The Tories' new plan for victory: 80 seats that will decide it all

Party draws up strategy to gain 40 and hold 40 key constituencies at 2015 general election

The Conservative Party has drawn up plans to "gain 40" and "hold 40" key marginal seats in an attempt to secure an overall majority at the 2015 general election.

Although most of the 80 crucial seats will see traditional battles between the Conservatives and Labour, the Tory strategy involves "lovebombing" voters in seats held by the Liberal Democrats rather than launching full frontal attacks on Nick Clegg's party.

David Cameron told a reception at this week's Conservative Party conference in Birmingham: "At the last election, we had to target 120 seats or more. We won 100... Next time, we only have to target 40. We are going to put a campaigner into every one of those seats."

A Conservative Research Department document says: "We have a plan, we call it the 40-40 strategy. At the next election we will have a much smaller battleground than at the last election – just 40 seats to hold and 40 to gain. With effective targeting and an incumbency advantage, we are confident that we will win outright."

The Conservatives won 306 seats at the 2010 election, 20 short of the winning post of 326 needed to secure an overall majority. They have not published their plan and say they are still finalising their list of targets. But a Tory source told The Independent yesterday that the party was eyeing up constituencies including Labour-held Bolton West, Southampton Itchen and Wirral South and three Liberal Democrat-held seats – Wells, St Ives and Solihull.

At a private briefing on the 40-40 strategy at the Tory conference, Stephen Gilbert, the Prime Minister's political secretary, told activists that the Liberal Democrats would be heavily targeted despite being in coalition with their party. But this would be by "lovebombing" rather than the heavily negative campaigning of the past. About 10 of the 40 target seats are held by the Liberal Democrats.

The Tory hit list will not be based purely on the most vulnerable and winnable seats arithmetically but will also take account of local factors. For example, the Tories are already targeting Eastleigh, held by Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat who resigned as Energy and Climate Change Secretary in February.

Campaign managers will also be installed in the 40 seats the party is defending in a drive that will be directed by the Conservative campaign HQ in London rather than left to local activists. The number of targets may be raised from 40 to around 70 at a later stage.

Mr Cameron told activists that he was confident his party could win an overall majority next time even though the Liberal Democrats have blocked the introduction of new constituency boundaries, which could have handed the Tories an extra 20 seats.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: "There is no doubt that the only way in which the Tories can hope to buck the disadvantage posed by the current boundaries is for them to perform disproportionately well – and/or their opponents disproportionately badly – in marginal seats."

He added: "The party might hope that its can concentrate its efforts in fewer seats this time around because it is so much closer to the 326 mark than it was before 2010.

"However, any such concentration is only likely to prove decisive if the party has a national poll lead close to the seven-point one they enjoyed over Labour in 2010."

The plan: Where strategy will play out

Tory held marginals

Warwickshire North Former soldier Dan Byles, a fan of Boris Johnson, will defend a majority of 54.

Camborne & Redruth George Eustice, Eurosceptic former press secretary to David Cameron, has a slender majority of just 66 over the Lib Dems.

Broxtowe Held by Anna Soubry, the newly-appointed Health Minister and an ally of Kenneth Clarke who holds the neighbouring seat.

Watford Rare three-way marginal won from Labour by Richard Harrington in 2010.

Hastings & Rye Held by Amber Rudd, parliamentary aide to the Chancellor George Osborne and a former banker.

Tory targets

Bolton West Will be heavily targeted as Labour's Julie Hilling has a majority of just 92.

Solihull Natural Tory territory seized by Lorely Burt, chair of the Lib Dem parliamentary party and seen as vulnerable.

Southampton Itchen John Denham, parliamentary aide to Ed Miliband, is standing down in 2015.

Wells Captured by Tessa Munt for the Lib Dems in 2010.

Morley & Outwood A long shot, held by the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls with a majority of 1,101.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory