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Why positive poll ratings on economic competence might not be enough for the Tories

August 15th, 2014

The Janan Ganesh comment that goes right to the heart of GE2015

In the run up to the May elections the George Osborne biographer and FT columnist wrote the following which goes right to the heart of the Tory challenge on economic policy.

…Anyone who thinks the effectiveness of Labour’s cost of living motif is somehow pegged to economic data does not understand why it worked in the first place. The message never really dwelt on living standards so much as the Tories’ attitude to them. The insinuation was that a rich man’s party did not care how wages related to prices for most people. Voters nodded along to this notion. As long as they believe the Tories are indifferent to their fortunes, it does not matter much whether those fortunes go up a bit over the next year.

This cuts to the truth about the Conservatives’ generation-long struggle for electability. Aside from the years immediately after Black Wednesday in 1992, when Britain fell ignominiously out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Tories’ image problem has had little to do with suspicions of incompetence. It is the party’s heart, its motives and sympathies, that are doubted. This perception may be an extravagant slander but, as long as it exists, Mr Miliband would be foolish not to exploit it….

That’s as relevant now as it was three months ago and all comes down to perceptions of the Tory brand which remain problematical.

If the blues fail to hold on to power in May then expect a lot of soul searching and those “not for people like us” poll ratings will strike hard.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t think that Cameron’s successor will be another old-Etonian who was a member of the Bullingdon club.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble