How parties respond to dire circumstances

A few years ago when the Conservatives were stuck in the low 30s in the polls it became fashionable for the party hierarchy to try to copy everything Blair had said and done in the late 1990s when he was so popular. It did not work as a strategy, for people thought to themselves if even the Conservatives think Blair is right we might as well stick with him, or abstain from voting as there is no real choice. Subsequently it emerged that Blair had wasted his golden economic legacy and frittered his high standing with the public in the early years.

Now that Labour are wallowing in the mid 20s in the polls they are following a different strategy – hitting out against the Conservatives. It is an even more absurd strategy than the old Tory one. They create the Aunt Sally of a Conservative government, as if some parallel government existed in the UK, and then condemn it. Hence this weekend we are treated to the criticism that David Cameron has not done enough for single parents! How can David Cameron do anything for anyone, as he is Leader of the Opposition, unable to win a single vote in the Commons?

Labour figures on TV and radio programmes must also have been briefed to criticise the Conservatives for calling for an end to mortgage regulation. This according to the BBC and Labour Ministers is proof we are unfit for office. Clearly none of them who make this criticism have either read the Policy Report from which a single sentence has been extracted, nor have they any serious interest in trying to sort the unholy mess in the money and mortgage markets which they have created on their watch.

The Policy Report was a serious contribution to the debate about how to regulate and supervise markets. It warned that the removal of powers from the Bank of England would leave the Bank unable to handle a banking crisis, as time has proved to be true. It recommended giving the Bank the necessary powers to control markets in times of easy credit, and to make more liquidity available at times of stress, the very things this government has failed to do. It went on to say that this government’s extra mortgage regulations which they introduced were all cost and no benefit, as again time has proven. If their mortgage regulations had worked we would not now be facing too many people with negative equity struggling to pay the mortgage.

This was a balanced report. It said where we needed to strengthen control – in the money markets where huge mistakes were being made – and where we could cut out needless costs where regulation meant bureaucracy but no grip on the underlying risks and dangers. The events of the last year have more than vindicated the analysis of our Report. We warned that things had been too lax and were now too tight. We warned about sloppy public finance, and the lack of Central Bank power to handle credit creation and money issues.

Labour’s deliberate misrepresentations of this Report just make them look silly. Their technique of bashing the Tories may get them through a party conference, but it will not wash with the electorate. Voters expect them to grapple with this crisis and come up with some answers. This crisis was not caused by a single line in Conservative Report. It was caused by Brown’s bungled reforms of the Bank of England and by the way the world regulatory system was regulating the wrong things in the wrong way.

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14 Comments

  1. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    John. The greatest pity is why the media just follow Labours line.

    Where are the reporters that report as it is not, what Labour would like. Anyone with any common sense can see the truth, but why do we not have it reported. ?

    Why are you not writing in the mainstream media. The country needs you.

    REPLY I offered a piece to the Telegraph last week but they did not reply. I did do 2 BBC TV pieces last week, and am turning the Credit Crunch pieces into a book, which I have just finished wriitng.

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted September 21, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      John, it just proves my point on how left wing the media has become. how anyone can argue about the core of your piont of view is just unbelievable. You are one of the few people who is able to understand and express what I am sure most reasonable people think. they just do not want to face up to reality. we have becom a nation of people who just do not want to grow up and face the facts of real life. With all the problems we have, and Brown just says he is going to give free child care for 2 years olds, unbelievable.

  2. Mark
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    How come when Alan Duncan had parts of this report quoted at him on Question Time he denied all knowledge of it? In terms of looking silly, I think you might want to look to your colleagues… 🙂

  3. Acorn
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    John, I have read your report [see Download col.] and it makes sense to me. The trouble is that had I not read this blog, I would not have known about it. I also don’t know if it is sitting on a dusty shelf at CCHQ, considered by the current party hierarchy as, say, belonging to another era of conservatism, or not.

    My problem is I have lost faith in our current political party based system. Yes, I know that there is not a democracy on the planet that does not use the party system to some extent; and, they don’t all end up like Zimbabwe. But, as Bonnie Tyler sang I am “holding out for a hero”; and I ain't’t seeing one on the horizon.

    But, had I the opportunity, there are a couple of guys I could vote for to be my Prime Minister. That is voting separately for my Prime Minister and for my local MP.

    OK, yes, we would have our own “west wing” of sorts with a power of veto over the Commons, but I think it would put some sparkle back into the Commons as far as legislating is concerned. MPs may have to work out a few deals across the chamber to get them passed the Prime Minister’s executive. Hey, it could even get the voters interested in politics again!

    What would it take John, to introduce such a system? [Does this mean you have moved Redwood up a notch from Chancellor ?]

    • Tony Makara
      Posted September 21, 2008 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      " My problem is I have lost faith in our current political party based system. "

      The representative system is in its death throes and will eventually be replaced by a corporate system of government, one which allows us to roll back the political state. I live for the day when we can eradicate political parties and build government on national consensus. A corporate system of government would end the politically motivated schisms between business and workers and allow the trades unions to objectively represent workers rights, without the poison of ideology.

      As political parties, and more importantly voting patterns gravitate towards the centre ground, the ideological divides that feed the party political structure become meaningless and we move into a post political era. One in which the politician will represent his/her constituency, his/her nation and will no longer suffer political bondage, bringing the current ersatz democracy to a close, to confine it to history. Our institutions should be able to govern themselves and not be hostage the political dogma of career-politicans or messianic ideologues. The representative system can only realistically be supplanted by a corporate mode of government.

  4. Neil Craig
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    "Labour’s deliberate misrepresentations of this Report just make them look silly"

    Only among those who know, which is bound to be a tiny number. As you point out the BBC can be guaranteed to misreport this> I think this is because they are pro-regulation, being part of the civiol service, rather than intrinsicly pro-Labour.

    The only answer is that when there is an absolutely certain instance this be publicly aired in the Commons. This won't make them correct the original misrepresentation but will make them nervous in future.

  5. APL
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    “BBC”

    In the old days, the church of England was thought to be the Tory party at prayer, sadly no longer.

    Today however, the BBC is the Labour party engaged in propaganda. It goes on 24 hours a day. “It’s what they do.”

    Scrap the BBC licence fee, make the BBC available by voluntary subscription only.

    If Cameron has any policies other than mimicing Blair on the so ‘centre ground’ then to have any hope of success, the BBC must be neutralised as the ‘unofficial’ arm of the Labour party.

  6. mikestallard
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    The current difficulties are very serious – and getting worse by the day.
    With the Police not working properly any more (did you read what happened to the Chief Constable of Essex when he tried to put Bobbies back on the Beat and answer calls for Police?) the Home Secretary has the brainwave of stopping kerb crawlers.
    You have already mentioned Mr Brown’s response to the melt down.
    No doubt, next week, Harriet Harman will say something about regulating the city, no doubt with herself in charge.
    This mob, as you so rightly say, are done for.

    BUT if the Conservatives come in with a huge majority (possible?) will they do a Tony Blair and just sit on their hands in case they do not get re elected?
    They are full of excellent ideas.
    But so was he.

  7. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    What would get the economy going again would be tightening up on red tape in the mortgage and construction industries to stop scams while ending or streamlining rules that just are all cost and no benefit . In short in an economic era noted for a need for dynamism and transparency regulation needs to be lighter & smarter as the prsent system is just outmoded and does not function in the 21st Century . That logic can be applied to deliver the post -bureacratic age and get investment & enterprise moving so that productivity & job growth increases and a recovery can be aided by regulatory burdens accross the economy can fall year on year .

    Getting started by progressively reforming regulation of the mortgage & construction industries will help get those economic sectors going again . The Bank of England needs to regain its old powers as John Redwood suggests so that liquidity can be boosted thus ending the credit freeze . The inflation target needs to be the credible RPI-x measure thus restoring economic confidence while it should be a two year one at 2% so that a mindless credit binge and a price spiral can be prevented or at least made less likely .

    Just growing public spending more slowly as David Davis suggests will stimulate the economy by not crowding out private investment while slashing the PSBR and thus helping economic stability . QUANGO's , government invented welfare dependency , procurement costs & civil service numbers can be reviewed for savings .

    As John Redwood has pointed out regulatory reform will boost the infrastructure using private funds and both cut dole queues now and give us an infrastructure that can sustain an economic recovery . Replacing JSA &IB with one sort of payment and cutting out pointless training schemes will tackle long term unemployment .

    Selling off the BBC , Channel 4 ,Scottish Water & some government shares in private companies could fund an one off refund for basic rate taxpayers under the age of 65 of £480 just to stop the deflation that we face in 2009 getting out of hand . This would not add to the PSBR as asset sales would fund a one -off tax reduction while extra cash would get to those most likely to spend it . £480 means a lot more as a share of income to a person on say £15,000 a year than on £100,000 p/a so limiting this rebate to basic rate payers keeps costs down and will be fairer as those who most need the funds get the extra cash .
    I am pleased to learn from what others are saying about getting the economy right by helping the High Street , Square Mile , Housing Market etc
    How is that for a decent attempt at an economic recovery plan ?

  8. not an economist
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to be a tad dense: Which report is John referring to? I'd like to read it.

    Reply: The Economic Competitiveness Report, available as download on this site.

  9. Man in a Shed
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    If you think that's bad just watch Labour spokespeople ( and a number of key BBC reporters – eg Paul Mason ) trying to explain the history of past economic crisis in terms of only Conservative governments.

    I think what worries me most is that this stuff needs fast and authoritative rebuttal, however it doesn't seem to be forthcoming.

    This is a mistake.

  10. Eddie Allen
    Posted September 22, 2008 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    John Sopel’s panel the other day with Prescott and Clarke showed only division in Labour. Biased Tory bashing came across loud and clear when Prescott shouted “Nobody wants the Conservatives in government” ( looking around to Clarke and Toynbee and even to Sopel who didn’t answer ).

    Any chance of knowing why we don’t want a Conservative government ? Not on your life can this man challenge Conservative policy on anything other than “Remember when” !!

    Moving over to Brown on BBC 24, he says it’s because he’s been so clever in repaying debt, that he can now borrow more because “When the Conservatives were in, borrowing was around 43% of GDP and now it’s close to 37%”, yet a report on SKY from a guy from National Statistics said “It’s now 43% and heading toward 50% and when the Tories were in it was around 41%” – Quite the reverse of what was broadcast on BBC ! He also reflected that the Northern Rock bailout wasn’t even in the figures yet the BBC ( and Brown ) conveniently ommitted this.

    People aren’t sucked in by this bias.
    People won’t be sucked in by old washed up Tory bashers.
    People need policies, direction and inspiration not this garbage !

    Conservative policies stand proud to deal with many problems of society and our economy and Labour would do well to listen to the polls so the Conservative government can get on with the rescue plan without all the carping about bygone years or Aunt Sally’s in the Labour Party, because people are already well aware of the problems THEY have caused and need no convincing blames rests in the 90’s when clearly it doesn’t.

    Labour are best ignored and it would be crass to entertain their lame argument. They’re obviously trying to provoke a response so they can show “how nasty we are in a bitter debate”, so David Cameron et al are right to keep their composure.
    Never mind the past, let’s start to rebuild this country now, moving forward together and leaving the past ( and Labour ) behind.

    Cuts ? – Yes, but not where it hurts too much.
    A new tax regime ? – Yes.
    A plan to repay borrowing and reduce the cost of government ? – Yes but in a manageable and socially responsible way.
    More power to parliament to do this ? – Yes, that’s why we need to scrap Lisbon.
    Tackling Immigration ? – Yes, but in a reasonable and fair way.

    In fact a reversing of the claptrap foisted on my country by Labour could take another 5 years, but let’s start on the future of Britain and not look back to yesteryear as that’s Labour’s only tactic.

    I want Labour beaten into 3rd place, even 4th would do me.
    I want them wiped out for the ignorance they’ve shown toward the electorate and because they’ve broken Britain.

    • mikestallard
      Posted September 23, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Yes!

  11. Bazman
    Posted September 22, 2008 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    What is all this talk of ‘Let wing’ by people on this site. The right have had it very much their own way for a number of years. The City has been allowed to do pretty much what they like and conditions have been favorable for companies for many years. Prices are now high and wages in the past years have not kept pace with this productivity. Fortunes have been created for many people. How does the average person get more money? Certainly it is not related to how hard they work or the success of their employers business. This right wing nonsense is now creating problems for millions. Like in the Thatcher years of mass unemployment a privileged few making a fortune, but in this case even the city people are becoming unemployed.
    How I laughed when one twenty something bank worker said ” I though someone would save us”
    We don’t believe because it’s not true.

  • 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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