Opinion: The Conservative campaign – some concerns


It is an opportune time to take issue with some of the key planks of the Conservative campaign.

Mr Crosby, who likes simple messages, has primarily put forward just two.  The first is that the Tories have a long term economic plan.  The second is a clever cartoon presenting Miliband as a puppet in Salmond’s pocket.

It might perhaps be argued that George W Bush, who repeated endlessly that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al-Qaida, was the original inspiration for the “Long Term Economic Plan” campaign.  Surveys showed that a majority of Americans came to believe a story known to be entirely false.  Constant repetition of the untruth helped Bush justify the invasion of Iraq.

Now, it seems that Cameron wishes to persuade us that the Tories have a Long Term Economic Plan.  This is highly debatable.  They are winging it, and they are not very good at it.  The Budget, in which Osborne tore up his own plans of three months ago because experts said they didn’t add up, is just the latest proof of that.  The latest plan is still described by some as a “rollercoaster”, and makes widely questioned claims in respect of welfare savings.

From the outset, Osborne’s claim was that Britain would face major financial problems if the deficit was not eliminated in one parliament.  Labour said halving it would be enough.  Osborne criticised Labour, then adopted their policy.  The deficit has hardly been halved.  There have not been major financial problems.

Austerity, billed as an imperative, has been enforced rather unevenly.  We should recall that a deficit arises when a government fails to charge enough tax to match what it spends.  The Tories have cut taxes at the top, employed a banker from HSBC as a Minister, and supported pensioners, while restricting benefits for the under-25s.  “We’re all in it together” is a claim which sits uneasily with the reality.

If that is all rather questionable, now let us proceed to analyse Scottish issues.

The SNP will probably be able to choose the next Government.  They want fiscal autonomy, which they expect will lead inexorably to independence.  Labour recognise the danger.  The Tories have been more equivocal.  Might the Tories conceivably win an election by playing on the risk to British unity of a Labour victory, only to make a deal with the SNP themselves?

There is, however, one problem, should Cameron wish to act in such a cynical manner. Unlike the Lib Dems five years ago, Sturgeon may not be able to make a deal, having promised not to put the Tories in.  If Sturgeon refuses to support Cameron in a confidence vote, she can hardly go on to vote down Miliband as well.

Miliband has no wish to rely on SNP forbearance to survive as Prime Minister.  However, he may find that it is a position he cannot avoid.  If so, it will be a genuine dilemma – but primarily for the Tories, not Labour.  We must expect that sooner or later, the SNP will press a Labour Government for unpalatable concessions toward Scottish autonomy.  What will the Tories do then?

The principled response, from a Conservative and Unionist Party, would be to refuse to play along.  The alternative would be to ally with Sturgeon to bring down the Labour Government, and allocate a lower priority to preserving the unity of the UK.  Which way will the Tories jump?  We do not know.

If voters fear the break-up of the UK, it might perhaps be the Tories they should be wary of, rather than Labour.  Crosby’s puppet show conceals this concern, and is arguably a rather low blow which trivialises politics.  The Liberal Democrats should review their attitude to the Conservative Party in view of these considerations.

* David Allen is a member of the Rushcliffe Local Party and has been a member of the Lib Dems or its (SDP) predecessor since 1981

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  • A number of points.

    Without Lib Dem influence, the Conservatives might have reduced the deficit more, probably by not raising the tax threshold so much. Had Labour won they may well have failed in their aim to halve the deficit. Usually in these things we end up with a percentage of what is aimed for.

    SNP may well make demands for palatable (at least from our perspective) rather than unpalatable concessions towards ‘devo max’.

    We as Liberal Democrats, need to be intensely wary of any Labour governing minority arrangement as such a government would rapidly attract hostility from all sides and Miliband’s unpopularity could very soon put into shade the opprobrium routinely heaped on Nick Clegg (unless of course Clegg yokes himself to Miliband).

  • Amazingly, after one post, an article criticising ‘Conservative tactics, has ‘morphed’ into an anti-labour one….

  • Martin – it’s nigh on certain Labour would have failed to make any headway on the deficit. The siren calls to resist any cuts would have been too great, plus tax receipts would have fallen dramatically as the economy continued to spiral down even further

  • Julian Gibb 6th Apr '15 - 11:46am

    Hypochrites – It appears that the Tories still have some able helpers within the unionist alliance!

    Nicola Sturgeon smear attempt”
    “…..It seems the “leak” comes from Scottish Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael’s Scotland Office..”
    A false memo held for several weeks and released to the Telegraph they day of positive polls.
    Carmichael and Mundell working together to smear the FM. What does Carmichael know and why is he refusing to comment.

  • Jenny Barnes 6th Apr '15 - 11:46am

    Let us all bow down and worship the “reduction of the deficit” What’s that you say? People are dying? No matter, the deficit must be reduced…

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Apr '15 - 11:47am

    David, I agree that the Conservatives are a threat to the Union, but so are Labour and if we are honest the Lib Dems too. As a voter I see a weakness in someone whose loyalty resides with any kind of political union, rather than the constituency. It is also why I want to separate constituency politics from national politics via a kind of senate.

    It could also be a weakness of the SNP: their loyalties lie with Scotland and arguably Edinburgh.


  • jedibeeftrix 6th Apr '15 - 11:53am

    “The Tories have cut taxes at the top”

    They have cut tax rates but should we really care as long as they increase tax revenue?

    Taxes: to pay for public services or remove ‘undeserved’ wealth from people?

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 12:50pm

    There is of course a careful balance to be had when increasing taxes to avoid losing tax revenues by scaring people into tax avoidance of one kind or another. It is very difficult to measure these things. There has been economic growth- so tax take would have increased anyway. Has tax take increased more because of tax cuts or less? We don’t really know. It is certainly not the case that all tax cuts increase tax revenues.

  • @Tabman –

    You are aware that the economy was growing when Labour left office? That growth was choked off by Osborne’s ideological cuts voted for and cheered through the house by the Lib Dems. The economy only started growing again after Osborne abandoned ‘Plan A’.

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