By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter
Conviction politics is back. The Tories and Labour have occupied the centre ground for over a decade, but now it looks as if politics is becoming polarised again.
It’s time to take sides, unfurl the hammer and sickle or chase a fox through a corn field.
Ok, it’s not that extreme, and Miliband and Cameron are no Kinnock and Thatcher, but at least they went to different colleges at Oxford (same course though) and let’s face it, David probably went to the better parties.
After the “socialist” Labour conference, the Conservatives have decided to appeal to the self-interested and mean of spirit; unpaid work for long-term unemployed, illegal immigrants “deported first and appeal later,” and privatising the Post Office.
Osborne has even given up the green agenda and declared war, literally on our own soil. Better to “frack” in the wastelands of the North than build an offshore wind farm.
A true blue Tories’ wet dream, but these are not the people they need to win over.
The economy is showing signs of recovery. Whether that is due to astute Conservative management or simply the “natural” business cycle, is an argument for another time. And as ever, what has the effect been on the all-important swing seat voters?
Unfortunately for gorgeous George, people are actually worse off in their pocket than they were under the last Labour Government.
Shadow Treasury minister, Chris Leslie, said: “By 2015, official forecasts show working people will have lost an average of £6,660 under five years of the Tories. Yet millionaires have got a huge tax cut from this Government.”
A Banker’s annual bonus might again be enough to buy a mock-Tudor mansion in Kent, but the voters of Crawley, for example, are not feeling it. For them it’s a mock-tuned up economy; looks authentic from a distance, but those are PVC windows not stained glass.
People need pounds in their pockets and Labour is offering just that; increased minimum wage, frozen heating prices and pre and after school care for under-fives.
Better off to have children and go back to work than save £200 a year by marrying your partner. If your wedding and honeymoon costs £10,000, it’s 50 years before the tax break covers the cost. You will probably be dead, or on your third marriage by then.
When the economy is recovering, people want positive policies that appeal to them. If unemployment falls, people care less about benefit scroungers and illegal immigrants working in the local take away, “More fool them; I’m earning £28k with overtime.”
Cameron compared Miliband’s speech to Labour’s 1983 election manifesto, often heralded as the “longest suicide note in history.”
In a way it was true – right sentiment, wrong time. Thatcher had been victorious in the Falkland War and memories of “not being able to bury the dead” still loomed large in people’s minds.
Though it is generally accepted that it was free market capitalism that caused the last crash, the Conservative’s failure to reign in big business and banks, supported by tax payer’s money, is evident.
If the economy is growing again, people do not want it lining the pockets of the people who acerbated the problems in the first place.
The trickle down of wealth from the richest didn’t work before and it isn’t likely to work again. Will the electorate realise that the Government needs to help to redistribute it?
This winter, voters in the swing seats will struggle to pay heating bills again, but will they be able to consider buying a home?
The help to buy scheme applies to properties up to £600,000. You would need a six figure salary to make the monthly payments, regardless if the Government has used taxpayers’ money (some £12 billion) to secure your deposit.
The Conservative policy, although probably launched with good intentions, will help the better off to jump into the housing market, pushing prices up. NatWest and RBS are to open late to cope with demand after Cameron brought his new initiative forwards. If they really wanted to help the less well off in the wider economy, they should have only offered the scheme outside of the M25 and at a limit of £250,000.
This will still leave low to middle income voters struggling to pay their energy bills and even further from the dream of owning their own home.
The Tories lurch to the right is a risky move for a party struggling to cope with their voters flocking to UKIP. But come Election Day, if the economy is booming, they might be the victims of their own “success.”
If the economy is growing, voters will want to know what the parties will do for them, not what the parties will do against others.
Both parties have drawn a line in the sand but it’s not clear which one will be swept away in the tide.