Cameron hasn’t changed his party….how can he change the country?
David Cameron has promised Britain 2010 will be a ‘year of change’ if the Conservatives are elected. A powerful rallying cry against a Labour government seeking its fourth term in office. It would be wrong to underestimate the power of change as a rallying cry and how natural fatigue sets in when a political party enjoys a long spell in office. Tony Blair understood it all too well and his themed ‘Things can only get better’ campaign captured the mood of a nation weary of the Conservatives to devastating effect. However, Cameron cannot even change his own party (unlike Blair; whatever you may think of the changes he brought) so his ability to change Britain deserves serious questioning.
Lets look at the recent Conservative Home poll of the attitudes of its Prospective Parliamentary Candidates and what they would regard as the most important issue should they be elected. Respondents were asked to give issues an importance rating out of five and the results are revealing; top-of-the-pile is ‘Cutting the deficit’ followed by cutting regulations on business which scores 73 and reducing welfare bills which scores 59. ‘A Conservative agenda for fighting poverty’ (whatever that means) trails behind on 45 (the same score as ‘Winning back powers from Europe’ got). Meanwhile, the establishment of new schools scores 23 and better road and rail services scores 20 and more affordable housing 14. Shockingly, reducing Britain’s carbon footprint scores a paltry 8. So much for ‘Vote Blue; Go Green’; the ‘Green Tree’ is burnt to a cinder by the still-burning Thatcherite torch. This is so embarrassing that Cameron has been forced to ‘re-educate’ his PPC’s about the ‘importance of the environment’.
However, you have to feel sorry for Cameron; there he is desperately trying to sell ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ and his foot-soldiers in this war are selected by people who overwhelmingly back ethnic screening at airports. Conservative Home home must give Cameron nightmares because it is like looking into a mirror of what a Conservative government would be and trust me; it ain’t pretty. Take this horrific piece from Alistair Thompson, the Conservative Candidate for West Bromich East, who suggests the next time there is a big freeze the unemployed should be used to clear the snow;
“let’s use these battalions of unemployed and able people!
Let’s find them work in their local communities, clearing the snow away, delivering hot meals, anything that helps to keep the country running.
Personally I would target this force at clearing schools, hospitals and access to the homes of those vulnerable people who are at particular risk during the cold weather, before clearing the rest of our pavements and roads.”
In other words; Thompson wants the unemployed to do all the things Conservative councils are no longer willing to actually provide because they are too focused on modeling themselves on cheap airlines. Another word for this might be slavery.
So, what can Labour do about this? Ironically, it must take a leaf out of John Major’s book and show the people of Britain that the Conservative Party hasn’t changed and cannot be trusted to govern. Major’s ‘Demon-Eyes’ campaign was brazen and I wouldn’t advocate a direct repetition but the central theme is a valid attack on Cameron’s Conservatives especially as polling consistent shows them to be viewed as, for example, favouring the rich. Secondly, it must have a positive message which embraces the theme of change and makes it Labour’s own. Doing this could well involve some candor about its record in government (what’s gone wrong and what’s gone right) and its policies must match the radicalism that has recently been mooted in the press as being the aim of the next manifesto. It must be radical in word and deed; not just in economic matters (making the case for investment led growth against the tide of deficit cutting mania) but also in social policy (a look at wages and incomes and using the tax system as an instrument of redistribution); constitutional reform (a clear commitment to PR etc, etc) and every other policy area. If Labour goes to the country on this footing it will make 2010 truly a year for change…..