“[Tory] Candidates are getting feedback that the austerity policy is not going down too well…”

Last year the polls were saying people wanted to hear the austerity message. Even after a projected growth of just 0.1% for the last quarter in the UK, the voters are not too sure. But this should not make comfortable reading for the putative Chancellor the Exchequer:

Mr Osborne, who doubles as the Tories’ general election co-ordinator, has taken other positions which appear to have been motivated by a desire to find dividing lines with which to attack the government: his proposal to abolish the Financial Services Authority, in particular. But, in the heat of a campaign, only clear, coherent and consistent policy is defensible. It benefits no one for one party to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot. The Conservatives must get a grip.

That comes with the news that the Tories previous tough talk on the economy sounds like it is being flatpacked into Labour’s more cautious approach to spending cuts…

The Tory policy of going faster than Labour in tackling the £178bn deficit, starting with spending cuts within weeks of taking office, remains unchanged, officials insist.

But the party’s recent rhetorical shift away from harsh spending cuts in 2010-11 towards a more gradual approach co-ordinated with the Bank of England is causing unease on the Tory right. A lack of clarity over whether a Conservative government would go beyond the £1bn to £1.5bn “examples” of cuts for 2010-11 has done nothing to assuage such concerns.

One Tory MP said on Tuesday that the tough stance on the deficit had been agreed at a time when “everyone” expected Britain to be in full recovery by May 2010, an assumption that was subsequently shaken by weak growth figures for the last quarter of 2009.

“Candidates are getting feedback from people on the doorsteps, the [austerity] policy is not going down too well,” he said. “This is the right thing to do but we are losing our nerve on this.”

  • willis

    “As with their positions on health or marriage, the problems and risks of their fiscal policy should have been picked up by internal stress-testing.”

    Yep. This is looking a lot more like ’92 than ’97. Maybe it is all for the best. A slim majority, Osborne quickly reveals his utter ineptitude, Labour make a generational change and the Tories finally face oblivion.

  • Marcionite

    Some elections are simply worth losing. For example, at the time, losing 1992 was heartbreaking for Labour but with hindsight, it was probably the best thing that happened to them. Had they won, it would have been on a ‘let’s give Labour one last chance’ only for them to almost immediately stumble into the ERM crisis. That would have been game over for them as a party

    Had The Tories lost 1992, they would have won the next election and would probably still be in power.

    Right now, if I were a Labour mandarin, I would pull out the stops to make sure we’d lose 2010. Winning the 2010 is like winning 1992, a poisoned chalice. Besides, Labour needs a break to freshen up and revitalise.

    Noone thanks a government for austerity during it. That’s why Clement Atlee was kicked out in 1951 for elongated rationing. Chastening is welcome before it occurs. It’s a different story in the experience of it.

  • georgieleigh

    This is big news in Dorset.

  • slug

    I think that these cuts affect so many of us who are public sector dependant. I work in the university sector as an academic economist, and the cuts are rather unattractive. I think my preference is Labour rather than Conservative.

    I would disagree that Labour should lose this election. This is not 1992. The government is not ideologically divided, it still has a clear sense of purpose – excellent public services.

  • Mick Fealty

    That term ‘no time for a novice’ that Brown used was one of the few deadly accurate hits I’ve seen him get. It rattled Osborne, though he did well enough not to show it too badly.

    Early last year Danny Fink told Newsnight the recovery would not come soon enough for Labour. I’m not so sure. Though they simply don’t have the money to fight a strong campaign, an ‘austerity’ campaign well put together might work for them against the Ash’s cash.

    There is a sense that despite the obvious snickering about him ‘saving the world’, Brown at least understands macro economics, even if the well meant spending spree on health and education was in hindsight, rather more than stupid.

    The sense that the Tories are following Browns rather than sticking to their own earlier advice gives the distinct impression of the very flakiness Mr Cameron’s critics have so often accused him of. And there are a lot of people on the right who are just waiting to get their revenge in first.

  • Driftwood

    I work in the university sector as an academic economist, and the cuts are rather unattractive. I think my preference is Labour rather than Conservative.

    I’m fucking sure it is, slug, Look after number 1 eh?

    ‘Academic economist’? And whereabouts is your wee caravan near Blackpool Pier?
    Do you think the economy is presently in a state of flux, gypsy slug?

  • The Cameron-Osborne duo doesn’t seem to believe in anything, or at least doesn’t know what it believes in. Jonathan Freedland recently outlined some of the U-turns and amateurism of the Tories: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/02/david-cameron-conservatives-wobble

    If this is in opposition I dread what they will end up doing in government.

  • aquifer

    A £1M inheritance tax threshold says it all.

    With careful tax planning inheritance tax is already optional for the rich, Osborne was unwise to make their greed public.

  • unsettled

    Bring back Ken Clark. He’s got experience, he’s one of the “big beasts” and he was the man who’s effort in terms of strengthening the economy allowed Labour such success for its first two terms. Also,Osborne looks like a sith-former. At least Clark’s a grown-up (sort of).
    Cameron can’t be allowed to to indulge in favouritism-or be seen to-if he wishes to govern.

  • willis

    When you consider how many of Labour’s sacred cows Blair put to the sword before ’97 and compare that to Cameron. He goes on about “broken society” without attaching responsibility to the woman who believed there was no such thing as society.

  • Flip

    We all need to wake up and realise that private sector investment is what will drive the economy, not more Government. And do you really think Labour want excellent public services or just more Government? Thirteen years in power and all they have done is replaced high levels of private jobs with useless public ones. The only plus for us is that the whole of the UK now looks like Northern Ireland, so dependent is everyone on the state. We don’t seem so big an economic basket case now.

    Even left leaning friends of mine feel it’s time for a change. I do think Osborne is an achilles heel for the Tories though

  • Scaramoosh

    The austerity programme as was hinted at, would simply kill off recovery and lead to a run on the pound. They have now realised this and they are having to retract.

    Saying that; the likely scenario of a hung parliament, will also see a run on the pound as hedge funds decide that such a parliament is unlikely to get to grip with the country’s debt situation.

    F***** whichever way the dice land really …

  • This is why the Conservatives have been unable to raise their polling to a comfortable and steady lead. They bounce around 40% and most of the reasons for change is in the Labour numbers. Conservatives will vote for Cameron, but there is continued unease with what Cameron and his team stands for and shifting messages (even if the underlying ideas remain the same) leaves many conservative voters and swing voters confused. Is the party, progressive, modern, caring, compassionate, prudent, cautious, spending, cutting… soundbite over substance. Does it just say anything that makes sure it gets elected? Slug is going for self-interest in voting preference. So do most people one way or another, and therefore confidence that voting conservative is a positive thing to do is vitally important. Instead, what is it that I would be voting for when putting an X beside Conservative?

  • Cynic2

    Speaking of Austerity, the Lgg Inquiry has demanded that Isis pay back £1400 overclaimed ….. for a bed.

    You couldnt make this up

  • willis

    Flip
    “We all need to wake up and realise that private sector investment is what will drive the economy, not more Government.”

    Yes and No

    Seriously

    Did Northern Rock drive the economy? RBS?

    We need to grow up a bit. Stop looking for magic beans and start making things again.

    UK engineering and design is world class. Yet no-one celebrates it. Why?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_Holdings

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ive

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Dyson

  • Dan Sullivan

    There is an element of the main UK parties mirroring what happened in the republic during the 80s in particular the 1987 election, FG (Fitzgerald was the embodiment of this) said there was to be pain but it would be worth it, FF sold people on the notion that austerity was bad and hurt the wrong sectors of society (the famous, the old, the poor and the handicapped poster) but when they did it anyway after they were elected they were rewarded by the electorate over the long term by people changing their view of the party. You can’t sell austerity in advance but you can sell it after the event if you’ve got something, anything in fact to show for it.

  • Flip

    Willis

    Don’t disagree with you, in fact you have hit the nail on the head. The problem was we were overdependent upon the financial sector for our growth, which helped to kick off a property led boom, which … well, it went tits up.

    We now need to create favourable conditions for the next wave of entrepreneurs to innovate, something that tends to happen during a recession as firms and individuals try to find the “next big thing” because their traditional profits are falling. 50% tax for those earning over £150 a year aren’t favourable conditions.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure Invest NI are aware of this so we should be okay….

  • willis

    Flip

    Thanks, and I sympathise, although I think you meant something other than what you wrote about tax.

    I do have a bee in my bonnet about the lack of celebration of engineering success. It is nothing new and it is not party political. The sorry tale of Dyson’s Design college tells you all you need to know about a Britain that wants all the toys but has no idea where they came from.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/richardtyler/9325397/James_Dyson_versus_Peter_Jones_the_truth/

  • Henry94

    Marcionite

    You’re not wrong but politicians don’t think like that. Office now means much more than office in five years. What is in the interests of the party comes a poor second to what’s in their immediate interest.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Labour would really have something to worry about if the Tories brought Ken Clarke back. But they won’t because of his views on Europe, an issue that divides the Conservatives to the core even now. Only now have the Tories become successful at burying these divisions having realized that they can’t win elections while they’re fighting with each other. I wonder how long that’ll last.

    willis,

    from the article :

    “Britain is crying out for the sort of specialised design and engineering further education that Dyson proposed. ”

    What a crock of complete and total balls. I think Dyson and his company are a massive bunch of wasters. For a start, the fucker started all that “hey, it’s made in Britain” stuff, and then once he really got going, promptly fired all his staff and moved production overseas. I’m not saying “outsourcing is evil”, sometimes it is good and/or necessary, but it’s fraud to stamp a big Union Jack all over it.

    And have you ever actually owned a Dyson hoover ? Everyone I know bought one because of the reputation (“ooh! shiny colours!”) and then the damn thing fell apart after a year or two. Google and you’ll find more stories. They’re expensive, overrated, and crap.

    There are British companies which design and make excellent products. On the subject of vacs, the best are made by Numatic International whose design is more or less unchanged over the decades. You’ll find that almost every tradesman has one, and every office cleaning company has a fleet of them. Why ? Because they well priced, don’t break, and when they do break the parts are all standard and easily obtainable for replacement.

    Dyson’s bollocks about trying to re-invigorate manufacturing and design excellence is a pile of wank. I’d be horrified at the idea that this man who builds fragile plastic crap and ships manufacturing jobs overseas is being held up as some kind of paragon of indigenous industrial excellence. To me, Dyson typifies New Labour’s effect UK – all talk and shiny wrapping, but no substance. There are unsung heroes of British manufacturing out there that would kick Dyson’s ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Sorry for the rant – nothing personal.

    Driftwood:

    Do you think the economy is presently in a state of flux, gypsy slug?

    Spoken like a true Tory. Talk about the mask slipping or what.

  • willis

    Comrade

    No offence taken.

    Actually Numatic (Thanks for the link) are an excellent example of another aspect of engineering and manufacture that I was going to point up.

    Steady improvement and innovation in already reliable products is unspectacular but is just as important as “entrepreneurship”.

    I will admit that Dyson is a controversial character and that the offshoring of manufacture was a big loss. However he claims to now employ more in R&D than he did in assembly.

    Dyson built up his company from nothing, a bit like Philip Green. I think that deserves a bit of respect.