Tories have to cash in on economy to win

REMEMBER Gordon Brown's promise month after month during the past 11 years? - “there will be no return to the Tories' boom and bust years”.Well, the economy boomed and is now all but bust - negative equity and home repossessions loom, the price of petrol hits 110p a litre, and the cost of feeding a family goes through the roof.

Graham Dines

REMEMBER Gordon Brown's promise month after month during the past 11 years? - “there will be no return to the Tories' boom and bust years”.

Well, the economy boomed and is now all but bust - negative equity and home repossessions loom, the price of petrol hits 110p a litre, and the cost of feeding a family goes through the roof. The Prime Minister's rhetoric has a hollow ring to it.

Labour and Mr Brown were fine for as long as Black Wednesday, the Maastrict Treaty, and the unremitting Tory fratricide of the mid-90s reminded the public why they shouldn't vote Conservative.

But voters - or at least those south of the Severn-Trent divide - have not only forgiven the Conservatives, they have actively turned against Labour.

Scores of Labour MPs - and Liberal Democrats for that matter - are vulnerable to the Conservatives' revival being reflected in the opinion polls. Should this be sustained and Boris Johnson win in London on May 1 - although the odds must be slightly in Ken Livingstone's favour because of the alternative vote method used to elect the mayor - then there's every chance that the parliamentary Labour Party will go into open warfare, especially when they read sympathisers in normally loyal Labour newspapers describing the Prime Minister “useless''.

Most Read

Although it's looking ominous for Labour, it is not yet facing outright defeat at the next election. At the risk of being accused of constantly repeating myself, I assert again that it is all but impossible for the Tories to win a comfortable majority at the next election.

The mathematics are against them - a gain of 140 seats is needed - and while David Cameron and his tree huggers might be all the rage among the “thinking” set which holds sway in Fleet Street, there is as yet no sign that they are making any headway in Scotland, northern England, and the West Midlands.

The few gains “up north” that the Tories made in made last year's local elections were trumpeted as a great triumph by Conservative Central Office. The truth is that the Tories' advance in the north was in small, rural districts and certainly not in the big cities,

Proudly pointing to a wind turbine on the roof of your home is no way to win the hearts and minds of the masses. It's most likely regarded with scorn as another example of effete southerners who have more money than sense when the price of baked beans is at an all-time high.

The way to attract the voters of the housing estates of Newcastle, Sunderland, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton is to talk about, and campaign on, issues that effect them. They must be convinced that the ghost of Margaret Thatcher will not pop up and tell families hit by the recession - yes the truth that dare not pass the lips of Gordon Brown is that we're in a recession - to get on their bikes and glory in the values of Victorian Britain.

With the Prime Minister acting as if he's in denial at the mounting financial problems facing families, a number of Labour MPs are in despair.

They know that Government ministers' trying to off-load the blame onto international financial difficulties won't work. Who in Harlow, Basildon, Enfield North, Battersea and scores of other marginal seats cares one jot about the price of eggs in Angola while their own families are suffering hardships which are forcing them to cancel this year's two weeks in the sun.

Britain has enjoyed low interest rates and a healthy economy, thanks largely due to huge borrowing by Gordon Brown and his unforgivable advanced corporation tax raid on pension funds which will mean many elderly people have a less comfortable retirement than they had planned.

As the chickens come home to roost, it will hit families right across the UK. And that's the opportunity for David Cameron and the Tories as they prepare for an election which must be held before the first week in June 2010.

Tory politicians and canvassers should stop ranting on about a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon - that particular battle has been lost and it's time to move on - and there's no mileage in making people feel guilty about packing their shopping at Tesco into carrier bags.

If the Conservatives get down to the nitty-gritty of talking about crime-ridden, litter strewn streets, fiddled hospital waiting lists which take no account of the time it takes to open a doctor's referral letter, and the impact of an increasingly warped economy, then that breakthrough in the north and midlands might just happen.

LABOUR 'S POLICY ON ENGLAND-ONLY LEGISLATION `TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS' - SALMOND

WITH a hung parliament a possible outcome of the next election, there's increasing talk of an unholy alliance between David Cameron and Alex Salmond. Although the Tories officially are “the Conservative and Unionist Party,” they are all but non-existent north of the border to such an extent that they are mocked as little more than English nationalists.

Scotland's First Minister wants to break away from the union, but if a Scottish referendum is held and full independence is rejected, there would seem to be scope for a Westminster pact between the Tories and the SNP.

Salmond used the parliamentary recess to shake the flesh in the United States, where he said that Scottish MPs voting on English matters is “totally outrageous”.

Labour has used its Scottish MPs to push through legislation that only affects England, breeding resentment among the normally indifferent English. To Salmond the solution is “to have Scotland and England both responsible for raising their own revenue and governing their own expenditure”.

EUROPE GUESSING GAME BEGINS

NOW that the Conservatives have joined Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in announcing the names of their seven candidates for next year's elections to the European Parliament, feverish calculations are taking place among the political classes as to which parties will end up representing the East of England.

The method of election is by the list system of proportional representation. Votes are allocated according to the percentage each party receives - and the larger the turnout for the winner, their ratio of winning candidates increases.

This will be the third list election - named for its creator, the obscure Belgian mathematician d'Hondt. In 1999, the Tories won four seats, Labour two, the Lib Dems one and the UK Independence Party one.

Five years later, the East of England had its entitlement to Euro MPs cut from eight to seven to allow MEPs from the new member states to be seated. In the election, UKIP shocked the major parties by claiming two seats, with the Tories three and Labour and the Lib Dems one apiece.

It was also the election in which Martin Bell stood as an independent, and it's assumed many of the people who supported him were traditional Labour, Lib Dem and Green voters.

This time, the six counties - Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire - are again entitled to seven MEPs. Even the most anti-Tory propagandist should concede that the Conservatives will win three Euro seats and probably four, depending how many of those hostile to Europe desert UKIP.

Labour and the Lib Dems will win at least a seat each, leaving the seventh seat to be claimed by UKIP, Labour or even the Conservatives, who could snatch a fifth seat.

Turn out will be the key. A low poll with Gordon Brown and Labour still floundering for public support will favour the Tories and UKIP - and should the Tories poll around 46% of those voting - which, in an election when a myriad of fringe parties will also field candidates, is improbable but not impossible, they would hit the magic five.

WAS CLEGG A TORY?

A CONSERVATIVE MP has unmasked one N.Clegg as being a member of Cambridge University Conservative Association in 1986-7 while he was at Robinson College.

Although Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg denies it is he, documentary evidence has been posted on the Internet and it belittles Clegg to pretend it isn't him.

Why would he be ashamed? - the parliamentary benches are littered with people who have seen the error of their ways when young and have switched from allegiances of their youth. Just ask Education Secretary Ed Balls who doesn't like being reminded that he was once a Young Conservative!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter