Following on from the 50p rate cut in March’s Budget, the Conservatives economic narrative has continued to become increasingly supply-side focused in the week that the controversial Beecroft report has eventually been released. Well documented is the growing strength of Cameron’s backbenchers and inspired by the Beecroft report, radical overhauls of business regulation have now become a key issue on their agenda.
This presents a problem for Cameron, as the Conservative’s messaging on the economy remains pivotal to their election hopes. Their consistently positive polling on economic issues has surely been of solace for many Tory strategists alarmed by the recent mid-term poll plunge. On issues such as the deficit and economic competence the Conservatives are still perceived as being superior to Labour. Yet while messages such as, ‘You can’t reduce the debt by adding to the debt’ – continue to resonate strongly, the Tories are perhaps not hitting home so hard in the debate on how Britain should now seek to achieve economic growth.
Whatever the potential economic merits of pursuing some supply-side reform as a means of achieving growth, the clear problem from a political communications point of view with placing such an agenda at the forefront of the Government’s economic messaging is that such technocratic and hard-hearted policies often do not sit well with many voters. Messages on making it easier to sack people are perhaps unsurprisingly not a great hit with a majority of the electorate. Moreover, the Beecroft report has been released against a backdrop of the 50p cut which has already done serious damage to the Tories, and left them wide open to the charge that they are the party of the rich. Cameron’s support this week for the Beecroft report is threatening to further squander hard-earned political capital.
Cameron must surely now be beginning to realise that unless he gets his modernisation agenda back on track, his increasingly vociferous backbenchers could potentially lead him to defeat at the next election. The extent to which Ed Miliband made the ‘nasty party’ line stick at yesterdays PMQs must surely alarm even the most optimistic of Tory strategists.
With the launch of a report today by moderniser Damian Collins MP entitled “The Growth Factory”
This report is timely because as George Freeman MP wrote recently in an article here, there is now increasing cross-party consensus that Britain needs a modern industrial policy fit for the 21st century. Being the largest party in power, the Conservatives are by default afforded the best position to seize on this agenda.
By contrast, if Cameron continues to allow his party to emphasise the more unfeeling supply-side measures as the main plank of economic their agenda then they will be continued to be perceived as having gone back to their ‘nasty’ ways. This will only serve to continue to bolster the Labour Party’s chances at the next election.