I’m terrified at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. His policies would trash the economy. He has sided with Britain’s enemies, and honoured the deaths of terrorists. He has enabled anti-semitism in the Labour party. But whoever leads the Conservative Party at the time of the next election will need to have something more to say than: ‘I’m not Jeremy Corbyn’.
I’ve watched the anti-semitism scandal unfold with dismay. It shocks and saddens me that a leader of a political party in the UK commemorated the deaths of terrorists who plotted to kill innocent Israelis for the crime of being Jewish.
And yet even a party led by a terrorist sympathiser is outperforming the Conservatives in the polls. How on earth can this possible? Are the 39 per cent of Brits who would vote Labour tomorrow endorsing Corbyn’s decision to lay a wreath at the grave of terrorists, or his failure to stand up to anti-semites in his party? Or are these negative stories about him just not cutting through?
I’m concerned that the reason Labour are ahead in the polls – and are likely to remain so despite recent events – is because people switch off when they hear negative stories about Corbyn, in the same way that Americans ignored Hillary Clinton’s warnings about Trump. Come the next election, the Conservatives could appear to have ‘cried wolf’ too many times, with so much time and energy being spent on scare stories about Corbyn.
Yes, he has behaved disgracefully, and it’s entirely right to point this out. But trashing Corbyn isn’t drawing voters to the Conservative Party. It didn’t work at the last general election; and it didn’t work for Hillary Clinton. Attacking the man – as opposed to his ideas – is not a winning strategy.
People who are considering voting Labour will look around to see what else is on offer. And if all they see from the Conservatives is repeated attack ads, then why would they shift their support?
The Conservative Party has no God-given right to exist nor to remain in government. Justifying its existence will require more than criticisms of the opposition. MPs, activists and supporters should spend their efforts giving people a reason to support a future Conservative government.
Putting aside the question of leadership – which needs to be addressed – the Conservatives need to restore trust with Brexit voters. It’s not too late for the Prime Minister to revert to the vision set out in her Lancaster House speech. Voters were told at the last election that only a Conservative Government would deliver a clean break from the EU, restoring decision making powers on laws, borders, money and trade. Delivering this will be crucial, as well as setting out a vision for what to do with Britain’s new-found independence.
The cost of living should take centre stage in the Conservative Party’s vision. Of course Conservatives can boast about creating the conditions for a steadily growing economy and record employment, but these messages are lost on those who are struggling with less disposable income at the end of the month, regardless of how hard they work. Brits are faced with the highest tax burden in 49 years, and those on lower incomes pay the highest proportion of their earnings in tax. Lowering income tax for all earners would make a huge, tangible impact on people’s paychecks, with more money in their pockets to spend on life’s necessities.
Housing is undoubtedly the biggest cost of living for most families in Britain, with families spending three times as much on housing as they were 50 years ago (as a percentage of income). Relaxing planning restrictions and allowing developers to build in areas where there is the most demand for housing – including on the green belt – would radically increase the number of homes being built in this country. Getting more homes built is the only long term solution to Britain’s housing crisis. Not only would this mean more families could afford to buy their own home, but it could also make renting a home or apartment less expensive.
A focus on delivering the Brexit that people voted for, and addressing the high cost of living and housing, would do more for the Conservative Party’s popularity than criticisms of the opposition.