A lurch to the Right? It is coming closer

It is not yet a lurch to the Right, but David Cameron is certainly drifting in that direction, says Nick Wood
Nick Wood is Chief Executive of MIP and former Director of Communications for the Conservative Party
Nick Wood is Chief Executive of MIP and former Director of Communications for the Conservative Party

Scarcely a day passes without some newspaper kite-flying or mood music designed to cheer up the disgruntled core Tory vote.

The latest wheeze, courtesy of Tory MP and Downing Street policy board member Nadhim Zahawi, is to slash £5 billion off the welfare bill by restricting child benefit and child tax credit to the first two children of a family.

This comes hard on the heels of George Osborne’s call for further cuts in the still gigantic welfare budget (one third of all public spending) in the next Parliament and moves by Cameron and Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to impose new curbs on the eligibility of migrants (including those from the EU) for state handouts. These include a requirement that they should be able to speak reasonable English before signing on, a qualification that has predictably provoked the ire of Brussels and threats of legal action.

Cameron has gone even further by suggesting that the EU’s fundamental principle of the free movement of labour should be set aside for EU newcomers where average wages are far below those that apply in wealthier countries such as Britain.

Theresa May, always ready to polish her right-wing credentials, got in on the act at the weekend, courtesy of The Sunday Times, by flying a most-spectacular contraption emblazoned with the notion of a 75,000 cap on EU migration (down 30,000 on the current level of 106,000 a year) and a disinterment of Gordon Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers.

Meanwhile, according to Cameron, green taxes are being rolled back or to use the more graphic language of Downing Street insiders, it is time to “cut the green crap”.

And in a further sign of the times, Conservative Party Headquarters, has literally gone in for a makeover, instructing its council candidates to drop the sunshine and blue skies imagery of the past for a more sober and patriotic colour scheme featuring the union flag and a darker shade of blue. How long before the oak tree logo, looking for all the world like the winner of the third prize in a primary school painting competition,  goes the way of the torch of the Thatcher years?

The merits or otherwise of these proposals are less important than the fact that they are being mooted at all, although it should be said that middle class mothers who choose to stay at home to look after their children rather than sub-contract their care to others, won’t look too kindly on a further assault on their family finances. They have not forgiven Cameron for robbing them of their child benefit if their husband earns over £50,000 a year and are cross about the in-built bias in the tax system against one-earner couples. Perhaps Zahawi’s kite will soon find itself entangled in that end-of-line oak tree.

But what they do signify is that, under pressure, the Prime Minister is shifting his ground to the Right. Three opinion polls yesterday gave Labour a 6-7 point lead and, more ominously, put UKIP on 13-18 per cent, with the Tories in the low 30s and the Lib Dems nowhere.

Hugging hoodies and huskies is so yesterday. And absolutely no one is urging us to “vote blue, go green”. Letting “sunshine rule the day” has also been slung in the dressing up box, which is ironic given that for the first time since Gordon Brown’s demolition job, the economy is actually growing.

The general election may still be 18 months away, but the pressure is real. In a couple of weeks’ time, border restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants must be lifted and the Government is bracing itself for an almighty political backlash.

More than 70 Tory Mps are championing moves to change the law to keep the restrictions in place and plan a Commons debate this week to press their case. Next month, they plan to vote on a rebel amendment to the Immigration Bill in an attempt to force a showdown with ministers and all-out war with Brussels.

May be poverty-stricken Romanians and Bulgarians will take a look at our “nasty country” – as it was dubbed by the Hungarian official rejoicing in the title of European Commissioner for Social Affairs and Inclusion – and decide to opt for a bit of German efficiency, French cuisine or Italian sun. May be MigrationWatch’s predictions of 50,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants a year will prove wide of the mark.

But after what former Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw now admits was the “spectacular mistake” of predicting a few thousand migrants when Poland and nine other countries joined the EU in 2004, only for a cool million to head for British shores, no one is betting on a mild influx this time.

The Prime Minister is repositioning himself fast in the hope he can deter a major new wave of immigration and keep Nigel Farage’s army of Tory (and Labour) defectors at bay.

How long before his drift of the last few weeks turns into a full-scale lurch?

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Nick Wood

Chief Executive at Media Intelligence Partners
Nick started MIP in 2004, having been the Conservative Party's Director of Communications and Chief Political Correspondent at The Times

5 Comments

  1. Cameron has no real idea which way to turn, sending nadhim zahawi out to fly CCHQs kite shows that, a man who has just been caught charging the taxpayer expenses to heat his horses stables, then again maybe he only had two in there and felt it fitted in with the child benefit proposals.
    the idea that Cameron can get votes back from UKIP seems a non starter as most of them are made up of people who see Cameron as a liberal and not to be trusted, and he wont get any of their labour defectors, he had a chance of maybe hanging on by his fingertips to a minority government in 2015 but as he didn’t have the guts to face down clegg over the boundary changes, what can he offer, he will bang on about we have started to turn things round lets not let labour mess it up again, he will instruct his MPs not to mention UKIP, attack milliband as not prime ministerial, keep bringing up Ed Balls association with Gordon browns policies and cross his fingers, but i for one think Dave will be working back in PR in the not to distant future

  2. Cast-Iron Cameron can lurch all he likes, we will never believe him again. His chance to lurch was in 2010, when he should have given us the referendum he promised. Now we all want to see the back of him, Labour, UKIP and Tories.

  3. Cameron may well appear to be moving to the right but given he currently occupies the space way out on the left it means little. Not only the ludicrously unfair Child Benefit rules he brought in ( earn 60k and you lose it but two earners can earn 90k and still get it? ) but the crazy marginal rates of tax there are are an absolute disincentive for anyone who wants to get on.

  4. I can give you a cast iron promise that Cameron is working the next General Election.

    To describe you do as having moved to the right is far fetched: they still support high and growing government spending; high and higher taxes; more regulations; interference with the markets in goods, services, labour; membership of the European Union; vast estates of quangos; repressive state interference in public life; control of the press.

    There is nothing not left wing about that lot.

  5. None of the 3 main parties could be called right wing as they are all spendthrift masters and see no problem in the UK public sector costs rising without limit. We are having to borrow money to pay the interest on money we have previously borrowed and watch our debt rise precipitously. It’s a competition in profligacy. The lowest BIS prediction for UK public sector debt is 300% by 2040 based on improbably low levels of public spend -well below anything the three major parties would tolerate. The future is clear. Printing money will be the only affordable option left as our debt continues to soar in the future and interest rates rise. Hence we will all become poorer as the pound drops in parallel and vital imports like food and energy will become evermore expensive. Increasing numbers are not going to be able to heat their home or eat.

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