Ambush v telegraphed targets

While the Labour manifesto hogs the headlines, the Conservatives have been happy to keep a low profile for the time being.

On the ground in Wales, their activists are out asking questions, rather than giving it the big sell on the doorstep.

If you answered the door to a Conservative campaigner two years ago you would have been asked around 10 questions known in the trade as the door to door, or DTD, script.

This time round I am told there are fewer questions in keeping with the shorter campaign. The focus is on voter intention and leader preference.

If you give a reply to any of those questions which suggest you may vote Conservative then you will get another knock closer to June 8.

Intelligence

The quality of that intelligence is key when resources and time are limited in the closing stages and all of the parties are looking to squeeze every inch of support.

The other big difference from two years ago was that in places like Gower and the Vale of Clwyd, the Tories were effectively able to ambush Labour with an under-the radar campaign which is clearly not going to be the case in telegraphed targets seats like Bridgend this time round.

A trend we are likely to see from the Conservatives, on top of the so-called air-war in the press and broadcast media and the increasingly sophisticated use of social media, is that grassroots activists will be shifted from safe seats into battlegrounds. The most obvious example I can think of will be members in Monmouthshire heading south to Newport West in the coming weeks.

I have run a story delving into the cloak and dagger world of target seats. There are different views within the Welsh Conservatives about how to deal with expectation management.

On the surface, the party is desperate not to be seen to be complacent but behind the scenes, activists are telling me they have been taken aback by the response to Theresa May. I am told between six and nine seats have been assigned as targets by the party centrally.

Spread thinly

The UKIP factor is central. If the UKIP vote melts away into the Conservative vote then all sorts of results in places like Cardiff South and Cardiff West come into play.

The big danger for the party is spreading itself too thinly, and in areas where the on-the-ground presence will not be much more than the candidate and a few friends.

And as we saw in places like Flintshire, Newport and south Cardiff in the council elections last week, Labour is able to get its artillery out to deliver good results when it needs to.

I quoted Welsh Labour's former advisor Cathy Owens in my last blog, and I will give her another mention now: she was asked on a Radio Four broadcast from Cardiff Bay on Wednesday night about Labour's chances in Wales. Her answer was a good night four losses and a bad night six losses.