Last year’s Scrap of the Year was utterly blue-on-blue: the Parliamentary Party versus the Tory leadership. But this year’s, as chosen by about 800 Conservative members who took our Christmas survey, is definitely blue-on-red:
- David Cameron and George Osborne versus Ed Balls: 40.8 per cent.
- Zac Goldsmith versus anyone advocating a third runway at Heathrow: 18.6 per cent.
- The civil service versus ministers: 16 per cent.
- Michael Gove versus MPs who voted against intervention in Syria: 12.8 per cent.
- Bill Cash versus Nigel Farage: 8.5 per cent.
This reflects the political effects of economic growth: Cameron and Osborne are not only in a stronger position within their own party, but also against Balls. And they’ve exploited that position ruthlessly, goading the shadow chancellor at every available opportunity – including in the pre-Christmas edition of PMQs.
Will this go unnoticed by Ed Miliband? I doubt it, although I also doubt that he’ll demote Balls. The shadow chancellor may be an aggravation to some in the Labour leader’s circle, but to get rid of him before the election would, in effect, be to completely cede the economic argument. Better to talk the talk of fiscal competence, and hope the public believe it.
And so we’ll probably see lots more rounds in the fight between the Tory leadership and Balls. And that goes for most of the other fights nominated this year: that between ministers and civil servants isn’t exactly calming down, and neither is Goldsmith’s anger at the idea of a third runway at Heathrow. It promises to be, if you’ll pardon the cheap rhyme, a Scrappy New Year.