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The question on everyone's lips will be "What about the Telegraph"?

It sure isn't the "Torygraph" any more...

"Andy Coulson has coordinated targeted wooing of all of Britain's newspaper editors and proprietors"

Isn't this exactly the kind of thing Guido has been warning about, a too cosy relationship between the politicians and the press?

In what way are the Roons offering 'change'?

"In what way are the Roons offering 'change'?"

Change from the "spin" and sleaze of the current tired, incompetent, dishonest Apology for a Government for a start - er make that a FRESH start!

Why don't you come to Cheltenham with us next weekend to learn more?

"Why don't you come to Cheltenham with us next weekend to learn more? "

Very kind of you Sally, but I am far too working class for Cheltenham! :-)

We'll certainly always agree that we need to get rid of Brown and his bully-boy machine, but I do fear that the 'hope' in Opposition is a long way from the reality of what Cameron will deliver as the dna thread yesterday highlighted.

I think this can be a joke. I've seen many election 'endorsements' from papers with 90% reporting in favorable terms for the Democrat yet endorse the Republican.

Who the heck should care what predisposed hacks want to claim anyway.

"Senior frontbenchers need to adopt an iron rule to only give substantial answers to substantial questions"
Tim, you are so right. The present climate of distrust of all politicians requires a degree of honesty which may well leave hostages to fortune. But if we are to bring non-political voters back to the polling booth in sufficient numbers to annihilate a senile Labour Party, the risk has to be taken.
The Conservative Party can start by changing the policy at CCHQ. when I email a detailed question on policy, I am sent a sugar-coated placebo from a starry-eyed intern working to a tick-sheet, which rarely relates to the question . When I attempt to follow up, subsequent emails are ignored. If as you say the MSM will be looking critically at our operation, Central Office replies to both conservative members and the general voting public need to be more customer based..

Well I can't see many backing brown's labour unless he makes up a law saying they have to.. or bullies them into it (which doesn't sound hard)

Nobody is pushing to end the brown/labour torture right now so they may have a new leader by a years time and tables may turn.

When's the last date he can call an early election at the same time as the euros? - Let's bully him into doing that.

"When's the last date he can call an early election at the same time as the euros? - Let's bully him into doing that."

I think, Norm, if he wanted a really "snap" election he would only need to allow 19 days (not counting "dies non") which would mean it would have to be called on 8th May.

There is simply no chance of a general election before the Lisbon Treaty has been safely ratified.

Neither Brown, Cameron nor Clegg would want the British people to put a spanner in the works by voting 'no', so the opportunity will simply not arise.

I hope we won't change our Europe policy for the sake of winning the FT. I bet all its readers make up their own mind anyway.

Looking at the Times' Editorial this morning and their reporting and it would seem that they have burned their bridges with Brown. Also Rupert Murdoch's representative on earth Irwin Stelzer was saying nice things about the Conservative Party recently.I think we can see which way News Int is swinging anyway. Murdoch always tries to back the winner,I guess he's made up his mind.
Totally agree with your last point Tim. The PCP should be concerning itself with governing as much as they are with campaigning.
Not doing that was Blair's biggest strategic mistake.

I agree with those who say that Murdoch will back who he thinks will win - that is the approach of The Sun.

Interesting though to see just how much of the Press have supported New Labour over recent years and yet,unchallenged, statements have recently been trotted out with wearisome regularity on the BBC attempting to excuse Smeargate on the grounds that the Press is 90% Tory.

Excellent last point, Tim. Political expediency only gets you so far for so long.

I would be very attracted to a party which took the following line.

"Newspapers promote certain values as well as reporting the news - it's daft to look for total impartiality in reporting anway. But they should promote those values by adopting particular policies and then helping readers/voters to understand where political parties stand (yes in *reality* as well as in what they *profess*) in respect of each policy, rather than endorsing one party in a wholesale fashion. That's how they can provide a service to their readers. They should also, of course, listen to those readers and provide a (transparent) return channel to the parties."

I suspect that to many voters it will seem, at best, arcane, and at worst, another example of politics with a corrupt whiff, if parties are seen to be trying to 'bag' newspapers in this way.

Very good news all round.
Your last comment was, I thought, the best: we desperately need to know what the Conservatives are offering.

"The answers from the senior Tory were all rooted in what each course of action meant for the party's political fortunes rather than what was necessary for the country".

As you say, Tim, this is a worrying reaction. Many people remain to be convinced that David Cameron deserves to win the next election, though win it he will and, even at worst, he and his team will be better than the present incompetents.

I just want a government that puts away short-termism and tries to govern at all times in the best interests of the nation.

Brown has made - and is continuing to make - such a mess of this once fine country that Cameron has the opportunity for greatness. Please let him take it!

Unless I'm mistaken didn't the FT also back Labour in 1987? If so, why?

Why not guarantee winning the election by promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treat come what may. Simple really.

Has anyone else noticed that even the BBC appears to be trimming its sails a little more towards (or a little less away from) the Conservatives? It has not blatantly conspired to close down Smeargate in the way that it has done for most anti-government stories for so many years.

Smeargate was too big even for the BBC to sit on. However the press is still set against Conservatives and The Right Wing Agenda is at best on the back burner of the National Press. It is quite clear from the blogging world that right wing views are still very big with the public. So it may not be an over night shift that is happening at the BBC more a recognition of the sea change that is coming. When the Sun openly endorses the Conservatives then I'll be encouraged otherwise I believe that the revolution in thinking is still some way off.
Of course what would really upset the apple cart would be the Star endorsing the BNP impossible ?

Witnessing such gross incompetence from this Government, no sensible journalist could really continue to support such a dysfunctional Government.They have recorded favourably or otherwise, according to their political persuasion, the details of a Government in meltdown. They are witnessing the implosion of a Party that has used every arrogant, self-serving and corrupt machination of Government to remain in power.

Their comments should now be strongly apposite and call for a General Election. With unemployment escalating at 20,000 per week, for how much longer will they record the suffering of the British people?

Some may be reticent to admit, but most journalists with intergity will agree a drastic change is needed and a fresh approach from Cameron is the only way to restore confidence.

@ Matthew

I suspect that some in the BBC would actually welcome a Conservative win. No doubt investigative journalists would be let off the leash and Tory Government ministers would be subject to much more aggressive interviews than their Labour counterparts are now.

Their repeated encouragement to vote Labour speaks volumes for the quality of financial advice offered in the pages of the Financial Times.

This is a good piece but quite establishment and slightly old-school.

The Metro has a far wider readership than almost all papers except the Sun and is read nationally. thelondonpaper, City AM and London Lite have far more readers than the Standard within London and importantly, they are read by floating voters who the party needs to attract.

If Labour had these 4 free newspapers supporting them, they would arguably be in a better position than the Conservatives because of the demographics of the readership.

For example, would you like to see a tube full of people holding up Metro on polling day with "Vote Labour" in huge letters?

Based on past trends, Metro has been fairly independent, London Lite and thelondonpaper have swayed against us (they were not exactly hot for Boris) and City AM has swayed in our favour (as you would expect from a newspaper with a column called 'the capitalist').

I would love to see a big victory in The Election despite media bias. There sense of self importance, thus power, has been too prevalent for too many years.

All valid points. Let's not jump the gun though - there's a year to go yet.

Nevertheless, hats off to Andy Coulson.

anon you make a very good point about the London free newspapers which will be very important for attracting the many floating voters who pick them up to glance at on their journey to or from work. I would say that London Lite and The London Paper tend to appeal to the young and students and certainly this seems to comprise their main readership judging by the content of their letters and text comments pages. I would say that they tend in the main to be anti-Tory but sometimes willing to give David Cameron and Boris the benefit of the doubt.

'which would mean it would have to be called on 8th May.'

I think this is becoming a possibility - if the papers call for it maybe he will.

If he leaves it a year then conservatives might have policies by then (which have been explained and understood by the public), and he wouldn't stand a chance.

Call it quick & short and they'll have to rush it out... plus labour might be able to afford it too.

He might think it'll gather his party together to stop them revolting against him too.

I'd be suprised if he does though given he doesn't believe in democracy unless it will definately give the answer he desires.

The fickleness of the "dead tree media" (Newspapers) knows no limit. I can remember the famous Sun Light-bulb front page on an Election Day showing Kinnock as the lamp and saying "Will the last person to leave Britain put out the light" the message being that if Labour won that day then that would be the result. In the event the Conservatives got back and the Sun proclaimed "It woz the Sun wot won it!" a headline second only to the famous "Gotcha!" on the sinking of the Belgrano.

Then the Sun changed and backed New Labour and Blair because it suited the owner, Richard Murdoch so to do. Now it has reverted to backing the Tories.

My own thoughts are at the General Election the Sun, Express, Mail and Telegraph will back the Tories, The Mirror, Guardian and Independent will back Labour, the latter two with some reluctance, the Times will stay middle of the road as it often does and the Star will put a bonnie lassie with big breasts on page three and not give a damn who wins.

As they say, when is a journalist being sincere? When they are dead.

I think generally we have played about the right strategy so far but the real issue is at what point do we step the game up and in what way. Remember that you cannot fatten a pig on market day. I accept that we cannot reveal all our detailed ideas straight away, as Labour always nick them, but you have to spell out some level of detail to the public and as Tim says the press will wish to scrutinise a new potential Govt in a way they didn't do as much with Blair. I also think there needs to be a clear narrative that pulls all the threads together strongly so people can clearly see and repeat what we stand for. Certain themes have been sketched out so far like responsibility and some changes have arisen in the context of the political environment we are working in, that need considering. It all needs pulling together and my gut feeling is that we cannot afford to be so paranoid about having ideas nicked that we end up being opaque. Certainly there has to be a point, which surely must be approaching fast, when we let the dogs of political war loose.

"'d be suprised if he does though given he doesn't believe in democracy unless it will definately give the answer he desires."

Nothing Brown does could surprise me, Norm! After all this is the man who still thinks he is saving the world and the man who cannot say "Sorry" properly! I hope he does jump - I really really do.

I heartily support the second point for the Conservatives to take on board. If we do not develop a coherent philosophical agenda before the next election we will be doomed just as the Blair government was to govern purely in the interest of power.


You make a good point about Metro. It's a very important newspaper but does not explicitly endorse anyone... not having editorials.

Are we sure about the FT in 1992? As I recall, they were very wary about Labour higher taxes. Of course now the big thing with them is Europe.

The BBC will continue its slavering sycophancy to the communists. After all we neither want nor need a virulently anti English and anti Christian Fabian machine in our country.

I think the highlighted last sentence of Tim's article, is very sensible advice.

anon @ 10.07 - there are other places outside London, and outside other big cities, AND they are just as important in term of voting in a GE!

Am I the only person who finds it odd that HM The Queen has not dissolved Parliament on the grounds of incompetence and criminal corruption or has she just been told to pipe down or Labour will destroy the Monarchy? And either way what is the Queen FOR if not to govern Her Subjects according to their laws and customs, most of which have been utterly deracinated by the EU and Labour?

How is this good news for democracy?

You can't bleat on and on about media bias in favour of Labour and then wallow in media bias for the Tories.

Again: obfuscation, spin and Tory hypocrisy.

I am afraid there are a lot of errors in this piece.

The gist is right that if the tories are doing well in polls then they will gain substantial newspaper support ie the dog wags the tasil not the other way round but the specifics are badly wrong.

Murdoch does not decide on the NoTw and the sun. I'm sure he will take a close interest but its clearly a decision for the editors. news Internation virtually always has a split ticket indeed last time its titles went in four different directions.

Support from the Mail and Telegraph is far from guaranteed as the last few days has demonstrated.

Coulson's influence (and to be fair to him his strategy) is a lot more limited than that suggested. he has goood contacts at wapping obviously but that makes life very difficult with the other titles and he has a lot more sense than to be so overt. If there is a strategy it is much more gradual and positioning related than such obvious wooing.

As always the history will be written after the next election and with a great deal of hindsight.

Mediaman, Murdoch himself has confirmed that he influences editorial views in his tabloids.A fact confirmed by amongst others Andrew Neil,Kelvin Mackenzie and Piers Morgan.
The personal finance editor of the FT is a friend of mine and believe me he's about as far from being a Labour supporter as it's possible to get.The FT has changed its tune since Lionel Barber became editor.It is not taken with New Labour anymore nor is it so ridiculously EU phile as it used to be.
My own belief is that the value of newspaper backing has declined markedly in the last 10 years which I hope means that Cameron never indulges in the behaviour with Murdoch that Blair & Campbell did.Our biggest obstacle in the media is without a doubt the BBC.

I rate our chances of winning the next election at less than 50%. The False dawn recovery will fool a lot of the folk. If we are not willing to announce our policies then the papers will not take us seriously. The boomtimes may even return for a final bow, before the public is ready for the bitter pill. If we are unwilling to say what cuts we planning you can bet your boots that everyone who might possibly fear our cuts will vote against us. We need some figures Georgy Boy. We don't need to be shy about naming those bits of government that are to be lost. I don't think we should be encouraging large psychology departments I don't think they are a vital part of the government machine. Care in the community is still a big priority for me. If we are going to fund the poor of other nations we should remain committed to our own deserving poor.
Cut those people best able to prosper in the real world and incentivize the creation of companies. That way their recovery will also drag a lot of the "unemployed" back into the work force. We need more enterprise and we should be clear about that. Yes there will be cuts but we will be skillful in how we apply ourselves to this. So it will be the Psychology MA who is asked to set up a business and is encouraged to do this with some gusto. There may even be room for some short term transition monies to be paid to suitable people. A lot of the Graduates need to fend for themselves we cannot fund everyone who has a degree, many of you guys are going to be encouraged to leave the relative safety of a cushy job, for an uncertain world that you are helping to mold.
We are I see not protecting the schools from the world of the Cut. This is also quite the right way to go. Those teachers who can should be encouraged to prosper us all with enterprise. We should not be shy at all to have great polices.

It's hopelessly optimistic to describe the Guardian as 'leaning left'. When the time comes that newspaper will troop obediently into the Labour lobby.


Of course he influences editorial views he is the Proprieter but the above article claimed he himself would decide the stance of the Sun and NoTW.

thats not true as any insider would tell you. Plus externally its demonstrably untrue because the Sun and NoTW have been a split ticket in recent history.

they may yet both back the Tories but if they do so it will be Wade and Myler's decision although they will clearly talk to both Murdochs.

The article above is far too simplistic about a complex subject and over-exaggerates Coulson's efforts. Presumably as you allude because of the Blair/Campbell narrative. (which is also exaggerated)

If the Sun endorses the Tories, will the last person leaving Britain please switch off the lights?

"If the Sun endorses the Tories, will the last person leaving Britain please switch off the lights?"

If Labour win, there may not BE any lights left to switch off as The People may have smashed them all up rioting!


have a look. its a new centre right blog

The Heffergraph wasn't entirely supportive when it swallowed the final morsel of McPoison's spin.
I thoroughly agree with Tim's last two sentences. Fixating on the politics of everything is an opposition trait (and it is usually wrong then too).
I know this because I'm as guilty as anyone on this front. David Cameron needs to be substantive and dry (in both senses). Especially at the next PMQs, which must be all about policy: No personality stuff at all.
Damian Green do the 'nice guy' stuff :)

Whoops> *Let Damian Green do the 'nice guy' stuff :)

Does anyone still read The Mirror?


have a look. its a new centre right blog"

Not bad, Rob Peel but I think you need to make friends with your spell-checker!

"Are we sure about the FT in 1992? As I recall, they were very wary about Labour higher taxes."

They definitely backed Labour in 92.

I recall reading somewhere that they also backed them in 1987 which seems unlikely.

Hardly suprising to see that News International will be backing the incoming government.

Whether it's Dave in Downing Street or the Communists in Beijing, Rupert Murdoch knows how to back a winner :D

Thanks for the advice
I will

I usually enjoy Heffer but I'm beginning to become sick of his fence-sitting. Does anybody know whose side he is actually on?
Perhaps he thinks that we should vote for all ten (or whatever) of them.

Patsy - the Metro is a national newspaper, they have versions in most cities in the country.

Tim - you're right about Metro not having an editorial but as you know, editorials are not that important compared to the editorial slant of the reporting, and with Metro, the headline is the key.

thelondonpaper, London Lite and City AM are all London papers but the first two have much larger readerships, and much more 'target' readerships than the Evening Standard, so if the Standard is important, the others are far more so.

City AM is also more 'target', having a much younger audience than the FT yet distributed among those who 'should' vote Tory.

Why is it always the case that you mention something that is predomonantly London-based and the anti-London brigade instantly jump up?! If some of you had your way we'd win everything outside the M25 and nothing within it!

"I usually enjoy Heffer but I'm beginning to become sick of his fence-sitting. Does anybody know whose side he is actually on?"

I always get the feeling that the Hefferlump is on no-one's side but his own, and hates everybody unconditionally!

"I usually enjoy Heffer but I'm beginning to become sick of his fence-sitting. Does anybody know whose side he is actually on?"

Posted by: Terry Justice

Poor old Heffer must really be suffering.

I get the impression that his feelings towards Dave are similar to Arthur Scargill's towards Blair.

Having read the "Telegraph Viewpoint" this morning, I wouldn't be surprised to find an article calling for Brown's head in a couple days.....
I think that when"Jonah" does decide to call an election, we can expect a return to the "torygraph"
they know which way their bread is buttered...

Have just had a Google around and it seems the FT backed the Tories in 87.

This site gives a list of newspaper backings from the 1980s.


I expect the Telegraph to back Labour. It is full of lefties (with honourable exceptions like Heffer, Randall and Daley) and whored for Brown against Guido.

Simon Heffer told the Bruges Group in Birmingham that he will vote UKIP as Dave's Tories are not real Conservatives. Too many posters here expect unquestioning loyalty to the Red Tories aka Blue Labour.

Sorry to be cynical but I think most of the swing papers calculate who's likely to win the election and then tell their readers to vote for that party.

Maybe that's why the Financial Times unexpectedly came out for Labour and Neil Kinnock in 1992. The only explanation for such a bizarre decision must have been that they believed the opinion polls were right and wanted to be on the right side of history.

"the Metro is a national newspaper"

And kind to D.C. Of course its readers are an important pressure group all of their
own. It certainly has achieved penetration outside of the Capital. It turns up all over the network and even in a virtual way is delivered to my inbox. They have a lot of distribution, but I think they will shy away from a direct endorsement unless there is a landslide of endorsements. We will see.

Interesting piece Tim. I think The Sun appears to have shown some of its cards if not its entire hand.

I would be shocked if they did anything other than swing behind Cameron.

Who cares about the FT. They aren't going to win the election. Conservatives are the only party that represents the view of the majority of British people on the EU. The Mail, The Sun view on the EU is more important than the FT. Tories owe the FT nothing, they have been cheerleaders for this government.

"Does anyone still read The Mirror?"

yes, Terry, they do. About 1.3 million at the last count. The Mirror has an important role to play in getting the core vote out.

Danielle: I was talking about why the FT supported Labour in 1992, I wasn't saying that the FTs view in the coming election either is or isn't important.

"Conservatives are the only party that represents the view of the majority of British people on the EU."

I come here for the comedy.....always a belly laugh to be had.

Haddock whatever your personal views on the EU it is a fact that the majority of the British people are eurosceptic. A recent BBC poll even stated a majority would be happy to leave the EU alltogether but maintain strong trading links.

I wouldn't be happy to leave the EU - I'd be over the moon!!

Even if all papers supported Conservatives, how would that compare to the rolling news channels' support of Labour? Half the voters probably can't read anyway, especially the ones that went to school during Labour's reign of incompetence.

Ad, exactly as I think, but unfortunately Conservative Policy is that ethereal 'In it but not in it' vague nonsense.
The laugh is not in wanting leaving the EU but the notion that Conservative policy is in line with the majority who want to be out of the EU altogether.

Haddock, you never come on here to debate anything other than Europe! Are you only a One Issue Fish?

Sally, as 80% of legislation is said to be from 'Europe' it seems to be quite a big 'One issue' to debate. Perhaps if enough people mention Europe on here the Conservatives might work out a policy on it..... and I could vote for them again.

If only the Mirror would desert Labour.

"if enough people mention Europe on here the "

But you know we can't agree on Europe only on being sceptical about Europe. Chances are we will trying to unravel our involvement with Europe . I think we are determined to stop the erosion of Britain, but we may have less real options than we think. its still is sticky wicket the dam skeleton in the wardrobe. What are we to do about Europe when our people are crying out!

"Haddock, you never come on here to debate anything other than Europe! Are you only a One Issue Fish?

Posted by: Sally Roberts | April 17, 2009 at 19:17"

Most likely to be caught by a French boat that has exceeded its quota! So whose side is Sally on - the EU, i.e. the CFP, or British fishermen?

In my opinion BBC news and current affairs is a lot like the Daily Mirror!

Sally, he's not a Haddock, he's a KIPPER! (and you are quite good at cathing those aren't you?)

Steve Foley you are of course quite right and yes I am!! :-)

"Most likely to be caught by a French boat that has exceeded its quota! So whose side is Sally on - the EU, i.e. the CFP, or British fishermen?"

Mr As-Yet-Uncaught KIPPER, I am of course on the side of the British Fisherman - as are our Conservative MEPs and Candidates.

This is not, however, a thread about the EU and fishing quotas and I do somewhat resent the fact that every single thread on Conservative Home is being hijacked by representatives of either UKIPHomeless or BNPEvicted!

Apparently the Mirror now has a daily circulation of 1,300,000. I seem to remember that in 1997 it was about 2,500,000. Should we be worrying about a paper apparently so out of step with it's core reading public? In the 50's through to the 70's, The paper boasted such as Cassandra, a legendary Leader writer who was part of my political education, and Woodrow Wyatt, both of whom wrote in an informed, literate style that did not patronise the working man (sorry, Sally, person). A once proud paper is now reduced to "Toilets" Mcguire, who regurgitates Labour spin in a semi-literate style deemed suitable for those who have endured 12 years of Labour "education". The Sun is now the opinion former for the working class.

"both of whom wrote in an informed, literate style that did not patronise the working man (sorry, Sally, person)"

Don't worry about me, Grumps - working man will do fine and as far as I am concerned the term encompasses the very many fine working women out there ;-)

"Apparently the Mirror now has a daily circulation of 1,300,000. I seem to remember that in 1997 it was about 2,500,000. Should we be worrying about a paper apparently so out of step with it's core reading public?

Yes, falling readership and membership is a sure sign that something is going the way of the dodo's, as membership of the main political parties highlights.

Perhaps the Mirror will follow Cameron's lead and suggest State Funding?

"This is not, however, a thread about the EU and fishing quotas and I do somewhat resent the fact that every single thread on Conservative Home is being hijacked by representatives of either UKIPHomeless or BNPEvicted!" - Sally

"Perhaps the Mirror will follow Cameron's lead and suggest State Funding?" - "ToryBlog".

Quite right, Sally. As for "ToryBlog", this is another one of those great misquotes or quotes out of context, going back to "hug a hoodie", "Crisis? What crisis", "Jaw-jaw is better tha war-war". What evidence is there that David Cameron supports state funding of political parties? None.

"What evidence is there that David Cameron supports state funding of political parties? None

Um, lol!

It has been the official Tory position since March 2006.

Here is the link to the policy on Conservatives.com.

"Additional state funding based on the number of votes a party received at the previous General Election;

Are you are idiot or are deliberately seeking to mislead readers Super Blue?

: ToryBlog.com - Telegraph.co.uk = anti-Guido State stooges | April 18, 2009 at 09:57
Which reminds me. which way has UKIP gone since the glory days of 1997?

Dunno, maybe you should ask a ukipper?

I left 2 years ago.

"In the 50's through to the 70's, The paper boasted such as Cassandra, a legendary Leader writer who was part of my political education, and Woodrow Wyatt, both of whom wrote in an informed, literate style that did not patronise the working man"

I recall a friend's father, picking him up for saying that the Mirror was rubbish. "it serves a very important function, giving the news to the working man, and whats more it does it well" Somehow I don't think it would receive such high praise from a Cambridge Graduate now. We used to buy it now and then up till about 10 years ago, when it seem to loose direction. As a child it was the most common paper that we would have in the house.
How times have changed. I almost prefer the dreadful Mail these days, at least it still stands for the same things. I think the rot at the mirror really started when that crook
Robert Maxwell took control.

For the record - the FT went pinko in 1992, but not in 1987.

Leading Article: The Case For A Third Term
1055 words
10 June 1987
Financial Times
London Page 24
(c) 1987 The Financial Times Limited. All rights reserved

Since 1979, under the two Thatcher governments, necessary steps have been taken to tackle deep-seated weaknesses in the British economy. Curbing inflation, reducing the disruptive power of trade unions, restoring incentives for managers and entrepreneurs - these and other changes have certainly not produced a British economic miracle. Indeed it is the patchiness of the country's progress since 1979, and the pain which the changes have inflicted on some sections of the community, that have made the Tories so vulnerable to Labour's campaign assaults. Yet the so-called Thatcher revolution provides the basis for a sustained improvement in economic performance. It needs to be consolidated and taken further in a third Conservative term.

Whether the changes could have been brought about in a less traumatic way is debatable. But the overall effect has been to make British industry more competitive and more profitable. The UK is now an attractive manufacturing location for foreign companies; London has become Europe's dominant capital market. North Sea oil revenues have been used to build up substantial overseas assets which will be a source of wealth in the future.

The judgment that the Tories should be allowed to build on these achievements in a third term is based less on their manifesto or their campaign (both of which have been disappointing) than on the threat which a Labour government, or even a Labour/Alliance coalition, would pose to Britain's continuing revival.

Labour's unexpectedly professional campaign has consisted largely of attacking the Thatcher Government's meanness, especially its record on unemployment, and of promising to spend more on schools, hospitals, pensions and other parts of the welfare state. Mr Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, has struck a rich vein of anti-Thatcher sentiment and, in doing so, has enhanced his own reputation. Apart from the defence issue, Labour has presented an image of moderation and sympathy for the underdog, deflecting not-very-credible charges that the new-look party is simply a respectable front for the far left. Yet Labour's prescriptions - more public spending, more government-directed investment, a dose of redistributive taxation - have a decidedly old-fashioned air. There is not enough evidence that Labour's leaders understand or accept the need for a dynamic market economy in which enterprise and initiative come from below.

In this context the apparent failure of the Alliance to make a major impact on the electorate is regrettable. Its over-detailed manifesto contained some worthwhile proposals, notably on constitutional reform. Even the suggested counter-inflation tax on excessive wage increases showed a justifiable concern with one of the central problems in the labour market, the wage-setting process. The commitment to full membership of the European Monetary System was welcome. But the Alliance message, perhaps reflecting the need to reconcile different strands of thought between the Liberals and the Social Democrats, came out muffled and indistinct. There was perhaps too much emphasis on the importance of a hung parliament and not enough on getting across in a forceful way the Alliance's commitment to the social market economy.

Yet if the Alliance is disappointed with its campaign, the Tories can hardly be proud of theirs. Harping on the excesses of past Labour governments did little to dent the central charge against them, which is that Thatcherism cares only about the rich and successful, and is not bothered about disadvantaged people and communities. Unfair though these accusations have often been, they gain support from the contempt which Mrs Thatcher has sometimes shown towards the public sector, including her civil servants. To respond to the attacks by pointing to the Tories' own record in spending on welfare lacks conviction. For the Tories' claim to a third term rests not on their ability to spend more taxpayers' money than their opponents, or even to spend it more wisely, but on their ability to make the market economy work better and thus to generate the resources which the country needs for its schools, hospitals and social services.

The Tory manifesto, while not lacking in content, is not as radical as it was claimed to be. The proposals for the housing market, one of the topics where radicalism is most needed, are tentative at best. The replacement of the rates by the so-called community charge has many disadvantages. The choice of the next targets for privatisation, including water and electricity, looks questionable; the implications for competition need to be thought through more carefully than in past public utility privatisations. The future direction of tax reform is unclear.

More promising are the proposals for education which, together with training, represents the most important 'supply side' area in need of extensive reform. Although some details are still vague, the Tories are right to press for a core curriculum, for wider parental choice and for a reduction in the blocking powers of teachers' unions and local authorities.

There is a danger that the Tories will again find themselves bogged down in complex legislation on a range of issues which are not central to their objective. If a reduced majority forces them to be more selective and to drop peripheral items, so much the better.

What matters most is that the Tories should learn from their mistakes and from the campaign itself. There are serious divisions in British society and anxieties about Tory attitudes towards them. Many people think that the kind of society Mrs Thatcher wants has nothing to offer the bottom 15 per cent of the population. Yet the point of the social market economy which the Tories at least as much as the Alliance say they want is not just that it fosters wealth creation, but that it provides equality of opportunity and a safety net.

An effective safety net requires carefully thought-out policies which direct support to those who most need it. These policies often need to be radical, in the sense of upsetting special interest groups, some of them natural Tory supporters. Radicalism, within the context of a well-functioning social market economy, should benefit the poor and the unemployed as well as the entrepreneur and the City trader. The task for the Tories, if elected, is to demonstrate in practice that their approach is good for the country as a whole.

The 1992 clanger:

Leading Article: The day of decision
990 words
9 April 1992
Financial Times
London Page 20
(c) 1992 The Financial Times Limited. All rights reserved
THE BRITISH electorate, to judge by the opinion polls, is about to vote into power either a minority Labour government or - just possibly - a Labour government with a tiny overall majority. That is not the choice of business, which would prefer an outright winner to resolve political uncertainties, and would much prefer that winner to be Conservative.

But despite its risks and short-term costs, the likely outcome may be in the best longer-term interests of the UK. The Financial Times's values are closer to those of a modern Conservative party than to any other - that it is to say, a belief in the market economy, a limited role for the state, low taxation and maximum freedom of choice. But there are three serious reservations about the present government's being offered an unprecedented fourth term of office.

The first is performance. It is hard to overstate the achievements of Conservative governments in the 1980s: trade union reform, privatisation, disciplined public finances and an open economy are just the most obvious. Since the last election in 1987, however, serious economic mistakes have been made, as those responsible have recently admitted, and there have been fatal signs of hubris - most notably in the poll tax disaster. In his 16 months as prime minister, Mr Major deserves credit for scrapping the poll tax, for his Maastricht deal and for holding firm to a difficult economic course, but some of his new ideas have either been superficial, like the Citizen's Charter, or fumbled, like the reform of British Rail.

Real weakness

The second is promise. The shortcomings of the Tory campaign have not been the result only of poor presentation. Rather they reflect a real weakness at the heart of Tory policymaking. The party has not yet come to terms with the departure of Mrs Thatcher, and is suffering an identity crisis as a result. Does it stand for Thatcherism with a soft voice - if such a thing is plausible - or has it become something completely different, such as a European-style Christian Democratic party? It has almost nothing to say about the need to reform the way the country is governed, even though it is now clear that change is both inevitable and desirable. The party's manifesto is a job lot of ideas with little sense of drive or direction.

The third reservation is that, as the electorate has correctly sensed, a healthy democracy requires change and choice in the character of its government; if only one party has power of patronage, stagnation is a real danger. It would require very compelling arguments to re-elect any party after 13 years in power: the Tories look as if they have run out of steam, and need to rethink their priorities away from the cares of office.

But although there are reservations about the Conservatives, there are also serious worries about the alternatives. To some audiences, the Labour party talks the language of the markets; to others, it urges a break with the enhanced competitive spirit which lies at the heart of Britain's improved economic performance since Labour was last in office. In the very tough economic circumstances which face the next government of Britain, no-one can be sure which of these voices will be decisive. Labour's campaign has promised enhanced economic performance which nothing in its programme suggests it can deliver. In that case, the public spending ambitions of its manifesto will be unattainable and its most loyal supporters angrily disappointed.

Backward look

Most worrying of all, Labour is in many policy areas looking backwards to a better future. Its proposals on health, its instincts on education and its meritless minimum wage are the most striking examples. The speed and scale of its tax distribution proposals are unjust and will damage Britain's competitiveness.

The message of the polls is that the public is fearful of either of these large parties' forming the next government. In spite of four weeks of intense campaigning, neither has put on a solid, single point in its opinion poll rating.

The only party which can make that claim is the Liberal Democrat, but its own identity is an uneasy blend of single-issue pressure group and would-be coalition partner. The spending figures in its manifesto do not add up, and its myriad policies combine the good, such as an independent central bank, with the gimmicky, such as a hypothecated tax for education. The party's slick image cannot conceal the incoherence of its recent history.

All this points to the likelihood of an indecisive judgment by the voters; a hung parliament, during which the prime minister will have to look over his shoulder at every step. No party is trusted to go it alone with a strong majority. It is possible to view this prospect with some equanimity, however, precisely because Britain's last strong and effective government - namely the first two administrations of Mrs Thatcher - achieved so much that is irreversible.

Labour looks likely to be behind the steering wheel. The right role of any back seat drivers will be to nurture Labour's market-oriented instincts and to give it courage against the desire to slip into reverse. If a stable seating plan for passengers can be agreed, so much the better, though no one should think it would be easily achieved. The best hope is that with strong coaxing, Labour in office can shed its reactionary alter ego and become the outward looking social democratic party which represents the only viable destination for the left in European politics.

If this election were solely a choice between party leaders, Mr Major would be preferable. But it is not. The dangers of perpetuating in power a weakened and uncertain Conservative party, set alongside the progress Labour has made in modernising itself, justify by a fine margin the risks of a change.

Looks like the Mirror defecting is the least of the problems Labour have:

Alice Mahon has left the Labour party because:
"This Labour Government should hang its head in shame for inflicting this on the British public just as we face the most severe recession any of us have experienced in a lifetime.

"This has been a difficult decision to take as I feel I was almost born into the Labour Party. However, I can no longer be a member of a party that at the leadership level has betrayed many of the values and principles that inspired me as a teenager to join.''

I am certain that a lot of ex-Labour supporters feel the same way.

The 71-year-old, who was critical of Labour under Tony Blair, said she had hoped that under Mr Brown's stewardship "we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party'' but "in the event I could not have been more wrong''.

she was also outraged, as we all were

"I think that most decent people in the party would be shocked and absolutely scandalised by the smears that were about to be launched on our behalf.

"I can't imagine what kind of a person thinks it's a good idea to smear a couple who have just lost a loving son."

Quite so Alice. I think Alice Mahon is absolutely right to feel that this abomination of an administration is no longer worthy of support. The sooner the general election comes the better, lets be rid of this nasty Nu-Labour governement once and for all.

Mr. Ridiculously-long-title,

Just last month, DC said that state funding of political parties is the very last thing that taxpayers need in these economic circumstances!

SB @ 16:15,
Muppet. It is official Tory policy, proposed by Mr Cameron himself as my link proved and has been debated here many, many times since it was first proposed.

You said no such proof existed. It does. You were wrong, accept it.

So stop digging. Cameron has said lots of things but what he hasn't done is drop his proposal.

To turn your previous accusation back on, can you find any evidence to suggest the policy, which is still listed on conservatives.com has been *dropped* as it would be widely welcomed here, where 80%+ of conhome readers opposed the plan?

So stop your bleating, back up your own claim or keep quiet.

The politicians may still think it important to have the support of newspapers but, public disillusionment with the "lobby journalists" who more than ever now are seen as the least investigative ones in the world may render any paper support a pyrrhic victory.
I mean who wants to read the views of "copy-writers" who get all their "truths" from unnamed sources and only get up off their backsides to refill their coffee cup?

Mr. Ridiculously-long-title,

Perhaps you should lock yourself away from the keyboard after a few drinks.

The FT is not, nor has it ever been, a free-market paper, so it's no surprise that it's supported Labour since 1992. Its views are corporatist - intelligent people in government and big business must make decisions that benefit everybody. Like the Economist, it sneers at people who have serious beliefs and ideas, whether conservative or socialist.

Both the FT and Economist are ideal for getting detailed information about what's going on in the world, but awful for getting a proper understanding of it.

The Mirror may stay with Labour but will its readers?. Any one reading MacGuire's blog the other day could be forgiven for wondering.

Forget the dead tree media.
There is one policy which, I believe, will ensure the Conservatives will have such a majority after the next election that they won't know what to do with it!
Promise the country a referendum on the EU. Not on the Lisbon (Constitution) Treaty but a vote on whether we stay IN or GET OUT.
A simple choice, In or Out.
If you have the courage to promise this, with no IF’S or BUT’S, all else will be seen as a side-show. Labour lied about a referendum, they will have no answer and will never recover.
It seems the British National Party have leaving the EU as their primary policy. It may be, and I think it is, that the support they are attracting is because of this. June 4th may be an indicator of the strength of feeling in the country against the EU.

Alan - keep taking the tablets! They do tell me Jersey is a nice place to live, and is outside the EU

"The FT and Economist will probe deeply before choosing. Winning over these two titles would be a big gain."

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!! One has swung over

The Economist has just concluded that New Labour looks like the New Nasty Party. The Economist is also losing patience with Gordon for a downright dishonest budget.

Any intelligence on the Scotsman?

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