First it was horse-gate. Then came donor-gate. Now it’s pasty-gate. The Tories’ ambition to become a party for the whole country – and not just for the wealthy few – has taken a pounding in recent weeks. Each of these stories has its amusing side, of course, but they hit the Conservatives in a sore spot: their difficulty breaking through in the North and the Midlands, and among ordinary working voters. If the party can’t do these things, it won’t win an overall majority at the next general election.
It is often asked whether the Cameroons understand working voters outside the South. It’s telling that if you ask a Westminster journalist what “Tory modernisation” was about, they’ll talk about hugging huskies (and hoodies), promoting greenery, and padding around the office without your shoes on. This is a misleading stereotype. In reality, the efforts to reassure voters on the NHS and to restore a reputation for economic competence were much more important. That first phase of modernisation succeeded enough to make Cameron prime minister, but not to get him a majority. That’s because – and in light of recent events and the message they’ve sent, this is key – the most important part of the j