Friday, 1 October 2010

Beware The People's Party..

Being in power can be horribly time-consuming for politicians. Being in power with coalition 'partners' can be even more so - constantly doing, while watching them, at the same time. Gone are the easy days of opposition when the larger part of time and resources could be lavished on developing strategies and tactics for beating the opposition.

The Labour party have reacted quickly and effectively to opposition. They have elected a new leader (well the unions have..) and are doing a remarkably effective job at changing their positioning (Iraq was now a mistake) and hitting back at the coalition. 

Ed Miliband didn't deliver a fabulous conference speech by any stretch of the imagination, but it was enough to reassure the Labour party and to galvanise them as one relatively united force. This spells big danger for the Conservatives.

The defeat of David Miliband has neatly allowed the Labour party to 'demonstrate' that it has moved on from 'New Labour' and is now something else and Ed Miliband has a 'clean sheet' on which to define what Labour is now.

The Labour party have adapted to circumstance very, very quickly. Similarly, the Conservatives need to recognise the realities of victory. They didn't win a majority because they didn't re-invent the Conservative brand - the job was only partly done. 

The old prejudices are already resurfacing. The Labour party have developed a neatly effective trick of defending their economic record by blaming it 'on the bankers' and are using the old prejudices to make it a good old fashioned poor vs rich argument. Labour representing the poor and the Conservatives representing the rich. The Conservatives are being associated with the rich despite the truth of the thing.

And this is a superb strategy. Because on 20th October the Conservative 'coalition' government is going to announce to the country that we are all poor. Which means that our natural party of government will be the party who represents the poor - the Labour party...

So what should the Conservatives do?

Well first things first. Fix the communication problem that was never fixed in opposition. There needs to be a far more effective team of people who work out the political arguments and feed the politicians with timely prepared lines of attack (and defence) to be delivered via the media to the people.

Questiontime last night proved that this is still woefully lacking. Grant Chapps trotted out the well prepared 'Line to Take' on the economy and 'cuts' etc. But, they were the same lines as last week and the week before. So the Labour party have had plenty of time to prepare their defences for the attacks and probe the Conservative's defences for weaknesses - so when they deliver their attacks they hit home and there is little effective resistance.

In other words, the Labour party are fighting a running battle with constantly evolving lines of attack and defence while the Conservatives are being bombarded and their pre-prepared positions are being destroyed.

I was speaking to an MP of the 'new intake' the other day and asked him about his ambitions for government. He explained that with so many Lib Dem ministers there are many more senior Conservatives looking for jobs in government - so he wasn't expecting an opportunity any time soon. 

And this is quite possibly the resource the Conservatives should be using. Take the sharpest, most 'campaigning effective' MPs that don't have jobs in government (with some leadership from a few experienced hands) and form them into a fighting force that can work out how to defeat Labour.

If Conservatives can start pushing the arguments they can beat Labour back. When government ministers do big media appearances (i.e. QT) they need to be unleashing new lines of attack that bewilder and defeat the Labour party - not rehearsing the same old tired lines. 

Conservative ministers need a constant supply line of new ideas, tactics and arguments to defeat the attackers.

Otherwise, the Labour Party and it's 250 MPs will unhinge the Government in power and eventually charge back into power as 'The People's Party', and that would be a complete disaster. Because whilst Labour have this week convinced themselves that for the last 13 years they almost got it right and that with a less 'New Labour' leader (who wouldn't have gone to war) they would have done brilliantly, the truth is, they are still ignoring the problems they have caused and haven't got any of the solutions.

Again, trouble is, the nation don't know that.

Best tell em eh?


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