Monday, 30 December 2013

David Cameron needs to talk to the Mondeo man

David Cameron needs to talk to the Mondeo man

It has been a tough year for the Conservative party, Labour has had a comfortable lead throughout 2013 and UKIP have had a breakthrough year.  There has been talk of leadership coups and there has been general backbench worry about the upcoming 2015 election.  However, it has not all been negative for the Prime Minister, the economy is growing, Labour’s lead is down to 6% from a high of close to 11%, and UKIP’s popularity surge has subsided and stabilised.  Although the year has been tough for the Conservatives the points mentioned above will give them some optimism of being able to win a majority in 2015.  Nevertheless, if they intend to win the first Conservative majority since 1992, 2014 will be a big year and the Conservatives are going to have to start talking to the Mondeo man.

The Mondeo man is the name given to those voters who opted to vote Conservative in 92 but turned to Labour in 97.  Even in 2010 David Cameron was not successful in winning this group back, and it is crucial in 2015 this key electoral group returns to the Conservative party.  This group of aspirational middle class voters kept Thatcher in power for a generation and then Blair, the Mondeo man decides elections.  So far the Mondeo man has been neglected by the government, as this year Cameron has fought UKIP in a successful attempt to stop the Conservative party leaking its core voters.  As he is aware without his party’s core vote he will never win a majority.  In his fight with UKIP Cameron has promised a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU and has took a tough stance on immigration.  Although these sorts of policies have not won back all the former Conservative voters now considering voting for UKIP, they have won back some and stopped UKIP’s popularity surge.  UKIP had a spike in their popularity in May in which they stood at 15% in the polls since then the Conservatives have successfully shrunk the UKIP’s rating to around 11% were it has remained for the last four months. 

The Conservative party’s offensive against UKIP alongside an economic revival has helped them recover in the polls.  However, they have failed to steal many Labour voters at all and if they are to win in 2015 they need to start damaging Labour’s share of the vote.  To do this they need to target the aspirational middle class (Mondeo man), this is the group they lost in 97 and they need to win it back.  This is the group so often referred to as the “squeezed middle” in the media and is being badly hit by the cost of living.  As keen political observers will have noticed the battle for the Economy is pretty much over, now all Labour want to talk about is the cost of living and this sort of rhetoric could potentially win them the next election.  The Government have done things to tackle the cost of living and come election time these policies will be highlighted, such as the raising of the tax threshold and not raising fuel duty.  However, in the recent debate over the price of energy the government has received a bloody nose by having no real alternative to Labour’s energy price freeze.  In 2014 the Conservative party are going to have to show they are tackling the issues surrounding the cost of living and this includes getting to grips with the cost of energy bills and hitting their 2% inflation target.

Although the economy is growing again many people are yet to feel the effects of this growth, and will be looking to the government to lower the ever-increasing cost of living.  Currently the dreams of the aspirational middle class such as owning a house or owning a new car seem very distant, and the party who can make these dreams realistic will be the party of government come 2015.  David Cameron has already started to try to talk to this key electoral group, but more than just talk of cutting green taxes must be done for the Conservatives to show they are taking the cost of living crisis seriously.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Autumn Statement 2013

Autumn Statement 2013 

The Chancellors golden streak continues, his successful budget has been followed up by a successful Autumn Statement.  The growth predictions in the budget have been revised upwards, growth figures from even further back have also been revised, to show that the UK never went into a double dip recession.  In fact, all the figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility would have made pleasant reading for the Chancellor, the only thing that would have pleased him more was Ed Ball’s stumbling rebuttal.  The economic tide is clearly changing we have moved out of recession and into growth however we still have a problem with the cost of living and many working people are not reaping the rewards of a growing Economy.  George Osborne has actively tried to address some of these problems in this Autumn Statement however, more must be done if the Conservatives intend to govern on their own after 2015.

As mentioned above one of the sweetest aspects of the Autumn Statement for Conservatives were the OBR’s figures about growth.  Firstly there was no double dip recession this announcement will do the governments reputation regarding economic competence a world of good.  The 2013 growth figure was also revised upwards from 0.6% to 1.4%, which strengthens the Chancellor’s claims that the economy is moving in the right direction and disproves Labour's claims that the government’s economic policy is not working.  The Deficit has also been reduced by a greater amount than predicted in the March budget, it is now expected to be 6.8% rather than the 7.5% predicted on budget day, borrowing has also been revised down by £9 billion.  All these figures give Conservatives a reason to smile and at least on a macroeconomic scale, the policy of austerity seems to be working.

As addressed in the introduction despite a growing economy the effects of this growth are not being felt by everyone, particularly the hard working people who the Conservatives need to win round by 2015 if they intend to earn a majority in the House of Commons.  George Osborne has shown he is aware of how hard it can be for working people by setting out plans for a set of policies to try to stop a rise in the cost of living.  These policies include scraping next years planned fuel duty rise and a deal with the energy companies to prevent further price rises next year which is expected to save the average family £50 a year.  Also a tax break for some married couples combined with an increase in the personal allowance also shows the Chancellor is trying to do something about the cost of living.  Although the tax allowance for married couples is only expected to help 1 in 6 couples, which takes some of the shine of the policy.  The Autumn statement went on to address the problem of youth unemployment in the UK, employer national insurance will be scrapped for under 21’s to encourage businesses to take a chance on hiring young people.  In addition, 20,000 new apprenticeships will be created, the effect of this policy is going to be down to the quality of the apprenticeships and more apprenticeships will still need to be created but this is still a move in the right direction. 

In conclusion the Conservative party should be pleased with the latest Autumn statement it has tried to address many of the current problems for working people and has shown an improvement in the economy as a whole.  It does not make pleasant reading for those people who will not be retiring till 69 and will end up paying more for their pensions, however the UK has a pension crisis brewing so in practice it is a sensible policy.  But as I have mentioned a few times already it is essential for the Conservatives to deal with the issues facing real people and not only that they also need to appear more in touch with everyday problems or run the risk of losing their grip on power in 2015.