Say hello to a new era of Conservative in-fighting


8:50 am - May 4th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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The local elections results have so far been disastrous for the Libdems: they’ve dipped below 3000 councillors for the first time since the party was formed (ht @philipjcowley.

But they were worse for the Conservatives, who were largely shielded last year thanks to the AV referendum. According to the BBC the national vote share was Labour 39%, Tories 31% and Lib Dems 16%. That puts Labour up 10pts on its 2010 result and Libdems roughly higher than their current polling. Only the Conservatives come out worse.

The Conservative leadership will do everything to spin away their losses – but you could see major flashes of Conservative infighting last night.

The rise of UKIP will cause the biggest headache. Sayeeda Warsi went on the attack by comparing them to the BNP (there is some evidence for this) and instantly faced a backlash from Conservative commentators such as Daniel Hannan MEP and Tim Montgomerie.

Then Tory MP Gary Streeter stepped up and said Cameron should take a tougher stance with the Lib Dems and pursue more Conservative policies, and offer an olive branch to UKIP voters. Other Conservatives followed in a similar vein.

But a Conservative lurch to the right to chase UKIP voters would help Labour: it would further toxify the Conservative brand and set Libdems and Tories at each others throats in government. It would lose the government even more votes from the centre.

The economy, gays and House of Lords

This is where it gets even more amusing. Cameron is ideologically committed to pushing gay marriage. The Libdems absolutely want to push Lords Reform as a minimum.

But what really matters is the economy and this is where Cameron has even less leverage. As I’ve repeatedly said, economic growth is predicted to be dire for years and there is very little the Conservatives are doing that will affect it.

Many of the cuts to spending were pushed back in the hope the economy would be healthier by then. But we’ve now got more cuts coming as the economy grows even weaker. Conservatives are living in fantasy-land if they think the economy is going to recover any time soon.

Conservatives can blame gay marriage, UKIP, House of Lords reform or any other issue for their slump in the polls. But frankly it boils down to the economy. That is the only area they should be imploring Osborne to change course, but won’t.

So get some popcorn and get ready to watch a protracted round of Conservative in-fighting. It’s going to be a fun ride.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


The republican infighting going on across the pond is also quite entertaining. Though there is the slight worry that the reactionary wings of both parties will be the ones to emerge victorious.

UKIP will they perhaps meet labours need if they need a coalition partner I suspect so.

3. Chaise Guevara

“Conservatives can blame gay marriage, UKIP, House of Lords reform or any other issue for their slump in the polls. But frankly it boils down to the economy.”

Yep. I really doubt ex-Tories are going to the polls, or Tories are grumpily staying at home, with gay marriage and the House of Lords in mind.

I watched Warsi imply that UKIP = BNP on the BBC last night. Came off as complete petty vindictiveness – shocking to think such a thing of Warsi, I know.

4. Shrugged...

“There is some evidence for this”.

You are joking Sunny? UKIP explicitly bans ex BNP members from joining.
Labour and the Tories are closer (when you consider defections like Shaun Woodward).

5. Chaise Guevara

@4 Shrugged

It doesn’t ban former BNP voters from voting UKIP though. But Sunny’s statement is essentially meaningless: “there is some evidence for [comparing UKIP to BNP]“. What does that mean?

Obviously the BNP has some voter crossover with UKIP, due to the whole right-wing nationalist thang. But it also has plenty of crossover with Labour. What everyone needs to realise is that having similarities with the BNP is not automatically bad unless the similarity is that you’re racist.

Why is this controversial?

UKIP and the BNP are fighting for the same bunch of loons, so a strong UKIP campaign pretty much precludes a BNP one and vice versa.

Given that they have limited resources, it makes sensefor them to avoid stepping on each others toes. Thus the drop in BNP campaigns matching exactly the rise in UKIP ones.

Not sure why you Kippers are acting so outraged by this simple fact of political reality.

“There is some evidence for this”

If I remember that thread correctly, then I think that the words “worthless and misleading” are unaccountably missing from that sentence.

UKIP and the BNP are fighting for the same bunch of loons, so a strong UKIP campaign pretty much precludes a BNP one and vice versa.

Neither UKIP nor the BNP stand in every seat – in order to prove this sort of causative relationship between BNP decline and UKIP rise, they’d need to be standing in the same seats. I don’t think that’s the case. The BNP did well in old Labour strongholds, UKIP do well in old Tory strongholds – I doubt there’s that much direct cross over.

In fact, I’d have thought that the reason for the BNP fall and UKIP rise is more likely to be that Labour is doing better, encouraging their old supporters back (or at least bringing them back from homicidal to apathetic), and the Tories worse, driving theirs away.

9. So Much For Subtlety

5. Chaise Guevara

Obviously the BNP has some voter crossover with UKIP, due to the whole right-wing nationalist thang. But it also has plenty of crossover with Labour.

As someone once said, the BNP is essentially the Labour Party your grandfather voted for.

6. Bob

Why is this controversial?

UKIP and the BNP are fighting for the same bunch of loons, so a strong UKIP campaign pretty much precludes a BNP one and vice versa.

Because it is not true. Some people are unhappy with the Tories. If they are middle class they may vote for UKIP. If they are working class they may vote for the BNP. And that’s about it. There is a very clear class distinction here. They are not fighting for the same voters at all. Which is why they will remain on the fringe. UKIP may have better activists, but unless they can appeal to working class voters, they can’t win. The BNP have useless members, but no middle class person will touch them with a ten foot barge pole so they can never be coherent or competent enough to win.

10. Reduced Salt

@9

I don’t know about you but my grandfather killed fascists, he didn’t vote for the cunts.

I don’t know about you but my grandfather killed fascists, he didn’t vote for the cunts.

Mine too – both of them in fact. But then, the fact that my grandfather was (I think) a Labour Party candidate would tend to suggest that there’s not always a direct link between grandparent’s party allegiance and their grandchildren’s.

Clem Atlee dandled my mum on his knee when she was a baby you know (is that a word you ever see in any other context?).

12. So Much For Subtlety

10. Reduced Salt

I don’t know about you but my grandfather killed fascists, he didn’t vote for the cunts.

But he did vote for other c*nts who supported a viciously homophobic, racist, sexist Britain. They didn’t even allow abortion. In many ways the post-War Labour Party was to the right of the BNP.

“But a Conservative lurch to the right to chase UKIP voters”

They don’t have to lurch to the right. They only need to lurch against Europe. Or even just be honest and open about it.

Have a simple, up or down, UK in or out of the EU, referendum and UKIP would disappear.

12

From the post-war to Thatcher was a period of consensus politics.

Warsi shows herself to be innumerate. A 14% decrease in a small number of BNP candidates will not produce the same number as a 14% increase in a large number of UKIP candidates.

This has no doubt been a bad night for the Lib Dems but it was better than it was last year. Last year we lost 700 so, given the number of seats up for election this time, we should have lost 200 if we did as badly as last year. So far we seem to be keeping losses significantly below 200 so 200 will be the number to watch.

There’s no doubt that Labour have done well though. And the rise of UKIP is to be welcome due to their effect of splitting the tory vote :)

@14

The Liberals certainly weren’t part of that reactionary, racist, mysoginistic homphobic consensus. In fact, it was less than 20 years ago that Paxman was mocking the Lib Dems for campaigning for “niche issues” like gay rights.

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 George Potter

“This has no doubt been a bad night for the Lib Dems but it was better than it was last year. Last year we lost 700 so, given the number of seats up for election this time, we should have lost 200 if we did as badly as last year. So far we seem to be keeping losses significantly below 200 so 200 will be the number to watch.”

I wouldn’t get too excited about that. Statistically it’s not surprising that you lost a smaller percentage the second time around, as presumably those seats left after last year were mainly your safest seats. Losing the same percentage again would be weird.

The Lib Dem brand needs more time to recover. It’s possible that a return to form will come if you become the liberal critics of a Labour government.

17

Nope, the Liberal Party was not part of the post-war concensus, they had long lost their credibility after introducing conscription.

Ed Miliband’s going to be Prime Minister

21. Arthur Seaton

You’re right Sunny, it really is going to be very amusing indeed to watch this cat fight. The Tories are about to tear each other to pieces. Closer to home, the knickers of the likes of So Much for Reality are very clearly in a thoroughgoing twist , which is always nice.

14

“From the post-war to Thatcher was a period of consensus politics.”

True. And up to Thatcher’s election in May 1979, the time in government was almost equally divided between the Conservative and Labour Parties. The trouble is that the hard evidence shows Britain lagging at or near the bottom of the league table for economic performance among Britain’s peer-group of affluent countries during that time. From the end of the 1970s, Britain’s relative economic performance improved and Britain moved up the performance league table.

Sam Brittan writing in the FT: “The relative decline of the British economy in the century up to the late 1970s has been reversed. Since then, the UK has caught up with and even overtaken its principal trading partners. The previous two sentences are neither a typing mistake nor a daydream. They are the sober conclusions of the country’s leading quantitative historian, Prof Nicholas Crafts”
http://www.samuelbrittan.co.uk/text399_p.html

Btw it was Sunny Jim Callaghan as PM who proclaimed the epitaph on keynesianism in a speech in 1976:

“We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.” [BBC website 26 March 2005]

Reputedly, that passage was drafted by Peter Jay, who was Callaghan’s son-in-law at the time and who went on to become the BBC’s economics editor.

IMO the Labour Party can’t make a sustainable come-back by rewriting history.

Arthur @ 21

The Tories are about to tear each other to pieces.

In normal circumstances, I would watch with morbid curiosity as the Tories implode. Sadly as with most other forms of vermin, they are at their most dangerous and savage when backed into corners.

Last night’s defeat may have been a huge morale boost to those of us who wish to see progressive politics advance, but I reckon it will be a Pyrrhic victory. The Tories instinct is to lash out at those weaker than themselves and I believe the claws will not be aimed internally, but at the disabled, unemployed and the public services in retaliation. The Tories have long memories and are known to hold a grudge and will doubtless redouble their efforts to persecute their enemies further.

The most vile scum amongst the Tories will not be easily assuaged. Expect the merciless attacks on the disabled until we have seen a few dozen driven to suicide.
The next couple of days will see a consorted effort to further dehumanise the poor and the disabled.

24. Charlieman

@OP, Sunny: “…they’ve dipped below 3000 councillors for the first time since the party was formed…”

You mean the Liberal Democrat party as it currently exists, which is probably true. Going back in history, we could look at how many councillors were elected under the Liberal/SDP Alliance banner, or go back to the 1930s with Union Liberals. It does not elucidate.

Electorally, it was a dreadful day for liberals (deliberate small L) in all parties. It was a bad day for liberals within the Conservative Party, evidenced by the right wing push back. In time, it will be recognised as a bad moment for liberals in the Labour Party; the Labour Party declines to its authoritarian wing when it thinks that it can defeat liberals; hence John Reid as Home Secretary.

Just as the left claimed that Labour’s defeat in the 1983 election was because its notorious manifesto for that election wasn’t sufficiently “socialist”, we have already heard in the news claims from Conservative MPs that the rout of the Conservatives in the local elections was because of the coalition government’s proposals for gay marriage and reform of the Lords. It’s being darkly suggested that Boris Johnson would make a better job as PM. On the BBC News at One today, Adrian Mitchell kept telling listeners that the coalition government was having to make tough decisions because of the mess left by the previous New Labour government.

For some curious reason, I was immediately reminded of that interview on 4 November on the BBC Today programme of Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays Bank, where he said that the banks must accept responsibility for what went wrong. In the interview – which I listened to – he repeatedly said that banks must work towards a situation where banks could fail without taxpayer support and without causing systemic instability:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/292c4e48-0658-11e1-8a16-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1cmIopk8y

Then I remembered what Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: The broad mass of the people are more likely to fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.

26. Charlieman

@17. George Potter: “The Liberals certainly weren’t part of that reactionary, racist, mysoginistic homphobic consensus.”

But what did the Liberals and small Ls do for us in the 1970s?

We have to understand that some changes started off in the late 1960s. The abortion and male homosexuality reforms were from those times. Similarly the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Council.

From the mid 1960s to current times, posh liberals and commonplace liberals worked with ordinary people to change UK society. Large L Liberals didn’t do it on their own, but liberalism achieved it

In case anyone missed this timely opinion piece in the FT on 9 April by Prof Anthony King (Essex Uni):

It is time the dilettante PM got a grip:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7f1680b0-7f0e-11e1-a26e-00144feab49a.html#axzz1twKKNv5u

@17 Would this be the same lib Dems that ran a homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell? Which the lib dem in question recently apologised for to him.

I really can’t believe that the rout of the Conservatives and LibDems in the local elections is due to the coalition government’s proposals about gay marriage – I doubt that the majority of folk care much one way or the other, given that we already have civil partnerships – or because the LibDems ran a hypocritical homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell.

What I don’t doubt is that we will read all sorts of weird and wonderful theories paraded to account for the rout in addition to the familiar call that the government wasn’t Conservative enough. The problem with that – as is already apparent – no one quite knows what being “Conservative enough” entails.

30. Charlieman

@28. Cylux: “Would this be the same lib Dems that ran a homophobic campaign against Peter Tatchell? Which the lib dem in question recently apologised for to him.”

The only senior person around in Lib Dem politics from that campaign is Simon Hughes. Simon Hughes is a friend of Peter Tatchell.

The anti-gay campaign against Peter was run by people outside the Labour and Liberal parties. The anti-gay response within Labour and Liberal was pathetic.

@30 The claim was that the lib Dems were not part of the consensus during that period, a claim that isn’t quite as accurate as George might have hoped.

32. Badstephen

Guys! Haven’t you read Guido? Boris won in London and some mate of Tom Watson apprarently lost the mayoral referendum in Birmingham. It’s been a Tory triumph!

George Potter @ 17

In fact, it was less than 20 years ago that Paxman was mocking the Lib Dems for campaigning for “niche issues” like gay rights.

No, perhaps you were and perhaps you weren’t, but by the Christ, it didn’t take your Party long to join the Tory boot boys.

There are hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered because Lib Dem MPs have voted to make the weak and the vulnerable carry the can for the millionaires. I wonder if fifty years from now progressive people will look back at the time when people with lung cancer were declared fit for non existent work with the same pride that we look back at previous Liberal politicians?

34. So Much For Subtlety

17. George Potter

The Liberals certainly weren’t part of that reactionary, racist, mysoginistic homphobic consensus. In fact, it was less than 20 years ago that Paxman was mocking the Lib Dems for campaigning for “niche issues” like gay rights.

We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Yeah, yeah. We get it. Except of course whatever the Lib-Dems were doing in the 1970s (when the united party did not exist), in the 1940s and 1950s they were very much part of that political consensus. And half of the Lib-Dems were actually in the government at the time, jailing abortionists and persecuting homosexuals.

33. Jim

I wonder if fifty years from now progressive people will look back at the time when people with lung cancer were declared fit for non existent work with the same pride that we look back at previous Liberal politicians?

Fifty years from now rich people will step over poor people as they die in the gutter. As in India or Brazil. Once Britain ceases to be a nation and a real community, no one will give a damn about anyone else. We can hope for a military dictatorship at the least worst option. They won’t even understand your complaint.

35. Badstephen

Can anyone explain why Labour always “lurches” to the left while the Tories are now being urged to “tack” to the right?

22

Thatcher’s policy of selling-off the family silver and the income from north sea oil, which was expected long before she came to power, certainly helped balance our economy.

But there are also other significant factors which make the UK more competative with countries such as France and Germany. The following is a report from BBC online taken from 2005 when our economy was buoyant -

‘ Although Britain introduced its welfare state before most other countries, poverty in Britain has remained stubbornly high’
Professor David Gordon of Bristol University observes “everyone is treated equally but the equality is at a very low level of provision”
Inequality of income is greater in Britain than continental Europe. Even the US has a more generous old age pension system.

‘ Is the UK a Model Welfare State?’ Steve Schifferer (2005)

My view of the welfare state has been expressed many times on LC, it tends to cushion the worst affects of the market and create a false sense of fairness. Even Thatcher’s 1987 reforms of the welfare state were nowhere near the level which she promised and Blair then went on to introduce tax-credits to subsidize companies paying low wages, boosting their competativeness.

36

How much a country can afford to spend on maintaining a welfare state in absolute terms depends on how affluent it is, which bsically depends on productivity – output per manhour. In the 1970s, productivity was declining on trend in industries that were then important contributors to Britain’s economy: motors, steel, coal. Working days lost in strikes were running at a record high. In the mid 1970s, the inflation rate in one year was running at 25pc. Britain was on a path to ruin.

The fact is that in Germany, the historic roots of a state pension scheme and a social insurance scheme for personal healthcare costs go back to Bismarck, first chancellor of the German empire, which is long before Britain had comparable institutions. Those were the foundations of what evolved to become the European Social Market Economy, which was paying much more generous state benefits than in Britain.

“Blair then went on to introduce tax-credits to subsidize companies paying low wages, boosting their competativeness.”

That was a move towards introducing a negative income tax to help families where the main earner was likely to remain unemployed at the statutory minimum wage. The fact is that business in Britain finds it challenging to reach the productivity achieved in peer-group countries:
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_232305.pdf

As to why, the main explanations are the lower skills of British workers and lower amounts of business investment. It has long been recognised that, in Europe, Germany has had an enviable system of industrial vocational training while Britain has had a very inferior system of training for industrial skills. Why else this?

“The number of low-skilled workers born outside the UK more than doubled between 2002 and 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figures show that almost 20% of low-skilled jobs are held by workers born abroad, up from 9% in 2002. Workers coming to the UK from eastern or central European countries were the biggest single factor in the rise.” [BBC website May 2011]

It wasn’t Mrs T’s fault that after 13 year of New Labour government, Britain’s largest manufacturing company was an armaments manufacturer and Britain’s largest visible export was armaments. That is what we achieved as the result of Blair’s “ethical foreign policy”. Mrs T’s industry policy was much less “dry” than Blair’s – hence the success of Rolls Royce Aeroengines and the Japanese car manufacturers which settled here: Nissan, Toyota and Honda.

38. Allan Barber

Impressive foresight in the light of Nadine Dorries’ outburst and today’s front pages. (Unless you had been chatting to ND, LOL!) ND stated that people were fed up with the Coalition being forced to promote Lib Dem policies such as H of L reform and gay marriage. Yet both were in the Tory 2010 manifesto on which she was elected.

37

‘How much a country can spend on maintaining a welfare state in absolute terms depends upon how affluent it is’

But it just doesn’t depend on affluence it also depends on what the country wants to spend.

Welfare spending as a percentage of GDP in 2001 (source Wiki)
UK = 25.9
France = 34.9
Germany = 33.2

Referring back to my post @36, this makes the UK more competative for the reasons I state, including the introduction of tax-credits. As for low-skilled jobs, France and Germany have those too, it isn’t specifically a UK phenomenon.

39

Check back to confirm that I posted @37: “Those were the foundations of what evolved to become the European Social Market Economy, which was paying much more generous state benefits than in Britain.”

So much for the populist mythology that the welfare state had brought ruin to the British economy by the 1970s.

The reasons for the relatively poor productivity performance of the British economy through to the end 1970s, as compared with the peer group among affluent countries, were much debated among economists. Alec Cairncross, chief economic adviser to HMTreasury 1961-64, was instrumental in getting a team of Brookings Institution economists to trawl through the research. As a result, they produced Caves et al (eds): Britain’s Economic Prospects (1968) – a much studied tome at the time.

The main findings were not startling: relatively low investment, poor industrial skills, bad industrial relations, business too wedded to slow growing markets in Commonwealth countries. And there were doubts even then about whether maintaining such a low percentage of unemployment contributed to inflationary wage increases resulting in the characteristic “stop-go” policies of successive post-war governments. Later studies found that British managers tended to be less well educated than their continental counter-parts.

One downstream response was the successive applications to join the European Common Market – which eventually worked with accession in January 1973. In the 1970s, Conservative and Labour government tried various forms of incomes policies to curb inflation but without consistent success.

Monetarism (Medium Term Financial Strategy) in the early 1980s was another downstream response but monetarism wasn’t able to to maintain its own adopted monetary targets and was formally abandoned in the autumn of 1985 by Lawson as Chancellor, who attempted to use the BoE’s bank rate to both: (1) curb inflation and (2) maintain a more competitive exchange rate against the DMark to boost net exports.

Using one policy instrument (interest rates) to simultaneously achieve two policy targets leads to trouble when the instrument needs to be raised to achieve one target and cut to achieve the other. Interest rates were kept too low for too long so we had an unsustainable boom by the end of the 1980s resulting in resurgent inflation. Lawson didn’t understand as much about economics – his degree subject – as he thought he did.

It’s seldom the case that one policy element alone is responsible for a badly performing economy. But the evidence is that Britain’s economic performance, compared with its peer-group, did improve after the end of the 1970s. However, the evidence is also that productivity per man hour in Britain compares unfavourably with that in most peer-group countries – see the link @37. We need to worry about why that is so.


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  24. Nick Clegg Blamed for Collapse of Lib Dem Councils | Gossipian

    [...] The Tories also did poorly, down almost 300 councillors, losing control of 11 councils. As the Lib Dems were shunned by left-wing voters for being too close to the Tories, some Conservatives have suggested that their unpopularity reflects “not being conservative enough”. Unelectable peer Baroness Warsi blamed the rise of UKIP for Tory losses, comparing the party to the BNP. [...]

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  38. Former Tory MP: angry backbenchers are “pond life” | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] said last week that Tory in-fighting was going to explode. I think it just has. [...]





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