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Ten Things To Look Out For 2013

Last Updated: Friday, January 11th, 2013

  • David Cameron’s EU speech: Conservative Euro-sceptics want the Prime Minister to commit to a referendum in the next Parliament, and legislation to ensure it in this one. (And UKIP is lurking in the wings.)  The Obama administration, German politicians and British business leaders want him to stand up to the Better Off Outers.  David Cameron believes that Britain must have a place at the EU table. Due shortly, his big speech must somehow square the circle.
  • Same-sex marriage bill: The proposal was in neither the Conservative manifesto, the Coalition Agreement, nor the Queen’s speech – and there was no big lobbying exercise for it by Stonewall.  But the Prime Minister seems to regard it as a litmus test of his leadership’s modernisation credentials.  It is fair to say that there would be little support for it in his own party were it not for his own.  A bill on the measure, therefore, will test backbench loyalty to the limit.
  • The budget: Last spring’s budget cut the top rate of tax, sought to extend the scope of VAT and stealthily de-indexed pensioner tax allowances.  The result was the destruction of the Tories’ previously healthy poll position, four VAT U-turns, and a large question-mark against George Osborne’s political reputation.  The bottom line for him this year is: no mess ups.  His backbenches will once again push for bigger, deeper, faster deregulation to spark growth.
  • Theresa May’s vision: The Home Secretary is one of the most senior Conservative figures.  Westminster insiders know that she has a passion for women’s’ issues. Some voters remember her “Nasty Party” warning to the Tories.  Otherwise, little is known about her political worldview.  She will be setting it out at a ConservativeHome conference in March.  Does she have a plan for the northern and midlands marginals her party needs to win?
  • The energy bill and decarbonisation targets: Energy Secretary Ed Davey and the Chancellor have stitched together a careful deal on the bill.  But Tim Yeo, the Energy Select Committee Chairman, warned during the bill’s second reading in December that he will table amendments to insert a decarbonisation target in the bill.  The Government thus faces a possible pincer movement by Labour, Liberal Democrat rebels and “green Tories”.  There may be trouble ahead.
  • This year’s local government elections: Next year’s spring annual cycle of elections will see UKIP challenge to top the poll.  This year’s will be less dramatic, but are none the less an important hurdle for Cameron, since they will largely take place in the blue shire Tory heartlands.  They will thus be a test both of the Government’s popularity, of Labour’s resilience, and of Nigel Farage’s capacity both to embarrass Clegg and to cause havoc in the Prime Minister’s own backyard.
  • The Universal Credit: Iain Duncan Smith’s grand plan to improve work incentives while simplifying the benefits and tax credit system depends, first, on a new computer system working and, second, on the system working as claimants report income changes in “real time”.  The Work and Pensions system insists his scheme will work.  But it’s hard to find Ministers elsewhere who agree.  The Government’s ship will be rocked by voter anger if Duncan Smith is wrong.
  • The fortunes of Mitchell and Huhne: The latter is embroiled in that speeding trial.  The former awaits the report of the police inquiry into that Downing Street incident.  If Huhne is cleared, will Nick Clegg (“I don’t know any politician better at getting his points across”) be able to prevent his old sparring partner’s return to the Cabinet, even if he wants to, in the event of a reshuffle?  And if Mitchell is cleared, will David Cameron feel obliged to call him back to the Cabinet, too?
  • Conservative/LibDem relations: The more unlikely Downing Street believes it is that the party will win a majority in 2015, the easier it is likely to go on its Liberal Democrat partners, and more centrist it will be tempted to be on policy – blurring the sharper lines of Tory policy on immigration, crime and welfare.  After all, if the Tories believe they may need the Coalition after 2015, the more keen they will be to keep Clegg in place – and the less eager to see him replaced by Vince Cable to draw left-wing votes from Labour.
  • Northern Ireland: It is very unlikely that “the Troubles” will re-ignite in 2013: after all, Sinn Fein is tied into government.  But the problems lie at the other end of the political spectrum.  Behind the continuing Belfast flag protests lie Loyalist alienation over perceived one-sided inquiries into the Troubles, nervousness over the census findings of a narrowing census gap between Protestants and Catholics, and the province’s stubborn unemployment figures. Scotland’s coming referendum, too, is unsettling nerves.

By Paul Goodman


HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

The Victory 2015 Conference. Saturday 9th March 2013. Will you be there?
“You are warmly invited to an exciting one day Conference that ConservativeHome will be holding in central London on Saturday 9th March 2013 to discuss how the Conservative Party might win a majority at the next general election. Keynote speakers include Lord Ashcroft, Dan Hannan, Theresa May, Tim Montgomerie and Grant Shapps.  During the day there will be three main addresses.  Lord Ashcroft will present new and exclusive opinion polling on the Tory challenge.  Party Chairman Grant Shapps will explain the party campaign in battleground seats.  Home Secretary Theresa May will set out her vision of conservatism.”  Read more: http://is.gd/QkRK9m

Andrew Marshall: Listen to Mutti. What Cameron can learn from Merkel and what the Conservatives can learn from the CDU
“What advice might Merkel have for Cameron? Avoid letting tactics get in the way of strategy.  Try to cut down on the gimmicks. Start revitalising the party as a democratic organisation, but don’t pander to the membership. Recognise that long-term electoral success comes from a broad, national appeal, not simply from a narrow key seat strategy however appealing that may seem. Pro-European parties can win elections. Recognise that in the EU you need to win friends as well as arguments. Social policy can’t just be about cutting welfare.  It’s got to show empathy for and deliver for the low paid and struggling families. But perhaps the biggest thing Merkel’s got going for her is something that Cameron sadly can’t match: Germany’s public deficit as a percentage of GDP is just 0.6%.  The UK’s, as we are hardly likely to forget, is 7.8%. Read more: http://is.gd/odHqIt

Stephan Shakespeare: The myth of the campaign swing
“That magical ‘Big Swing’ which at some point lights up even the limpest horse-race, but which is almost always a pure phantom, an in-built illusory effect of our desire for narrative structure…Most of the academics who spend years poring over the data agree: there are only the smallest changes in real voting intentions within campaigns. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference; every genuine half-percent can matter to the result of a genuinely close race; but if we don’t recognize how tiny actual campaigning effects usually are, you might forget that elections are really won and lost long before the official campaign ever starts. The time to get your strategy in place is pretty much right now.” Read more: http://is.gd/mKpFhp

Lord Ashcroft: Don’t bet on a Tory victory but don’t rule it out
“With two years and five months to go, there is too much we don’t know: how the dynamics of the coalition will play out, what will happen if the Lib Dems panic, the pace of economic recovery, developments in the Eurozone, the contents of the PM’s long-trailed “Europe speech” and the reaction to it, whether or not Labour and the Lib Dems will continue to vote tactically for each other, the direction of the Conservative campaign under its controversial new management… and they are just a few of the known unknowns….I have never bet money on politics and I am not about to start now. The bookies know what they are doing. Yet in a couple of years, I hope the chance to treble your money on a Tory majority may look in hindsight like an attractive proposition. But don’t bet on it!” Read more: http://is.gd/yd8zQ6

Charlotte Vere opens a week-long series on women and the Conservatives: We Conservatives need a fundamental rethink to win the trust of women
“The way forward is hard, but it can be done.  The party must build a narrative that is inclusive and welcoming and attractive to women – broaden the church so to speak.  The world we live in speaks for itself: girls significantly outperform boys at both A level and GCSE, there are now more women accepted into University than there are men even applying, and women under the age of 29 earn more than men.  Women are a valuable component of our economy and rather than resorting to scaremongering about mother-less, feral latchkey kids, we should be celebrating a women’s right to choose her path, we should be encouraging full and equal involvement of fathers and we should be providing support to families.  Doing well by women means doing well by the country as a whole.” Read more: http://is.gd/D1yuT4

Harry Phibbs: A bumper list of 100 Coalition achievements
“2,543 schools are now academies…There are 220 fewer Quangos than there were in May 2010….The “right to buy” your council flat has been reinvigorated…The discount for council tenants has been boosted to as much as £75,000…From April, people can earn £9,440 before paying income tax…From April 2013, the 50% top rate of tax will be cut to 45%…Corporation tax has been cut from 28% to 24% and is falling to 21% next year…More children in care are being given the chance of adoption…Elected police and crime commissioners have brought in a new era of accountable policing…Home Information Packs, a bureaucratic impediment on the housing market, have been dropped…A £26,000 benefit cap is introduced…Crime mapping has been introduced…Read more: http://is.gd/ZtCPnD

Roger Scruton: When will the Conservative Party fight for England?
“You may or may not be concerned about the hunting question. But no constitutionally minded person can really accept that this situation should continue. Either there is a boundary between England and Scotland or there is not. Which is it to be? Currently there is something called a boundary that is entirely permeable from North to South, and entirely impermeable the other way. If the Conservative Party has any concern for its constituents it should surely make it a priority to change things, so that the boundary is either permeable or impermeable in both directions. The least that can be proposed is that the Scottish MPs be barred from voting on laws that do not apply in Scotland. Better by far would be to exclude them altogether.” Read more: http://is.gd/lnleJx

By Paul Goodman

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