What does David Cameron need to do to win the next general election? Following on from Eastleigh, several of the suggestions in today’s papers involve a significant personnel or policy shift, something Cameron is likely to ignore. Buried in the Sunday Times, an alternative is revealed (£) with the Metis project. Headed up by four of Westminster’s sharpest minds, Metis is destined to become the largest and most sophisticated voter database ever built in the UK. The power of a 20 million strong list of voters has the potential to revolutionise campaigning:
‘It will enable political parties to run highly targeted campaigns, focusing on individual voters whose support is vital to win key seats. More importantly, it will spare householders the sort of unwelcome attention that was lavished on them by over-enthusiastic (or desperate) campaigners in Eastleigh’
The involvement of two names alone marks out Metis as one to watch. Matthew Elliot, founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, has proven himself to be one of UK’s most successful campaigners, notably with his work on No to AV. Paul Staines, founder of Guido Fawkes, shook up political journalism with his unique brand of blogging. Their new partnership with Jag Singh and Andrew Whitehurst could prove to be a much-needed firecracker in Westminster.
Why is a database so important? One only has to glance at these pictures on Twitter to see the kind of voter disenfranchisement present in Eastleigh. Ukip’s decision to campaign as the ‘real alternative’ turned out to be the right one. This means the mainstream parties have to find another way of persuading voters — and data is the key. With a big enough database, parties have the power to address individual voters with specific concerns. The potential amount of time and energy saved on the ground is huge.
The Tories have already dipped their toe in the data pool. Throughout the Eastleigh by-election, the Tories ran an advertising campaign on local newspaper websites aimed at gathering information about voters. But as Rupert Myers revealed yesterday, the operation was still, at best, shambolic. According to the Sunday Times, the Tories internal database runs at 300,000 names with no geographical information. For CCHQ, Metis can’t come soon enough.
There is only one obstacle in the way if the Tories wish to stop trying to pursue deceased people. Despite several of the Metis founders being well connected to the Conservatives, the database will be open to anyone with deep enough pockets. All they need to ensure is they have some change left over from hiring Lynton Crosby.