Fraser Nelson

In response to CoffeeHousers

In response to CoffeeHousers
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CoffeeHousers have left some characteristically forthright and thoughtful comments on the blog about my Keith Joseph lecture, and I thought I’d answer them in a post.  

Tiberius says that I don’t mention voters very much – I talk only about ideas. The voters have been taught Labour ideas: isn’t this something the Tories have to deal with? First, I firmly believe that the public are open to persuasion, open to new ideas having seen the collapse of Labour’s ideas. But, in my lecture (full text here), I do mention voters quite a lot. As Keith Joseph put it, it is folly to seek the ‘middle ground’ between political parties, and Conservatives should seek the ‘common ground’ which they share with the punters.  

Michael M says it would be madness to advocate NHS cuts before an election. But there’s not a binary choice between calling for NHS cuts and protecting its spending. I’d encourage Osborne to ask for a doctor’s mandate: saying ‘this country is bust, and I’ll have to fix it.” The promises he has made so far have already hideously contorted his spending review along lines set by Brown.  

DavidDP suggests I’m on a quest for some ideological purity. I’m not: just a little more intellectual honesty. The public have to get a sense of ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?” The more the Tories incorporate Labour ideas, the harder it is to answer that question – and the more opinion polls fall.  

Bloody Bill says that Cameron’s style has done wonders to decontaminate the brand. I agree, and salute Cameron for the incredible achievement – one accomplished in the face of many enemies on the right. But the game changed in 2007 – and so, now, should his strategy.  He has won the right to be heard. He needs to focus more on what he will say.  

TimJ says Thatcher hid a lot of her mission. I’d say she rolled it out, as much as she dared, and when Labour split she rolled it out a lot faster – with privatisation etc.  

Fitalass says there is a wider point to the Tory strategy, that I have not discerned. I do hope so. And why get into a spat over 50p? It depends if you’re thinking about the country, or the people on the other side of the bench at PMQs. Again, as with the NHS, I’d have avoided any pledge on 50p tax – saying I’d see, in government, if it was really going to raise money. Myners admitted the other day that it looks like it won’t. The Tories needlessly rushed the other way, with Hammond hailing it as a “solidarity tax”. In Howe’s 1979 Budget, when he cut the top rate of tax, he had this to say: "We have over the years spent far too much time and effort trying to 'level down'. This is no good to anybody. It is much more important to have a successful and prosperous society, and we cannot have a successful and prosperous society without successful and prosperous individuals." This is precisely the Tory spirit. It’s a worldview, a creed.             

John points out that it’s easy, as a journalist, to criticise – I don’t have to deal with the harsh reality of being elected. He’s exactly right. But I don’t say Cameron should change his mind on a dozen issues. The damage is done now. I’d just like him not to adopt any more Labour policy, or Labour advisers. I’d quite like some change.  

Yosemite Sam suggests I am very right wing. This is untrue. I’m fair and balanced.