« "Restoring Pride in Our Public Services" | Main | Cameron challenges Brown to election debate »


There are still very clear differences between Conservative and Labour. If Labour win the next election Gordon Brown will see that as a mandate and he will move into ideological territory. The creeping statism that we have seen will be nothing compared with what is to come if Labour win again. Mr Osborne,s spending plans are expediential. I don't see them as being a move towards maintaining the big state philosophy of Brown. For example would sticking to spending plans mean another three years of pouring taxpayers money into the wasteful New Deal? Or would Mr Osbourne shut down down the NewDeal and reallocate that money to front-line services elsewhere?

Attempting to re-assure people that we won't really change anything significantly is precisely the wrong approach for an opposition. It is especially misguided when the key faces of the opposition are relatively and visibly inexperienced - young-looking; never held high office or a significant administrative opinion. Fresh-faced people can win general elections, but IMO they need to understand that their appeal is unlikely to lie in being re-assuring. The fresh face must come with fresh thinking. We vote for the fresh face because we believe he brings something new that we hadn't thought of before. "Vote for me because I'm just like they other guy, only better looking!" is not a serious policy positioning.

And yet what is so frustrating is that, in practice, *I* have no doubt that Cameron and Osborne would do very different, new, and exciting things if they were elected. But that is only because I have watched them with the policy nerd's attention to detail over an extended period. Joe Public does not have my advantages, and I feel confident believes that, on the public services, Cameron and Osborne would be just like Blair and Brown, only less experienced, more likely to make bad mistakes, and more likely to be derailed by their Party. That is not a good place for us to be on the key public services issues.

"administrative position" was what I meant...

An alternative view is that the "modern" Conservative Party isn't worth voting for.

There are still very clear differences between Conservative and Labour. If Labour win the next election Gordon Brown will see that as a mandate

It is good you have X-Ray Vision and can discern what is not obvious.

I suppose if any party wins an election they could construe it as a "mandate"....funny that....not much hesitancy when Conservatives get elected in claiming a mandate - must be fading memories of the experience that prompted that comment.

As for Osborne - why not be really conservative and agree to implement the Labour Manifesto if elected ?

After all Cameron has accepted £35 bn in PFI Academies which Blair set in train; presumably with the CSR being unveiled next month Osborne will stand up in the Commons and say "I have no objections to these Spending Plans"

I can see a Grand Coalition as in Germany with Osborne as Chief Secretary to The Treasury under Alistair Darling

The issue you raise Tim at the end of your post is the right one. One Tory MP told me the other day that they met many constituents who wanted Brown out, many people who liked Cameron but not one person who was enthusiastic about him.

Competence, value for money and delivery, that is what voters want from their government, IMHO the lack of all three will eventually be the downfall of this Labour government.

This is a really useful piece of work - especially the comments stats - because it throws up a real problem, both for party strategy and for websites, even this very admirable example. And I'm not just saying this because – sniff, sniff! – the number of comments on my platform piece yesterday was dwarfed by those on Michael Ancram (I confess I am sad enough to have downloaded and read the pamphlet) and the Telegraph.

It is hard when you are politically very interested and aware, and therefore tend to monitor the media much more closely than the vast majority of people (and therefore voters), to remember that the day-to-day events, words and deeds that can seem so important at the time to you barely register with most ‘normal’ people.

It seems as if it may be just as hard to remember that research suggests that the media really doesn’t (repeat doesn’t) make much (if any) difference to people’s votes. There are simply shed-loads of social scientists out there who have looked into the question and found (virtually) nothing. Even so-called ‘indirect effects’ – such as making a certain set of issues more salient in the minds of voters than another set of issues at the time of an election – are not that great.

The problem is that there are so many other things that make a difference. Personal communication (especially with your spouse and, yes, probably even your civil partner) is just one that, research suggests, makes more effect than the media. In other words, who you eat breakfast with makes more difference than what you read or listen to or watch while you eat it.

Clearly, most people get their information about party politics from the TV and to a less extent from newspapers – but that isn’t, except in the most marginal drip-drip manner, what decides their preferences. The latter come from a mish-mash of personal background, current prospects, more or less strongly held values and brand loyalties, and a gut feeling about which party will get closed to delivering what it promises and keep calm in a crisis – a mish-mash that for all our psephological sophistication we don’t (and possibly never will) understand.

All this means that it’s not worth getting wound up over the short-term, storm-in-a-teacup stuff. It’s interesting but it often only in the sense that a soap-opera is interesting. It doesn’t mean that David Cameron changing the party – and projecting the impression of change – isn’t important, but it does mean that it’s a long drawn-out process that takes time. That’s not something that the media finds easy to cope with, but something which websites like this have a key part to play.

Tim - an excellent post. Very well written and thought out. I agree with most of what you say.

One thing I would add, though, is that floating voters tend to be some of the best informed people around. It is these voters that can be affected by a string of "Tory Disunity" stories.

Err.. that's Tim Bale at 11:29 - not the Editor - although Ed, your post was interesting too ;-)

"The Conservative Party's attempts to reassure may be important but it's also vital that we give people still stronger reasons to change the government."

Of course, that's absolutely right. And we do not need to change our schools and hospitals, or the police; with the same funding we can make these work more efficiently. Forget the CUT word; reassure the electorate on that, but the great leap is to say that the money is right, it's the tailoring that is wrong and hence the suit is shabby.

Trim down administration, improve the laws and make regulations bear decent resemblance to the commonsense realities. When you know something is right, you don't have to make excuses or feel embarrassed. Just say it and do it. Plain simple.

I believe all these will strike a chord with substantial sections of working people and the voting public. It certainly has with me when I talk with vast sections of the community in my daily work!

I should be completey happy with Osborne's commitment to match Nulab's spending, as I have been suggesting it for a very long time but with one reservation, which is summed up by Tim's comment:

"It was reassuring - not inspiring - and designed to kill any Labour attempt to paint the Tories as a threat to Johnny's schooling or granny's medical care".

That is that the spending commitment should be confined to schools and the NHS and we should look for significant savings in other areas.

As Tony Makara at 09.20 usefully asks:

"For example would sticking to spending plans mean another three years of pouring taxpayers money into the wasteful New Deal?"

In my view, the answer is clearly "No".

Come the election people will have had enough of Brown's socialists.

Cameron is a good egg and most of the electorate are clever enough to recognise this. They don't want the nanny state interfering with every aspect of their lives, telling them what they can and cannot do.

That is that the spending commitment should be confined to schools and the NHS and we should look for significant savings in other areas

A good reason NOT to ever vote Conservative. Brown has done just this so it means more cuts in Defence, Policing, Pensions, Immigration Control....

Why don't Conservatives simply re-brand as New Labour ?

"...significant savings in some (not all) other areas".

What gets me excited? Felicity of course!

It would be almost impossible for a new government to turn round public spending overnight. Many spending committments are made years in advance.
No all Conservatives are sold on the concept of lower taxation - many of us prefer the concept of the money being spent more wisely. Most of the Quangos could be abolished and that money freed up for something worthwhile. However, a pledge to continue with PFI and PPF schemes does dismay me. Buying a hospital or school on this basis creates massive debts down the line - we build them but our children and their children will have to pay off the debts. Metronet is just one small example of the pitfalls but the whole privatised rail system is another mounting debt in a different cloak. We pay subsidies so that franchise operators can make good profits from poor service.
I fail to see why it is sensible to let out the building and running of a school, a hospital cleaning service or a hospital. If it sensible then why not privatise defence and policing? What is happening is that governments say " We cannot run things properly so let's dump them into the private sector". What should be dumped is political clique who cannot run things properly, pragmatically and without ideology.
Michael Ancram is just another champagne politician who has never connected with reality. Unfortunately we have a vast number of Blairs, Ancrams, Letwins, Hewitts, Browns, Mings and the like - not worth a bucket of spit between them.

It would be almost impossible for a new government to turn round public spending overnight.
Changes in public spending could be made right from the start, probably small ones initially, some others would take longer because of existing commitments - if government were to choose to it can vary regulations relating to some aspects of operations using Statutory Instruments, I'm not sure that anyone has tested the limits of such things, but eligibility requirements for benefits and Tax Credits, and hospital admissions and you name it can be varied quite quickly even if overall budgets can't be - most incoming governments hold a budget at some point in the few months within coming to power, Edward Heath held millions of mini budgets, there is actually no requirement for there to be only 1 or 2 budgets a year - there could be more if necessary, an early one to re-arrange spending of government departments and make some overall cuts and maybe cut PSBR or reduce taxes a bit and then there could be further alterations when possible.

However, a pledge to continue with PFI and PPF schemes does dismay me.
This is basically a similar problem that Labour governments had with nationalisation, companies involved in the schemes have signed up in good faith and so have legal and moral entitlements to expect not to have the rug pulled out from under them. I am suspicious of PFI schemes especially, for the sake of making the balance sheets look better spending is delayed and actually ends up being far more expensive than it otherwise would mean and also can be used by someone who is in a ministerial job for next to no time to commit future governments to spending huge amounts of something for decades to come, and what it ends up with is a kind of bastardised situation in which the private sector is running around trying to do what the government wants at best, or at worst simply milking the system and spending all their time figuring out how they can maximise their payouts from the contracts, and then after all that the public sector still needs to monitor what they are doing so if anything it ends up with an even bigger bureaucracy than there would otherwise be.

The comments to this entry are closed.



ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker