Posts Tagged ‘Janan Ganesh’

Two impressions of Policy Exchange

28/11/2013, 07:50:03 AM

by Jonathan Todd

My two visits to Policy Exchange bookend the Tory modernisation project. Early in David Cameron’s leadership, I heard Daniel Finkelstein and Siôn Simon debate what this endeavour might learn from Labour’s own modernisation. Nick Boles, then director of the think-tank, dressed in suit jacket and vest, gave Simon some cheese as thanks for passing into centre-right territory.

Simon came not to praise Cameron’s efforts and Boles recently buried them. So hopeless is the Tory modernisers task that Boles, Cameron’s planning minister, now claims it cannot be accomplished within their own party. A more hospitable adjunct is required.

Perhaps things would have turned out differently had Tory modernisers heeded the insight that Simon gave them. He argued, essentially, that Tory modernisers were taking the wrong lessons from Labour modernisers. The Tories saw Alastair Campbell and thought that modernisation meant slick communication. Actually, it requires much more. What Campbell himself has called “heavy lifting”. Thinking through how traditional values can be applied in a contemporary context.

The values are the end, their policy application is the means, the heavy lifting builds new means to achieve timeless ends. This approach updated the revisionisms of earlier Labour pioneers, like Tony Crosland and Hugh Gaitskell. Cameron’s only fixed end, however, was to become prime minister. His lack of an animating purpose has left him seeming inauthentic and his administration bereft of ballast, easily knocked off its stride.


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The public’s fear of the future will frame George Osborne’s budget

04/03/2013, 04:10:05 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is not only Charlie Brooker who thinks the future is broken. Businesses and households do too. This is why businesses are sitting on billions of pounds. They don’t think there is a future worth investing in. This is massively economically significant, but perhaps more politically significant is the resignation of the public to their grim economic fate.

Some of the public are drowning, few are waving, and most are shrugging their shoulders. George Osborne’s biographer, Janan Ganesh, recently noted in the Financial Times: “The regular focus groups that are conducted by Downing Street paint a picture of an electorate that is bleak about the economy, yes, but so bleak that they don’t believe things would much improve under an alternative policy.”

Those that aren’t drowning, waving or shrugging their shoulders, are getting angry, which increasingly means voting for UKIP. Not as a principled stand against the EU but, as Michael Ashcroft’s polling attests, an anguished cry against the established parties. UKIP recoils, as Matthew d’Ancona accurately puts it, not from Europe specifically but from change generally.

UKIP is an emotional spasm against the political class and the inadequate modernity that they represent, as well as an insatiable longing for an unrecoverable past. While a growing minority of the electorate fall for this spasm, most are bleakly indifferent.

Allister Heath on the right would sacrifice short-term deficit reduction for a dramatic cut in corporation tax and Will Straw on the left for increased public investment. There is, though, scant evidence that the public believe that the methods of either the left or the right will make much difference. And the public might have a point.

Given the piles of cash on which businesses currently sit, Heath’s policy may only deepen these piles. Straw is right to see the cuts to public investment as the most economically damaging of those inflicted by Osborne but only rapidly “shovel-ready” projects are likely to make a difference to GDP in the near-term.

While both left and right urge upon Osborne a focus on recovering growth, not short-term deficit reduction, there are reasons to be sceptical about the capacity of the policies of the left and right to secure their shared objective. And sceptical is certainly what the public feel about the ability of politicians to improve things.


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