Being George Osborne

One of my slightly odd recent pastimes is ghost-writing speeches for a Tory party I’m afraid of, but does not seem to exist. It’s like I’m auditioning for a job I really don’t want.

I think I do this because the most interesting question in British politics is really ‘Why are the Tories not at over 40%?’.

Although though they only got 37% in the General Election, they have been over 40% since then. They were over 40% at the end of 2010, and again at the end of 2011 and the start of 2012.

So if they were doing that well when things were really bad, why are they doing worse now things are quite a lot better, and they can plausibly claim the credit?1

It’s not that it’s impossible for the Tory party under David Cameron, or because they’re cutting, or unpopular due to recession.

It’s entirely possible, even with all those things. We’ve seen the numbers. It can be and has been done.

Therefore a significant group of possibly Conservative supporters have been alienated from the Tory party by things they’ve done in Government.

What’s odd is that it is pretty obvious why, but the Tories don’t seem to be rectifying their mistakes.

The Tories decided that instead of (stand by for 2010 era Tory soundbites) ‘taking tough decisions in the national interest‘, with ‘the broadest shoulders bearing the biggest burden‘, so ‘we could put right the errors of the too easy past‘, they would instead cut taxes for the very few, while cutting spending everywhere else.

That stopped deficit reduction looking like a sad necessity, and turned into a willing choice, and worse, a willing choice on behalf of the privileged few. Everything else – the ‘wrong values’ the ‘out of touch’, the ‘few not the many’ and the accusation of indifference to the cost of living – flowed from that odd choice.

An entirely unforced, and apparently unregretted, error.

Given the unpopularity of the Lib Dems and the unforgiving view of former Tory supporters of Labour, the biggest beneficiaries of this error have been UKIP.

Look at the polls in detail, and the sense you get of UKIP supporters is that among them there are a lot of natural Tories who just don’t feel this government is putting them first, but instead standing up for the wealthy and the elite.

I’ve been patently waiting for the Tories to realise that, but they don’t seem to have done, and it’s getting a bit late now.

For me, this is good news. For the country too, I think.

Yet I can’t help but be haunted by the argument a less self destructive and oddly directed Tory party could make, if only it chose to.

It’s an argument I think is cynical, irresponsible, wrong headed – and almost certain to increase the poll ratings of the Tory party.

So last night, I tried to write an Autumn Statement that would scare me – because it just might work.

You can find it over at Progress. Have a read, tell me what you think.

  1. I should stress I say only plausibly claim. I don’t think they do deserve the credit []

4 Responses to “Being George Osborne”

  1. Brian Hughes

    I think the Conservatives can be pretty confident that many of the “natural Tories” currently putting their hands up for UKIP will, fearful of a “socialist” takeover, come flooding back to the fold come a general election.

    Thus it’s prudent to add a few points (in addition to the usual incumbent’s pre-poll points boost) to their current poll ratings when trying to guess the outcome in May 2015….

  2. John

    As long as mini-mili keeps coming-up with unworkable ideas the tories have no problems. Maybe mini-mili will read your speech?. But then he cannot do the right things, just the accepted wrong things.He’s looking more-and-more like someone who doesn’t want to win.If there’s one thing the voters are good at, it’s recognising a loser.Cameron/Clegg/Osbourne……they’re losers who look like winners, so I’m having a fiver to win on them.

  3. Daniel

    I think the puzzle isn’t as much as you think. You may be suffering from two particular fallacies.

    1) The Commentators’ fallacy – that the horserace – in this instance messaging matters as much, or more than the economic fundamentals. They are pretty dire. For example employment is recovering but job quality isn’t. The TUC have come up with a measure for job quality, that takes underemployment and real earning’s growth and pegs them to 100 in 1992. It’s the second graph on this Left Foot Forward post. It’s still really really bad, and worse than it was in 1992:

    2) The ideologue’s fallacy – this is a belief that political parties are primarily about ideology, or public policy. Actually, they are primarily about identifying goodies and badies (to my regret). So for Labour the goodies are public sector workers, the poor, the BBC, the third sector etc, and the baddies are the City, any large corporation, the tabloid press. For Tories, the goodies are business, those in work, recognisably traditional British families and the badies are trade unions, wealthy liberals, the BBC, those who depend on the state in any way, and anyone with a disconcertingly ‘alternative lifestyles’. The valence thing is so strong that it even bleeds over into ‘the policy of my enemy is my red line’ – so I’m convinced that many Conservatives do not believe in climate change because they don’t like the people making the argument for it. (The same is often true on the left). So why doesn’t Osborne adopt your policies/langauge – it helps the wrong people, and would win the applause of the wrong people.


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