The Tories now have a great deal of confidence after Newark. It’s not just, as George Osborne said on the Today programme this morning, that ‘this all shows that if you’ve got a plan that is working for the country and you’ve got a good local candidate, as we did in Robert Jenrick, people respond to that’. It’s also that the party managed to run a very slick and energetic campaign.
MPs in marginal seats I’ve spoken to this morning couldn’t care less about a halved majority (especially given the circumstances of Mercer’s resignation and the danger of a by-election for any party of government). They see the result as a sign that the party can, in the words of one marginal MP, ‘win big when well organised’ and succeed with a positive message about the party’s achievements in government.
Now, the next challenge for the party is to work out how to take Grant Shapps’ cheesy-but-effective kitchen sink and road trip approach to one by-election and translate it into a national campaign where you can’t demand that MPs all visit one constituency three times and where ministers are desperately tweeting about their door knocking efforts in the hope of a promotion in the forthcoming reshuffle. But a successful campaign where even activists who tend towards the mournful and pessimistic are energised and encouraged is a good springboard for this.