Have the Cameroons Really Detoxified the Tories?

BBC Poll Tracker 23 August 2011

The latest opinion polls are still looking dire for the Liberal Democrats. (Click to enlarge.)

Pretty much all the pollsters have shown a collapse in Lib Dem support since the general election. At that election, they polled 23%. As you can see from the graph (pinched from the BBC’s excellent Poll Tracker site), their collapse began as soon as they entered the Coalition.

By the end of last year, their support had slipped below 10%. It has been hovering around 8-10% ever since, with no sign of any recovery.

Tory support is roughly where they were on election day – around 36%. Traditionally that would not have been enough to win an election. Last year it was enough because Labour received a serious drubbing, getting only 29%, with people switching from Labour to the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg has tried to portray his party as having a decisive influence on the government, and restraining the worst excesses of the rampant Tories. That does not seem to have worked – not least, perhaps, because it is plain for all to see that David Cameron is no more Tory than he is.

As Liberal Democrat support has melted away, Labour are back up to 42%.

42% is the magic figure that traditionally was regarded as enough to be sure of getting a working majority.

The Cameroons will tell you that David Cameron has revitalised his party, that he has made it electable. They are telling porkies. Tory support even at the general election was hardly up at all from the level achieved by Michael Howard at the previous election. And it has flatlined ever since.

At the general election, despite fighting a government that was widely despised and hated, the Tories under Mr Cameron achieved only a 5% swing – and even that was mostly due to a fall in the Labour vote rather than an increase in the Tory one.

Tory support then, as now, is not enough to avoid defeat in a normal election. Tory support has not gone down since the election. And yet, if there were an election tomorrow, according to the polls, the Liberal Democrats would be destroyed and Labour would win handsomely.

It was Nick Clegg’s success that handed the election to David Cameron, by robbing Labour of votes. And Nick Clegg’s success is now looking decidedly like yesterday’s phenomenon.

Tories ought to understand that all the sacrifices they have made in the name of David Cameron’s soft focus Conservatism, all the beliefs and values they have abandoned, have availed them nothing. Far from leading the Tories to victory, David Cameron’s Tory Lite has achieved nothing in terms of increasing support for the Tories.

The rich irony is that Mr Cameron’s disastrous performance in those TV debates during the election campaign was what allowed Nick Clegg to achieve his surge.

Of such ironies are political fortunes made. Mr Cameron’s mistake in agreeing to those debates and then performing badly in them allowed him to win the election.

It is always difficult to predict what will happen in politics. But all the indications right now are that the Tories will almost certainly lose the next election. The Tories are not forgiving of leaders who lose. Mr Cameron should enjoy his time in the sun while it lasts.

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Perplexing Times

Great article by Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph today.

Here’s a flavour:

For Tories, these are perplexing times. Foreign aid and the EU budget are going up while defence spending is being slashed; green taxes to meet unachievable climate change targets are subsidising the expansion of wind farms across the countryside; red tape continues to strangle commerce; high taxes stifle incentives and constrain growth; and Lords reform is being championed by Conservative ministers even though it will impair the governance of the nation. On the law and order front, Kenneth Clarke may have been forced to drop his 50 per cent sentence reduction for guilty pleas but his belief that prison does not work still holds sway. Volunteers continue to be put off by a stifling system of background checks that assumes everyone is a potential criminal. Local councils spend a fortune on non-jobs and executive pay while protesting they no longer have enough money to collect the bins once a week. The Human Rights Act continues to produce perverse judgments, yet promises of a British Bill of Rights have been shelved.

Of course, the Tories did not win the election, and the requirements of coalition mean that compromise is necessary. But the received wisdom that the Lib Dem tail is wagging the Tory dog is wide of the mark. They are more synchronised than we realise. Mr Cameron has been given the cover to dump many of the cherished nostrums of his party’s Right by claiming he has no option. Inevitably, this raises serious questions about the principles – or absence of them – underpinning the Tory leadership.

Really, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Which is probably why Mr Johnston is writing for the Telegraph and I am blogging on WordPress!

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Borrow and Spend Labour or Tax and Spend Tories

Ed Balls in Q&A on education
Image by Downing Street via Flickr

We Used to Believe in Tax and Spend. Now That’s Tory Territory

and We Believe in Borrow and Spend

Budget 2011: Labour blames cuts for lower growth.

Interesting, considering spending is up this year so far by 6% – even higher than the current inflation rate.

And as I said this morning, Mr Osborne is planning not spending cuts, but freezing spending in real terms and waiting for the economy and tax receipts to catch up. A bit like someone who is living way beyond his means, and decides to go on spending the same amount and hope that his salary rises enough to cover it.

So it looks like we have a clear choice – Borrow and Spend Labour, or Tax and Spend Tories.

Or I guess we also have the option of Look at Me I’m the Deputy PM Liberal Democrats.

What a shower. Time we looked elsewhere for our future.

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Liberal Democrats Facing Local Government Rout

Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne
Image via Wikipedia

Liberal Democrats – Facing Local Election Disaster

The BBC Poll Tracker makes fascinating reading just now.

The latest polls show the Tories a few percent – maybe 5 percent – behind Labour. That’s a pretty normal margin by which an incumbent government would be expected to be behind. Given the gloom and doom, tales of astonishing austerity to come, and wailing about “the cuts” in the media, that is rather surprising. It seems that Tory support is pretty solid.

What is even more surprising is the orange line on the graph. Nick Clegg must be arming himself with a stiff Scotch before reading those polls. That orange line just goes down, and down … and down some more.

Go back to 2005, and the Liberal Democrats were running at well over 20 percent in the polls. By 2008, they had drifted down to the mid-teens. During the recent election campaign, however, they shot back up. (That was largely due to those televised leaders’ debates.) On election day, they received 23 percent of the vote.

How wistfully Mr Clegg must be looking back at those days now. Over the last year, their share in the opinion polls has been sliding. It now appears to have stabilised – but at only around 10 percent. They have not polled this low since the 1960s in real general elections. The Liberal Democrats have lost 13 percentage points – well over half their support.

In the general election, Labour got 29 percent. They are now on around 42 percent – an increase of 13 percent.

That is the same as the decline in Liberal Democrat support. It is abundantly clear that Liberal Democrat voters have no stomach for the Coalition with the Tories. More than half of them have defected to Labour.

The usual caveat: these are only opinion polls. The next real test is this May. That is when the Liberal Democrats will face the wrath of the electorate for real, in the local council elections. Expect carnage amongst their councillors.

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Labour Fighting to Keep Elections Biassed in Their Favour

Martin Bare and Lord Falconer in 2007 at the A...
Image via Wikipedia

Charlie Falconer (Right) – Unelected and Trying to Keep Our Elections Biassed

Their Lordships have been enduring all night sittings as the government attempts to get its Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill through in time for the referendum on AV to be held on the same day as the local elections in May.

The Bill includes two measures – as well as the referendum, it includes a measure to mandate that constituencies should all be the same size within 5 percent.

Labour agrees with the idea of the referendum on AV, and has argued that the government should separate the two measures, so that the AV referendum can be passed quickly, and the correction of the electoral system can be debated at leisure.

Labour’s position on this is completely outrageous. The last election was fought under boundaries that meant Conservative constituencies were on average much larger than Labour ones. That is why the Tories won far more votes than Labour, but still ended up with only a few more seats.

You can argue for ever the merits or otherwise of Proportional Representation versus First Past the Post, or any other electoral system like AV. But the fact is that the fairness of First Past the Post absolutely depends on constituencies being roughly the same size. At the last election, the system was rigged in Labour’s favour.

Amazingly, Labour have actually accused the Tories of trying to gerrymander the system to help Tory chances! Yes, Labour actually believe that a system that is not skewed in their favour is biassed.

What a shabby party Labour have become. Still wheeler-dealing to get themselves into power, without any thought whatever for the wishes of the electorate. Appropriately, their efforts in the Lords are being led by Lord Falconer – a personal friend of Tony Blair who played a key role in Blair’s governments despite never having been elected.

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David Cameron and Welfare Reform


David Cameron has promised to be a radical Prime Minister who will deliver “massive change”. He outlined the thinking behind the Tory plans for welfare reform, to be unveiled this week.

And no more radical change is needed than in the area of welfare.

In 2007/8, of a total government expenditure of £586 billion, no less than £125 billion went on benefits. So purely from a financial point of view, tackling this area of spending is essential if we are to get our government finances back in order.

But there is an even more important reason to review this area of government activity. There are too many young, fit, healthy people who simply can’t be bothered to work. That doesn’t just cost money. It is socially corrosive.

They are restless, apt to get into trouble and generally tend to make life miserable for decent people. They often have children, who are brought up in this environment and grow up knowing no better. Their families are unstable, and marriage is an alien concept to them.

And above all, their inactivity causes resentment among their hard-working neighbours, who rightly find it hard to understand why they should have their money taken in taxes to pay for those layabouts.

The Socialists, of course, deny it. But it’s true. I’ve met some of these people. I guess most of us have.

The Victorians used to have an idea that there were two sorts of “poor” people – the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor”. The deserving poor were decent people who wanted to provide for themselves, but, through no fault of their own, were unable to do so. The undeserving poor were the dossers who were too lazy for that.

Labour, when they set up the welfare state, really had the deserving poor in mind. But the distinction, which is in fact crucial to any sensible policy on welfare, somehow got lost along the way.

The government seem to think that the answer is to go on paying some benefit for a while when someone starts work. The idea is that if it “pays” to go to work, then people will do so.

That is not actually the point. For the “undeserving poor”, they will not work as long as they can survive on benefit. If they have their internet, their television, beer and fags, and a bed to sleep in, that’s enough for them.

Even if they would have twice as much money coming in from working, they would still choose not to.

The only way to get such people out to work is to give them a very simple message. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

It sounds brutal, but it’s true.

Of course there are huge numbers of “deserving poor”, the ones who want to work but can’t find a job. The danger is, of course, that the “deserving poor” will get hit in the process of dealing with the undeserving. Therefore the key will be the detail of the Tory reforms.

Mr Cameron has set out absolutely the right direction to go in on welfare. Now the whole country will be listening to hear the details behind it.