The strange thing about this years party conference season is that all of the parties do not have their troubles to seek. While the Lib Dems suffered an electoral massacre in May’s elections, while Labour have been struggling to find a new direction post election defeat, The Tories have seen things begin to go against them. As a result, their conference at the G-Mex in Manchester provides an ideal opportunity to re-group.
The Tories were the clear winners in the May elections, they only dropped 3 seats at Holyrood (where they are at their lowest ebb anyway) but gained 85 councillors and won 4 councils in the local elections. The Icing on the cake was the defeat of the Lib Dems backed AV referendum. Yet since then, the Tories have not handled things as well as they could have. They were slow and ponderous in responding to the Phone hacking scandal and they were slow and ponderous in responding to the riots in English cities.Their reaction towards the current Euro-zone crisis shows the two stools nature of this government – they would love to say “I told you so” but saying so would not be appropriate real-politic.
Cameron’s biggest problem thought is to convince us that his, and his Chancellors, Plan A is working. The signs are not good, the economy is tanking due to decreased demand and to decreased liquidity in the economy. This has been compounded by the Tory Chairman of the Treasury select committee coming out and calling for “a coherent economic plan”. Yet both the Tories and Labour talk of the lack of growth as if it was a separate issue to the deficit reduction plans, and not a direct symptom of taking billions of pounds straight from the economy to plug the £1.2 trillion hole caused by baling out the banking sector. Interestingly enough, conservative activists believe that the best way to growth involve not cutting taxes at the bottom – which would stimulate spending at the bottom – but the reduction of business taxes and the reduction of regulations and “red tape”. One of the policies in this vein to be announced this week is a extension to tribunal rules – people will not be allowed to take employers to a tribunal unless they had been in their job for two years (the current rule is one year), this has its own issues regarding employment law.
Cameron’s other problem is that his party are becoming more and more convinced that Conservative values are becoming sacrificed at the alter of coalition government. He and his cabinet need to listen, vent some steam, but not antagonise either their coalition partners or the electorate, in much the same way the Lib Dem’s managed in Birmingham two weeks ago. One key flashpoint may very well be the attitude of both parties towards the Human Rights Act, Theresa May has indicated that she would like it to be scrapped.
Overall, I think the aim for the Conservative leadership will be to exude an air of calm, despite the choppy waters outside and on the horizon. With the next nationwide election (The Euro Elections) 30 months away, the Tories i think have time on their side. Yet with events beginning to cloud the Cameron agenda, the temptation is there to play to the party and adopt right wing positions on issues.