Tories told to be like Asda

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THE Conservatives have spurned the focus groups and spin doctors of New Labour, choosing instead to rely on the carefully targeted marketing strategies of businesses like the Asda supermarket chain.

At the final meeting of the old Conservative Central Council in Harrogate on Saturday, grassroots party activists were given a startling presentation by Bob Tyrrell, Professor of Strategic Marketing at the City University Business School, London.

Professor Tyrrell comforted his predominantly middle-aged audience with an analysis showing that in the run up to the next election there would be a dramatic fall in the number of people aged between mid-20s and mid- 30s, while there will be a similar sized increased in the those aged 55 to 64.

"Perhaps some of the things more traditionally associated with conservatism will begin naturally to come into their own," he said. "Wisdom, reflection, sobriety, loyalty and tradition, as we become a more middle-aged culture."

But Professor Tyrrell said the Tories needed to become more open and accessible.

"A few years ago," he said, "I did some work on why Sainsbury's appeared to have fallen out of favour, and the cheeky chappies from Asda and places like that appeared to be doing so well."

That comment was greeted by laughter because Archie Norman, the boss of Asda, is now a Conservative MP, a vice-chairman of the party, and a driving force behind the creation of William Hague's new Conservative Party.

A package of democratically based reforms was overwhelmingly passed on Saturday by the one-third of the 350,000 party members who bothered to vote.

Professor Tyrrell said that one of the reasons Sainsbury's had suffered was that it gave an impression of being detached, "of not having an ear to the ground - by contrast, as I say to one of your party vice-chairman, you're going in the right direction".

That direction was set earlier in the day by Mr Hague when he indicated the target group of voters for his new policy - "people who don't have much time for transient, passing fashion.These are conservative people, their values, their instincts are ours. Our task is to win back their trust."

Although Mr Hague said he was about to embark on a journey to become the party of One Nation, he made no mention of the unemployed, the poor, lone parents, the disabled, or the socially excluded in his speech.

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