Coffee House

The mighty Metis machine that could save Cameron’s bacon in 2015

3 March 2013

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.

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  • ArchiePonsonby

    The Tories’ opponents really shouldn’t worry given the government’s previous on delivering computer systems that actually work!

  • Olaf

    Ok you’ve identified me as a key possible Tory voter through the power of your more-than-slightly-sinister data mining monster. What are you going to hit me with to make me vote?

    Green taxes? Nope couldn’t care less just annoys me by putting bills up

    No petrol duty increases? Nope still bloody expensive

    Gay marriage? Nope don’t really care

    EU referendum? Too many ifs and buts

    Child benefit? Cocked that up didn’t you

    Tax reforms? Still waiting

    Overseas aid? Charity begins at home pal

    The economy? “We’re less bad than them”, is a crap argument

    Nothing, you’ve got nothing. Nothing but more claptrap and slick talking. Wagging the finger at UKIP and calling them populist is hardly insulting to them when they appear to be the only ones listening to peoples concerns.

  • Widggget

    This is how Obama got reelected as POTUS, but look what a huge disappointment he is.

    Cameron has no need of expensive databases for targeted micro-messages: all he has to do is find some principles that resonate with the majority of conservative-minded folk and stick to them.

    Since this is as likely as finding hens’ teeth, he looks doomed to failure.

  • Cameron

    Like it or not, Cameron has consistently polled higher than his party. Frustrating that those on the Right of the party can’t seem to understand this…

    • ButcombeMan

      Oh they do they do. It is simple, it is in comparison with the two alternatives.

  • margaret benjamin

    David Cameron is living in a parallel universe he is obsessed with trying to stay in power after the next election! most of the country are sick of him now shame it doesn’t sink in. off the top of my head I could think of dozens of reasons why he will be very lucky to keep his job to the end of the year. Seriously this hooray henry has upset thousands of low income families by imposing a bedroom tax upon them The pressure to find this between 10/15 Quid a week will be kicking in by the end of march.A step to far the public will not forgive you for this mr Cameron neither is he listening hope he is bracing himself for the inevitable back lash from people who will end up in debt.not to mention the influx of migrant workers that will really put the tin lid on things,how did he ever get into Downing St in the first place!

    • James Strong

      It’s not a bedroom tax.
      It’s a reduction in the spending of taxpayers’ money on benefits that are not needed.

      • margaret benjamin

        The Tax is based on having a spare bedroom that’s why its called bedroom tax. Cameron must have stayed up all night thinking about that one.For a small minority they maybe lucky to downgrade but the vast majority of the people living in private or council property don’t have an option but to pay the tax. One bedroom flats are just not available on tap! two b/room houses are better for children but the big headache Comes for the people who have no were to move to, probably don’t have their removal money carpets ect.Some one parent families, its like this its a tax what ever you say and its unfair.

        • RBcritique

          Shouldn’t you then call it “the spare bedroom tax” ?

  • kyalami

    I was an early supporter of Cameron. I still hope for him, but I am much less convinced than I used to be.

    I suspect too few people know what he stands for.

    A great computer system is one thing, but you have to have a message that resonates with those target voters.

    • margaret benjamin

      Do enlighten all of us as to what he stands for! for whatever that might be it sure isn’t his Charisma.

      • kyalami

        I am a lot less certain of that than I used to be, unfortunately.

        • James Strong

          Why were you an early supporter of Cameron? What were you more certain of 5 or so years ago?
          Working that out will help you avoid a similar mistake if you have a vote for the next Conservative leader.

  • Makroon

    I read the Sunday Times today, but what stood out was not some ace data base that is about to make everything alright (Letwin or Willetts ?) but Cameron’s pledge “to stop femail genital mutilation”.
    Clearly he has learnt nothing from the same-sex marriage debacle and is now intent on yet more irrelevant, Quixotic social engineering, this time in Africa.
    He was evidently not kidding with all that “heir to Blair” nonsense (again, Letwin, Willetts or Goldsmith ?)

  • Colonel Mustard

    It’s not gimmickry or promising things. It’s making clear what you stand for and doing stuff that demonstrates it. Not next year, or after the next election but now. And if things get in your way, like Labour’s stay behind rearguard in the public sector or the bloomin’ EU then you need to have the guts to smash them out of the way as all the great leaders of history would have done. They defined their age rather than let their age constrain and define them. If you are doing what the majority of people care about then they will back you and the socialist apparatchiks can go f*** themselves.

    • Noa

      You are hurling those words of wisdom into the teeth of a howling gale, I’m afraid.
      One sees no interest in understanding of the mood or temper of the people, only a process of continuous re-orientation to align with the latest Spad’s ‘solution’ or ‘advice.’
      Even Fraser’s post tonight points out that Cameron is a talker, not a doer.
      The primary question now for the Conservative party, is whether it decides to dispense with his services and who may have a chance of saving it when he departs.

  • Tanya Carter

    Computers can’t a polish a turd.

  • ButcombeMan

    Sebastian Dear boy (and Dear boy is appropriate if you are the person of that name who graduated in investigative journalism in 2011)

    As others say, Cameron cannot win an election by having a whizzy high tech machine to “target” voters. The Tory party has to really value, the opinions of voters and potential voters/supporters, not disparage them. That is what representative democracy is supposed to be about.

    The Conservative party has to return to being a representative party respecting core values. It has to stop name calling, “fruitcakes” etc. (Some fruitcakes in Eastleigh-10000 of them!)

    It has to understand hopes and fears. The core values of thrift, hard work, saving, personal independence and generosity to those less fortunate, that lie at the heart of old fashioned conservatism. There was nothing at all to be ashamed of in those values. There was no reason they could not be marketed again.

    What Cameron has done, in his failed attempt at re-branding is to try to cultivate a metropolitan, maybe Guardian reading, left (ish) of centre anyway, largely southern England based, fringe, who would probably mostly never vote for HIM anyway.

    In playing his silly games with the party he has withdrawn from his core vote, they no longer see a recognisable Conservative Leader. They do not like nor do they trust what they see either.

    That was all Cameron’s doing. His personal doing.

    That core vote, often card carrying fee paying members never needed a machine to get them out. These were the people who always turned out to vote, rain, hail or shine. They were the heart and soul of the party, many were the people who knocked on doors. Turning out to vote for this group was a civic responsibility.

    This core was the heart of the party. It has largely gone in many constituenceies. No machine can bring it back.

    Cameron’s re-branding was misirected, he should have been targettting the blue collar vote, what used to be called Mondeo man, he should have been targetting a natural constituency of hard working small business immigrants, many of them Moslem. He should have shown more understanding of the pain for the “squeezed middle”..

    These potential supporters he has missed, cannot, just cannot, be brought in now to the Conservatives fold in time for 2015. It is emphatically not, a matter of a fancy machine.

    You do not get it.

    Cameron just does not get it.

    it is not about left or right.

    It is not about “lurching”-anywhere.

    It is about right or wrong and sound values.

    It is about putting Britain first, second and third.

    It is about consistency, reliability, good management.

    It is about respect for the electorate.

    After the Big Brown Mess these were values that everyone could have understood.

    The voters did not leave Cameron, he left them.

    • James Strong

      Let’s not absolve the party members from responsibility.
      They voted for a slick PR man with good hair when they could have voted for a proper Conservative, David Davis.

  • Gawain

    In my experience computer systems always promise much more than they actually deliver and take much longer to develop, test and commission than planned. Even if this ‘wonder’ database delivers all that’s promised I’d lay a pound to a penny that it won’t be ready in 2015. Unfortunately, for the Conservatives it is already too late for a ‘silver bullet’ to rescue the next election. I would favour a longer term approach based on rebuilding a membership base together with a robust database. If you want an alternative argument read Conor Burns article n Conservative Home today setting out why Eastleigh was lost. The linky thingumajig is below:

  • Bluesman

    Brilliant, lies tailored to my individual needs. That will make me vote Tory… No hang on, they can still go screw themselves. Lord knows, they have screwed us enough – although not yet as much as the vermin on the benches opposite.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Genius! A machine – that’ll do it!

    • RBcritique

      Yes ! What we need is more data !

  • Dominic Adler

    I hope no Tory canvassers set foot on my property, they will be (not particularly poltiely) invited to leave until they grow a pair an elect a proper leader. Then again, where I live is the southern equivalent of one of those brain-dead Northern seats where anything in a red rosette gets voted in (what else could possibly explain Prescott), so the Tory is a shoe-in. Last time I was polite to Conservative canvassers I was spammed with propaganda… and when I asked why it was (apparently) because the canvasser scribbled “definitely a Tory!” on his crib sheet. Well, Sonny Jim, I used to be…

  • Ann R

    Ermm, Paul Staines has no real life/tech experience with large databases, save for the few times he’s leaked data (that was leaked to him in the first place) and gotten into trouble with the ICO. I wonder who the poor registered data controller is, for any company that has Paul Staines involved.

  • Tom Tom

    Sebastian, you must be very young. This faith in a computer database to win an election where the Disjoint between Cameron’s rhetoric and FACTS on the ground is touchingly naive. It is bemusing how easily captivated politicos are by databases in the USA forgetting the system of voter registration is very different or that the biggest costs there are TV adverts and literature – which here are gifts of the taxpayer.

    The public here know how they feel and when the election comes in the next 10 months they will make their views known. It might be better for Cameron and Osborne to build themselves a very deep underground bunker when the collapsing pound meets rising food and energy costs unless they want scenes as in Portugal over the past few days

  • Curnonsky

    Guido selling out to Cameron? Say it ain’t so!

  • Smithersjones2013

    Having access to a database doesn’t change the fact that increasingly Cameron is a tainted brand whose behaviour and protestations are antagonising certain groups. Harrassing people and second guessing them will not get their votes.!!!!

    • telemachus

      Cameron will indeed remain a tainted brand and week on week we see evidence of the increase in stature of Ed Miliband
      I think we can have confidence in the Government from 2015

  • judyk113

    Elections are not won by data bases. Elections are not won by continuously telling everyone you’re going to go on doing everything you’ve been doing that’s led to large numbers of people leaving the party. Elections are not won by covering for people staying in office after having presided over 1200 unnecessary deaths, and by saying that the answer to the appalling performance of the NHS is to set up new commissioning boards and having patients give online feedback. Elections are not won by appointing a minister to change the NHS on the basis that “he speaks fluent NHS.” Elections are not won by telling people we are dealing with the UK’s financial disaster by reducing the deficit and not tackling the rise in debt which is vastly outstripping the benefits of the deficit reduction. Elections are not won by making blanket negative statements like “we are not going to lurch to the right”. Elections are not won by continuing to alienate a huge proportion of both the church-going and the ethnic minority religious population you intend to institute gay marriage, but not polygamous marriage, the historically traditional form used by Muslims and various African religions. Elections are not won by failing to publicise loud and clear, day after day, the benefits to the public you have secured through low interest rates. Elections are not won by failing to put up posters all over the country pointing out how much extra people would have been paying on their mortgages and credit card bills if Labour had got back into office and will do again if they win the next election. Elections are not won by failing to put up a programme to make people feel they want to vote Tory when the next lot of Euro elections falls due. Elections are not won by failing to ensure that Tory local authorities offer low tax accountabililty good enough to make people want to vote Tory next time round. Elections are not one by generally projecting the message “leave them alone, and they’ll come home, bringing their tails behind them.”

    • Rhoda Klapp

      I intended to comment on this subject. I find that all I meant to write is already in this one. So, me too.

    • James Strong

      I think there is some sense in what you have written here, but it is not an easy read.
      How about 5 or 6 simple sentences with positive verbs to distill your points?

    • Adrian Drummond

      Very good.

    • iain davenport

      I did not actually get to the end of it

      • Colonel Mustard

        More fool you then.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Cameron’s supposed to be a PR person too, for crying out loud!

  • Adrian Drummond

    Sound just the tool for a PR man.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    David Cameron’s last hope for a Conservative victory. Resign.
    There’s nothing he can promise that anybody would believe so there really isn’t any other option.

    • MirthaTidville

      I agree..It takes a rare talent to piss off as many voters as he has, but sadly he seems to like living in Central London so wont be willing to depart until he has to……..bit like General Custer I suppose

      • Colonel Mustard

        Custer’s problems arose mainly from his impetuosity and splitting his force in the face of an enemy of unknown strength. Cameron shows similar impetuosity in committing to initiatives motivated by his personal values rather than by the responsibilities of his office and by wanting to get involved in every problem in the world except those here. He has also split his force in the face of a defeated enemy, allowed it to re-group and left its stay behind parties to harass and obstruct his very weak lines of communication. His planning staff is shambolic, his advisers cretinous, his counter-propaganda non-existent and his situational awareness flabby and lazy.

        That might not be so bad. But he continues to pretend that he has all the answers so is unlikely to change course in the very radical and very determined way required.

        • ArchiePonsonby

          A very military analysis, Colonel.

    • In2minds

      ScaryBisuits – For Cameron to resign is not enough, we all know he would wait a bit then do a U turn.

    • Noa


      Simply pressing the button to download the ‘Credulous Conservative voter
      ‘ category by constituency is no longer going to deliver a majority.

    • telemachus

      Cameron is the gilded descendent of Dorothea Jordon who got into government
      to help his rich friends at the expense of the rest of us. He and the entire
      Tory heirarchy are drowning in a swamp of corruption and moral degeneracy

      Let us examine a few achievements

      He kicked off his trigger to the recession by making students pay £9000 a

      Coulson defended all this so he defended Coulson

      He did it with lots of love from Rebekah Brooks

      He promised and delivered Lords reform

      And on and on

      Last week he delivered the most important triumph. He allowed the right
      wing vote to be split in two delivering to us all the correct Government in

      • Colonel Mustard

        His greatest mistakes were in not squashing socialist bugs like you the moment he came to office and in not presenting a cogent, identifiable narrative to counter the sort of propaganda tripe you and your kind peddle and which is so eagerly and uncritically devoured.

        The “correct” Government, as you put it, will deliver nothing more than it has ever delivered. Misery for the British people and yet more inhibition of their freedoms, all larded with a degree of self-satisfaction and hubris that is almost beyond belief in its brazen arrogance. In a way I welcome it. Because with a thoroughly destroyed Conservative party your wretched gang will have no excuse, no other unfortunate to point the finger at and no artifice to hide behind, when the brown stuff really hits the fan. As it will.

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