Tories have lost 2015 already, says Conservative Home editor

Picture of Paul Goodman, a white man with grey hair wearing a dark-coloured suit, a white shirt and blue tie. To his left is what looks like a school display from an Islamic school, with Arabic writing.This article has been appearing in my Twitter feed a lot this morning; it’s by the executive editor of ConservativeHome (and former MP for Wycome in Buckinghamshire), Paul Goodman, and predicts that 2015 is already lost for the Tories and the likely outcome is a Labour-led government. The reasons are mainly that the Left is united as Respect has failed to take off and left-wing Lib Dem voters have defected en masse back to Labour, while the Tories’ vote is being eaten away by UKIP. He also claims that the Tories need to increase their party’s share of the vote by four points or more, which no governing party has ever managed to do. I think the Left should beware of crowing over this article which has appeared nearly two-and-a-half years before the final date for any 2015 election.

It’s true that the Tories have good reason to be unpopular, having used an economic crisis to drive through swingeing cuts to public services that they would have wanted to do anyway, but other economic circumstances would not have given them the pretext. One of the worst-hit groups has been disabled people who rely on benefits, which the majority who are not extremely wealthy do as being disabled is an expensive business. High-profile campaigns have succeeded in getting some of these overturned and many who currently receive Disability Living Allowance are now not to be re-assessed until after the next election, which gives Labour time to abolish it early in the next Parliament if they win. They should make reversing this a priority, because enough evidence has been raised of the severe hardship these reforms (even though the last Labour government started them) are causing to make it a viable election promise.

The article is right in that the Tories are weakened because their vote is threatened by UKIP, which he believes will not win any seats in 2015. This is the same situation as in 1997 where the Referendum Party stole some Tory votes but only enough to lose the Tories what had previously been safe seats. Quite apart from the Tory vote being divided over Europe, however, the Tories were already mired in sex and corruption scandals and were regarded as a worn-out party with no new ideas, while New Labour was fresh and appealed to young voters and the middle ground. This is not quite the picture today; although Cameron and Osborne are widely seen as out-of-touch, privileged men with little experience of the real world trying to do Blair better than Blair, there have been no high-profile personal scandals in this government.

However, it’s only 2012 and this could easily be seen as “mid-term blues” rather than a serious threat to the next election. There is plenty of time for another major economic crash, an environmental disaster such as a major flood or drought, or a scandal to hit UKIP which would frighten away their working- and lower-middle-class Tory voters. In particular, the Scottish referendum and the EU debt crisis may well have an effect, because UKIP would have no relevance if there was no UK, and Scotland may well choose the EU over the UK if the UK is out (a distinct possibility if, for example, the EU gets the right to veto member states’ budgets). Although UKIP benefits to some extent from the EU crisis and being able to portray it as debt-laden, bureaucratic and inefficient, joining the Euro is now entirely out of the question, which is one major issue on which UKIP’s stance is now redundant. UKIP will also have to persuade people that the benefits we do get from Europe, such as being able to live and work anywhere in most of Europe, indefinitely, without a visa are worth giving up for whatever we can achieve by pulling out. Gay marriage is just not such a huge issue, and many of those for whom it is will never vote for them anyway.

I suspect Goodman was partly intending to lull Labour voters and campaigners into a false sense of security by writing that article, while encouraging the Tories to redouble their efforts. In a sense, they do have a lot of work to do, because the Coalition will not be running a united campaign and Labour can still say this is not a Tory government, and the last time we voted for a Tory government was in 1992 and look where that got us. Labour still has a fight on its hands to inspire voters and persuade them that they are not the same bunch of mean-spirited securocrats, cringing before US and tabloid power, that the last lot proved to be. That, after all, is why many of us voted Lib Dem last time.

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  • M Risbrook

    that the Left is united as Respect has failed to take off

    It was clearly obvious nearly 8 years ago that Respect was a party that only wins votes from Muslims, and with the possible exception of George Galloway, only if the candidates are Muslims. Something I have noticed is that the traditional secular left has made absolutely no progress during this recession anywhere in Britain. This is almost certainly an indication that there is no support for their ideology but most of the non-Muslims in Respect fail to learn from this. If Respect decided to become an Islamic political party - albeit with a rather liberal stance rather than one calling for Sharia law - then it could be on for a winner in areas with a high proportion of Muslims, but it still continues to follow the path of failure by trying to be a broad left party for everyone. Trying to out-Labour Labour. Wasting money and effort fielding no hope non-Muslim candidates who achieve derisory results.

    and left-wing Lib Dem voters have defected en masse back to Labour

    It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Lib-Dems will get slaughtered at the next election and could be back to having fewer than 10 MPs. I can even see them losing many seats to the Conservatives. The Lib-Dem support of the heartless Tory economic policies of Cameron and Osborne conveys the message “why have the photocopy when the original is available”?

    The article is right in that the Tories are weakened because their vote is threatened by UKIP, which he believes will not win any seats in 2015. This is the same situation as in 1997 where the Referendum Party stole some Tory votes but only enough to lose the Tories what had previously been safe seats.

    This is a bit of a half truth. I expect at the next election there will be plenty of constituencies held or won by Labour where the UKIP vote is greater than the margin between Labour and the Conservatives. However, not all UKIP voters are natural Tory voters or would vote Conservative in the absence of a UKIP candidate so it would be naive to assume that if UKIP didn’t exist then the Conservatives would have won all or most of the aforementioned constituencies. Over the past 5 or so years support from UKIP has grown fastest from outside of the traditional Tory fold.

    In particular, the Scottish referendum and the EU debt crisis may well have an effect, because UKIP would have no relevance if there was no UK

    That’s untrue because the bulk of UKIP support comes from England and there will be demand for a UKIP style party in England for the foreseeable future immaterial of whether it supports the Union or not. There has been some speculation that the break up of the Union could result in a rise in support for the English Democrats corresponding with a fall in support for UKIP if it cries too much over the broken Union but that remains to be seen.

    joining the Euro is now entirely out of the question, which is one major issue on which UKIP’s stance is now redundant

    UKIP is against the EU as well as the Euro. They do not get support from people who want Britain in the EU but keeps the Sterling.

    UKIP will also have to persuade people that the benefits we do get from Europe, such as being able to live and work anywhere in most of Europe, indefinitely, without a visa are worth giving up for whatever we can achieve by pulling out.

    I think you will find that the vast majority of lower middle class people who are reasonably clued up about the EU think that the cons outweigh the pros. Just exactly how many such people work or have a strong desire to work in other EU countries? Not many. The naturally upwardly mobile wealthy and corporate elite are the main beneficiaries of such a facility.

    My own predictions that UKIP support would fall during the recession primarily as a result of their (Thatcherite?) economic policy was wrong. Support for UKIP has held up strongly and they are now even eclipsing the BNP in many areas. I suspect that much of this rise in support is fueled by their recent adoption of an Islamophobic stance and because Nigel Farage appears to have a cult following - which I do not subscribe to. Somewhere I read that UKIP was an ugly duckling that is turning into a swan, although I still see it as an ugly duckling with an identity crisis.

  • Including the people who are pushed out of employment by eastern europeans?

  • M Risbrook

    They are only pushed out of employment by Eastern Europeans because of EU labour laws. This was something that Ted Heath kept very quiet about in 1972 when he said “it’s only a trading arrangement” and Poland was a military and political danger behind the Iron Curtain rather than an economic danger it is today.

  • Surely, the real destroyer of British jobs is China, not Eastern Europe?

  • China could only destroy British jobs if the British government lets them, by allowing cheaply made goods to flood the market and industry captains to use Chinese labour because it’s cheaper than British labour and because China is a dictatorship which does not allow workers to organise freely. Every country has to compete against that, not only the Western markets but also the old eastern manufacturers like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. As soon as they democratise and living standards increase, the manufacturing companies look for cheaper labour. Poland has taken some British jobs but they will soon face the same challenges as us (and they already are doing, in fact). The gap is nowhere near as wide as between any western country and China.

  • Can’t any trade barriers only be set at EU level though, which could be a problem given how much EU institutions seem to have swallowed the free trade dogma? (Of course, I can’t imagine UKIP taxing Chinese goods to hell either, so there’s little point voting for them if that’s why you want out of the EU.)

  • M Risbrook

    Can’t any trade barriers only be set at EU level though, which could be a problem given how much EU institutions seem to have swallowed the free trade dogma

    That is indeed true. The trade barriers and import duty rate on Chinese goods coming into the UK is set by the EU rather than the British government. The import duty revenue also goes to the EU rather than the Treasury.

    Of course, I can’t imagine UKIP taxing Chinese goods to hell either, so there’s little point voting for them if that’s why you want out of the EU.

    One more reason why I decided to join the BNP rather than UKIP back in the 1990s.