Conservatives should break free of Labour spin

One of Labour’s spin successes in recent years has been to shape misconceptions of the Conservatives. The press and public have been fed the line that Conservatives are the ugly ducklings. It is time to reveal that, on the contrary, they can be the swans.

The ferocious spin has been relentless. Anyone who believes, as I do, that more decisions should be taken democratically here in the UK and fewer bureaucratically in Bruswsels, is branded as extreme – even though voices on the left and of no particular leaning think the same.

Anyone who believes as I do there ought to be better rewards for hard work and thrift, and think tax revenues would be bigger if we set lower rates of tax, is also branded right wing. We are deliberately said to favour cuts in schools and hospitals, despite our view that our approach would expand the revenues, and our constant reminder that we did not come into politics to sack teachers or nurses.

Anyone who questions the wisdom of some new set of regulations on the grounds that they might not work, is said to wish the harm the regulations purport to be against. I have been accused of single handedly causing the problems in banking owing to my belief in deregulation, despite writing a report saying they needed to regulate cash and capital more strongly and intelligently than they managed.

So it is for the Conservative party as a whole. Labour’s surveillance society, its poltically correct agenda, its belief that every problem can be solved by some combination of new regulation and public spending has been the zeitgeist for too long. Too many interviewers conduct interviews from the proposition that all public spending is good and more is better. They ask questions based on the assumption that laws and rules stop bad behaviour, and that if you question their efficiacy you condone it.

Labour tries to set the agenda to stop the Conservatives speaking well on tax, on Europe, on social policy and on immigration. It is time to throw off this constraint, and to change the terms of the debate.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

23 Comments

  1. Conservative ad man
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Spot on analysis.

    The depressing thing is that it's perfectly possible and relatively easy to change the way we're perceived by the media – provided every Conservative MP understands how Labour spin has perverted the narrative and is prepared to close down every example of it, forcefully, whenever it appears during their media interviews.

    Sadly, much of our 'modernisation' agenda has implicitly accepted Labour's false analysis.

    Every time the public hears us being defensive, we lose a little more.

  2. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    With retail petrol prices approaching record highs, one might wonder why only government spending is apparently "stimulus" whereas taking ever more from people in the form of petrol duty, is not some form of de-stimulus?

    Here is a popular policy if ever I heard it ~ no increase in petrol taxes in the next parliament ~ period. Any politician who can't make this pledge is effectively saying he does not believe petrol taxes are high enough!

  3. Norman
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I do have sympathy with the position the Conservative leadership are in. It's easy to sit on the sidelines and moan not conservative enough, too much spin and not enough substance, etc. but the fact is that most media outlets push a liberal-left message and give undue air time to that view without allowing a proper response.

    One 'news' report I heard about two weeks ago that had me fuming was a main item at 10 past 7 that ran for 10 minutes and was a union representative saying that Conservative's wanted to cut front line spending by 30%. The BBC interviewer simply let it ride and the interview ended eventually and then moved on to next story and the impression one was left with was that if Conservatives won the election we'd have 30% less teachers, police, etc.

    As you say, anyone who raises anything to the right of the spectrum is immediately branded a right wing extremist with all the odious undertones that carries. The socialists certainly have done a good job on that front.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I agree with your comments John, but exactly how are the Conservatives going to get their idea's across to the media when the people who are in charge of Party publicity have failed so miserably so far.

    The big problem is that we do not have enough knowledgeable interviewers in the media, we have PRESENTERS, such people are good at presenting, but not so knowledgable on a forensic interview on a specialist subject.

    Labour spin and effective soundbites therefore sound good to them.

    I do not recall Maggies Bernard having a problem getting his (The Conservatives) points across in years gone by.

  5. Russell James
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Most of the problems facing the conservatives are due to biassed news and political shows by the BBC although Sky has been at it for the past few months as well.
    Labour MP's are allowed to answer questions with totally irrelevant answers, usually lying about conservative policy. Conservative MP's are constantly interrupted by either the interviewer and/or the Labour MP shouting them down. The media is a disgrace.
    If the Conservatives really want to win this election they need to hammer home all the dreadful mistakes that Brown & Labour have made and more importantly change their mind and say that due to overwhelming demands from their members, they will now have an EU referendum after the election, where the people will be able to vote for opting out, staying as we are or returning to the original entry conditions i.e. The Common Market!

  6. Grumpy Optimist
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Good luck

  7. Cedric Talbot
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Well go on John, do it!
    Only a few weeks to an election and influential members of the Conservative party like you are only just waking up to the torrent of biased nonsense pouring out of Labour and its acolytes in the BBC, and the arts and education generally.
    Look at Cameron's Lewisham session with apprentices in the audience going on about Thatcher. Isn't it 20 years since she was in power? Haven't Labour been in power and creating this mess for 13 years?
    Why have you allowed them to get away with this brainwashing until now?

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      I found the one young man most amusing because by the look of him he could hardly have been born when Lady Thatcher left office.

  8. Kevin Peat
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Nail, hit and head spring to mind.

    There is also the issue of over-representation of minority opinion in the broadcast media. This is how rule by majority and common sense has been overturned.

    There is also the issue of satirical comedy – a potent weapon in politics which seems to be the preserve of the sneering Left in Britain. Where are the Nu Labour versions of The Spitting Image et al which were the nemesis of the Thatcher Govt ?

    We now rely on independant bloggers to do this work for us. Professional satirists have ample material with which to tear Labourites to shreds – it seems that their work is not being commissioned by the luvvies.

  9. Sally C.
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    'Too many interviewers conduct interviews from the proposition that all public spending is good and more is better.'

    You are right and the question is why do they think this? The easy answer would be to say that they are all Keynesians but I think that is crediting them with too much intelligence. Most journalists, politicians and civil servants have never studied economics, but they seem to know the GDP equation which is as follows:
    GDP = C (household consumption) + I (investment) + G (government consumption) + X – M (exports minus imports)

    There are two aspects of this equation that are fundamentally wrong. The first is G. Including government consumption as a positive figure in the GDP equation leads stupid people to think that if G can be increased, GDP will go up and everything will be fine.

    If it 's there, in the equation, in black and white, it must be true.

    Unfortunately, it isn't. This is because G has to be financed by subtracting wealth from the private sector which is represented by the rest of the equation. So, IMHO, the GDP equation should not include G at all.

    The second problem with the GDP equation, is the C figure. This is derived by the following equation:

    Y = C + S

    where Y = household income, C = household consumption and
    S = household saving

    This equation is then substituted into the GDP equation as follows:

    GDP = Y – S ( to give C) + I + G + ( X – M)

    The GDP equation is wrongly based on measuring consumption instead of total wealth created in the economy in any given year. The equation wrongly subtracts the savings generated by the private sector in any given year, and this in turn leads stupid people to believe that savings are bad. As Anatole Kaletsky entitled his article of a year ago, 'Punish savers and make them spend' !!!

    The GDP equation is in drastic need of an overhaul.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 17, 2010 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      "This is because G has to be financed by subtracting wealth from the private sector"

      Except the bit they borrowed, which probably was about equal to 'growth' right through the noughties.

      • Sally C.
        Posted March 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely right – I can't help feeling that the GDP equation alone may be to blame for all the out-of-control government spending around the world. It gives all governments, but particularly socialist leaning regimes, the perfect excuse to go on a spending binge.

  10. Freeborn John
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you. But in addition i feel the Conservative party need to actually believe they have some winning ideas of their own (beyond the agenda set by others) and are capable of articulating them. You do it on your blog, but the impression remains of a policy-free Tory front bench (with the exception of Michael Grove, who seems to have come up with fresh ideas re: education) that hopes they can keep quiet and power will land in their lap.

    Politics should be a contest of ideas, not a game of hide and seek.

  11. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Yes, to be free of Labour spin, we need to get our message across. We need to do that in places where Labour Party spokesmen can not interrupt. So Parliament is of limited use, and so are televised interviews and debates.

    What will help are:
    (1) Major set piece speeches to a friendly audience, with the text handed out in advance to the media; and
    (2) Well argued pamphlets for downloading, making use of modern graphics, on particular topics.

    I know that many of you will be annoyed by my raising the name of Enoch Powell again, because of The Rage of Party, but he was spectacularly good at opposition, and never took any prisoners. He decisively influenced the results of the 1970 and February 1974 elections.

    As an example of (1), in 1970 Harold wilson was trying to claim credit for a balance of payments surplus and to blame others for inflation. Not so, said Enoch, the balance of payments is a matter of the exchange rate, and inflation is generated by government alone.

    An example of (2) would be a demolition of Labour's economic record and its financial plans for the next partliament. Want any help, John?

    This blog site is helpful, but I get the feeling that we are not getting sufficient responses from women and young people.

  12. David B
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    The current government appear to believe that they are right and that anyone who disagree with them are therefore wrong and have no legitimate counter policy.

  13. NeilMc
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely correct John. The left have set the language by which all discourse is judged, via political correctness. I'm sure you know precisely what that really is, but most people have never heard of Cultural Marxism, which is what PC actually is.

    Developed by marxists to undermine and destroy our culture and sociaty, and originally to deliver us to the soviet union.

    Until such time as we develop a language on the right that does not sound rabid and of the night when weighed against the 'obvious niceness' of the left, the right will always lose as the message of investing in public services always sounds 'kind and caring', whilst 'living within your means' sounds old fashioned and designed to exclude the poor.

    Perhaps Lord Ashcrofts vacant desk in CCHQ could be staffed by a team who will be devoted to such a task.

  14. Ken Adams
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Yes quite right, but is in not a bit late to be making this plea, should it not have been made to the Conservative leadership before they embarked on the process of “detoxifying” the party in order to make it more acceptable to the likes of the BBC and fellow travellers.

  15. Jmaes Clover
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the Conservative leadership has more or less agreed that the priorities of the Socialists are indisputable, and so are in difficulties from the word go. They are anxious to "ring-fence" the usual sacred cows, and so are seen as socialist in theory, but not as genuine as the real thing.
    An example might be Cameron's desire to make Britain the "most family friendly country in Europe." This, after years of Nulabour giveaways to familes and parents which have made those of us who do not have families feel worse than second class citizens.
    I used to support a Conservative party that encouraged individual endeavour and not State support for those in favour.

  16. Uri
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Spot on, I hope it was addressed to your leadership. Anyway, it's too late for that now, Dave has said enough in all the areas you mentioned for it to be clear to Conservatives that he isn't one of us.

    Unfortunately, any success he does get at the polls will be the death knell for Conservative politics in this country. So I as a Conservative am praying for a hung parliament as it should see the end of Dave and a chance for real Conservatives such as yourself to speak. Shame the cure has to be so drastic but what's the choice?

    Uri

  17. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Given all the money your party spends on advisers and press officers you must wonder if it is well spent. I have long argued that you are failing to communicate your case and also failing to counter Labour spin. If you haven't been able to do it after all this time what hope is there that you can change before the election?

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Brian

      Agreed, it not difficult is it.

      Start by listing ALL of the tax rises in the last 13 years.
      Then list all the financial comparisons with 1997.
      Then list other items
      Balance of payments
      Unemployment
      Money spent on Benefits
      Immigration Numbers,
      Personal freedom
      Number of new laws.
      Power to the EU
      Power of the State
      Plus many many more topics.

      Expose the spin and lies for what they are.

      In other words, attack the record of the most Communist Government in history

  18. kevinH
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Will your fellow Conservatives be brave enough to pursue this strategy?

    It doesn't fit into sound-byte structures that many people assume you need to dumb down to in order to communicate through our media.

    It reminds me of part of the documentary the BBC did on Obama – he said that he wanted to get his message out there and if people agreed with it they would vote for him, if not they wouldn't – that is democracy.

    It seems at the moment that the Conservatives don't believe in this philosophy and believe more in wanting to win the election by pandering to the masses. Am I being unfair?

  19. TheE17Tory
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Spot on!

  • 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.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page