It’s not good enough for the Tories to pinch Labour policies, says Simon Heffer. They must appeal to the people on the economy, education, drugs, immigration and Europe
A shadow minister said to me last week, ‘We might have a more credible leader now, but we have less credible policies.’ We were talking after the Tories’ announcement on health care — throw more money at the problem — had been followed by the Labour policy — throw more money at the problem. With the Tories still battered after the Euro-elections, and many of their notional supporters still sceptical about them, the aping by the opposition of what the government seeks to do is causing despair. Everyone assumes the election will be next May or June. Whether it is or not, there is no time to be lost in making serious policy.
A fortnight ago, Peter Oborne noted the rise of the ‘Notting Hill Tories’. This collection of soi-disant and largely self-regarding ‘intellectuals’ comprising MPs and journalists who are all friends of each other is now said to influence Tory policy, not least because of the inclusion in this group of Rachel Whetstone, Mr Howard’s right-hand woman. Given that what they, in their pragmatic and liberal way, seem to understand of the disillusioned Tory core vote, God help the party if that is true. I don’t blame Mr Howard for feeling cross with the ‘cranks, gadflies and extremists’ who deserted his party for Ukip and who take a more robustly traditional view of conservatism than the modernisers. However, he needs their votes, and so had better swallow his pride and start appealing to them, and recognise that little coming out of the salons of Notting Hill is likely to appeal in the slightest to non-metropolitan punters.
The battleground of the next election will be taxation, the public services, immigration and law and order.