June 6, 2015


As Labour tries to resolve its past, the Tories are mapping the future (Andrew Rawnsley,  6 June 2015, The Guardian)

[W]e don't see a Tory party lamenting that it has the keys of office in its grasp. Misery is not the emotion engraved on their faces. They think this was a good election to win. They have the opportunity to pursue their agenda for another five years and this time unshackled from the Lib Dems. Cabinet ministers are not treating the slenderness of their majority as a reason to go cautiously, but as a spur to entrench their advantages while opponents are still bandaging their wounds and they still enjoy the lustre of being freshly returned to power. As Labour tries to fathom why it lost in 2015, the Tories are already thinking about how they can win another and better majority in 2020.

Some elements of the Conservative plan are more subtle than others. In the crudely obvious category, there is the Tory intention to landscape the electoral battlefield so that it becomes more favourable to them. The Queen's speech announced a direct attack on Labour's funding base from the unions. Legislation will require union members to make a positive choice to "opt in" to paying the political levy. Some senior Labour figures privately think this might ultimately do a good turn for the party by weaning it off inertial funding from union members and forcing a radical rethink about the way Labour finances and organises itself. In the short-term, Labour is threatened with a serious hit that will increase the money advantage already enjoyed by the Conservatives. The Tories are not proposing - surprise, surprise - to address any of the issues about the way they are bankrolled by corporates, hedge funds and small numbers of exceedingly rich individuals.

The Conservatives think they can further help themselves by altering the franchise to extend it to Brits who have lived abroad for more than 15 years. There are more than three million of them and many are on the elderly side. The Tories sniff electoral gold in these older expats because they are likely to be more Tory than the typical voter. Then they plan to do what the Lib Dems stopped them from doing in the last parliament and redraw the constituency boundaries. There are varying estimates about the impact this will have. Everyone agrees that it will boost the Tories and make the intimidating mountain facing Labour even steeper to climb. Some projections suggest that it will mean that Labour will have to win more than 100 seats to secure a majority at the next election, a feat hardly ever achieved in Britain.

It is a truth universally, if rather belatedly, acknowledged by the leadership contenders that Labour lost Middle England because it didn't convince that it could be trusted with the economy. Even if the party had not been obliterated in Scotland, Labour would have wound up 60 seats behind the Tories because they lost the battle for swing voters in English marginals. Five years too late, the leadership candidates are trying to formulate answers to the charge that the last Labour government overspent. While Labour is still trying to resolve a question about its past, the Tories are mapping the future. The next few weeks of British politics will be dominated by the chancellor as he prepares his July budget and begins to reveal some of the cuts that he kept from the voters at the election. The spending reductions George Osborne announced last week were merely the overture. As the cuts are unveiled, there will be blood-curdling forecasts from unions, professional bodies, local councils and the Institute for Fiscal Studies about what they will mean for key public services. There will be protests and accusations that the government is recklessly cutting too much, too fast. That's what happened during the last parliament. The result? The Tories sliced £120bn from public spending and missed their deficit targets, but they still won the election because, whatever the swing voter of Nuneaton thought about the Conservative record, she had a lower opinion of Labour's economic competence.

...being that there's so much to cut before we get anywhere near muscle.
Posted by at June 6, 2015 8:58 PM

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