Monday, August 28, 2006

Why Cameron can't win

While not front-page news, the Taxpayer Alliance poll does tell us something about why the Tories can't win elections.

Tax cuts are important. Voters like tax cuts. Throughout history, centre-right parties have won elections by promising to cut taxes. This is the one centre-right talking point that someone like Blair can't steal - because the core purpose of the Labour Party is to "invest" money in public services.

The most important issues that voters answering a right-wing push poll come up with are crime, school violence (i.e. crime), the effects of the benefits system (i.e. crime), and taxes. Despite the sound and fury it generates, crime is not a partisan issue. All three parties accept the basic principles of common-sense crime policy: that crime is bad; that crime is caused by criminals, who are bad; that prison is a very expensive way of keeping bad people off the streets; and that policing can prevent crime, which is good. Talking about the other pet issues of social conservatives is a vote-loser (the median voter may agree with the Tories about Europe, but thinks that only wierdos talk about it all the time). So all a right-wing party has left is tax cuts.

The British Conservative Party can't credibly promise tax cuts. The poll confirms that nobody would believe them. And they can't change this perception by talking about how they would pay for tax cuts, because that would mean proposing to cut the good stuff the government does.

There is no earthly point in a centre-right party that does not propose tax cuts. Electing a metrosexual icon as your party leader isn't going to help - particularly if he is the former spin doctor of one of the country's great tax-increasing Chancellors.

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