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1 October 2014updated 05 Oct 2023 8:20am

Why is the Conservative party in such a good mood?

No more blues.

By Anoosh Chakelian

One theme popping up in the events and bars of Conservative party conference this year is what a buoyant mood the Tories are in. With their propensity to enjoy a good party – and their rapidly vanishing reticence about holding champagne receptions – it’s fair to say that they were always likely to have a good time.

But with so much media focus on the flat and lacklustre tone of Labour’s annual conference last week, insiders have been drawing comparisons between the moods of the two parties. The Tories are lagging behind in the polls, and it’s going to be a big struggle – “a mountain”, in Ken Clarke’s words – to pull it off next May. Looking at the numbers – and you can see all the latest polling on our new election site May2015 ­– the Labour party is currently in a far more comfortable position.

However, there is something remarkably upbeat about the Tories’ mood at this conference. The defections to Ukip seem to have had the reverse effect on Tory party morale than expected; it’s galvanised the party into fighting talk. One cabinet minister, reflecting on the rumours of further defections, told me: “Whenever there’s this type of adversity, it can really make people pull together and fight back.”

And rumbles from the party’s right-wing renegades seem to have united the party, even if it’s just in the short term. David Cameron, the party’s chair Grant Shapps, and others have been coming down hard on Mark Reckless (although I hear the PM favoured the phrase “well-upholstered behind” to “fat arse” to describe the latest Ukip convert).

There is also a longer-term optimism among some frontbenchers that there will be a late bounce in popularity for the Tories. Indeed, Boris Johnson made a rallying speech on the second night of party conference predicting a 1983-style win for the Tories (when they won with a majority of 144). The party is also taking heart from Cameron continuing to outstrip Ed Miliband in the polls, and the Conservatives polling ahead on the economy. George has picked up that they are taking additional encouragement by the potential of the SNP to take Scottish seats off Labour.

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However, the usual patterns of pre-election polling no longer mean as much in this time of an unprecedented transformation of British politics. What was in essence a two-party system has disappeared as rapidly and drastically as a defecting Tory MP. The rules have clearly changed. And some party insiders, though putting on a brave face, are apprehensive. One special adviser told me bluntly: “We’ve got to be realists; we are polling behind and it is a bit shite.” They also decried the “back-of-a-fag-packet stuff” that defines politics leading up to an election.

The buzz among Tory politicians and ordinary party members alike will boost morale in the short term – and compares favourably with Labour’s relatively lukewarm mood – but it could just be the political equivalent of “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”.

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