Parliament is particularly haunted during the summer holidays this year, as exhausted MPs flee back to their constituencies. But there is a hopeful atmosphere in the air from both parties, with MPs beginning to muse that the break may herald the return to the kind of policies they are more familiar with – economics, crime, education and “leveling”.
Voting between the parties has begun to narrow – although Labor and conservative strategists tend to see this as a return to normal service. The artificial inflation of a “vaccine bounce” that No. 10 never thought would last is dead.
This week, a Survation poll found the Tories fell from an 11-point lead to a two-point lead of two weeks, while a YouGov survey recorded a drop from a 13-point lead to a four-point lead over five days .
Some Tory MPs said they believed a more normal election pattern would allow the party to see a more realistic picture.
“The economy is going to come back,” they predicted with confidence. While some of his colleagues fear a resurgence of the virus and a reintroduction of restrictions that will unleash a stream of public anger, most rightly or wrongly believe that the worst is over – and will continue to talk about other things. .
“We are desperate to have something to talk about,” said another Tory MP. “I have to have something to put on my leaflets that we have delivered, and at the moment there is nothing to say. It’s OK when you can just say ‘the government is literally paying your salary’, but when it ends, we need to start delivering fast. “
Boris Johnson has long been desperate to move on to talk about his government’s agenda after covid. But now the moment is approaching, his colleagues have begun to fear that there is too little to say.
The Prime Minister’s leveling speech, which was described as a “milestone moment”, had a lot of touching rhetoric, but little politics.
In fact, there are several policies pursued by the government that may even exacerbate regional disparities.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is understood to be uncomfortable with a Dilnot-style social care cap because £ 50k is significantly more intimidating if you live in a £ 150k home in the north of England versus a £ 650k in the south. An increase in national insurance to pay for it would hit younger and lower paid workers as well as businesses – those most affected by the pandemic.
In his March budget, there are plans to cut public spending by 4 billion. £, which is likely to fall on deaf ears no matter how many times Johnson says cuts have nothing to do with him. The Tories also warn that Johnson’s net zero strategy is likely to disproportionately hit those voters who can least afford new cars and boilers.
The long-delayed social care plan appears to be in a stalemate following a backlash from the Council of Ministers over the manifest tax increase.
Instead, ministers focus on the “crime week” – a topic that repeatedly comes up in focus groups as a growing problem. They have launched a plan, some have felt a resurgence of old policies, expanded stop-and-search powers and steered some alcohol tags and gimmicks such as a named officer for a neighborhood and league tables for 999 call handling.
Labor has used crime as an area of conservative weakness and underlined shocking statistics on rape convictions, knife crime and antisocial behavior. Keir Starmer, as former director of public prosecutions, can manage that convincingly.
Work source sources suggest that doubts about PM’s capacity to deliver are beginning to show up in focus groups. Voters in the north of England, especially those who switched in 2019, will give Johnson a chance and give him the benefit of the doubt about Covid, but want to see spending start in their areas. In the South, Labor says they are noticing a distortion, a sense that the party is ignoring their concerns and promoting cultural wars.
“A rule for them” is also a damaging trope, though genuine public anger is still mostly driven by personal pandemic violations as Johnson tries to evade quarantine or Matt Hancock’s affair rather than PPE contracts.
Across the board, there is frustration over politicians speaking in banalities – something that Starmer himself has been guilty of – but Labor has Johnson’s leveling of speech as a key moment to point towards, as everything was mouth and pants.
There are also bear traps for the government along the path towards the end of the year, battles with the Treasury over tax and consumption, the threat of industrial action from medicines and a mythical Tory party ready to vote down vaccine certification.
Many veteran Tories hope Johnson can refocus on the Tory party’s strengths – his own authenticity and growing economy, where voters still do not trust Labor.
Labor has its own internal struggles to play beyond the economy between shadow cabinet ministers like Ed Miliband, who believe the party should “go big” and provide a radical economic offer to voters to cure post-pandemic scars, and those like it former shadow chancellor became Ministerial Adviser Anneliese Dodds, who still warns voters that Labor will go bankrupt against the nation.
All in all, even if the Tories intervene, no one is seriously starting to panic. A conservative strategist said voters still saw Labor as divided with internal divisions, believing Starmer had made no impression while Johnson was considered authentic and personable.
They compared the pictures of the two managers who watched the football, where Johnson, who hardly knew the rules, looked more calm than Starmer, a passionate and knowledgeable fan with a season ticket at Arsenal.
One of the Tory strategists jokes: “Everything we do is reactive and driven by focus groups without strategy, but the saving grace is that Labor does exactly the same thing.”