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Slightly off-topic, although very relevant to he whole 'what should our message be and how do we win the next election' argument. not sure where else to post this.

I have recently stumbled across the introduction to a report Lord Ashcroft wrote in 2005 following the General Election in that year, based on his private polling research, in which he analysed what had gone wrong, and was still going wrong, for the Conservatives.

It neatly summarises why the Party needed to change, and why some of the posters on this site who advocate a 'true-blue' campaign are wrong.

I thoroughly recommend reading it in its entirety - it will only take you 5 mins or so.

I would welcome other people's thoughts and comments on it (many of you may already be familiar with it. I was not).


I think it is probably only a matter of time before far more people are convinced that the Conservatives have a winning message. The wheels are beginning to come off Gordon's bus and he is no longer being perceived by all as Super Gordon, the Saviour of the Western World!

This would be a welcome message but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Tories have to insist that over time, public spending will be reduced overall. Some public sector workers will lose their jobs, others will be allowed to leave through natural wastage.

Your anger point is particularly important.

Cameron is not nearly as angry as he needs to be about what Labour has done to England.

So nice to see the BBC back in its true colours as fully paid-up socialists referring to us as the Do Nothing Tories at every opportunity.
any message that is going to be picked up, understood and used by the media has got to be snappy, short, attractive and "portable" between policy areas.

Conservative thinking appears to be coming along nicely - but the campaigning politics is somewhere behind.

I have yet to hear a good counter punch to todays "Summitt for Jobs".

Labour appear to be trying the "White heat of technology" ploy again. A fantasy technology world where jobs will appear like magic. They need to be stopped before the con the voters again.

I second Vince although it's not just England that Labour have stuffed. A message is one thing. It needs to be repeated and repeated with passion too. Philip Hammond on The Westminster Hour was too limp, too cerebral, too detached.

I agree with Westminster Wolf- Hammond was very lacklustre on the radio last night. When will our strategists get it into their heads that they need:

- A simple message, condensed to three bullet points.
- Repeated ad nauseum by all our MPs.

Too many of our MPs seem to think they're still at the Oxford Union, trying to win a debate by making complicated theoretical points.

We know our argument is best, that's why we need to compress it into three or four easy to understand points we can repeat on the news.

"Rather than commenting on every economic development the Tories need one big economic message..."

Yes, I agree, though I think the quotations that I posted yesterday have a great bearing on what might be said. The worrying thing is that one or two people on our side, like John Redwood, have been ahead of the government - and the shadow government - but we do not seem to be harnessing their talents. They can produce an analysis, some proposals and a coherent message.

My post yesterday was:

"Two helpful quotations from the Telegraph:
Sir John Hoskins (Head of Margaret Thatcher's policy unit for three years):

"There is still no reasonably coherent analysis of how this credit crunch came about, and you can't solve a problem you don't understand".

And John Redwood:

"We should remember the origins of our problem. The Monetary Policy Committee kept interest rates too low for too long. The banking regulator allowed banks to balloon their balance sheets and supplement this excessive lending with off-balance-sheet devices that came to haunt them in the bad times. The economy ran faster than could be comfortably handled, leading to a large balance-of-payments deficit as we sucked in what we could not produce at home, and a large private sector borrowing binge. Asset prices escalated giddily on the back of easy money. Homes became unaffordable without taking on a huge mortgage, which would prove too burdensome come higher interest rates or job loss. Once the authorities called time on excessive debt, there was bound to be a downturn. Their decisions to hold rates too high for too long, and then to require banks to hold more capital and cash to support their lending when we were well into the downturn, made the problem considerably worse".

He goes on to propose some courses of action but it is this sort of analysis of the problem that we have missed from our official spokesmen.

Posted by: David Belchamber | 11 January 2009 at 18:11

Still think there is work to do to get the economic message right.

We are in a recession at the moment because of 3 fundamental reasons:
1) The collapse of the banking system.
2) The high levels of future public debt implied by the current budget deficit.
3) The high levels of private debt brought about primarily by a housing bubble.

Labour started off ok by re-capitalising the banks - alhtough I think this could have been done more quickly. However it has since stopped addressing the fundamental issues:
- The VAT reduction was an attempt to jump-start spending in the economy - but this was doomed to fail becuase of the massive levels of public and private debt.
- The latest initiative - borrowing money to manufacture jobs is again bound to fail.

The Tory policy needs to highlight that Labour are not addressing the fundmantal issues in the economy - I would suggest the following 5 step plan:
1) Fix the banking system - create a single nationalised bank to mop up all the toxic debt in the UK banking system. Charge the banks a specific cost for buying up their toxic debt so that their exposure is known now.
2) Give banks tax breaks for increasing loans to small businesses.
3) Require banks to implement an up front £100 charge on all credit cards, and put a limit of 10% over base rate on them. We need to dissaude people from taking these out as they lead to unsecured and excessive debts which people can not afford to repay.
4) Increase incentives on people to save more.
5) Introduce significant tax incentives (and reduce bureaucracy) for businesses. Stop regulatory bodies being so aggressive, and draw up a long-term commitment to reduce business taxation by 5% - when it can be afforded. We need to fight for every single penny of inward investment at the moment. This is the only effective way in maintaining existing jobs, and increasing employment.

Having just read the next post by Howard Flight, the message is stark:

"It was essentially on this territory (economic management) that Labour won a large, if reduced, majority in the 2005 General Election – where they were 23% ahead on the issue of who was the better manager of the economy".

If the conservatives can only produce a strong, clear and coherent economic message now, they should win the next election with a clear majority. If they fail to do this, it is likely to be a hung parliament.

The coming local elections should provide a progress report.

Cleethorpes Rock, yes there needs to be a clear message that is summarised by three points, and I was some what disappointed that Grayling came on the radio this morning saying 'me too' in regards to Brown's jobs bride. It seems to me there is a plethora of initiatives and bits and pieces of policies flying around all over the place with the result a clear concise policy would be well received by a public drown in the economic mess. The response this morning should have been to doubt the policy, for a jobs bribe in a declining jobs market for one sector of the workforce just leaves other people jobless, and a much more Conservative policy would be to get the Government off the backs of the employers, that costs nothing, and if there is any spare money it should be invested in getting the tax cost of employing people down. This would be a simple message people could understand and relate to far better than some fiddly bureaucratic gimmick.

The genius of "do-nothing" is that whatever happens, the Tories can say that they wouldn't have spent the money. Labour, Obama and all the others can argue that their fiscal stimulus helped, but Cameron can always say "we would have come out of it anyway, without the expenditure." It's unfalsifiable, and it's taking advantage of the luxury of opposition and the benefit fo hindsight.

What the country needs is a massive fiscal stimulus spent on infrastructure, public works, a Bristol Channel hydroelectric solution, a buy-back of land for school playing fields and research investment. At the very least, we'll have something to show for the investment, just as the New Deal left an amazing physical legacy in the States.

So far, Cameron has tried to encourage saving (just what we don't need!), and extend the guarantee scheme (whic is just tinkering at the edges).

The electorate are beginning to realise that D.C and G.O. do have the only practical policies that will work. Already, Brown is announcing a 'copy cat' policy today of a £2500 bounty to employers to take on those unfortunately out of work for 6 months. G.O's policy was to employ them after 3 months. Also, Brown is furiously spinning his story to claim credit for the Tory proposed bank loan guarantee scheme originally promoted by David and George last year.

Brown should have taken action long ago, as many had warned, to cool down the housing market and boost exports in an effort to lower our balance of payments. Both have now collapsed.

Brown has demonstrated incompetence on a massive scale and is desperately attempts to placate his ego to salvage some sort of legacy.

Labour's credit crisis is sheer panic, they have no coherent policies. They use the scatter gun approach in the hope something will work. These actions do more damage with this approach because every day 40 businesses are close and hundreds lose their jobs.This crisis is not about saving this country, our economy,it is about saving Brown's ego.

So our campaign message should be one of trust. The electorate should have confidence and trust in our ability to deliver practical solutions; trusting our practical measures to save our livelihoods,save our country and save our economy not Brown's dysfunctional ego.

I agree we need a "bad bank" - Northern Rock can take on this role once it's current mortgage book is sold off and it's retail business passed to RBS or Lloyds. We should pay 20p in the £ or banks have to keep their debt on balance sheet and out in the open.

The Loan Guarantee Scheme is needed urgently, even if it is not self-financing, it is a better way to spend our money on solving the problem than the VAT cut.

Lastly, we must get with the public mood that much of the increase in spending over the last 8 years has simply been wasted. A cash freeze in overall Government spending for three, possibly even five years would not be unacceptable to the voting public, if the savings, £18-£20bn pa, cumulatively up to £200bn, were split between debt repayment and tax-cuts, focussed on simplifying and flattening taxes.

Couldn't agree more that the Conservatives need one big message - and not just about the economy. We need to know what the next Conservative Government will be about - and that's slightly different from what it will be like. The message needs to blend realism with aspiration, and that won't be easy. It will also need to be the means by which the Party can take a proactive stance towards shaping the country's future - once Labour's mess has been cleared up - rather than reacting to Brown's insane policies and gibes about going nothing.

James - Thanks for the link to Lord Ashcroft's PDF. Remembering that this was created around the time that Cameron was elected leader, it explains a lot of Cameron's subsequent behaviour. If anyone is listening to Ashcroft it seems to be Cameron. Step one was "detox the brand"

Now DC needs to take the second step and make the party economically competent and the party of aspiration again. To all those that do not back Ken Clarke (and I feel distinctly queasy about the prospect myself) I say "put Clarke, Redwood and Lawson back into the economic team", maybe not with front-line posts but they need to be out there putting over the message and training the "new boys and girls" in how it is done. The current cabinet need lessons in how to put the knife in to Labour, how to build a coherent message and now to prepare for government.

Ashcroft's brief should be required reading for the lot of them.

Resident leftie said: "What the country needs is a massive fiscal stimulus spent on infrastructure, public works, a Bristol Channel hydroelectric solution, a buy-back of land for school playing fields and research investment. At the very least, we'll have something to show for the investment, just as the New Deal left an amazing physical legacy in the States."

What the country is getting is money being wasted all over the place, nothing spent on infrastructure or public works, no generating plant to replace older stuff, playing fields still being sold off, new schools being built at profligate cost, hospitals in PFI and the debt hidden off balance sheet.

What will we have to show for it? The biggest financial and economic mess since the collapse of the USSR. As for the "New deal" - it may have been a success in the US, but the only jobs it has created over here are in bureaucracy and the ever growing client state that used to be known as the public sector.

Resident Leftie Says:-
>>What the country needs is a massive fiscal stimulus spent on infrastructure, public works, a Bristol Channel hydroelectric solution, a buy-back of land for school playing fields and research investment. <<

Some of the things you mention spending money on here are good projects. But we cannot afford to do so by borrowing. We MUST not afford to do so by borrowing. If we had plenty of money from, say, "saving in the good times" or "highly-valuable gold reserves" then a fiscal stimulus of positive projects like you suggest would be a winner. But we dont.

Leftie, solving a problem created by extensive borrowing is NOT best solved (or solved at all) by MORE borrowing. If you have to borrow to prevent bank collapse then you damn well better have a way to show how that borrowing is going to be repaid. Wishing on a star that a huge boom will come the following year does not count as a proper plan. Printing money does not count as a proper plan (quite the opposite). Taxing the country into the third world does not count as a proper plan.

Hydroelectricity - excellent. School playing fields - excellent. Research Investment - Absolutely vital. Could I add investment in Agriculture and Industry to your wish list?

But first.... FIRST... we need to get our books balanced. Charging off half-cocked, running up ridiculous historic bills on credit is absolutely the road to ruin. If your stupid leader, Gordon Brown, continues on his current path and is not stopped we will see a devastated country for a generation or more.

The really sad thing is that all the people on benefits who vote a knee-jerk left because they think Labour will protect them are in for a rude surprise. When the money runs out, and the borrowing is no longer possible, they will see their benefits destroyed one way or the other. One way being by cuts, the other being by Money printing.

Wouldn't it be better to spend money on those things when we're NOT in recession?? Especially as it will all add to national debt, that seems a little irresponsible to me.

My above post was directed a Resident Leftie, which I accidentally omitted.

"Someone" needs to throw a banana skin under the feet of Gordon Brown before he slides along on his own far enough to rewrite the history books himself in 5 years time.

No one can surely be fooled any longer by the tact; "If you say a lie long enough then people will begin to believe you', Can they ?

Banana skin ! Needs to be thrown now ! Bring all to light and let the public see how he handles the list below which I'll let you fill up for me :-




And so forth.

"No one can surely be fooled any longer by the tact; "If you say a lie long enough then people will begin to believe you', Can they ?"

Posted by: rugfish | January 12, 2009 at 15:17

Of course they can Rugfish, where have you been for 15 years? That Brown had any bounce at all over the credit crunch is down his side regularly lieing and our side saying not much under the impression that a couple of sonorous speeches with the latest policy idea gets through to people. Every excuse should be taken to reiterate Conservative policies, eg. when Cameron called for a general election Osborne should have written to a paper setting out their policies as if an election might come (including scrapping the VAT cut and consequrnt tax increases and the fact the Tories were calling on Brown to recapitalise the banks before the ditherer got round to it.)

It is also worth pointing out that the silence from the vast majority of the Shadow cabinet and virtually all Conservative MPs has been deafening. I suspect the comment from the Times economics editor was geared at telling Osborne where his PR has gone wrong rather than any critisism of policy.

Instead of the governent stealing our money and giving it away...

Getting no interest on your money from banks...

Losing your (private sector) job because your company has lost its credit line...

Why not a quick and simple scheme (with good regulation and maybe some state underwriting?) - to let the public lend money directly to companies.

OK, lending your savings to your employer is terribly risky - if they go bust you have nothing!

But there must be opportunities to bypass the failed banks. (Lloyds breaking US Law so giving the US treasury a quarter of a billion quid as a fine! - the gap to be filled with our (taxpayer) money... Why can't the break some UK laws!?!). I'd rather have lower taxes so I could lend JCB a few grand (not bought their shares, lent them some cash)...

The price of liberty is constant vigilance, and something we could learn from Labour, is also constant rebuttal. Don't let lies stand. The longer they remain unquestioned, the stronger they get, until the famous comment, "You never complained before!!! Why start now?"
The art is not to get shrill about it. Cameron and Osbourne can come across as a bit shrill on occasion, which is maybe why the rebuttals don't fly in. Even Maggie had to go for the speech-training, no shame in learning the effective presentation art.

Henceforth, Osborne should be known as “Hyacinth” after his glorious interview with Jeremy Paxman, the highlight of which (although it is a tough call - he was spectacularly torn to pieces) was Paxman’s description of him as “the man who walks behind the horse with a bucket”. So, Hyacinth Bucket it is from now on.

Bring back Ken Clarke? More than anything, that would show up just how preposterous and out of their depth the Bullingdon Boys and their wannabes are. Cameron would be gone by the end of the summer recess, and possibly by Easter. And Hyacinth would be gone pretty much overnight.

"Paxman’s description of him as “the man who walks behind the horse with a bucket"

Glad you mentioned that interview, David Lindsay!

It wasn't "glorious" - it was Paxo at his absolute sneering worst!

David Lindsay's wrong about most things Sally. So what's different about this?

Throwing public sector workers out of there jobs may be something you could propose if you want the Conservatives to lose. Soon as you propose that Brown will say those will be doctors and nurses.
If you propose pubic spending cuts you have to exactly say where those cuts will be and by how much. This isn`t being done therefore Brown can easily attack that the cuts will be in front line services.
There is no joined up writing with the party`s economic policy. It all looks like its just put together in reaction to events rather than something that is thought is right and the way to solve problems.
It is the lack of authority on the economy that is making the party look still unfit for government.
The solution to this is to replace George Osborne with Ken Clark. Not only would the party be able to give the impression that they had a Chancellor who knew what he was doing as clark was the architect of the economic boom of the first two terms of the Labour government not Brown but also he would be able to put forward policies that are a little more convincing then what we are getting.

Nothing, Malcolm - he's wrong about this one too but I merely mentioned the interview to highlight the appallingness of Paxo's behaviour!


As you would be aware if you were more than semi-literate (and I hope I don't exaggerate) - the Conservative Front Bench HAS detailed many of the spending cuts. These include ID cards, Contact Point and the targets culture, with some tax reductions to follow. These will free up the private sector to create worthwhile jobs.

When some of these are implemented, be it this year or next, they will not result doctor or teacher losing their jobs.

For my peroration, I was going to say "just troll off to your real friends at LabourLost" but actually, you do have a purpose here. You are a total laughing stock, a transparent (and thus futile) troll.

So, if DC ever wants some good advice: just read Troll-Stone and do the exact opposite!

It's quite interesting what they are doing in the US. People are getting together to help solve the credit crisis:


And they are rallying up the support to present the idea to Obama, instead of waiting for the new admin to come up with the right idea.

Big infrastructure projects can only help pull us out of a recession if either:

a) they are already planned for and can be quickly brought forward (ie you can start hiring the builders next month) or they are incredibly simple (think of building dry stone walls in Ireland during the first potato famine).


b) the recession is actually going to last much, much longer than the government currently predicts (eg it will be 6 years rather than 6 months before we see recovery), in which case we have time to plan, devise, hire and build new stuff and the recession will still be going.

To give the actual article some thought...

I agree that Brown has done well to frame the debate in his terms as Labour activism vs do-nothing Tories. It's simple and effective.

I agree that the Conservatives need an alternative frame for the debate. This both should counter Labour's claims, and allow us to set our stall for how we see the world and what we aim to do.

Where I disagree is that I fear a frame of Labour is wasteful vs the Tories will spend your money carefully, is too light and wishy-washy. It sounds like we're trying to create a debate where none really exists, as if we're declaring - "we'll do the same as Labour, only better". In fact that's not our position at all.

I suggest something more along the lines of Labour short-term panic vs Conservative long-term vision. Somebody better at these things than me could be probably craft it into a more appealing soundbite, but I think it better captures the real divide as we see it. Labour want to burn it's way through billions now, in order to do something now, and is having a jobs summit now, to try and save jobs now. We are told not to worry about the debts - the priority has to be what to do now. By contrast, Conservative leadership has always had one eye firmly fixed on the long term. That's why Cameron and Osborne are so disturbed by the debt levels Labour are racking up - they see a generation's worth of debt accumulating with no plan on how to repay it. They recognise that any serious recovery plan has to have a long-term aim to avoid the mistakes of economic policy over the last 10 years - hence an announcement about how to encourage saving.

What do people think?

Big Infrastructure Projects ? Seriously ? we have an Olympic Stadium and Facilities to finish within the next 2 years in London - we have Wembley Stadium as an example of British project management skills.

We have huge price inflation in plumbers, electricians, joiners and yet want to stop their poor work practices and excessive charges from improving ?

There as PFI construction projects on schools, hospitals etc.....just why do we want even more construction.

Over 33% houses are being built on Gardens - do we want to have all green spaces turned into housing stock ?

This automatic assumption that the past 2 decades have been the right way forward requires us to have energy resources and funding to continue - it is unclear that we do and should consider how power cuts will impact the next government

The basic Rate of Income Tax was 33% in 1977 and might be again if the debt service charges mount....that will have a huge impact on house prices.

The simple fact is that PAST borrowing by the banks needs to be funded PLUS future borrowing by the Government PLUS the Banks - that either comes from borrowing overseas but if China and Japan and Russia cannot/will not lend - then it must come from Increased Taxation PLUS Cuts in public spending.

After the next Election there will be public spending cuts to fund the borrowing and cuts to benefits and pensions

Cameron needs to get angrier, but he needs to be clear at whom he is angry. He is not angry at the public servant who has wasted all this money, but angry at Brown for letting down that public servant by giving catastrophically bad leadership and pathetic monetary management. Public servants will be the biggest victims of Browns failures as they will have to be laid off in droves, or more prosaically released to find more gainful employment in private business. And this will tke time. Brown has so destryoed the wealth creating sector that it will take time for it to build them momentum to create the jobs to create the wealth.


You said in your post:

"Cameron needs to get angrier, but he needs to be clear at whom he is angry. He is not angry at the public servant who has wasted all this money, but angry at Brown for letting down that public servant by giving catastrophically bad leadership and pathetic monetary management."

It appears that a number of previous comments largely agree with this statement.

However, firstly for Cameron to come across more angry than he already has done would be a really stupid thing to do. Such a move would be totally ridiculed by the electorate. It would be viewed as cynical spin and as potentially dangerous. The electorate would ask themselves: "Do we really want an angry man with such power?" The answer would be NO.

Secondly, we all know that Conservatives hate the Public Sector and Public Sector workers. To them they are wasteful bureaucrats, so for them to try and not criticise them would in no way be credible at all!

Furthermore, if the Conservatives believe they are winning the Economic argument they are fundamentally DELUDED!

How about:

"The Conservatives will be Thatcherite Scruges and Slash Public Services when they are needed the most."

That would be closer to the mark!

Lauren L @ 21:12
Nice link to change.org - bypass the banks, let people lend directly.

RE: The conservative message/frame of debate.

I think people often over think 'messagses' - if you sat down for twenty minutes and wrote out all the things you don't like about this government, then ordered them, then identified the ones that were clearly labour vs tory issues - then you have your message...

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