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Wednesday, September 05, 2012 

On the road to nowhere.

I can't say that Hopi Sen is someone I always find myself in agreement with, but his analysis of the state of the Tories after the reshuffle is pretty much spot on. It has to be kept in mind that to a ridiculous extent David Cameron and George Osborne based their rebranding of the Conservatives on that process Labour went through after the death of John Smith, with the difference being that they never followed all the way through. Cameron may have hugged huskies etc, but there was no Clause 4 moment. More to the point, despite many believing that once in office New Labour would return to the left, the opposite was the case; Tony Blair repeatedly picked fights with his own party, effectively appointed the Sun newspaper as home secretary and after 9/11 was in cahoots with the most right-wing US administration in history.

With the Tories, Cameron's claim to be a liberal Conservative hasn't been borne out. True, with Ken Clarke as justice secretary the party hasn't been anywhere near as draconian on law and order as their manifesto suggested they would be, but this is about the only area in which this has been the case. Policies which featured in neither the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos, such as the NHS reforms and "free" schools were implemented almost immediately. Cameron spoke often of the need to mend our "broken society", and yet with the exception of in the aftermath of the riots, barely a squeak has been heard about it since. Indeed, the measures taken by the coalition have if anything widened the gaps: the cuts to welfare and the failure to get the economy moving have helped towards Save the Children today launching its first campaign on child poverty in this country. Rather than waiting for proper evidence on the 50p top rate of tax, George Osborne abolished it at almost the first opportunity.

As hopeless as Sayeeda Warsi was, bless her, when she argued her case for why she should stay as party co-chairman she put her finger on exactly who the Conservatives need to appeal to if they're ever going to win a majority, let alone win one in 2015:

If you look at the demographics, at where we need to be at the next election, we need more people in the North voting for us, more of what they call here 'blue collar’ workers and I call the white working class. We need more people from urban areas voting for us, more people who are not white and more women.

That she went on to describe herself as working class we'll gloss over, as her main point is backed up by Lord Ashcroft's studies for the party. Everything that the Conservatives have done so far is almost the exact opposite of what they need to be doing to appeal to those voters. Some will probably find the prospect of Chris Grayling at justice more appealing than the liberal Ken Clarke, but other than that the reshuffle will have said absolutely nothing to them whatsoever. At prime minister's questions today David Cameron was once again bested by Ed Miliband, who was left relying on a piece of Daily Mail fluff about Miliband supposedly having to always buy the coffee for the other Ed. "Not very assertive and butch of the leader of the opposition, is it?", to loud laughter from Miliband. Quite apart from the irony of Cameron suggesting someone else is a bit submissive and effeminate, it was but a distraction from his fundamental failure to explain where growth is going to come from. His biggest failure is to be unable to decide what he and his party are fundamentally for other than cutting the deficit, something that without growth they can't do. And without such leadership, there's even less chance those needed voters will come into the fold in 2015.

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