I’m a Conservative and Britain needs a credible opposition. Are we likely to get one any time soon?

by John Wall

I was as surprised as many when the exit poll result was announced on election night although I’d experienced negative feelings towards Labour on the doorsteps.

It’s disappointing that elections have become presidential but Cameron consistently polled better than Miliband who reminded me of the earnest students I encountered at University, those for whom “out with the trots” didn’t mean an upset stomach. They burned with zealotry to right some perceived wrong and always seemed to be campaigning, protesting or expressing “solidarity”.

Despite claiming to support the many rather than the few, sufficient of the many, as Lord Ashcroft found considered that Labour “no longer seem to stand up for people like me”. Against a confident incumbent “Blair’s heir” who had a growing economy and falling unemployment Miliband’s failure is understandable.

Despite some glowing character references, largely from lefties (!), in Corbychev I see a cold, humourless lefty and there is a good reason for that – he is a cold, humourless lefty! He has the wearisome attitude of someone who wonders why he needs to explain his self evident “truths” to lesser mortals.

It’s difficult to see a fundamental difference to Miliband, the polls indicate that the more the public see of him the less they like him, and again he’s appealing to the few rather than the many.

From my perspective, and, yes, I’m “Tory Scum” who, come the revolution, will be first against the wall, I believe that a credible opposition is essential.

Being in government has mixed blessings. Obviously you set the agenda and can deliver on your manifesto. The downside is that you have to set budgets and deal with the curveballs from left field.

If you’re sensible you want policies without flaws that will come back to bite you. It’s easy to get complacent, even arrogant, if there isn’t a credible opposition and it’s not good if the only meaningful criticism is from within.

Every administration has the occasional “brain fade” and working tax credits was a good, or bad (!) example. We may never know exactly how this mess arose or exactly why it was reversed but it belongs with the abolition of the 10p tax rate and, of course, the Ed Stone.

Predictions, particularly about the future, are difficult but it’s worth seeing which way the wind is blowing.

The left are very fond of, and quick to play, the race card. It’s rather like witchcraft once was, anybody who questions immigration is immediately condemned as a racist.

There are economic benefits from immigration but those in upper tier or unitary authorities know that local government operates on a predict and provide basis. A child born today will need school places into the 2030s and this can be planned for. When planning permission is granted funding for infrastructure can be extracted through Section 106 or the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Immigration is unpredictable, are we getting adults who contribute to the economy or children who will need school places and maybe English lessons. Everybody needs housing, which is in short supply – is it acceptable for them to live in garden sheds? It’s not racist to ask where the resources to house and, if necessary, teach English to and educate immigrants come from – but there are few answers.

To low and/or unskilled workers immigrants are simply people who’ll do their jobs for less money. They know who opened the floodgates and ask why the party that was supposedly set up to get a better deal for the likes of them wants to undermine their job security. They’re scared and can be easily seduced by those offering simple solutions, it’s not surprising they listen to a former public schoolboy and city trader, the Leader of the “People’s Army”.

Labour has traditionally counted on the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) vote but the Conservatives are eating into this now that the racist right has largely decamped to the kippers. Conservatives look for support from aspirational entrepreneurs and wealth creators, irrespective of ethnicity, Labour expects the BAME vote. Who’s racist?

Hayek noted that “If socialists understood economics they wouldn’t be socialists.” and, although it’s an overused maxim, it IS the economy, stupid! The public sector exists because there is a private sector to create wealth that can be taxed. Only profitable companies can invest to stay competitive, as Churchill remarked “The substance of the eminent Socialist gentleman’s speech is that making a profit is a sin, but it is my belief that the real sin is taking a loss.”

Every doctor, teacher, firefighter or soldier is funded by the taxes of several people working in the private sector. Few on the right will claim that the private sector is perfect, cheap can mean nasty, the works of Adam Smith are full of cautionary notes and it was a Conservative, Edward Heath, who coined the phrase the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. On the other sign of the coin, though, is Mid Staffs, Rotherham, Rochdale….

The economy is changing and there will almost certainly be more self-employed than public sector workers by the end of the decade. As Matthew Lynn writes:

“The public sector usually favours higher taxes, for obvious reasons – that is what pays their wages. The employed sector doesn’t really notice them. Workers’ taxes just disappear from their pay-slips each month. But the self-employed – filling out HMRC forms, and paying taxes directly out of their bank account twice a year – are painfully aware of just how much the state costs.”

The Beckett report claimed “We are, of course, wholehearted supporters of a strong and responsible private sector.” but that was not the “mood music” from Miliband, and Obi-Wan Corbyni and the Jezi are no better. The north London, little red book reading, middle class Marxists don’t understand wealth creation; they’re part of the political class which is now prevalent in Westminster. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the PPE, SpAd, think tank, etc route to Parliament but at least those on the right instinctively support wealth creation.

There are lessons from history, although they are not an infallible guide.

After WWII there was the following:

Labour: 6 years (one and a bit terms) – 1945-51.

Conservative: 13 years (three terms) – 1951-64.

Labour: 6 years (one and a bit terms) – 1964-70.

Conservative: 4 years (one term) – 1970-74.

Labour (including Lib/Lab pact): 5 years (one and a bit terms) – 1974-79.

Conservative: 18 years (four terms) – 1979-97.

Labour: 13 years (three terms) – 1997-2010.

Conservative (including coalition with the LibDems): (at least) 10 years (at least two terms) – 2010-(at least) 2020.

If a party “digs in” in its second term it’s likely to serve at least three. In 1950 Attlee was re-elected with a majority of only five and Churchill replaced him in 1951. Wilson twice won successive elections, but these were at the start of his administrations to get workable majorities. Long periods of single party government are the rule not the exception and assuming none of Macmillan’s “events” a Conservative victory in 2020 would follow the pattern.

Parties in opposition for a while tend to go through periods of introspection and infighting. After Attlee Labour split between the Gaitskellites and Bevanites, in the 80s Kinnock fought to cleanse Labour of Militant and after 1997 the Conservatives had three leaders before Cameron smelt Ashcroft’s coffee. In all three instances a return to government followed a move towards the centre and away from an ideological “comfort zone”, although this is far from cause and effect.

It’s clear that, albeit less than a year into the parliament, history is repeating itself but there are plenty of Rumsfeldian “unknown unknowns” to come.

The EU referendum may remove UKIP’s raison d’etre, but the Conservatives are divided and there will inevitably be some very disappointed people.

The Europhiles in the then Europhobe Labour party eventually left to form the SDP but first past the post is unsympathetic to small parties, the Lib Dems suffered as trying to please all of the people all of the time wasn’t viable in government, and the 2011 rejection of AV makes electoral reform unlikely in the near future.

A split resulting in a new party seems unlikely.

Cameron is standing down before 2020 and it’s interesting to look at what happens when a long-serving Prime Minister and party leader goes. Eden lasted twenty one months, Hume a year, Brown thirty five months whilst Callaghan managed thirty seven. The ultimate irony must be that Callaghan led Cabinet opposition to the 1969 “In place of strife” white paper.

Major appears to have bucked the trend, but after the ERM exit and with a divided and rebellious parliamentary party, he was a dead man walking, in office but not in power – twenty two months after succeeding Thatcher.

By 2018/19 Cameron will have been leader for thirteen/fourteen years and Prime Minister for eight/nine. Prospective successors should be very wary as history suggests they’ll be competing for a poisoned chalice!

We live in an uncertain world but the Corbynistas have not leaned the lessons of history and are not doing anything to make themselves into a credible opposition.

John Wall is a Conservative councillor in Hampshire

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7 Responses to “I’m a Conservative and Britain needs a credible opposition. Are we likely to get one any time soon?”

  1. Mike Homfray says:

    But your idea of a credible opposition would be an entirely safe on which would carry out broadly the same policies as you for a few years and not frighten the horses. A change of name above the door. Tweedledum replacing Tweedledee

  2. Madasafish says:

    Labour’s simple problem is they have a shortage of credible competent and appealing MPs whom the public can like and possibly trust. After all, when you look at the causes of Labour’s defeat, it could be simply stated as “Voters like and trust Cameron, they thought Miliband was a geek and did not trust him”.

    Any party which is comprised of members who vote for people like Corbyn needs to get new members.

    See also McCluskey who has learned nothing for the period 1980 -2015.

    Perhaps if Labour selected MPs on ability and not sex or colour they might do better. I will not hold my breath.

  3. swatantra says:

    Always useful to get the views of someone from the other side.
    Basically Britain is a conservative country and people don’t like change or up heaval.
    You could say that MacMillan was pretty Socialist in his outlook and Heath a Progressive
    Wilson was pretty careful to play a moderate bat Mrs T certainly was a reactionary looking for a fight But then she was there when the Berlin Wall came down and people were very afraid what would happen next.
    Major was a pragmatist But after 18 years of Tory rule Blair couldn’t very well put the clock back, and anyway he was a Liberal in his outlook.
    Brown was knocked for 6 by events and an unlucky PM.
    But the fact remains that 1% of the people own 99% o the wealth, and that can’t be right. So what are the Tories going to do about that, about redistributing wealth to the deserving? Not very much is the answer. That’s why we need Labour Govts every now and then.

  4. Bob Crossley says:

    It’s true that Governments go bonkers when there’s little or no chance of the Opposition being elected, Thatcher and “Rhymes with bear” being two good examples. They also go bonkers when there’s a good chance that the Opposition will be elected – Major ’92 and Brown being just as obvious.

    So what you’re really asking for is for Labour to be an Opposition that’s credible, but not so credible that it’s capable of winning. And you’re asking us to provide that?

    As a famous barely-trained pole-cat once said. “On yer bike”.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Bob. CRossly, that famous Barely trained pole cat also called, the person who introduced labours trade union laws of, pure undiluted Fascism,and the public must have thought he was right,not even Corbyn wants the return of the closed shop

  6. Ero09 says:

    swatantra says:
    February 10, 2016 at 11:45 am
    “Always useful to get the views of someone from the other side.”

    The writer seems to me to be on virtually the same side of most of the “Labour” right-wing entryists on this blog.

  7. Tafia says:

    Basically Britain is a conservative country and people don’t like change or up heaval.
    It’s England that is basically conservative. Wales and Scotland are left of centre/social democrat and Northern Ireland centres purely around religion and the border.

    people don’t like change
    True. The UK electorate does not so much vote a government in so much as vote a government out.

    So what are the Tories going to do about that, about redistributing wealth to the deserving? Not very much is the answer
    Hmmm. A National Living Wage higher than Labour offered. Tax allowances higher than Labour offered. More nursery vouchers than Labour offered. Triple-lock state pension. Unemployment benefits rising faster than Labour offered. More ‘help-to-buy’ than Labour offered.

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