The people want the politicians to occupy the common ground – not the centre ground

Mr Miliband has suggested that the much fancied centre of UK politics is moving to the left. Mr Blair and Mr Reid have denied any such thing. Labour are divided on whether they can shift leftwards safely or not.

Some Conservative members fear that the Coalition is dragging the centre to the left, thanks to the influence of the LibDems on Coalition rhetoric and policy. They want the Conservative leader, Mr Cameron, to be more Conservative. Some LibDems fear that UKIP is dragging the centre ground in the opposite direction, highlighting the issues of immigration and the EU which Lib Dems prefer to skate over.

So who is right? Does it matter?

It does matter, because it is a common prejudice for the main figures in each of the principal parties that they can only win by occupying the centre ground. Their problem comes in trying to define what right and left mean in the muddle of modern UK and EU politics, and in trying to discern where the true centre lies amidst the babble of voices and the myriad of viewpoints captured by the more sophisticated and wide ranging polls. Is it being in the centre to say there should be no changes to the current immigration policy, or do you have to move sharply in the direction of less inward migration to be in the centre of the public’s view? Is it being in the centre to say you are happy with the amount of EU power we currently experience, or do you need to propose far less EU interference to hit the centre of the UK electorate? Is it being in the centre to say the deficit should be cut at the rate proposed by Labour as it left office, or at the rate first proposed by the Coalition, or at the rate now proposed by the Coalition, which is slower than either?

Those who believe the centre is moving leftwards point to the popularity of higher wages for most, to the wish by many to see the banks and bankers punished more, and to the demands for a further clampdown on tax abuse by the rich. There are many who now run populist campaigns to blame bankers for the crisis, to demand more money from the rich to pay the bills, and to attack large companies for planning their affairs to minimise tax legally. These campaigns are so popular that they have already been adopted in one form or another by all three main political parties. In this sense all three parties just assume the centre ground is to the left as traditionally described.

Those who think the opposite point to the polls on a range of other issues. People want the Government to be tougher on permissions for migrants to come to the UK than it has been. They want welfare reform which makes it more difficult for people on benefits to receive more money than someone on average wages. They wish to stop recently arrived people having access to benefits at all, and wish to charge visitors for use of the NHS. They want the Government to stop the EU interfering as much as it does in government decisions in the UK. They want a tougher approach to law and order, and wish the Government to expel more foreign criminals from our country altogether. They think there is plenty of waste and undesirable spending within the public sector that the government should cut or control.

The balance of these arguments implies that the centre ground – to the extent that it exists – is shifting more to the right as conventionally described, than to the left. We do need, however, to examine the crucial debate on how to institute economic recovery. Here those on the left say the government should cut less and borrow more in the short term, as the best way to encourage growth. Those on the right say the government should cut more from the public sector, to energise the private sector more by tax cuts and monetary means.

Here the surprising thing is there is practically no disagreement between Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem over monetary policy. The massive sums being created and used in Quantitative Easing programmes evoke no critical response from any of the three parties. All agree Mr Carney is the best man to be the next Governor of the Bank of England, and all seem to accept that more monetary easing is needed. The battles occur over far smaller sums at the margins of total public spending For choice Labour would like to spend a little bit more in the short term. All three parties have agreed Labour’s cuts just before leaving office to capital spending were too large, and steps are being taken to reduce their impact.

The debate over public spending  is undertaken in a fog of statistical ignorance by most in the three parties. Many seem to assume public spending is being cut, when the figures show clearly that so far under the Coalition current public spending overall has risen substantially in cash terms and a little in real terms. The UK’s so-called austerity is nothing like the big programmes of spending cuts in troubled Eurozone economies. The austerity instead has been visited on the private sector through major tax rises, and via the impact of inflation on real incomes.

All three parties seem to think the electorate will not take any cash or even many real cuts in current public spending, so they all perch close to each other behind maintaining the status quo on current public spending. The public would like the Government to break out onto the common ground, away from the so called centre ground. They want change and reform. They do not like large build ups in public debt, do want a new relationship with the EU, and do think welfare reform of the right kind is a priority.

This article was written for ConservativeHome and published on their website earlier in the week.

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58 Comments

  1. mike Stallard
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Round here people never talk much about politics. Those that do pour out the party line in the local papers and down at the gym in the most boring and stereotyped way. The financial crisis, for example, was caused entirely by the banks. The cuts are getting deeper.

    The Conservatives are in power and it is a yellow dog Conservatism too (hat tip Lee Child: If you put a blue ribbon on a yellow dog etc). We all sense that the powerlessness of the ruling Councils (all of them) is partly down to corruption, but nobody cares all that much.

    The really popular party is the Apathetic Party. We have pretty well given up, you see.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      I’d say people have given up too, Mike.

      In fact they never started. They just seemed to be interested in food, beer, celebs, Facebook and football. And house prices.

      • Anthem
        Posted April 26, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        It inspires such confidence to know that our political elite don’t even know where they stand or even where they should be standing on certain issues.

        Personally, I wish they’d all just go and stand in a corner, out of the way.

        All people really want is to be left alone to live their lives in peace.

        Just give me a government that can do that. They can contemplate their navels in their own time.

      • Disaffected
        Posted April 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        Read the article today and comments in the DT about immigration from the EU commissioner against LibLabCon and what Farage had to say about it on the BBC’s Question Time. Farage was spot on the money and was correct in the EU interpretation, however, in contrast to fact the BBC spins in favour of the LibLabCon. The commissioner has made a directive to make it easier for immigration across the EU two days after Teresa May tries to claim otherwise.

        From the EU perspective (if it is a supranational state) it makes sense for its citizens to roam all over its country to find work- as it accepts the EU is the 27 existing countries without boundaries. However, the people do not accept the EU view because they still think the27 nation states exist.

        The game is up, either you want to be part of an EU super state like the Lib LabCon or you want the UK to a free independent country with its own parliament, total sovereignty, own boundaries, own laws and freedom to make your own way in the world. Even with the power to deport terrorists if it wants to.

        If Mr Cameron thinks appointing Mr Johnson to a Tory policy unit will attract common ground, he is once more in LaLa land. Mr Johnson’s CV appears to be: Eton, PPE Oxbridge, Bullingdon Club and pro EU. A clone of Dave maybe, common ground of and for the common people- I think not.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          Disaffected: My contention is that we cannot afford to have two parliaments.

          If we are going to be a European region run by Europe then let’s get on with it.

          Close down Westminster.

          (I’d prefer to keep Westminster)

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      If the choice of MPs is such that only two/three can win and they are almost the same can you blame them. Anyway they will rat on their promises as we see with CAMERON AND OSBORNE as they choose to.

    • Johnnydub
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      Mike… We’ll never deal with the root causes of the financial crisis if we don’t understand governments role in them… in the UK / US it was excessively credit driven by too low interest rates and the stoking of a housing bubble for short term political gain, and in the Eurozone.. well just the Euro in general…

  2. lifelogic
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    The real austerity has been in the private sector. It cannot grow much with the bloated, largely parasitic, state sector making it uncompetitive. The lack of confidence in Cameron, Labour to follow, higher taxes, more regulation, daft employment laws, expensive quack energy and the rest. These just push production, jobs and investment abroad. Killing the tax base. Why on earth are the Tories following this self destructive agenda leading to the Eds in 2015.

    So few sensible and honest MPs actually acting in the interest of the public alas.

    • Pleb
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Cameron must be a dead man walking by now. Less than 2 years to go, this May local elections will put the knife in for sure.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        One assumes he is mainly concentrating on the next career move. He clearly has given up on sensible running of the country.

  3. Gary
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Judging by voter turnout, it appears that the people don’t want politics at all.

    • bigneil
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      just one slight difference gary – -i believe people want politics – -but they want politicians who actually care about the people of this country after getting voted in- -and it seems that only ukip do – -the others go blah blah blah to get a vote – -and then ignore everyone – -labour has “apologised” for lying about immigration – -and could they tell us what use that apology is??? – -nothing at all – – -and this lot backed the banks – -so long as they leant money to small businesses – -only to see the bankers stick millions in their bonus pockets and laugh themselves silly – -with the government doing nothing – -the electorate is only courted for a vote – -and after that, is ignored – -and in the future even the apathy party could not get elected – -as nobody would be bothered to vote. – -the politicians have caused it – deliberately in my opinion and the destruction of this once beautiful country goes on – -i hope my heart condition kills me soon.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted April 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        I ma very sad about the loss of my lovely country too. It is as though a big breath of the worst characterisitcs of man has been blown over us and no one cares.

  4. Roger Farmer
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    In real life nuances of ground are irrelevant. Politicians need to wake up and realise that they are supposed to represent the views of the people. We now have a Parliament of which the majority blatantly do not represent the views of the people. They live in a vacuum searching for some positional philosophy that has no relevance to the aspirations of the majority of the people. If you do not believe me read UKIP’s manifesto and realise that a growing number of voters believe it reflects their thinking. Alternatively just ignore it, hoping it will go away and prepare for disappointment. I consider myself lucky in having an MP who is sympathetic to the voters views as do the voters of Wokingham.

  5. Roy Grainger
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “All three parties seem to think the electorate will not take any cash or even many real cuts in current public spending”

    Another one of your detached articles where you present yourself as an “outside” observer rather than what you are which is a member of one of those “three parties”. The whole thing reads like a UKIP policy document, I don’t know why you don’t just join them.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Because he would lose his seat and have even less influence of course. Even if he retained it a few UKIP MPs change nothing. The only hope is a UKIP deal but how can anyone do a deal with ratter, Cameron who likes to describe UKIP as fruit cakes and closet racists was it? Not very sensible given they are mainly the voters he should be trying to win over.

      • Jerry
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        @Lifelogic: Blooming ‘eck! A comment from LL that I agree with entirely (well 99%), indeed better someone like our host in parliament with influence -or at least an ear or two that can be bent- than in or out of parliament without much more than an internet blog. My one point of disagreement with LL is that I don’t think any deal would be on the table unless both Cameron and Farage agree to step aside (for the good of the nation of course) because as many Tory voters seem to dislike the UKIP leader as UKIP voters dislike the Tory leader…

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          I cannot see any reason why any real Tory should dislike Fararge but them half the Tory party are pro EU, quack green, big state, career socialists – rather like their leader.

        • lifelogic
          Posted April 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          What on earth do I say, normally, that anyone could disagree with?

  6. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The not so sure shifts from left to right I believe are brought about by current circumstances and how it affects people lives. This may appear to obvious to point out, but it is certainly contrary to the The Lady’s not for turning position. I cannot remember when we have been friends with the rest of Europe, I cannot remember such an influx of immigrants with the exception of the Jewish community and a few black Africans. We coped well and enjoyed the multi ethnicity , but the UK is a totally different place now to what it was 30 years ago.. Robert Redford was interviewed on Channel 4 last night and he commented that there were too many voices . I agree with him 100%. We and they are lucky to give Europeans a better life , but we cannot support any more , so policies must naturally go to the right. It is dealing with the situation as we find it , not being too soft so that we can keep our Country powerful , productive and a force to be reckoned with. This will impact on individual lives eventually, but if we are sloppy in the way our affairs are managed , we as a society will receive negative impact.
    I tweeted last night , that I like good sense , fairness , justice therefore am I left right or centre .. what am I.?.( no disparaging comments please)

  7. Alex
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    My policy views don’t map to a simple Left-Right scale with any consistency. Neither do the views of anyone else I know. Neither is it of any use when discussing views on the EU, or views on Authoritarianism v Libertarianism. If someone wants lower rates of corporation tax, do they therefore oppose gay marriage? Ludicrous, but I suspect this kind of thinking has been the reason for some of the policy mess-ups of this government.
    The main users of this obsolete paradigm are politicians and the press; perhaps it’s time to pension it off?

  8. Barry Sheridan
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, this debate is taking place in something of a vacuum given that so many people have lost faith in politicians. What would help would be some practical grasp of the issues, a clear articulation of the need for a sensible energy policy, some realism regarding the financial industry that may get tired of being bashed and leave etc etc. Unfortunately straight talking and an honest appraisal of the situation seems beyond most modern politicians, and that comment applies right around the world. Without this voice the average Joe is liable to fall back on belief in simplistic ideas and solutions that tend to make matters worse. In short where are the leaders capable of operating in the national interest and not just their own? Leaders with some real vision and backbone to take this message out into the real world and make it understood.

  9. Acorn
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    On the rare occasions we get to vote for anything, all we get is the same old same old. Ideology has gone out of the ballot box, there is just a carpet bag full of issues that can be modified to fit the local stigmatizing agenda.

    The only option for change on the doorstep is seen as UKIP, on the single issue of getting out of the EU will mean less immigrants flooding in. The doorstep has little idea what the EU is or what it does. Human Rights stops immigrants being sent home and they blame the EU for that (not knowing the ECHR difference).

    Doorsteps understand what debt is but, do not understand that government debt is not the same as household debt. Absolutely nobody knows the difference between monetary and fiscal policy; like most MPs.

    BTW. At the macroeconomic level, in a sovereign fiat currency economy, like the UK, the Central Bank and the government Treasury; are one and the same thing. So have a read of:- “3spoken: Funding for Lending for Dummies” . (Google it). It shows how the Treasury creates money via its Debt Management Office, lends it to the central bank and then the central bank lends it on to the FLS participants. Nothing shows up on the Bank of England balance sheet, as it’s a ‘Stock Lending Transaction’. Now, is that a monetary policy event or a fiscal policy (deficit increasing) event? Fortunately, the government knows you couldn’t care less, even if you understood it.

    (They could nationalise RBS and just tell the bloody bank to lend, at X %, to any entrepreneur and small business owner that turns up at the counter. They might get a surprise how few actually turn up. A lot mouth off about not being able to get finance, but if you ask how many orders have you turned away, you get a different picture.)

    Nobody believes inflation is what the government says it is.

    GDP PS. Do you remember those crazy hazy days back in the first quarter of 2008? We waz rocking; the Pound would get you two US dollars; our GDP index was never higher at 106.3 on today’s index. Then the Anglo-Saxon financial jalopy crashed burned and skidded to rest in Q2 2009. Pound got you $1.4, GDP index 99.7.

    By the general election in Q2 2010, Alister Darling witnessed (he may even have had something to do with it) a pull back of 2.1 % on GDP back to 101.8 in 5 Quarters.

    Between Q2 2010 and Q1 2013, George Osborne managed a rise of 1.7 % in 11 Quarters. A rise from 101.8 to a staggering 103.6 of the GDP index, in nearly three years. Five years after we went into recession, we are still 2.7 % short of our last GDP peak. We need a Ctrl-Alt-Delete at the Treasury.

  10. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that we have three parties of career politicians who debate only over politically safe issues.

    That’s what the ‘centre ground’ is. Politically safe territory. Interchangeable faces, suits, policies, soundbites…

    To think that the Tory party privatised everything in the name of ‘choice’.

    So where is our choice in politics then ?

  11. Peter Davies
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I think that is one problem with UK politics at the moment. The description of “right” “left” and “centre” mean totally different things depending on who you speak to.

    Why not add a category called “common sense” so policy is conducted at the “common sense” end of the spectrum.

    Using Mrs T as an example – its been well documented that she didn’t worry too much about opinion polls, the key I think is having the ability to explain to the public in an open and honest way the reasons for certain policies quoting real facts and figures to back that up.

    One example we see from Govt is that whilst spending has been cut in certain areas, other parts of spending have substantially increased (such as overseas aid and the EU) when we know full well this type of spending is of no benefit to the UK whatsoever. In the case of O’seas aid highly questionable in most cases – cutting ones own Armed Forces to the bone whilst sending aid to countries rife with corruption and nuclear weapons – what sort of message does that send out?

    Another issue as you very well know is that when you cut public expenditure you need to balance that on the supply side of the economy with corresponding tax cuts/breaks or regulatory breaks thus giving the private sector the incentive to fill the hole – govt cant do this in many cases due to EU red tape, don’t treat the electorate like IDIOTS, govt need to tell us reasons why.

    You have clearly identified things like fuel tariffs due to highly questionable climate change laws – I’m sure if all legislation was given proper scrutiny most could be trimmed back. Its undeniable that though the UK position is better than the EZ, the Govt spends huge amounts of time and effort complying with EU regs most of which are a waste of oxygen.

    In summary I think you should forget about left and right, just use common sense, if that means legislating to ensure that UK law supersedes anything else thus upsetting our EU Masters so be it.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      “Common sense” is too obviously a current UKIP slogan (the name of Farage’s current tour) and so John will not use that phrase – he will just keep writing detached articles which indicate he supports (as far as I can see) every single UKIP policy whilst not supporting many Conservative-led government ones.

      I mention this because I believe UKIP’s best chance of getting an MP is for one of the current Conservative MPs who agree with John to defect to them.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      You are certainly right on the meaningless terms left and right wing which mean totally different things to different people.

      I just want a much smaller state sector, civil Liberties, freedom, a sound currency, sound defence, solid but fair law and order with some deterrent element and some democracy outside the EU super state. Also an energy policy based on real science and economics – all the opposite of the BBC in fact.

      Is that right or left?

    • Martyn G
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Peter, have you not seen the obit for common sense? Like:

      Common Sense has has, sadly, departed this world. Common Sense taught valuable lessons, like knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, that life isn’t always fair, that winters are usually cold, wet or snowy and summers warm or hot, that rainfall, storms and sudden changes of weather are often unpredictable, don’t spend more than you earn and adults, not children, should be in charge.

      Common Sense became depressed as more people abandoned him, taking with them all vestiges of personal discretion, responsibility and reason as their leaders encouraged them to adopt selfish and greedy ways of life, such as everyone has rights but are without any responsibility for their actions, whatever happens is always the fault of someone else and I want it now, even if I cannot afford it.

      Common Sense became acutely depressed when government decided that people were incapable of running their own lives, that it was acceptable to suppress the indigenous population of England but not immigrants, that defence of your home if attacked or burgled was a crime if you resisted, that everyone regardless of age or sex is a paedophile unless they can prove their innocence, that no one can be trusted and must be monitored by CCTV everywhere they go and if anyone with any vestige of awareness of Common Sense protested they were thought to be either a potential terrorist threat or insane.

      When Common Sense saw that typists were being compensated with cash awards for repetitive strain disorder two or three times larger that that awarded to a soldier who had lost both legs in fighting for his country and realising that no one in authority had the slightest interest or regard for Common Sense, he departed this world. His epitaph is: “Here lies Common Sense, murdered by political correctness and government action, sadly missed by all sensible people”.

  12. Robert Taggart
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    An independent (of the Union and the United Kingdom), democratic, republic of England – common ground ? – anyone ?!

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but not a Republic thank you very much. A step much too far. I support the Monarchy, it is part of the fabric which makes England what she is. You would destroy what you claim to support.

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Not destroying – creating – history !

    • APL
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Robert Tagart: “An independent (of the Union and the United Kingdom), democratic, republic of England – common ground ? – anyone ?!”

      You already have a republic, the Crown having abdicated its constitutional responsibilities within the UK, the president of the republic? President van Rompey.

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted April 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        ‘Rompey Pompey’ anybody ?!

  13. Kenneth
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I would suggest that most of us form our political opinions based on two main information sources:

    (i) what we personally witness or hear about from family, friends and colleagues

    (ii) what we see and hear on the media

    I would suggest that the mix is around 75% in favour of media influence and 25% in favour of influence from personal sources.

    With the internet, and with BBC’s insistence on living on another planet to the rest of us, gradually, other media influences – and especially the internet – are gaining traction.

    Despite the BBC’s recent relentless promotion of UKIP (I previously complained when the BBC used to side-line UKIP!), I would say that news media is still mainly on the Left, whereas our real-life experiences move us to the Right. I would say that the waning influences of the BBC over the coming months and years will move the centre ground of opinion to the Right.

    NB It’s ironic that the BBC should have such a policy change when it comes to UKIP. The relentless promotion of UKIP and the kid-gloves being used in interviews is breathtaking. I was the first to complain when it was the other way around. However, the BBC has gone far and replaced one bias with another. It’s trying too hard and proves even more so to me that it is out of touch with real life.

  14. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    John, That is all very well but perhaps odd that you should mention Change and Reform without mentioning UKIP who of course are going to do very well indeed in the forthcoming elections. If UKIP can get over the high barriers to entry in a First Past The Post system then God help Cameron. I read recently about the “inevitability” of mid Term unpopularity but there was nothing inevitable about it at all, just decision after decision wrong, indeed bizarre. I see little to give credit to the idea that the modern world is so wonderful that it should be sought after, certainly not by someone calling himself a Conservative. What exactly if anything has Cameron “conserved”. If “Times have changed” then change then back.

  15. Jerry
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Labour are divided on whether they can shift leftwards safely or not.

    Hmm, the right wing of the Tory party are asking the same of their party, can the party shift safely to the right, either now or at the next election? Many think that UKIP are of the right, rather than of the centre with a anti the EU basepoint, and thus these (grass roots) members want a return to the foot stamping years that saw the Tories almost defeated in 1992, defeated in 1997 and out of office for the next 13 years – only becoming electable once Cameron, for all his errors since, became leader.

    Thus I’m not at all sure if the electorate do just want “common ground”, judging from the last 20 years or so they seem to want politicains to occupy both common and the centre ground, hence why UKIP are on the rise (taking votes from the right, and arguably the left too) and the LDs had sufficient MPs elected in 2010 to hold the balance of power and thus be in coalition government…

    • Jon Burgess
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Jerry, what is remarkable about Cameron is that he spectacularly failed to defeat the worst and most discredited prime minister I can remember. The tide had turned against Labour at the last election; it looked as though any Tory leader could have delivered a majority government…er except metrosexual Dave and his chums.

      So I would argue Dave lost the conservatives the election, not made the conservatives electable.

      • Jerry
        Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        @Jon Burgess: “what is remarkable about Cameron is that he spectacularly failed to defeat the worst and most discredited prime minister I can remember

        I assume you must be aged under thirty-five Jon?! I can remember far worse, in my opinion both Heath’s and Callaghan’s governments were far higher on that score than Brown…

        But surely, by the fact that Cameron could not win a clear majority reinforces my point about the the electorate not wanting politics to swing to either left or right (never mind swing in any extreme way), this being why official UKIP policy are also very much of the centre – even if some candidates, judging from press reports, might not be. 🙁

        • Jerry
          Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Oh and just to add, re Jon Burgess’s last sentence, he seems to forget that the Tories were out of government for 13 years, whilst it is hardly loosing the election if Cameron has become the PM and the party he leads are the senior party within the coalition – me thinks Mr Burgess does protests a little to much, now, Mr Brown back in No.10 would have been loosing the election!…

          • Jon Burgess
            Posted April 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

            I’m certainly older than 35, but thanks anyway!

            From what I can remember, 2010 felt a bit like 1979 – people were sick of Labour and Cameron could and should have won it outright, but the conservative campaign he led somehow failed to galvanise enough support. Imagine the hits they should have landed on Labour’s abysmal economic record – all I can remember is I agree with Nick and some nebulous nonsense about the big society.

            As it happens, no-one won and the Lib Dems held the balance of power – something that probably played into Cameron’s plans of ruthlessly isolating and marginalising the tory right and moving the conservatives to the left.

            Personally, I’d rather Labour had won, as they would have had to face up to the mess they’d made, probably making things worse and making themselves unelectable for decades. As it stands, they are getting back in next time, having learned nothing and offered nothing in terms of coherent policy.

  16. A.Sedgwick
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    This was the case before Nigel Farage came on the scene. He was again the star performer last night on QT – he was the only reason I watched it and even then had to restrain myself from switching off at regular intervals. Until his arrival none of the above was the only realistic option for most (unless you are fortunate to have an MP of the calibre of our host). The only election Farage is likely to win perversely is for the European Parliament, where again perversely we have a telling voting system as opposed to the current marginal dominated method aka FPTP. He is changing Conservative policy and if he gets rid of Cameron and the wretched coalition before 2015 it will be a very noteworthy achievement.

  17. waramess
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Politics was always a corrupt profession; the efforts to win power by any means possible is something of a joke. Was it Groucho Marx who said “those are my principles, if you don’t like them I have others”?

    Why is it that Conservative politicians who don’t know what their party stands for expect their followers to understand? It should not be a great surprise that Cameron failed to win a substantial majority over the derided Brown when a large percentage of traditional Conservative followers feel that the drift to the centre (wherever that might be) left them feeling dis-enfranchised?

    Cameron himself, a Prime Minister that openly admitted his only claim to the position was that he thought he would make a good Prime Miinister, is typical of the type that have infiltrated the party and for whom the only goal is to win the next election.

    Cometh the hour cometh the man. Little surprise that UKIP are making such inroads.

  18. Leslie Singleton
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    John, Back on one of my favourite subjects, I just read that (despite prediction to the contrary but let that pass) the unusually cold weather did not reduce Q1 GDP because, it was said, more oil and gas was pumped to keep us warm, increasing GDP. Does that make sense? If so, surely all we would have to do to increase GDP is leave our windows and doors wide open and turn up the heat??

  19. Bert Young
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I sincerely trust that the new Johnson brother will be able to convince the centre that the stance so far adopted by the conservatives is not sufficiently anti Europe . Rumour has it he is a bit of a Europhile and not a toughie like his brother . If he does represent more of a “shift to the right” , then I hope his appointment with others , is not an attempt to buy them off !

  20. behindthefrogs
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    There are local elections next week. We are not interested in which paries are left, right or centre of which others. What I want to see or hear is a party that has a policy for the local elections that will cause me to vote for them.

    Europe is irrelevant to local elections as are most of the other policies the parties are putting forward. My vote will be determined by two things;

    1) What the party intends to do about local isues that concern me.
    2) What the party is promoting as its policy for local councillors.

    Most parties fail to address either in the leaflets dropping through my letter box. Any party that insists on promoting national and international issues that are not relevant to a local election mainly to the exclusion of local issues will not get my vote.

  21. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “Is it being in the centre to say there should be no changes to the current immigration policy, or do you have to move sharply in the direction of less inward migration to be in the centre of the public’s view?”

    If you want to find out the centre of the public’s view on immigration you have to offer a choice of annual maximum limits and calculate the median view, ie the annual limit which half of them think would be too high and the other half think would be too low.

    You can’t take the mean or average view, because it would only need one idiot to say “no limit” and the mean would also be “no limit”.

    In August 2006 the Sunday Times commissioned this Ipsos MORI poll:

    http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/391/Ipsos-MORI-Political-Survey-August.aspx

    and Q6 asked whether the government should set an annual limit on immigration, and if so what that limit should be.

    77% of respondents said there should be an annual limit, and about a third of that 77% were prepared to choose one of the suggested ranges, and among them the median view was only about 10,000 a year.

    (Note that because a small minority chose “1 million +” the mean came out at 1,024,075, while for some unstated reason those who chose “Zero” were excluded from the pollster’s calculation of the median.)

    A much more recent YouGov poll was mentioned here:

    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2013/03/there-is-no-left-and-right-expect-in-political-imagination.html

    and there the median view was that the maximum allowed level of immigration should be about 70,000 a year.

  22. Ralph Musgrave
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    “The massive sums being created and used in Quantitative Easing programmes evoke no critical response from any of the three parties.” No I’m sure they don’t: senior politicians and senior bankers attend the same cocktail parties. Stuffing the pockets of your cocktail party mates with public money oils the wheels at those parties (though I’m sure JR is an honorable exception there).

  23. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Oh, look:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10020486/Brussels-seeks-to-make-it-easier-for-EU-migrants-to-move-to-Britain.html

    “Brussels seeks to ‘make it easier’ for EU migrants to move to Britain”

  24. forthurst
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “The people want the politicians to occupy the common ground”

    …but are the politicians listening? Do the politicians themselves actually control ‘acceptable’ political discourse in this country or has that been hijacked by an internal enemy that believes itself uniquely qualified to define the limits of ‘acceptable’ thought, enabling them to multiculturalise England to the point that the English have become practically non-existent in many parts of the country which is, uniquely, their own, while at the same time locking up anyone who points a finger at them, or those they have imported, as undesirables?

    Most opinion surveys are conducted by those who wish to receive a response which confirms their own prejudices. e.g. the owner of the website for which this piece was originally written conducted a survey which clearly was attempting to verify that the EU was not by any means the most important political issue to voters; of course, most of the greater concerns were themselves direct consequences of our membership of the EU and its associated centres of authority over us. Generally, opinion surveys on the EU are of the form, “Do you wish to remain part of a marketplace with 300m participants providing 40% of our trade, or would you wish us to become excluded? Never in the form, “do you wish our borders to remain open to anyone who wishes to come here from the EU, including any who may earn that right as a consequence of such countries as Turkey becoming members, in the future?” The question has to be asked as to why in order trade with Europe we are obliged to have our laws created by them and allow them full access to our welfare state?

    A discussion on the locus of the ‘common ground’, would best be preceded by the repeal of all laws which constrain the right to free speech. We already had laws restricting the right to incite violence; remarkably the newer laws are those which are enforced but not generally the latter.

  25. uanime5
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    There are many who now run populist campaigns to blame bankers for the crisis, to demand more money from the rich to pay the bills, and to attack large companies for planning their affairs to minimise tax legally.

    Well the banks did cause the 2008 financial crisis, there’s no point in trying to get more money from the poor (they’re poor because they don’t have much money), and it’s also legal to criticise companies who abuse tax avoidance laws.

    The debate over public spending is undertaken in a fog of statistical ignorance by most in the three parties. Many seem to assume public spending is being cut, when the figures show clearly that so far under the Coalition current public spending overall has risen substantially in cash terms and a little in real terms.

    That’s because certain politicians claim that austerity is vital because it gives them an excuse to cut all the parts of the public sector they don’t like. I can’t recall a minister ever saying that they’ve failed to make cuts or that public spending is rising.

    Also schools are switching from GCSEs to IGCSEs because the grades of the latter can’t be changed by the regulators for political reasons.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/schools-ditching-gcses-for-olevels-8588773.html

  26. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    The Conservative Party must make a clear distinction between what the Coalition will do before the 2015 election and what a Conservative Government will do after the election. We need to make clear that the LibDems are inhibiting us, particularly on matters European. Allied to this, we must purge the Conservative candidates list of all pro (Federal) European MPs. We cannot afford the trumpet to give forth an uncertain sound.

    In wanting more QE, all 3 parties are wrong, dead wrong.

  27. Max Dunbar
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Probably quite hard to define the centre ground when all three main parties “perch close to each other”. It ceases to exist in fact, as it would be difficult to have any sort of datum by which comparisons can be made. We then have something else.
    Hitler did not appeal to the centre ground and his stated aim, prior to success at the polls, was to wipe out all opposition parties. That seemed to go down very well with the electorate at the time. Was that an appeal to the common ground?

    • uanime5
      Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Hitler’s policy of being anti-communist and blaming the Jews for everything initially wasn’t popular. It wasn’t until the German economy was ruined after the 1929 Stock Market crash that people were willing to vote for extremist parties. Hitler was able to benefit from the popularity of the Communists because the wealthy were willing to give money to any anti-Communist party. He also benefited from the general poverty by giving the unemployed food, shelter, and scapegoats. Given that Hitler’s popularity was waning in 1932 and if he hadn’t been made Chancellor in 1933 he would have faded into history.

      So Hitler’s appeal was mainly due to being in the right place at the right time.

  28. Cheshire Girl
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I think the public is turned off politics because some politicians have been untrustworthy and all are now being tarred with the same brush, so to speak. So many governments , including this one, don’t seem to notice what is staring them in the face. The membership of the Conservative Party has reduced by half, and the government seems unable or unwilling to see why this has happened. Unfortunately many of those who left are the ones who work tirelessly for the party, but they felt that their concerns were being ignored. If they complained they were too often dismissed as bigots or nimbys when they had perfectly valid concerns. If the government doesn’t connect more with its grassroots I don’t see any hope for them in the next election. They need to get out more and see how ordinary people live, or soon it may be too late!

  29. Vanessa
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I asked someone at the BBC where this fixation with “centre ground” came from. He told me that Tony Bliar had coined it because he was desperate to be elected and knew that the middle classes would never vote for the old Labour party which he needed if he was to get to No.10. So he got rid of Clause 4 (or whatever it was) and moved Labour much closer to centre policies and Conservatives.
    The idotic result of that is that Dave – heir to Bliar still talks of the “centre ground” when most in this country are conservative with a little c – meaning gently right wing. So this obssession with “left centre ground” as it should be called is disenfranchising the majority of tory voters – hence no majority in 2010. When will he learn he is NOT conservative.

  30. zorro
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I think that the ‘common ground’ argument is the best way to achieve the highest number of votes. Look at how many people voted for Thatcher compared to PMs since then. I believe that a lot of ‘conservative’ minded people are not, and have not been voting……

    zorro

  31. Elliot Kane
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    “The public would like the Government to break out onto the common ground, away from the so called centre ground. They want change and reform. They do not like large build ups in public debt, do want a new relationship with the EU, and do think welfare reform of the right kind is a priority.”

    I could not possibly agree more, John. That’s exactly what most people outside of the government/public sector want, IMO.

    Proper spending cuts, cheaper energy, less taxes and far less red tape on business are all things the public would support, I think.

    What no major party seems able to grasp is that the people of Britain do not exist solely to pay for their vanity projects.

    There are good and capable MPs, such as yourself, but the parties themselves seem to be drowning in ineptitude.

    It’s very sad, and very bad for Britain.

  32. Derek W
    Posted April 27, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I have never been a proponent of proportional representation for many reasons.Yet we have beggars muddle when we have our so called well tried system.If we had PR perhaps the cosy life of our two party system might be upset a bit.The LibDems are simply local council politicians.Let us have a few communistic and fascistic parties in parliament with a few representives of the upset and disgusted citizens of thei country and see if parliament may represent the people who wish to live a reasonable life.

  • 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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