Not long after David Cameron became leader of the Conservative party there were a number of polls that suggested that the Tories had become electable again. They showed support for the Conservatives at around 40% - several points clear of Labour and enough, in theory, to put Cameron's Tory party back into power in the event of a General Election.
Since then, the Tories lead in the polls has slipped back down to the level it was under Hague, IDS and Howard - in other words, not enough to win elections.
Why is this?
Why did support for the Conservatives rise so rapidly under Cameron's leadership?
When Cameron first took over, the feeling was that he had enough of an impact to have convinced certain liberal voters that they may consider voting Tory bolstering support for the Tories. This seemed quite plausible and may well indeed explain why the Tories did so well in early polls. The Tories could add this additional support to their core support and that gave them enough of a lead to suggest that they were back in with a shout. In July last year the Tories polled 39%, Labour 35% and the Lib Dems around 17%. The Tory gain appeared to be largely at the expense of the Lib Dems - again, suggesting that the core Tory support had been somewhat bolstered by swing voters.
By August, the Tories had reached 40%, Labour slipped down to 31% and the Lib Dems recovered to 22% - most of this Lib Dem gain probably down to voters deserting Labour.
A recent November poll, however showed that Labour was still just 32%, the Lib Dems still just 22%, but the Tories had dropped 3 points to 37%! How come? Their support doesn't appear to be switching back to Labour or the Lib Dems - just drifting away.
Why is the Tories popularity in the polls waning away while the popularity of the other main parties not increasing?
Could it possibly be that Cameron has so alienated the core Tory supporters that they are now saying that they will not vote Conservative any more? This seems likely to me. The fact is that many Conservative voters do not like what Cameron is doing and have actually done what was once considered inconceivable - given up the intention of voting Tory.
This should be a major concern for the Tories. It is all very well winning over some of the swing voters if you can maintain your core support, but if you can not - then your chances of winning an election are zero. Perhaps even more worrying is that these polls demonstrate that barely 50% of people are absolutely certain to vote at the next election while only around 10% are certain not to. That's around 40% of the electorate who are not sure IF they will vote, let alone who they will vote for! Those that are certain to vote are usually the same people who make up the core support for each party.
Given that, then pinning your hopes on swing voters who might not bother to vote anyway while alienating your core vote who would otherwise be certain to vote and cast their vote your way seems like a move of monumental stupidity.