5 ways an increasingly desperate Cameron will attack Labour before the next election

February 1, 2013 12:58 pm

Cameron has fired some of his best bullets – but he has a few left…

If the intention was to fundamentally “change the game” and put the Tories back into contention in the polls, then Cameron’s Euro-gamble has failed. Today’s YouGov polling shows Labour with the same lead (12 points) and a higher vote share than 10 days ago before “the speech”.

The days that followed the speech have been amongst the worst of Cameron’s premiership so far.

Friday was the 5th time Osborne has pulled the dead rabbit of economy shrinkage out of his magician’s hat. Sunday saw the unveiling of Cameron’s least favourite kind of horse (the stalking variety), and today the Guardian reports that Cameron will face a leadership challenge in 2014 if it looks like he won’t win the next election. Considering the chances of him winning a majority in 2015 are now remote following the bungled boundary changes vote, it’s quite possible that today’s murmurings will become tomorrow’s open assault on the Tory leader. His predecessors Thatcher, Major and Duncan-Smith will tell him how that story plays out.

To escape the hole that is being dug for him – and to make headway in the polls – Cameron will need to find some effective lines to attack Labour with, the kind of nice chunky dividing lines of which Gordon Brown was once so proud. He’s already tried Europe and Welfare without making much headway in the polls – what else does he have at his disposal?

Immigration – when Cameron succumbed to the clamour of the Tory Right and hired Lynton Crosby to run the 2015 election campaign, we all knew what to expect. The man behind some fairly odious dog-whistle campaigns in Australia will be bringing his particular brand of Us vs Them politics to Downing Street. Are you thinking what they’re thinking? You weren’t in 2005 when Crosby was last employed by the Tories, but they’re hoping you will be in 2015. Ironically, the bleak economic situation that Osborne has presided over may provide the ideal backdrop for a Crosby immigration campaign…

Unions - the Tories have had a few half-hearted attempts at attacking the Trade Unions, largely stoked by the Taxpayer’s Alliance and the Trade Union Reform Campaign (which has been very quiet of late, perhaps because it’s chaired by..erm..Aidan Burley). Expect to see attacks on union funding for Labour, union rights and the right to strike (including a threshold for ballots to strike) as the Tories seek to drive a wedge between the public and the union movement, and as a result, the Labour Party. Voices in the Tory Party like Robert Halfron who argue that the government should reach out to the unions may prevail, but I wouldn’t put any money on it…

Welfare (again) – the Tories have tried to use welfare to their own tactical advantage already (see “The Make Labour Look Like the Party for Skiving Fat Slobs bill”). It’s beyond disgusting to see a government use the lives of some of the poorest and most in need in society for political gain – but that’s exactly what Osborne has done (with negligible political benefit to him or his party thus far). Today, self-serving ministers are arguing for more welfare cuts to try and save their own budgets. After cutting housing benefit, slashing in work benefits, maternity pay, child allowance and hitting the disabled hard, you may well ask what more there is to cut. Osborne is determined to find billion more (although not pensions, obviously) and he wants to keep Labour on what he sees as “the wrong side of the argument”. The polling says otherwise, but Labour will need to be brave to stand consistently against the media orthodoxy that says welfare cuts are ‘a good thing’.

Economy (again) – it has had mixed fortunes so far, but expect to hear the return of lines like “They crashed the car now they want the keys back” used by the Tories against Labour. Of course Labour could reply that the Labour took the car back out of the ditch, only for the Tories to drive in the hard shoulder, and plunge the car repeatedly back into the ditch again. What should concern Labour though is that the Tories are still more trusted on the economy, despite bungling the recovery to the extent that we’re being left behind by much of Europe and the US. As long as the Tories are polling ahead of Labour on the economy, they’ll use it as a stick to beat Labour with, because as much as we think the lack of growth is Osborne’s fault, the public don’t agree.

Ed Miliband – the Tories have been quite open about their plans to make the General Election personal by focussing on Ed Miliband. So far we’ve had talk of 2015 as a referendum on Ed Miliband (good luck, it’ll be a referendum on the economy) and today as a Presidential race between Cameron and Miliband. There’s a tacit admission in all of this that the Tories don’t believe they can win a straight Labour vs Tories fight – but Labour should remember that trying to build up the Labour leader’s profile and defend him against Tory attacks won’t be enough, the party must also be willing to go negative on David Cameron too.

  • NeilMc1

    Can’t believe you suggest that the left should go ‘personal’ and play the man not the ball. Because the left never use dirty tricks. Gordon Brown, Alistair Campbell, Ed Balls, Damian McBride etc etc, would never do such a thing now would they.

    • franwhi

      No except if the man was Alex Salmon then its A Ok

  • Amber_Star

    It might not be Cameron… were the polling gap to widen between now & 2014, Cameron would be toast, according to the Graun’s political gossip.

  • NT86

    People are perhaps more aware after last year when his veto at the EU summit turned out to be little more than hot air. That gave him a considerable poll boost.

    Looming triple dip recession and the threat of downgrading Osborne’s sacred AAA credit rating can’t be masked by his wildly populist statements.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      If the UK does loose the AAA credit rating then that will be a big dent for them. Not only was keeping the AAA rating the justification for the austerity programme, loosing it would be a huge kick where it hurts – bang in the middle of their economic credibility.
      Moreover that could be a bit of a tipping point as people reflect that all of the austerity therefore was for nothing.

  • Gabrielle

    The Tories are between a rock and a hard place regarding Cameron. It may be indicative of how toxic their brand is, but Cameron – who’s not exactly Mr Popular – consistently polls better than his party.

    If they did ditch Cameron, they might toy with the idea of Adam Afriyie as leader, but would probably go for Gove, reasoning that Gove was the more experienced politician.

    Regarding their strategy of denigrating Ed M, I think the effectiveness of this will be quite limited. Now they’ve got used to him, I don’t think people are that bothered if he looks like Wallace, or are convinced that standing against his brother in a democratic election amounts to stabbing him in the back. They rightly see that this is all flim-flam and not really germane to the reality of their own lives – which generally speaking, have been getting worse under this incompetent government.

    Labour does need to try and educate the public about what is actually happening with the economy – that the debt, deficit and borrowing are all up. The public aren’t daft though – there are indications that Labour is beginning to level with the Tories in polls about perceived economic competence.

  • ClearBell

    If Cameron is unpopular it doesn’t mean that the more rightwing conservatives or blood-orange liberals won’t be able to attract the desperate, the undiscerning and the unthinking. Labour must still be able to argue cogently for staying in EU, supporting working people rights and representation, the green-red agenda……

  • http://twitter.com/ChairmanDavey Davey J

    “It’s beyond disgusting to see a government use the lives of some of the poorest and most in need in society for political gain”

    The Gordon Brown technique?

  • Robert_Eve

    Do you really expect the public to forget Labour’s hopelessness in less than 3 years?

  • http://twitter.com/NewhamSue Newham Sue

    Article just begs a game of Cameron bingo. Any players?

    • Monkey_Bach

      Ed Miliband’s next den… Number 10!

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Okay, so I think that Cameron is nothing but a nasty lying public school boy spiv. I would therefore expect most people on this site would agree with me.
    However I think that what is needed to for Ed M to calmly talk about what he would do as PM. I do not agree that getting personal about Cameron will be a good idea. As far as the voting public is concerned, it is not the rights and wrongs, it is just the sight of polititians bickering that is the biggest turn off ever.
    It is better to just point out in a factual way what promisses he has broken and what is wrong and why. But this must be tempered with helpful indication as to what we would do instead.
    The polls are showing percentages of the dwindling numbers of people who can still be bothered to vote. Tories have been 29-36%. Those numbers represent the loyal residue of Tory support who are not likely to be convinced otherwise.
    Getting a Labour vote from the person who has stopped bothering to vote would be a great coup.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Totally agree with “Labour will need to be brave to stand consistently against the media orthodoxy that says welfare cuts are ‘a good thing’”
    What is going on with the pubicity against anyone on benefits is absoultely disgusting. It is singling out one group of people to use as scapegoats. Most of the unemployed have lost their jobs and want them back. Most have grown weary of constant rejection on the job market.
    So there are a few scroungers, maybe, and the odd real fraud – yes there are few, but it is time to stop using a very small minority as justification for punishing the huge majority. Even taking the benefits that should not be paid, it is a fraction of the money that the likes of Vodafone and the other multi-billion pound tax dogers cost.
    Unfortunaltey for those on benefits, unlike the rich tax dogers, they don’t the advantages of political immunity by slipping the odd million the way of the Tory Party.
    Labour trying to compete on this issue on Tory terms is about the same as trying to fight the 1930’s German Nazi party by pledging to be as tougher in rounding people up for the camps.

    • Dave Postles

      My brother has been signed off for a month by his GP because of severe depression and acute anxiety. He was on JSA. He has been sent ESA50. His mental condition is such that he is hardly competent to complete the form (20 pages including instructions). His depression and anxiety is more likely to be increased by the form and its potential sanctions. To assist him, I’ve downloaded the form and also Employment and Support Allowance claimant journey. Stakeholder information pack November 2012 (17 pages). Meanwhile, before the PAC, the big four apparently dissimulate about their paid engagement in tax avoidance. ‘The weak shall inherit the earth’? – they’ll be waiting a bloody long time for this transcendence.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        GPs will sign off most people for all sorts of nonsense, because they are not measured against productivity. There would be a significant drop in the costs to our country if GPs were held accountable for their signing off of nonsense. The current bar is “low” to non-existent.

        • rekrab

          Some is rich and some is poor,that’s just the way the world is but I don’t believe you earn your say because you like to put the boot in!!!! aH, aH.

        • AlanGiles

          Where health is concerned, far better to err on the side of caution – how often have we read of people being sent home from an A & E department only to collapse (and sadly die in some cases) later the same day – far better than Dr Purnell and Dr Duncan-Smith colluding with ATOS in signing off the terminally ill as “fit for work”.

          Also, of course, where mental health issues are concerned, if somebody is extremely depressed they may be putting themselves (and others if for example they drive trains or buses) in danger.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            There are codes of practice around a 3-signature system (charge nurse, registrar, consultant) that reduce the chances of that happening, and the increased use of MAU as an adjunct to A&E further decreases the chances. But, it still depends on people, and until there is 7 day working, time is often a factor in forcing discharge decisions downwards.

            I don’t have enough information on the community and workplace assessments to know what is the case or not.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          I must apologise for this comment. It was written in terms of the “general”, and not in any way specific. I stand by my “general” comment, however: there is extensive data to support this opinion, and it is true that systemically, GPs have no impulse to question anything they are told at “face value” by a patient. There is a slightly different code of practice in secondary care, and also among social services.

          But it does not read in that way, because of my poor English writing. I did try to delete it when I saw how it read, but now it re-appears as if posted by “Guest”.

  • Gabrielle

    There was a global financial crash. Brown and Darling did their best to salvage the situation. The economy was growing when they left office. The ‘mess’ was caused by the bankers. And this lot – far from fixing the mess that they keep blaming Labour for – are actually making the situation WORSE, not better. From the article I mentioned above:

    The latest figures show that the national debt is actually rising. Since the Coalition was formed, public sector net debt has expanded from £811.3bn (55.3 per cent of GDP) to £1,111.4bn at the end of December 2012 (70.7 per cent of GDP). The Office for Budget Responsibility has also forecast that public sector net debt will continue to increase and the Government’s target to get it declining by 2015-16 will not be met.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    I have spent a lot of time about a year ago on LabourList, saying that Labour allowed itself to accept the blame for the entire world banking crisis. The Tories tried to pin it on us, and we didn’t argue back. Thereby appearing to agree.

    They blamed Labour for having control on the banks that were too weak, while they themseves argued for no controls at all. They also pledged to match Labour’s spending, and then after the crash blamed the spending as being wreckless.

    In these cases Labour just ignored it and allowed this myth to take hold. As a result the whole world-wide banking crisis became “Labour’s recession”. Likewise the Tory voting bankers who’s casino approach to business caused the crash, carried on, after this lot came to power, to use public bail-out money to award themselvs bonuses. This too was allowed to be pinned totally on Labour.

    This is a lesson in why we need to keep restating the truth again and agian until to goes into the pubilc mind.

    In the space of a couple of months the polls show that the vote for staying or leaving the EU has been tipped from stronly against to neck and neck. This shows the power of getting the message out.
    We need to use this to show the failings of the Tories on the economic front as well as to address the blame we have for what happened in 2008.
    The same it true of Europe.

    • TomFairfax

      Generally agree. The key sign of success on the economy message will be how many times DC says ‘let me be clear on this’ before spouting bollocks or lies.

      The nations debt has increased under this government and their ‘reductions’ in borrowing heading the country to losing triple A status. I’m surprised GO still harps on about the Triple A status when it is most probable it will go and he will have effectively have been doing Ed Balls’ job for him.

    • Daniel Speight

      They blamed Labour for having weak and ineffective controls on the banks
      (fair enough) but while they themseves at the time had argued for no
      controls at all. They also pledged to match Labour’s spending, and then
      after the crash blamed the spending as being wreckless. Then after that
      appauling record, we let them unchallenged, peddle a myth that somehow
      it would have all been better if only the Tories were in power in 2008.

      But the argument then becomes we were as bad they were, as well as they were as bad as us. An argument that can be made is that Gordon Brown’s 2008 Damascene conversion to Keynesian economics did probably save Britain from a depression and his flying around the world did help, especially in the US where Bush looked like a deer in the headlights. While Labour hopefully has Keynesian answer, the government can only offer up more of the neo-liberal mumbo-jumbo that caused the problem in the first place; i.e. less regulation, reliance on markets, privatization, etc..

      In a way it’s a shame so many of the old faces from New Labour like Alistair Darling are still around.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Hi Daniel.
        Yes you are correct about the response of Gordon Brown to the events once they kicked off, and yes it really did contrast sharply with the stunned shocked USA and other countries. In fact Brown led the way in most cases with other countries following.
        Of course the key points also are that by the end of Labour’s term Britian had come out of recession and this government took us back into double, and probably tripple dip recession. When Labour left office unemployment, which never got the hights that it did under this government, was actaully falling.
        My point really is that the political mantra that the Tories and their media friends have managed to drip feed into the minds of the electorate is that somehow the Tories are good for the economy, Labour is bad, the economic situation was all the fault of the government of the day, the Tories are here to sort out Labour’s mess because they are good at this and Labour cannot be trusted.
        I am sure that most of us are totally frustrated by the fact that this mantra is not true, that the Tories if they had been in power would only have made the crisis worese and would not have had the ability to respond as well as Brown. Part of this problem is that politics in the media reduces everything to the pantomime. GB became the pantomime baddy and so the media got everyone to shout boo and hiss everytime his name is mentioned. The effect is that the average person will not listen to any argument or look at the fact because they have been conditioned into this knee-jerk response.
        Therefore, no matter what really happens, double- tripple quadruple dip recession, years of rising unemployment, economic stagnation and our credit rating tumbpbling and the same logic about the government of the day being responsible does not seem to apply because the media and the Tories are still able to get enough people to blame Labour. In British politics we really do not play on a level playing field.
        So yes Daniel, there is a lot about Brown’s response to the problem whiuch needs to be proclaimed, a lot about the way that it did turn round before this government killed it, and there are a lot of other things that the last government did really well.
        Child poverty down under Labour, unemployment down, growth up (but for the world wide crisis that no government or opposition saw coming, hospital waiting lists down, drastic cuts in third world debt and so on and so on. All of these things have taken a sharp turn for the worse under this government.
        Another issue is that there are a number of self indulgent people in the Labour Party who were in part a little bit happy to see what they percieved as “New Labour” taking the blame and thought that it might be a stick for changing Labour to their way of thinking. The truth is that once a party takes its eye off the ball and indulges in that type of squabble then the party as a whole is going to see its credibility dented, and its enemies rejoice at an opportunity to exploit weakness.

        • Daniel Speight

          Another issue is that there are a number of self indulgent people in the Labour Party who were in part a little bit happy to see what they percieved as “New Labour” taking the blame and thought that it might be a stick for changing Labour to their way of thinking.

          But if you are not prepared to say that for a long period the ‘New Labour’ economic policy based on neo-liberalism was part of the problem we will just get more of the same next time. Economic policy will be what differentiates the party from the Tories and it can bring a new generation onto Labour’s side. The cigarette paper between them is a common perception out there in the public and disgust with our political class is on the rise. The party would be a lot better off in losing some of those old faces.

  • http://twitter.com/Mancman10 Ian

    We all knew the blurb around the EU speech & poll bounce would soon pass,It’s passed quicker than i thought & was barely a bounce,It’s the economy stupid.
    On welfare i think the tories have calculated badly.No one seemed to realise on their side how many people who work recieve benefits & added to the fact that SO many people are fearing for their jobs,can’t get enough hours in work or are out of work the tories are in a right pickle.The LibDems are in such a mess that no way can they allow anymore welfare cuts.they’ll be cutting their own throats.
    Labour MUST get more vocal though.Ed Miliband was good at PMQs this week but i’d like to see him on the media much,much more.Labour won’t sleep walk to number 10,they have a lot of bridges to build and must start putting policies out there bit by bit.This coalition is serving no one but Cameron & Clegg now so come on Labour NAIL THEM!

  • http://twitter.com/Major__Kong Major__Kong

    But New labour ,started the ‘witch hunt ‘against the disabled and those on welfare.its time this whole media /political pogrom was ended .. NewLabour need to stand up for the weak ..

  • billbat

    Half the Tory Party wants to grab the Ethnic vote by getting more ethnic candidates while the rest want Crosby to do his racist bit. Especially brave if the stalking horse takes over from Cameron.

  • Dave Postles

    June will be critical: inflation back to more than 3% on average and food price inflation higher; wages falling irrevocably behind; the first months of Council tax increases for those on lower incomes in 75% of local authorities; more job losses in retail; and the 45% tax rate solidly established.

    • TomFairfax

      One of those items might be due to structural changes i.e. loss of retail jobs,but clearly the government are suffering from a high degree of hubris in thinking the 45% top rate comes without a price.

      However, even the most incompetent chancellor can’t stave off growth forever, because everyone else in business is working to achieve it for their own sakes, and eventually the cumulative positive effect will outweigh the governments negative effect. So clearly the comparative lack of success versus the US and others needs to be hammered home before that growth picks up.

      • aracataca

        Not sure this is necessarily true Tom. Japan is an example of how a financial crash of the kind we have just experienced can engender 20 years of zero growth.

        • TomFairfax

          Maybe you’re pessimism will be well founded, in which case the failure to pre-empt the storyline won’t be an issue.

          However, with growth (albeit dismal) predicted for the this year and increasing next year, it would be foolish to wait until Osborne is taking the credit to say it wasn’t a sign of success for his policies. That will just strike the public as desperately reactive and partial. I have a preference for getting the retaliation in first, then Osborne has a more difficult job to explain why any growth is really due to him.

          Get it on record now and then it’s a case of, we predicted this two years ago, why does the Chancellor think we weren’t correct when it is happening.

          Growth is the only thing that can save them, so lets blunt the edge of that weapon while we can.

  • David Parker

    There are better ways to respond to the Tories than by second guessing what they might do. Whatever opportunistic postures they might adopt it is probably too late for them to significantly change their basic strategy even if they wished to do so: je continue to blame the Labour Party for the economic crisis; try and solve it on the backs of the populace; cut back the public sector and outsource or privatise what remains. Labour needs to explain more clearly and insistently what the Tory agenda amounts to whilst building on the One Nation theme to create an alternative based on the common good, the defence of living standards and the economic and social value of the public sector.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Well I for one didn’t expect the Conservatives to retoxify themselves in less than two and a half years as part of a coalition and yet they’ve managed to do so in spades. An unusual talent, surely, but not one without worth for us lefties. Eeek.

  • Dave Postles

    Have you noticed that UBS has just recorded a loss?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 Graeme Hancocks

    Labour need to fight back hard and decisively. Not to get into the mud with Crosby and his ilk but not to let the tories get away with anything. They are a disgusting bunch.

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