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The Conditions Now Exist For A Conservative Revival

Last Updated: Friday, June 21st, 2013

Is there a change in the political weather? The latest figures from YouGov show no dramatic change. They put Labour on 38 per cent, the Conservatives on 31, UKIP on 14 and the Lib Dems on 11.

Yet I have an increasing sense that the Conservatives are in a happier position than Labour. The difference may be summed up as follows: on just about any subject you care to name, the Tories have something clear and coherent to say, and Labour does not.

There is no sign that the Conservatives are about to become loved. The same YouGov poll shows no fewer than 48 per cent of people think the statement that “It seems to appeal to one section of society rather than to the whole country” applies most to the Conservative Party, compared to only 20 per cent who think it applies most to Labour.

But it is possible that the Tories are in the process of becoming respected. On welfare reform, Iain Duncan Smith can be seen trying to implement a policy which will mean that if you work an hour longer, you will end up with more money. People reckon that is fair.

Duncan Smith’s reforms are bound from time to time to run into difficulties, but it is becoming harder and harder for Labour to challenge the honesty and indeed the morality of his intentions. The danger for the Opposition is that it will fight a number of tactical battles against, for example, the child benefit reforms, or the so-called “bedroom tax”, only to be forced to concede after a time that it would not actually repeal these changes.

In education too, the initiative lies with the Conservatives, who are actually doing things, rather than with Labour, which grumbles about the changes, but cannot actually commit itself to undoing Michael Gove’s reforms. Nor does Labour possess the intellectual courage and vitality to chart an alternative way to improve our schools.

On the economy, Ed Miliband cannot point to rocketing unemployment, so instead complains about squeezed incomes. What he says is quite true: incomes are squeezed. But in hard times it is better to have a job which pays something than to be without work. And once again, there is no sign that Labour would do better.

As modest economic growth resumes, people will start to feel less precarious. The Conservatives will be able to suggest that although recovery is a slow and painful business, virtue is in the process of being rewarded. What will Labour be able to suggest?

At this week’s G8 Summit, David Cameron carried off the task of entertaining world leaders with his customary aplomb. The Prime Minister was mocked for not wearing a tie, but in other respects he did not embarrass us. As the general election of May 2015 draws nearer, voters will wonder whether Ed Miliband would be able to carry that sort of occasion off in such a way as not to embarrass us.

If the Labour lead in the polls were enormous, such considerations might be irrelevant. But a lead of only seven per cent is far from enormous. We find ourselves watching a race in which Labour is plodding along in front, but gives no indication of possessing the reserves of energy needed to take control of the race and reduce the Conservatives to the status of also-rans.

Nor does UKIP look as buoyant as it did a few months ago. Even more than Labour, it suffers from being unable to actually do anything. It is dependent on protest votes, which a modest economic recovery is liable to reduce in number.

Next year’s European elections will still offer a cost-free chance to kick the Government, and UKIP may well remain the preferred way of doing that for the minority of voters who bother to go the polls.

But at the general election of 2015, even those UKIP voters whose main concern is Europe will know that it is the Conservatives, rather than Nigel Farage, who can ensure that a referendum on British membership is actually held.

So the conditions exist for a modest Tory revival. The more people come to believe that the worst of the recession is behind us, the more they may decide that the Conservatives look more serious and more professional than Labour, and should therefore be allowed to remain in power.

By Andrew Gimson

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Andrew Gimson interviews Owen Paterson “The Environment Secretary is energetic, optimistic, keen to deploy the latest technology and scornful of rival, less professional outfits: in this interview he speaks of the “utter cretinous incompetence” of the Labour leadership. To Paterson, speaking one’s mind is more than a duty: it is a pleasure. This lends him a directness, and hence an authenticity, which are seldom found in the mealy-mouthed world of modern politics. He enjoys confronting ignorant townies with the facts of rural life, including the need to kill vermin.

Such provocations conceal a streak of caution. Paterson does not like to do battle until he is ready. Before his bold speech this week in favour of GM food, which we analysed yesterday, he ensured that he had a complete grasp of the subject.” Read more: http://is.gd/irXzAQ

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lonsdale: Labour bears a share of the responsibility for the death of babies at our local hospital “Labour have refused to account for Baroness Young’s allegations, refused to apologise for Labour’s cover-up culture, and have stubbornly opposed the Conservatives’ overhaul of their failed tick-box inspection regime.  In fact, Andy Burnham derided the appointment of a powerful Chief Inspector with the authority and judgement to call out problems as “heavy-handed regulation”.    He calls it “heavy-handed”; I call it “speaking truth to power”, and my constituents rue the day he stamped this out at a time when babies were dying at Morecambe Bay.” Read more: http://is.gd/LMtCFv

Mark Wallace: Andrew Tyrie’s bank reform balancing act has successes and wobbles, too Definition: how will ‘reckless misconduct’ be defined? As the offence only applies to banks which fail “with substantial costs to the taxpayer, lasting consequences for the financial system, or serious harm to customers”, does that mean some bankers could be pursuing practices at a profitable bank which would be criminal to commit at a bank which later gets in trouble? Could courts really jail someone for doing something which other bankers are simultaneously allowed to do as long as their gambles pay off? How are banks to tell the difference between the two at the time? Unintended consequences: As the Institute of Directors asks, might introducing individual criminal responsibility to a process in which boards are meant to make collective, collegiate decisions risk damaging the good management of banks further simply in order to have someone to punish afterwards?” Read more: http://is.gd/28QOnv

Paul Goodman: Cameron’s coming reshuffle will be a reshuffle for women “I suspect that the proportion of women on Cameron’s Commons front bench will be larger than it is now once the reshuffle has taken place.  The Prime Minister would do well to stick with rather than sack the women he has in Cabinet already.  But if there were vacancies, the women Ministers below Cabinet level are: Helen Grant, Esther McVey, Chloe Smith, Anna Soubry and Elizabeth Truss.  Cameron will have an eye to regional balance as well as political outlook if he is looking to promote one or more of them.  McVey and Truss probably top the list.” Read more: http://is.gd/Y4ZkDj

Sunder Katwala: The Future Majority challenge to the Conservatives “Demographic change shifts the social and political context in which leaders make decisions – but it is how parties respond that makes the decisive difference.  Facing short-term pressures to hunker down and secure their base, at least, each side of the political spectrum currently finds it easier to articulate the barriers than the opportunities. The real questions may be less whether to modernise or not, but about the range of different paths that attempts to build broader support might take.

Nobody in 2013 can guess which party might show the political imagination to craft a future majority.  That leaves the future of British politics unusually up for grabs.” Read more: http://is.gd/kOtIf8

By Paul Goodman

 

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