When you log on to the Conservatives’ website you’re met with a raft of boxes floating in a sea of blue.
Not the dark blue that the Conservative party was associated with in the 80s, when they had some kind of stance on things and some concrete policies, but rather a washy light blue, the kind of blue that might be found on a child’s bedroom walls.
You’ll also see the Tories’ new logo, that little scribbly tree which looks a bit like something a child, maybe the one from the bedroom with the light blue walls, might have knocked up in art class.
It’s very friendly, a lot less aggressive than their old torch with blue and red flames, and reminds us that the Tories are a friendly bunch who likes trees.
After all that it’s time to explore some of the Tories’ boxes. The top part is quite newsy, with a big box on the left that changes to illustrate the latest Tory news headlines, which appear on the right.
Most of the time David Cameron is the man in the picture, although geeky Michael Gove gets a look in for a story on raising school standards, while a crimson Ken Clarke is the cover model for a story about Labour’s economic incompetence.
Trying to be simple
Scrolling down there are flashes of green to accompany the pale blue and underline the Tories’ environmental edge, but it all looks very amateur, like a GCSE student’s coursework project.
The Tories are clearly trying to be simple in order to get across to simple people, the kind of people who sit yelling in standard class trains while other people are trying to work according to Nicholas Winterton – the kind of people who don’t normally vote Tory.
They are also the kind of people who probably don’t have iPhones and thus won’t be able to take advantage of the Tories’ new iPhone application. And they probably don’t have the inclination to spend their hard-earned money in the site’s Online Shop: hard-earned money that according to the Tories they probably don’t have much of under Labour.
The shop plays on the party’s campaign slogan of “Vote for Change” and has the banner “Shop for Change”, although you won’t be getting much of that from a £20 note if you dare to venture inside.
There is a “Bye Bye Bureaucracy” poster for £10 and a mug emblazoned with “Tea For Change” – yes, we get it – for £6, and even a £14 Baby-grow (for all those teenage mums) with “Future Prime Minister” on the front.
The policy section is picture-heavy, probably to help those simple people who can’t read to click on the right section.
The countryside section has a picture of some fields, the transport section has a picture of a train. All very clear, although some confusion might arise from choosing a picture of the Houses of Parliament for the democracy section.
I plump for the potentially election-deciding economy section and am met with some unbearably small type alongside some pictures and videos of George Osbourne, none of which show him catching some rays on a Russian billionaire’s yacht.
This look at policy seems somewhat at odds with the rest of the site as it sprawls over almost 1,500 words, isn’t very colourful and is boring even to someone interested in politics.
What they should have done
A few weeks ago the Tories came up with six election pledges – more than a little like Tony Blair’s election-winning five pledges in 1997 – that were supposed to encapsulate what they were about in six short sentences:
• Act now on debt to get the economy moving
• Get Britain working by boosting enterprise
• Make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe
• Back the NHS
• Raise standards in schools
• Change politics
However, I can’t find them on their website.
If the Tories want to convey a simple image to connect with simple people and get people voting for them who have never voted for them before, this should be their homepage.
It would enable anyone logging on even for a moment to see that they stand for something and to understand why they should consider voting Tory.
As it is their website projects an image of a party still under construction, far from 100% sure what it actually stands for and who it is trying to appeal to.
The homepage doesn’t really feel coherent, let alone the site as a whole, and it is not immediately striking even after an hour browsing the site what one would be voting for if one were to vote Conservative.
The Tories need to grasp the firm edges of their former torch and burn their vague scribbly tree of a website to the ground.