any such surveys

  • Mitchell Stirling

    It sounds like they are about ten years and five election cycles behind what happens in the US judging by the contents of The Victory Lab.

  • DancingMice

    Obviously the most active online politicos are the objectarians, who object to almost everything. Eastleigh folk may be less vapid, on the whole.

  • Ron Todd

    Is it old fashioned to think that the best way to get votes is to have the best policies?

  • Smithersjones2013

    CCHQ hopes to use the information from this form (if they can solve their technical issues) to build a database of voters — including their contact details, political attitudes and postcodes.

    Well all I can say to the voters of Eastleigh is “You have my deepest sympathies”.

    Having made the mistake of rejoining the Conservative Party only to see the son of Blair become its leader I know how painfully tedious it can be being on one of CCHQ’s databases.. Despite having left the party and having asked numerous times to be removed from all mailing lists both locally and nationally I continued to receive their begging letters long after my patience with them had run out!

    It was only when I responded particularly sharply to yet another begging letter (that one signed by Lord Howard) that finally CCHQ seems to have stopped pestering me. So if you are in the same predicament as I was I can only suggest you also send a sharply worded letter to Lord Howard (perhaps pointing out that continued unwanted harrassment from CCHQ is hardly going to make me vote for them again) to make CCHQ cease their unwanted overtures!

    • Makroon

      I remember a few years ago, when the internet was young, how smug the Tories were that “they had all the best blogs and Labour were nowhere” (Iain Dale had numerous blog-posts crowing about it).
      A few years later, and (apart from Redwood), not a worthwhile (serious) Tory blog to be seen, whilst cyberspace is chokker with the serried ranks of Labour leaning blogs, rapid-rebuttal bots, and old fashioned trolls. Even UKIP and the Nats have more presence than the Tories.
      No doubt this latest “advantage” will be lost to Labour in no time at all.
      Just look at the “brains-trust” around Cameron !

      • Tom Tom

        Tories have cut off the funding

  • HooksLaw

    In terms of why people should vote in Eastleigh (this is the Eastleigh where Eastleigh College came bottom in A/AS Hampshire league tables BTW), there cannot be much wrong with the economy when the telegraph tells us…
    ‘New car sales in Europe fell by 8.7pc in January to the lowest level since records began more than two decades ago, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.
    Of the major markets only the UK posted growth of 11.5pc, while the decline in new car sales was steepest in Italy, falling 17.6pc.’

    • Tom Tom

      Now dimwit explain why the Uk car market is different from the rest of Europe ? Then Domwit tell us why dealer registrations are so high. You are really the most stupid individual regurgitating pree releases without comprehending

      • Makroon

        I thought you were going to gently remind Hooky that monthly domestic car sales are not actually that significant in the grand scheme of things, not deliver a statisticians bitch slap.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    You aren’t taking things seriously if you vote LibLabCon.

    Vote UKIP or ANYONE else or spoil your paper. Anything else endorses the pap that is being served up.

  • Vulture

    The Tories are throwing everything plus the kitchen sink into Eastleigh ( and a dity kitchen sink at that). They are still going to lose, and lose big.

    The candidate is a serial gaffe-making duffer, but the main factor is that no-one outside Dave’s little clique supports his lousy policies.

    So Eastleigh voters going to stick with the Lib dems because they can clearly ( and correctly) see no difference between them and the Cameron Conservatives.

    UKIP are the only alternative to the three headed Westmonster machine. They are going to do well – well enough to make sure Dave, if he’s still leader, loses in 2015.

    • Grrr8

      And here I was thinking that Ms. Hutchings was rather closer in her views to Brother Nige than to Brother Dave. Brother Nige who dare not personally contest a by-election, preferring his sinecure in, wait for it, Brussels!!

      • HooksLaw

        Don’t expect Vulture to engage brain before opening mouth. And of course we see again the overwhelming desire to see labour eu-friendly no referendum labour in power after 2015.
        Its quite illustrative to see blind faith in UKIP juxtaposed with blind hatred of everybody else.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Its quite illustrative to see blind faith in UKIP juxtaposed with blind hatred of everybody else.

          Its not UKIPs leaders who go around smearing voters calling them “odd”, “nutters”, “fruitcakes” and most disgracefully “closet racists” and associating them with racist far left parties. If you ask me that sounds more like ‘blind hatred of everybody else’.

        • Grrr8

          You are making me chuckle! A v. good last line in your comment.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        It matters not one job what Ms Hutchings views are ….. the Party Elite are pro-EU.
        She’s in the wrong Party. UKIP have a far better candidate standing in Eastleigh with Diane James.

    • Tom Tom

      Here’s one for UKIP then. PwC and HWWI in Germany are proposing a EuroZone Income Tax Levy and EU Unemployment Insurance to equalise living standards with 10% Income Tax Revenues going to EU and 2% extra Tax for Unemployment Insurance to pay Unemployed 30% Average Earnings for 12 months……………

  • ashby

    An interesting use of colours in the banners. Positive choice in Tory blue, negative option in LibDem Yellow.

    • HooksLaw

      Well the LibDems (yellow) don’t want a referendum. Which is why potential UKIP supporters would be daft not to vote tory.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        Cameron’s ‘offer’ of an EU Referendum is so hedged about with caveats it might as well be written in disappearing ink.
        And let’s not forget that his priority is to get an IN vote. All he wants is a mandate for our chains to the EU. Any Referendum run by the CONs will be as rigged as the 1075 version run by Wilson.

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