How the PM could rekindle popularity

I suggest the following advice to the PM from a Labour source:

To: Prime Minister
From: Senior Politicial Adviser

The drop to 27 % in the polls is serious, and the lack of trust in politics is tangible. Your well judged campaign to restore faith in politics has been badly damaged by Northern Rock, the loss of HMRC data and the Abrahams donations. I know how upset you are by these developments, and feel they are not of your making. Unfortunately they have changed the political weather, and the Tories are now claiming that Northern Rock is related to your changes to the regulatory framnework in 1997, and the data loss to your merger of Revenue and Customs. No-one said politics was fair.

You have rightly decided to try to change the subject of discussion, and have decided to say that you are going to be making the long term decisions the country needs. I think that is the right approach.

However, you have highlighted three decisions which are at best contentious – nuclear power, genetically modified crops and a 3rd runway at Heathrow, and at worst will increase the antagonisms. Whilst nuclear does remove carbon emission when generating power, many greens dislike it and draw attention to the carbon footprint of the new build as well as to disposal issues for the waste. A 3 rd runway at Heathrow is much needed to reduce queues and delays but will be presented as a contradiction to your stance on cutting emissions. GM food remains very unpopular according to all surveys of opinion, even though the government’s scientific adviser sees it as a key technology. You may be right that these things may need doing, but to highlight them in your current positon is, as Sir Humphrey might say, "brave Prime Minister". Critics would say if you think they like data loss and the run on the bank, they will love GM food and nuclear power.

There are long term decisions the country needs that could portray you in the right light that are not as divisive as the ones you have started to highlight. The decision to make training or a job compulsory for those who would otherwise claim benefit is a bold step which could also prove popular with the large majority of people in work who are paying taxes. The decision to cut capital gains tax for all from 40% to 18% could be received favourably if a more generous treatment of those investing in their own businesses or through employer share schemes currently paying 10% was incorporated in the changes. If you reconsidered your position on a referendum on the treaty that could help to reduce the scepticism about politics.

Above all you need Ed Balls to come up with ways of raising the performance of state schools. The growing gap between the grammars/independents on the one hand and the comprehensives on the other is worrying. The large number of school leavers who cannot read and write to a reasonable standard lies behind the disappointing figures for the numbers of young people not in education, training or a job. You have always stressed the need to offer opportunity to all – we do need to raise our game here. If we could break through on jobs and training for all young people, the electorate would start to forget the noises off, and the costs of economic failure (which you waxed lyrical about in Opposition) would start to come down. This is one area where we are lucky that our Opposition is not as good as you used to be at blaming the government!

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3 Comments

  1. Neil Craig
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    The only thing stopping us having blackouts is French nuclear & the situation can only get worse if we do nothing but mutter platitudes about windmills. GM & the closely related nano-technology are going to be the biggest industry of the 21stC. Heathrow need expansion if it & the UK economy as a whole, are not to be sidelined.

    On all 3 points the Luddites would certainly scream & scream till they were sick & they have a great amount of power in the media. Nonetheless if push comes to shove opinion polls show that greenery is very far down everybody's list & not destroying the economy very far up.

    David Cameron may have decided that making the Tories cuddly requires being nice to the Luddites but he may well have manouevered the Tories into an untenable position. Brown on the other hand, while not denouncing the warming scam has done the absloute minimum he could get away with & thus, I suspect, doesn't believe it.

    I suspect if he stood firmly & intelligently on a non-Luddite platform, putting the choices honestly before the people & let the Tories & LudDims fight for the alleged "environment friendly centre ground" he would win. He would also turn out to be right.

  2. steve_roberts
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Labour's popularity is now dead, even if this government stumbles on zombie-like for months or years overshadowed by long-drawn-out police investigations and the inevitable further cock-ups arising from micromanagement and incompetence. Its popularity will only be rekindled in due course by ten years or so of conservative government creating the inevitable complacency and factionalism within government, and boredom and resentment outside.

  3. mikestallard
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with all the good ideas which you have put forward.
    Unfortunately, they are not likely to happen because they aren't Labour policy. What Brown usually does is to accept a Tory idea and then water it down until it is harmless. (Schools? Inheritance tax?)
    Why are the government into GM crops anyway?
    Why do they not just improve our decaying power stations anyway?
    Oh – and lest we forget – our taxes are getting on for half our incomes. That is, to use Labour jargon, "unacceptable".

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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