Romani Semper Vincunt - The Romans Always Win

By Lionel Zetter, Senior Counsel

The Romans were big on graffiti. In fact, they practically invented it.

Scattered around the Mediterranean, littoral various versions of the title above have been discovered by archaeologists, carved into the temples and palaces of their defeated enemies. This graffiti expressed the unshakable belief that the Roman soldier had in the invincibility of the army in which he served. OK, from time to time they suffered the occasional defeat – but they always came back, and they always won in the end.

Deep in their gut, Tories feel the same way. They are the natural party of government, because they believe in the same things that most of the British people believe in. Family, flag, freedom, fairness and fiscal rigour. And that’s why they always win. OK, from time to time they suffer the occasional defeat – but they always come back ,and they always win in the end. Unless they are up against Tony Blair, of course.

One of the advantages of working for a cross-party agency such as Atticus Partners is that you get a sense of perspective. The political landscape is viewed from all angles, and as an agency we are not ‘one-eyed’. So over and above the usual banter which political obsessives routinely exchange there is a serious purpose: we need to be able to look over the horizon and around the corner in order to provide our clients with the best possible prediction as to what is likely to happen in the future.

So, by way of balance, Labour is consistently 20 points ahead in the opinion polls, with the RAAC crisis likely to extend that lead. They overturned a Tory majority of more than 20,000 in the Selby and Ainsty by-election, whilst allowing the Lib Dems pretty much a clear run at Somerton and Frome. And Uxbridge was an aberration, a freak result brought about by Mayor Khan’s dislike of cars and drivers and his need to raise money. Nearly 50 Tory MPs have already announced they will stand down at the next election. The SNP are in turmoil, and Scottish Labour will be the main beneficiaries. And Ladbrokes have Labour seven-to-one on to be the largest party after the next general election. So that’s it, right? Labour are rock-solid slam-dunk certain to win.

Or not. I knock on a lot of doors, I do a lot of telephone canvassing and voters are often far more honest on the ‘phone than they are face-to-face. The mood of voters can be summed up (with the expletives deleted) as “we are fed up with you Tories – but we don’t like Starmer, and we don’t trust Labour”.

There is a road back for the Tories, and it need not be particularly narrow or particularly steep. They just need to be more conservative and give the public some positive reasons to vote for them. Admittedly after the credit crunch, Brexit, Covid and Ukraine there is not much room for giveaways. But that need not matter, if the public feel that their intentions are good, and provided they throw out a few bones and chunks of red meat to show willing (suggestions on bones and meat in a future blog).

The Tories would like to go to the country next May, assuming the PM’s five priorities are starting to look like they are there, or there abouts. They will have a warehouse full of money to spend on campaigning, and the traditional Tory press will fall into line behind them. The attack lines against the Labour front bench have been fashioned and focus-grouped, and the anticipation is that the Opposition’s policies will come under ever-greater scrutiny from the media, and ever-sharper criticism from the left of their own party.

Between now and May, if indeed it is to be May, the Tories have two ‘fiscal events’, one reshuffle , one party conference and one King’s Speech at their disposal. They could use those opportunities to (in the words of David Cameron) ditch a lot of the ‘green crap’, and (in the words of Sir Lynton Crosby) ‘scrape the barnacles off the boat’. The message will be: ‘Labour – don’t risk it’. And an innately and inherently conservative electorate might just go for that.

Lionel Zetter is Senior Counsel at Atticus Partners and former Conservative Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate.

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