David Cameron believes he can win an outright majority at the next election by focusing on just 80 seats across the country – even without a boundary review.
Secret documents seen by the Birmingham Post reveal Tory strategists have developed a plan they call “the 40-40 strategy”.
It involves pouring resources into a small number of seats, 40 they need to hold and 40 they need to gain, giving Mr Cameron an overall majority in the general election planned for 2015.
Conservatives won 306 seats in 2010. A minimum of 326 are needed for a bare majority in the Commons, although in practice more would be needed to create a stable government.
The Tories had hoped that a boundary review could help them win up to 20 extra seats. The review was designed to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and ensure constituencies were of roughly equal size, but it would also have eliminated quirks in the current system which mean Labour needs fewer votes than the Tories to win.
Those hopes have been dashed after Tory backbenchers blocked reforms to the House of Lords and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced he would block the boundary review in retaliation.
As a result, some commentators have suggested the Conservatives have almost no chance of winning an outright majority next time.
Commentator Peter Kellner, President of polling organisation YouGov, has warned that David Cameron “needs a miracle” to win, partly because angry former Lib Dem voters are expected to vote Labour next time.
YouGov polling found that just 13 per cent of voters say the government has met their expectations that Britain would be governed well, while 34 per cent say “I expected them to do well, but they have been a disappointment”. Half of those who voted Conservative in 2010 share this sense of disappointment.
But the Tory strategy is revealed in a document published by the Conservative Research Department and obtained by the Birmingham Post.
It states: “On issues like the economy, education and welfare we are winning the battle of ideas with Labour,.
“David Cameron is significantly more trusted than Ed Miliband on the economy and as a leader. In fact, our polling is much stronger than previous Conservative governments in mid-term that then went on to win elections.
“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.”
What the document does not reveal is the names of the 80 key seats.
But the 40 seats the Tories came closest to winning in 2010 – but just failed to take – include a number in the West Midlands.
Conservatives were just 175 votes behind Liberal Democrat Lorely Burt in Solihull in 2010. This is expected to be a key target, even though Ms Burt is currently Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lib Dem Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander.
Labour’s Ian Austin held Dudley North with just 649 votes last time. Labour MP David Winnick held Walsall North by 990 votes, while Labour’s Gisela Stuart held Edgbaston with a majority of 1,274.
Labour MP Valerie Vaz won Walsall South with a majority of 1,755. These seats are all among the top 40 winnable seats for the Tories.
Some of the top 40 seats the Conservatives must defend are also in the West Midlands. These are seats the party won with a small minority in 2010.
They include North Warwickshire, where Conservative Dan Byles won by just 54 votes. Wolverhampton South West, which Conservative Paul Uppal won with a majority of just 691, is also vulnerable.