The real reasons why the Tories are doing so badly

The Conservative party are "baffled" by the public's stubborn refusal to vote for them, writes well-placed Telegraph journalist Benedict Brogan in an extremely revealing piece today.

"Nothing is quite so head-scratching at the moment as the success of the Labour Party," writes Brogan, who claims that "The Tories are certainly puzzled – and terrified – by it."

As I've written before, the realisation that the Conservative party are on course to lose the next election is slowly but surely dawning on the Tory benches. Quite why it has taken so long says everything you need to know about the closeted environment that persists in Westminster.

"That Labour should be in such a strong position is baffling, for reasons that scarcely need sketching out," writes Brogan.

"Soundly rejected, only to be welcomed back a term later: if it came to pass, a Labour win would deserve an award for most unlikely political comeback."

And yet there is absolutely nothing unlikely about it. What may seem head-scratchingly impossible in the halls of power is seen as blindingly obvious outside.

In fact the likelihood of a Labour-led coalition, if not an outright majority, is something that psephologists and professional political gamblers have been predicting for years. The reasons for this have nothing to do with exchanges at prime ministers' questions or the latest briefings from off-the-record sources. It does have everything to do with basic mathematics.

Since the Conservatives went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, a large number of Lib Dem voters have deserted the party for Labour and a similarly large number of Tory voters have deserted the party for Ukip.

The proportion of those deserting has varied slightly over the past few years, but the basic mathematics has not. Of course it is likely that some of those deserters will return to the coalition parties as we get closer to the election. It is also likely that Miliband's poor personal ratings will depress Labour's vote during the campaign.

But even if both of these things happen, it will still not be enough to give the Conservatives anything like the overall majority they failed to get against Gordon Brown. In order for that to happen, something dramatic needs to change. That dramatic change is entirely possible of course. It is also possible that a large sea monster may finally emerge from Loch Ness.

But rather than rely on miracles or good fortune, the Conservatives need to understand the real reasons they failed to win a majority in 2010 and the real reasons why so many voters still believe that Labour is more likely to have their interests at heart

In order to do that they must first start asking the right questions. The most important of these questions is asked by Brogan today.

"Could it be that the question underlying politics at the moment is not, in fact, why Labour is doing so well, but why the Conservatives are doing so badly?" he asks.

The real reason the Conservatives are doing so badly is because of fundamental problems with their brand. When Tory MPs propose raising VAT on kids clothes, it's a problem. When Michael Gove blames poor people for using food banks and Boris Johnson calls for automatic honours for the super-rich it's a bigger problem still.

The toxicity of the Conservative brand is a fundamental problem that Cameron has failed to fix and which the inadequacies of Miliband have so far failed to hide.

But the first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge that you have one in the first place. Brogan's piece today suggests that step is finally being taken in Tory circles.