| 10.7°C Belfast

Labour faces 'impossible battle'


Election guru Lynton Crosby led the briefing in Parliament

Election guru Lynton Crosby led the briefing in Parliament

Election guru Lynton Crosby led the briefing in Parliament

Just 11,223 votes across the country could be required to secure a Conservative majority on May 7, Tory MPs were told in a briefing led by election guru Lynton Crosby.

In a packed meeting in Parliament, the MPs were told how it was "basically impossible" for Labour to achieve an overall majority but that the Tories needed to gain just 23 seats.

The young volunteers in Team 2015 will play a key role knocking on doors in marginal seats, with the promise of "food, drink and social interaction", a senior source said.

But US campaign expert Jim Messina, who has helped forge the 80,000-strong Team 2015, will play only a minor role during the election and will remain in America.

The election campaign starts in earnest on Monday, but the Tories will also hold a rally at their spring forum in Manchester over the weekend.

The Conservative source stressed their strategy was based on running 650 local campaigns in each seat but that there would be "enormous clarity of message" around the choice characterised by David Cameron as the "competence" of the Tories versus the "chaos" of a Labour government.

The source said: "Competence versus chaos is our number one theme.

"Our real strength is 'We'll provide the security for you, your family and your future'.

"That's the tagline.

"We are the party of the leader, we've got the team and we will make sure we will deliver if we are back in for another five years."

In an upbeat assessment of the Conservatives' chances, the source insisted that an overall majority was within their grasp even though the opinion polls had the two main parties running neck and neck.

"We only need to win 11,223 votes across 23 seats," ths source added.

"Labour need to win hundreds of thousands across 69 seats to get an overall majority.

"If you look at Labour's battle it's basically impossible.

"They will have to win 69 seats, hundreds of thousands of votes, and that's before you take Scotland into account."

The Conservatives believe social media will play a key role in their campaign, boasting that their online presence reaches three million people a week.

"It's a massive reach and it's really powerful," the source said.

"One video, 80 second video which we put out last week, it's had 900,000 views.

"These videos talk to people on the specific issues they are interested in."

Candidates will be encouraged to share the key messages and attack adverts from Tory HQ on their individual social accounts, but they have been advised to keep their own posts targeted at local voters rather than straying into national issues.

Perhaps mindful of the dangers of a Twitter gaffe, the source said: "You want to focus on the local stuff.

"The great thing with Facebook is you can actually define your own constituents, so you can just talk to your own constituents."

Every day the candidates would be given a briefing about the national campaign, although the source stressed it would not be official "lines to take".

Would-be MPs would also benefit from the "selfie" phenomenon, the source believed, saying it was "more powerful" than simply signing an autograph or shaking someone's hand.

"It's actually much more powerful because they will show their friends and post them on Facebook."

Mr Messina, who played a leading role in Barack Obama's re-election campaign, has helped develop the Team 2015 strategy which involves tens of thousands of volunteers, the majority of whom are not Tory members.

But the US expert will make only occasional, fleeting visits to the UK during the campaign, while the Australian Mr Crosby will be based in the Conservative Campaign HQ.

"He has always been remote to the campaign", the source said.

"He will no doubt visit."

Mr Messina had been involved in building Team 2015, training the "captains" leading groups of activists as they venture into target seats and managing simultaneous action days across dozens of constituencies.

"So for the mechanics of that it was very useful to talk to somebody who had done a lot of that stuff before," he said.

The source added that Team 2015 had become a "mass movement", with photos and comments from their "super Saturday" action days being shared on social media.

Some 100 seats could be targeted by teams of activists from around the country on any given campaign day, making a change from the previous campaigns where the Tories had been "very bad at having people where we needed them".

"This election is about individual seats more than at any time in our history," the source said.

Setting out the appeal of involvement with Team 2015, which was partly inspired by the volunteer Olympics "Games Makers", the source said: "There are three things: food, drink and social interaction.

"We organise the first two, the third takes care of itself."