This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Conservatives head to Manchester



The Conservative Party begins its conference in my hometown of Manchester this week. The party has every reason to feel pleased with itself. Although the Labour conference wasn’t as bad as everybody expected, the Sun’s decision to come out in favour of Cameron will have given the Tories a nice little boost before they all gather together.

However, let me throw a few spanners in the works.

Firstly, this is not 1996 and Mr Cameron is no Tony Blair. There is little public appetite for the Tories as the opinion polls show. Its poll numbers should be in the high 40s (and they’re not), there should be fewer floating voters and its lead over Labour should be bigger. It is a tired phrase but the Tories have not sealed the deal with voters.

Secondly, there are serious question marks over the Conservative’s handling of the economic crisis and its stance on Europe. I think there is an increasing view out there that the Tories made the wrong call on the economic crisis twelve months ago. Voters still feel uneasy about trusting a leader who displayed such poor judgement. The party’s position on Europe is all over the place as well. Its stance on the Lisbon Treaty is ill thought through, liable to antagonise important allies like Sarkozy and Merkel and makes no sense. Cameron looks like he is about to have a major row on his hands. It also seems hypocritical to me that a party which says it has changed has got into bed with some pretty unsavoury characters in the European Parliament.

Thirdly, George Osborne is a liability for the party. He is disliked, distrusted, looks like he relishes the idea of enacting ‘savage cuts’ and has shown bad judgement on some major decisions. His speech will be the most important of the week and he will have to demonstrate that he looks like a credible Chancellor in waiting. Fat chance.

Finally, I have doubts that the Tories message of ‘cuts, cuts and more cuts’ will resonate with voters in the major northern cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds - never mind Wales and Scotland! The Conservatives are not a national party, yet.

So, Conservative MPs may well feel that they are about to be handed the keys to Number Ten and I am sure they will spend the next week desperately trying not to appear smug. But there remains some major concerns about what they stand for, their competence and their policies for the future. This should give Labour some hope.

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