Jonathan Eida | Opinion
The next election is still a long time away. Already, though, the problems for the Conservative Party are beginning to manifest themselves.
The basis for the Tory pitch at the last election was twofold. Firstly, the aim stated in their chief campaign slogan: “Get Brexit Done.” The second line of attack was centred on ‘crazy Corbyn’ and how unelectable he was. That, in essence, was the sum total of their campaign. This campaign admittedly worked, because at the end of the day the Tories offered certainty, whereas Corbyn and his comrades offered only confusion and self-deprecation on behalf of Britain, not to mention their radical Socialist agenda.
However, what should jump out right away after seeing this line of campaigning is how none of the operation was focused on what the Conservatives had to offer outside of Brexit. There was no defined identity or vision for the future – just a collection of vague inoffensive spending promises.
Now, this line of attack worked in the last election and will continue to work so long as the opposition parties remain unappealing. However, the moment there is a shift in personal popularity or someone equally electable becomes available, this line of attack will begin to buckle. The problem is compounded when it turns out that you are running on the same platform as your opposition!
The recent “mini-Budget” is a prime example of how close the two parties have become. Theresa May’s barely Tory government had a basic understanding of the ‘money tree fantasy’ and, although they also drifted closer to the Labour lines policy-wise following the election, there was some comfort in the fact that their subconscious held some remnants of conservative thought.
This new Budget, however, contains nothing of the sort. Prior to the full announcements regarding the details of the spending plans, Johnson described the plans as “Rooseveltian.” Now, there is a party on the election ballot paper that supports this type of large-scale spending, and that is the party currently occupying the Opposition benches.
In fact, so unanimous are the parties in policy terms at the moment that all the Labour Party could say in response to the mini-Budget was that it did not go far enough. In political lingo, this means “we completely agree with your decisions”, although obviously this is politically unpalatable to say, hence the generic responses.
In terms of the Budget specifics, there was a bone thrown to the free marketeers in the form of a tax cut to Stamp Duty, which is widely perceived to be one of the worst taxes in Britain, but even this is only a temporary measure during a recovery phase following the coronavirus pandemic. The VAT cut for the hospitality industry is also a positive move. The rest of this Budget, however, was a money shower seemingly falling from the Conservatives’ own magic money tree. This is all money that will have to be paid back with interest, which merely postpones the financial effects of this pandemic.
One cannot even argue that these measures are entirely a result of the pandemic itself. The ‘Spring Budget’ released beforehand gave signs that this was the direction the Government was heading in. The pandemic simply brought out how entrenched this method of governance has become within the party.
This all means that there seems to be very little to distinguish between the two major parties at the moment and, given their current trajectories, this seems unlikely to change. Hence, there is a likelihood that the next General Election will be fought on popularity lines, a battle it seems is becoming harder to win.
The Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer has, on the face of it, become more reputable. Under Corbyn, this was not the case. The constant claims of anti-Semitism seeping out of his administration, coupled with his terrorist comrades and radical Socialist agenda, made Labour unelectable.
Starmer has made moves that indicate he is attempting to conquer these issues. Whether those changes will be substantial relative to the party at large, or he is instead merely applying a sticking plaster to a deep wound, remains questionable. However, what is clear is that the previous critiques of the Labour Party, which immobilised it at the last election, cannot be relied upon.
It is also worth acknowledging that electoral trends indicate the electorate is sceptical of power remaining in the hands of one party for too long. By the time the next election comes around, the Tories will have been in charge for almost a decade and a half, which is not dissimilar to Labour’s last spell in power. It is therefore possible that this will bring with it a mood for change.
The next election could well end up having a distinct Major/Blair feel to it. A Conservative government with no direction, coming off the back of over a decade of control against a now clean, polished Labour Party running a centrist campaign.
Without a distinguishable agenda that would give people a reason to vote Conservative, there is a real worry that there could be a turnover of power at the next election.