7 Oct 2012

Tories: sweeties, swings and shyness

There were some sweeties for the striving classes in David Cameron’s two exclusive (sic) newspaper interviews this morning – a cap on rail fares and a freeze on council tax bills.

These were doled out in what even some Cabinet ministers find a depressing series of post-Summer meetings when the Coalition’s top four carve up some crowd-pleasing announcements for their troops at conference time.

To add some spice for his own grassroots, David Cameron added some speculation about splitting the EU budget into two in future with one (larger) bill for the Eurozone members and one (smaller) bill for the opt outs. He also echoed Theresa May’s suggestion that the party should look at trying to restrict freedom of movement of labour within the EU.

These are both highly inflammatory moves as far as many other EU partners are concerned and they should be seen under the category of “Tory hopes” not something the Coalition is considering.

As for the Tory leadership’s words on wealth taxes, Lib Dems were a bit alarmed by the suggestion in George Osborne’s interview in the Mail on Sunday that the Lib Dems could kiss goodbye to any idea of any wealth taxes in return for signing up to some more welfare cuts.

But in later interviews, the emphasis has been on sharing the burden and making sure the richest pay their share … so Lib Dems for now are just shrugging this off and seeing it as a pre-conference crowd-pleaser that amounts to nothing much.

They think they’ll get something that hits the rich out of George Osborne and they’ll probably end up calling it a “wealth tax” and he’ll badge it differently (as happened in the 2012 Budget).

Amongst other goals this week, the Tories want ther members to go home thinking the party can win outright in 2015. George Osborne’s political strategy of 2010 was to get the deficit down and then go to the polls in 2015 in economic sunshine to be carried back to office by a grateful electorate in a system refashioned by Boundary Commission changes in a smaller House of Commons.

Well, a few things fell off on the way and MPs and activists have been moaning about how they see no way of getting elected on their own without the Lib Dems in 2015. Now the Tory High Command is telling its members:

– Don’t worry, we’re targeting fewer seats this time because we started the climb back in 2010. Also, we’ll fight those seats even more cleverly. That means the national swing required won’t be as intimidatingly large as you think – we’ll be able to do it with a lower national swing because we’ll over-perform in target marginals.

–  There could be a revival of the “shy Tory” phenomenon – there are more people out there potentially sympathetic than the polls’ headline figures suggest.

Here’s one of the polls the Tories are taking comfort from – the Populus one for the The Times based on sampling 14th- 16th September.

It showed a 15 per cent Labour lead, which may suggest it was a bit “rogue” in the psephologists’ jargon, but Tory strategists think it pointed to a “shy Tories” phenomenon back on the scene – Tory sympathisers, just like in the run-up to the 1992 election, not feeling comfortable airing their allegiance in public (I mentioned it in a blog last month).

You’ll see looking at the number breakdowns that 12 per cent of people saying they supported Labour say they’re satisfied with David Cameron’s leadership on the economy. An additional 21 per cent say they’re dissatisifed but prefer having Mr Cameron in charge of the economy.

Tories are cheering themselves up with the thought that Labour’s entire poll lead could be wiped out if they could work on the doubts some Labour sympathisers have about Labour.

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