Monday 15 June 2009

The real dividing line between the Conservatives and Labour

I recently thought that right leaning bloggers, such as Dale + even more independent minded ones were wrong to demand that the conservatives should be honest about tax cuts.

I knew Brown's boys would never admit to a penny off any department and would be proclaiming ever higher spending, financed out of exaggerated, badly rounded, misrepresented and just plain untrue tractor stats.

Labour have been proclaiming Tory cuts mean an end to hospitals, schools and even food for pensioners.

My argument was never give your opponent the argument they crave. Brown desperately wanted the Tories to say they would make cuts of any size, to let him make his social concious, spending is just investment arguments, against the heartless Tories of the 80's.Labour are the party of investment, the Tories are the party of cuts. Today the shadow chancellor decided to do just that in a piece in The Times.

Having seen Question Time last week when Peter Hain tried just such a tactic, he was eventually reduced to pleading that if the audience didn't vote labour then they would only have themselves to blame when the cuts came. The audience , by around 2/3 , did not agree. People do appear to have understood that there is no money. No money today and no money tomorrow. Even more astounding was the media. The bloggers pointed out the holes in the Labour arguments immediately, but the newspapers, the networks and even the BBC were not fooled either. Instead of reading the press release , they actually analysed it. Just yesterday John Pienaar again contradicted the studio anchor and his 'Tory are milk snatchers' guest, making the point that what the Tories propose and what Labour propose are within a hair of each other.

The new strategy of telling a version of the truth, that I thought very risky, does seem to being received quite well.. the people do appear to understand. Whether this will continue when they are told the details, like schools must merge, class sizes must rise, train tickets must go up 15%, parking charges will triple etc remains to be seen. For now it appears that Gordon Brown is making a mistake. He is fighting a previous war, with old, obsolete tactics. He does not seem to have learnt, post Expensegate, that saying "I will be more open and honest"is not enough. He needs to be seen to be open and honest and with Malik and Iraq he is off to a very bad start.

The Conservatives can manage to simplify their message to chime with all the workers being asked to take zero or minus pay rises, or who have had to cut out holidays or luxuries. If you spend £4 when you get in £3 you will eventually have maxed out your credit card, and will be paying a hell of a lot of interest on what you have spent. This message does have power. It points out the previous overspending of Labour and highlights that further continuous overspending is impossible. It can highlight the astronomical black hole in government spending and income, and allows the Tories to say at least they are being honest, unlike ponzi Brown who promises what he knows he can't deliver. There is the rich vein of broken manifesto promises, from student fees to the top rate of tax, for Mr Osborne and the shadow cabinet to mine.

If the media continue to probe and expose the economics of the situation, George Osborne's new found honesty may just be letting Gordon Brown dig himself into a verbal hole increasingly difficult to spin his way out of. It allows the Tories to steal the PMs 'prudent'cloak, his trans-pear-en-sea rhetoric, his honesty helm and move Gordon's favourite 'public investment' ground onto the less certain 'debt crisis' territory.

I was wrong to worry. Rather than be the argument trap that Brown has laid for Cameron, it appears to be the argument that Cameron wants, and Brown may fall for.


Old BE said...

Thanks for the link. It is better to be right than popular. Eventually "received opinion" will see that there is no more spending to be had, and that if we want to get back onto an even keel we must cut. The media seem to have caught on more quickly than I expected.

The public are not - contrary to patrician and socialist theory - stupid. If the Tories are upfront about what they think needs to happen to get the country back on its feet then they will have a real mandate for change. If they hide and hope to coast to an election victory they will have no mandate for sorting the country out.

People are fed up, Cameron needs to be strident.

dearieme said...

Once the media decide that Brown is doomed and that they'd better arse-lick the Tories a bit, then suddenly Labour propaganda might be subjected to criticism. About bloody time.

Elby the Beserk said...

Agreed. I think Brown's bluff has been called, and well called. Brown it is clear, DOES believe the public to be stupid. How stupid is that?

Mark Wadsworth said...

So the 'real dividing line' is, er, that The Tories are slightly less dishonest than Labour, even though their spending plans are more or less identical?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Plus, Bill, what makes you think that cutting 10% off government spending means worse 'services' or even lower benefit payments? That's another myth that needs debunking and which the Tories are just as guilty of perpetuating.

The government spends up to 20% on the quangocracy, FFS! Would any member of the public even notice if they sacked every single racial awareness co-ordinator in the country, starting with Trevor Phillips? Or shut down the Care Quality Council or Regional Development Agencies and all the other crap?

Methinks not.

Bill Quango MP said...

BE: DC will have focused grouped this. He's had a good few days. It seems you are right. People are fed up with unbelievable untruths.

Dearime: I think you are right. Brown's denial, immediately after his call for more honesty, of his desire to make Ed Balls chancellor, was enough for the meeja to give up on him. They all had the story, had been running it for a week without denial.

Elby: NewLabour have manipulated the public, the media and the figures for a very long time. In boom times, no one cares too much. There is enough to go round. but now?

MW: Well that is politics.
But that is the dividing line that the battle is drawn up on today. GB wants to declare the Tories will cut spending. Ergo..He will not.
But we know that he will, because he has too or a currency crisis, IMF loan, gilts failure, credit rating reduction etc will take place.
Brown's aim is to make the Tories look worse than they are, while he looks better. For a change it looks like its going to be about who lies least, not most.

+ MW: You know I don't think cutting 10% should make much difference.Even from Health. It shouldn't be beyond the wit of the management. Every business I have worked in has had to cut 10-20% at some point, often without great hardship and occasionally with productive outcomes.{its the next 10-20% that does the damage} But the people who have to find that 10% have very strange ideas. Remember the 80's?
Or more recently the BBC. Told that they needed to save 'x' they started by chopping staff from news programs and researchers. They started with their flagship Newsnight and the Today program.
Was this where the most fat was?
No. Cutting the budget for BB3/4, scrapping the next proposed 'logo' change completely, searching amongst its diversity facilitators, its in-house magazine, its internet tentacles,its relocation Salford packages and so on MAY have made more sense but worse headlines.
Plan 'B' is probably to say they have to axe doctor Who and reduce EastEnders to 1/2 hour a week.

Hospitals, schools, police, local gummint will all do the same. We've been there before.

James Higham said...

People do appear to have understood that there is no money.

That's the thing, the bottom line.

Letters From A Tory said...

Cameron still has huge scope to talk about Labour waste (e.g. ID cards, NHS targets), so if he sticks to Labour profligacy plus a few carefully worded pledges to cut some budgets (as well as explaining why) then the voters will be happy to see us being slowly dragged out of debt.

eda said...