With the opinion polls still neck-and-neck, David Cameron and the Conservative Party have good grounds to worry that they are not pulling ahead of Labour in the final month of the 2015 general election campaign.
The BBC’s poll of polls puts Labour and the Conservatives on 33% each, which, when constituency boundaries which favour the Labour Party are factored in, means that Ed Miliband’s party are potentially on course to win more seats than the Conservatives, throwing several highly unwelcome left-wing coalition scenarios into play.
Naturally, this is causing much hand-wringing both within the Conservative Party and the Tory-friendly press. But interestingly, much of the free advice being bandied about is encouraging the Conservatives to try to fight the election on Labour’s natural turf (such as emphasising the importance of public services), or to tack even further to the centre, in spite of UKIP’s challenge from the right.
The chief proponent of this strategy is Tim Montgomerie, who uses his most recent Times column (+) to argue that “a show of compassion” (whatever that means) from the Conservative Party could help to “swing the vote” in their favour. Montgomerie is absolutely correct in his diagnosis of the situation – an increasingly coddled, government-dependent British population representing unfertile electoral ground for the politics of individualism and self sufficiency – but hazy on his proposed remedy.
First, the good analysis:
The centre right has to worry that while Tony Blair was wooing Middle England it was really Gordon Brown who was running Britain. Blair was at the front of the shop but Brown was in the control room, overseeing the huge expansion in the number of people who received part or all of their income from the state. Even now, with austerity under way, 52 per cent of Britons receive more from the state than they pay in taxes. There are, to echo Mitt Romney’s infamous and ham-fisted description, more takers than makers. People who are dependent upon the state have every incentive to vote for bigger and bigger government and to get someone else to pay for it — especially, of course, “the rich”.
A redistributive, bash-the-rich message was exactly what helped Barack Obama defeat Governor Romney. If America, land of the free and home of the brave, was willing to choose big state interventionism over small state individualism then it’s hardly impossible that Britain might do the same in a few weeks’ time.
If ever there was a statistic to shock and shame British conservatives, it should be the fact that 52 percent of Britons are net financial beneficiaries from the state. In the conservative model society, there should be generous welfare support available for those suffering true hardship or disadvantage, but a level playing field and light-touch government regulations freeing everyone else to succeed to their potential.