While Labour is wrapped up with its leadership race, the Tories are moving onto the centre ground

by Samuel Dale

The tragedy of Ed Miliband is that he shrewdly identified many of the key problems facing Britain today with his responsible capitalism agenda and focus on inequality.

This analysis allowed him to set the political weather at times because he could capture the public mood on booming energy prices or tax avoidance.

But his progress came to a shuddering halt when he outlined his crude solutions. Freezing energy prices and controlling rents were a fundamental misunderstanding of how markets and business works.

He alienated friendly business that would have supported changes and the voters did not believe him. So he failed.

And now to the real tragedy. The victorious Conservative party is stealing his analysis and coming up with their own solutions.

Centrist Tory projects and groupings such as the Good Right and Renewal are seeking to tackle the excesses of private companies and a wealthy elite. A responsible capitalism.

Former Number 10 head of strategy Steve Hilton’s new book More Human could almost have been written by Ed Miliband in its calls for radical change. He criticises big supermarkets, banks and other “private sector bureaucracies” for the way they treat customers, workers and suppliers.

Cameron clearly buys into these ideas too after reclaiming the One Nation mantle on May 8. He has also, significantly, appointed Robert Halfon as deputy chairman.

Halfon is one of the most interesting Conservative MPs with calls for the party to attract trade unionists alongside successful campaigns to cut fuel duty and the way companies treat customers. He has even flirted with renaming the Tories the Workers Party.

There is also George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse aiming to boost the northern economy and win back Tory support in the Labour heartlands.

This is the real rebranding of the Tory party and a prime minister with no more elections to fight who wants to build his legacy.

It is stealing Ed Miliband’s inequality and responsible capitalism analysis but aiming to provide solutions that are not as clumsy and unrealistic as price freezes.

Miliband is a fan of Teddy Roosevelt but it is worth remembering that he was a Republican and his battles against monopolies were won from the right.

In the 1900s he used the fear of a left-wing Democratic party to dominate the centre, take on big business and become the most popular President in generations.

Roosevelt’s catchphrase was to “speak softly and carry a big stick” while Miliband seemed to shout loudly while carrying the little stick of opposition.

Politics does not stand still and the Tories are ramming home their advantage with changes to boundaries, voting rules and party funding.

After boundary changes the Labour party will need a 12.5% swing to win a majority. That is already more than Tony Blair in 1997 but if you add in the mix that the Tory leadership is trying to win over the remaining Labour moderates too then it is a dangerous moment.

The Tories can move to the centre confidently after winning a majority despite Ukip gaining 12% of the popular vote.

As some in Labour debate moving further into the abyss of left-wing irrelevance the Tories are doing everything they can to win yet again in 2020.

Of course there are right-wing fruitcakes on the Tory backbenches who feel the pull of Ukip and want to bang on about Europe, welfare and immigration. A wafer-thin majority could be a never-ending source of problems.

And it could all blow up in their faces when the reality of welfare cuts bite or parliamentary battles over Europe make them look like lunatics again.

But the Tory leadership is ambitious. They know the country chose Cameron because of fear over Miliband and the SNP rather than love of the Tory party.

It is planning to use the current parliamentary session, and especially the July Budget, to once more set the political weather while Labour fights a leadership battle.

During the summer of 2010 the Tory party rebranded the Labour party by trashing its economic record. In the summer of 2015 it is aiming to finally rebrand itself by moving to the centre.

That is another concern on the growing list of problems for the next leader.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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12 Responses to “While Labour is wrapped up with its leadership race, the Tories are moving onto the centre ground”

  1. John P Ried says:

    This, is a strong argument if we swing to the centre we’lol lose left votes, well the Tories lost the far right vote to Ukip, but we’re confident of swinging to the centre and not worrying abouts losing that vote If they got the centre vote,
    While we are so worried we’ll lose the left vote,as a reason to not swing towards the centre,neglects the fact,that To win we have together centre votes,at the expence of losing a few far left votes.

  2. Ardepy says:

    Labour thought the electorate had moved leftwards. But the election shows it had followed the Tories rightwards. Now, on business, benefits, deficit, referendum, free schools, Labour is also moving rightwards. If the electorate thinks Labour is following the Tories what’s to stop a 3rd Tory victory?

  3. Michael Worcester says:

    I think the problems have been highlighted. Burham said credibility on welfare immigration and the economy. What is Labour’s solution to this? Bashing the Tories record without saying what should be done differently, and why, is what lost the last election

  4. John P Reid says:

    Ardepy, because many ex labour voters, voted Tory, with a peg on their nose because on those issues the Tories were right, it’s the ones we’ve got to stick to , that we need to get introduced ,scrapping PCCs for police,abortion laws, keeping fox hunting the HRA, cuts to the NHS /policing, local transport,

  5. Forlornehope says:

    Would it just be possible for at least one leadership candidate to come out with something like: “Hey, if we are going to have decent levels of services and benefits we are going to have to have more public spending than the Tories are planning; we cannot do that just by borrowing or taxing “the rich”; everyone on, or above, median income will have to pay more tax and if you don’t like that well don’t vote for us.” It is a coherent and honest position and who knows it might just win the party a bit of respect and perhaps even some votes.

  6. JPB Law says:

    Labour’s best hope is to indulge in some creative destruction, commit seppuku and see what arises phoenix like from the ashes.

  7. John. Reid says:

    Forlornwhope, one labour candidate did come out with tat ScargillSWcargill, socialist Labour Party candidates

  8. MacGuffin says:

    ”During the summer of 2010 the Tory party rebranded the Labour party by trashing its economic record.”

    Sorry, but you people are becoming delusional. I say this not as a member or current supporter, but as a Labour voter in the past, one who genuinely would like to be able to countenance the idea of voting Labour again.

    It is Labour’s own fault, or rather, the fault of one Gordon Brown and his acolytes, that its economic record stinks. Yes, the lived experience of 1997-2010 is what stops people voting Labour now; the credit-fuelled house price boom, the huge increase in low-skilled immigrants, the billions poured into unreformed public services (without any improvement in outcomes), the deficit that you were running even during a boom, the criminally lax regulatory regime for financial services…

    You’re on the naughty step right now, Labour, and you have been for several years. Naughty steps are designed to make the naughty think about their behaviour and change it, not to give them time to come up with convoluted conspiracy theories.

    Get a GRIP

  9. Matt Moore says:

    “…many of the key problems facing Britain today with his responsible capitalism agenda and focus on inequality.

    This analysis allowed him to set the political weather at times because he could capture the public mood on booming energy prices or tax avoidance”

    No, no, no. Most Britons don’t share the concern about inequality that occupies a lot of activist time. Those individual policies polled well in isolation – but as part of a socialist platform were heavily rejected.

    The sum of individually popular policies does not make for a popular manifesto, because putting them all together shows the underlying assumptions more clearly. In Miliband’s case, it was a world view people couldn’t get behind.

  10. Tim Cole says:

    @ Macguffin
    That’s a great synopsis of the problem Labour faced in the recent election. Reading this site, it’s clear that the contributors are all clever people but are so massively involved in politics that they can’t really see the wood for the trees (I suppose you could say that about anyone in the political sphere though).

    As you have stated, Labour increased spending and debt, raised taxes, imported millions of foreign workers and threw money at the State bureaucracy which has increased it’s thirst for more money but with no noticeable improvements. Would people go for that again? It would appear not. And that’s without most people not realising that PPI/PFI liabilities and unfunded state pensions (the latter grew massively under Labour due to increased public sector employment) are not even on the books and don’t show up as debt.

    And Labour still lost.

    It’s a tough position to be in-they really did screw up when they were last in power. But they couldn’t admit that as a lot of the same people in that administration were still leading lights. And even if it was a totally new bunch, would you trust any party that would hold it’s hands up and say “ok, we really messed up that one but this time we’ll do a lot better.” Having said that, showing a level of contrition about their mistakes would have worked a fair bit, but at no point was that ever really evident at all because any act of contrition never came with a clear plan of what they would do differently next time. The naughty step indeed….

  11. Landless Peasant says:

    One Nation my arse, the Tories arent centrist, don’t be fooled, this is Class War, the Rich versus the Poor, same as it ever was.

  12. Landless Peasant says:

    Keep your eye on the ball, never lose sight of the fact that the Tories are Public Enemy Number One, their mission is to kill as many poor people as possible and enslave the rest whilst grabbing as much wealth as possible for themselves. 50,000 people dead in last 5 years due to Tory welfare reforms.

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