John Major: Tory election campaign lacks passion

Sir John Major has called on the Conservative party to show more passion in its election campaign, as he warned that economic statistics meant nothing unless people feel their lives are improving.

The former prime minister praised the coalition government for bringing Britain “back from the brink to the genuine prospect of prosperity”. But he indicated that the Tories needed to liven up their campaign.

Many Conservatives have claimed that the party’s election bid lacks a lively vision as candidates are advised by campaign director Lynton Crosby to focus on the “long-term economic plan”.

In a question-and-answer session with Tory activists after a speech in Solihull in the West Midlands – intended to focus on the threat posed by a possible Labour-SNP pact – Major suggested that the party should show more spirit.

He said: “We do need passion in the campaign. Of course we do, though in the 40-odd years I have been in politics, I can’t ever recall a political campaign that people thought was going well until after it had been won. Once it has been won, the campaign develops a fame and joy of its own that it certainly didn’t have during the passage of the exchanges.”

The Tories have focused their campaign on Britain’s growing economy, a point they illustrate with blackboards showing positive statistics at campaign stops. But Major said: “Politics … isn’t about statistics. You can talk about the economy going up by 3%. It excites the political cognoscenti and it excites the economists; 3% growth means nothing unless it improves your living standards, improves your job.

“Behind this sloganising of economics, about growth and matters like that [are] lives, people that really matter. We should focus on people, people, people – I would put that sign on the desk of every minister in every government from here ‘til the end of eternity so we never forget what lies at the end of policy.”

Major’s remarks are likely to be welcomed by Tory candidates who privately say Crosby’s campaign is dull and fails to excite voters turned off by politics. Major secured the largest number of voters for the Tories in 1992 after running a negative campaign that focused on what it described as tax bombshells planned by Labour.

Major praised the coalition’s handling of the economy. He said: “The Conservative-led coalition has brought us back from the brink to the genuine prospect of prosperity. Much remains to be done.

“But growth is healthy: easily the best of any large economy in Europe. Inflation is non-existent. Job creation has been outstanding and unemployment is falling more rapidly than anyone dared to hope. The future is most definitely brighter.”

Powered by article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for on Tuesday 21st April 2015 15.18 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010