Coffee House

The Workers’ Party?

26 February 2014

8:53 AM

26 February 2014

8:53 AM

Much hilarity among those of a leftish persuasion in Westminster that the Conservatives might dare call themselves the Workers’ Party, as Grant Shapps enthusiastically did yesterday. Mind you, when Shapps gave his speech making this claim alongside Sir John Major yesterday, journalists were excluded, so he might not have said it at all.

But assuming he did, there’s no reason why the Conservatives should provoke any more hilarity than any other Westminster party when they make this claim. There are, though, two warnings that if not heeded, could make this new tag seem as hilarious to voters as previous attempts at rebranding.


The first comes from David Skelton, whose campaign Renewal is pushing for the Tories to do more to appeal to working class voters. He argues today that any attempt by Conservative MPs to pursue an electoral pact with Ukip would undermine that Workers’ Party tag, and seriously damage the purchase that the Conservatives have with BME voters.

But the second is a lesson hopefully learned from the last rebrand: that green tree that is now a bit less green. The party’s green modernisers have spent the past few months feeling a little bereft because they feel that their creed was picked up and then dumped by the leadership. The same could happen with a very well-intentioned drive for working class voters, with policies that the leadership doesn’t really believe in being adopted, only to be dropped in favour of ideas that send a different message when the fashions switch. Renewal’s calls for a higher minimum wage and closer links with trade unionists are thoughtful, but some in the party recognise that they may not delight some free market liberals on the right. That’s not a reason not to adopt them, but the party leadership needs to make sure it really does have the courage of its convictions before it gets too excited about an attention-grabbing new tag.

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Show comments
  • Mombasa69

    May as well use the same logo for all 3 main parties, no real meaningful differences between any of the worthless buggers really.

  • black11hawk

    Eurgh, I wish Conservative bloggers and columnists would stop referring to David Skelton in reverential tones as though he’s the Delphic Oracle or something. I’m sure he’s a decent fellow, but to all intents and purposes he seems to me a Lib Dem.

  • The_greyhound

    Why not? Someone needs to be.

    Labour is merely the party of the Public Sector aristocracy. And of hereditary privilege – how many offspring of scumbag Labour Cabinet Ministers have been seeking adoption as candidates at the next General Election?

  • andagain

    Renewal’s calls for a higher minimum wage and closer links with trade
    unionists are thoughtful, but some in the party recognise that they may
    not delight some free market liberals on the right.

    Those free market liberals are the most obvious reason to believe the Conservatives Party’s claims to more economic competance than the other parties. So I think it may be counterproductive to make a big point about attacking them.

    OTOH, there must be some matters on which it is possible to ally with them. It might be as well to think about deregulation in the market for energy, housing and transport, with the goal of reducing the cost of living.

    And how regulated is the charitable sector, these days?

  • Smithersjones2013

    But assuming he did, there’s no reason why the Conservatives should
    provoke any more hilarity than any other Westminster party when they
    make this claim. There are, though, two warnings that if not heeded,
    could make this new tag seem as hilarious to voters as previous attempts
    at rebranding.

    Well how about this. Project Blueprint (phase 4) poll by Ashcroft. Socio Economic Cross breaks ABC1:C2DE. (i.e. upper classes: lower classes)

    UKIP 48:52
    Labour 54:46
    Libdem 66:34
    Tory 68:32

    Are the Tories seriously going to put two thirds of their support at risk so they can posture as a ‘Working Class party’ which will require them to undermine the upper classes. Of all the stupid posturing ideas the Tories have had this is by far the most stupid.

    • Makroon

      Given the average poll numbers being reported, that latest piece of quackery from Ashcroft suggests that the “C2DE” are a rather small proportion of the electorate, and the “toffariat” now heavily outnumber them.

  • Smithersjones2013

    The last Ashcroft poll had the split of Tory supporters between ABC1 (upper classes) and C2DE (lower classes) as being 68%:32%. They are the most upper class party of them all. Tories are insane if they think they can lay claim to the working classes

  • Tom Tom

    Grant Shapps ? Is this his Website

  • Bluesman_1

    And the whole boiling are committed to becoming the PPE (Oxbridge) party.

  • Rockin Ron

    From: The Communist Manifesto

    A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

    Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic
    by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled
    back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition
    parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

    Two things result from this fact:

    I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself
    a power.

    II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.

  • global city

    Labour isn’t the party of the workers either. The New Left have replaced Bourgeois with white people as the enemy of their utopian ideals… with the white working class portrayed as the most animal and backward enemies of them all.

  • allymax bruce

    Isabel, I think the Conservative Party can pull this off; rebranding their Party for the purposes of 21st century is a certainty now. The Modern world has moved forward to a political place where many regressive social norms, that used-to exist, no-longer exist, or are accceptable. The Conservatives have a job to do instilling into the hearts & minds of the populace that they are now The Workers Party, but they need to set absolute boundaries concomitant to their 21st century Modern politiics ethos; they need to say we are for creating jobs, but not for dissembling the job-market with trade union cliques. They need to say they are The Workers Party, but they’re not Communists trying to enslave the masses. They need to say the world of politics has changed to where their name, The Conservative Party, actually means what it says on the tin; that they will be frugal with our tax-payers money. That they will not super-spend on champagne-socialist ideals, and won’t sell our Country to the highest foreign bidder. They need to re-invent their name The Conservatives, because as it stands now, they are more associated/branded with past events, and not their true name/worth.

    • Kitty MLB

      A excellent and very insightful post, Ally.
      I cannot remember who said it, but someone said the following:
      ‘They say with a clenched fist power to the people, but what they mean
      is power from the people’- as you say, its not about enslaving the masses
      and making them feel they must be grateful for meagre offerings.
      Champagne socialists, that was the end of the Labour party,
      regardless of political differences, that party used to have integrity then the smiling villain Blair appeared. Alas! we know the rest.

  • Rockin Ron

    An own goal from CCHQ. Labour will now be able to more sharply identify themselves as ‘the hard working families party’. Is this another sign of desperation in the run up to the May elections? Mr Shapps has to be seen to be doing something, but I can’t see this appealing to the existing supporter base or attracting new supporters. Having Major involved is a failure as well. He was a terrible PM, last in office over a decade ago. He saddled this country with the National Lottery and botched the rail privatisation.

  • Kitty MLB

    Why is that so amusing? Labour is the Lazy so and so party.
    Its utterly true, Tory’s are the workers party.
    Beavering about keeping the country running, keeping lazy
    Leftie rabbits in a constant supply of carrots.
    I am minded of our much missed and lamented former prime minister
    bonkers Brown, before the last election whilst out campaigning
    ( and insulting Labour voters) he asked a lady if she was
    working class and she responded, No, she had never had a job
    so is not working class- Brown soon scuttled off.

    • Rockin Ron

      Is this meant to be a poem?

      • Kitty MLB

        Thats funny, no!
        If you wish to produce a poem with Brown’s
        name in it then go ahead, difficult though
        even Blake would struggle.

  • David Lindsay.

    “The Conservatives are the Workers’ party and we are on your side.”

    Heed the facts:

    The Tories have introduced a whole host of anti-worker policies since they came to office in 2010, including:
    employment tribunal fees;
    tried to introduce no fault dismissal legislation only for it to be blocked by Vince Cable;
    failed to implement the Temporary Agency Workers Directive properly;
    brought in a ‘shares for rights’ scheme, which allows workers to give up basic employment rights in exchange for company shares;
    reduced the amount of time employers need to consult on collective redundancies from 90 days to 45 days;

    • Kitty MLB

      Labour utterly destroyed our education system, leaving students unfit for work
      Labour stuffed the country with cheap labour from abroad, taking up working class jobs.
      Labour never made it pay to work and created a benefits dependency culture.
      Labour wrecked the public sector, destroying jobs.
      Labour wrecked our northern manufacturing jobs for cheap nasty goods from China.
      I could go on, and on, but shall not.

      • global city

        Giving ‘workers’ a step up is tacitly supporting hierarchical and stratified society.. so cannot be tolerated.

        Also educating poor people makes them less likely to revolt.

      • Rockin Ron

        Are you confusing the tab key with the return key? Or is this another poem?

      • allymax bruce

        Kitty, you’re doing great, and soon, Colonel Mustard will be alongside to help elongate your list; ‘charities’ Col’ Mustard?

    • Makroon

      Crikey! Which nutter exhumed Lindsay ?

  • AnotherDave

    The green policies haven’t been dropped. It remains government policy to deliberately increase the price UK residents pay for electricity.

  • an ex-tory voter

    Rebranding is futility, principle and policy are reality.
    Start pursuing policies which are of benefit to the mass of the electorate. Start doing those things the electorate want rather than those things handed down from Brussels (think “windfarms and drowning farms”). Cease doing those things demanded by the socialists, whether those socialists be “orange” or “red” in colour. Simples

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    No mud will ever stick on Gove? Why?
    What will the newly appointed regulator of free market holiday business tariffs suggest next? The removal of all fizzy pop vending machines by decree from school premises and, to obfuscate his socialist persona, the statutory batch printing and distribution of a Gove Koran in the interest of ‘competition’?

  • Tony_E

    The big problem is that the policies that would be good for working class voters in the longer term will find little favour with them in the short term. Labour has grabbed a huge march on the right in their 13 years of power by extending the welfare state to pick up just about every working class family in its clutches.

    Simpler taxes will massively change the way that business works in the UK – but Labour will paint it as favouring the rich and people will swallow it.

    Simpler regulatory systems would relieve business of unnecessary burdens (and improve important safeguards), but Labour will paint it as pulling the rug out from workers rights and they will be supported.

    A smaller state would relieve many working people of a too heavy burden of tax, but Labour would paint it removing the ‘safety net’ from the deserving (who in many cases are anything but – and the worst cases are generally the ones who take up the most resources in one place from Social services, to benefits, law enforcement and health service due to their own poor behaviours).

    Once a benefit has been offered, in the modern world, it is almost impossible to see it withdrawn. People won’t vote for it. Then when this is suggested, it becomes an issue of class warfare, so unless all the politicians wear the right class status they cannot even suggest such a course. Once the tipping point is reached where enough voters a net recipients (or at least believe themselves to be), then the guarantee is there that the only electable government is one that promises the continuation of the status quo.

    It’s going to take a massive shift to make working class people believe that small state Conservatism can benefit them.

    • McRobbie

      Sadly very true..the message that the tory ambition is to bring privilege to every one is not one easily understood by those who associate privilege with public school upbringing. As we all know privilege is about getting special treatment and the fact that the public sector and their trade union fat cats are recipients of special treatment is not appreciated by many. The ambition of socialism is to bring poverty to all by equalising downwards, and that is again not easy to appreciate especially as it can be sold as touchy and compassionate so readily by left wing spin merchants. Small state is freedom of the individual and is a right wing goal (privilege to all), big state is power to the privileged in charge (the few, the left wing and trade union leaders) and is the inevitable result of socialism.

    • Makroon

      Hmmm, your (Freudian) slip is showing mate ! This is a discussion about “workers”, not that obsolete Marxist construct “the working class”.

      • Tony_E

        It was deliberate, not a slip. There are a huge number of people who consider themselves ‘Working Class’ – and for most of them it’s an article of faith that the Tories are the rich stealing the fruits of their labour and keeping them in their place. For these people the class system is not dead, and while they think in those terms then it’s not truly obsolete.

    • Conway

      I agree and attempts to improve social mobility by improving the education system will be greeted with howls of “elitism”. I just read an article in the Indy which purports to show that your status in life is determined by your 6x great grandfather. I doubt very much that any of my 6x ggs were as well educated as I am and I put it all down to my grammar school education.

  • saffrin

    With Cameron in full tilt support for immigrant/migrant workers and Osbourne splashing out for the Ukraine, the Conservative party might just have a claim.

    However, as they ain’t British workers it’s still UKIP.

  • jazz606

    Shapps has a point, whether he was wise to raise it is another matter.
    I bet that if it were possible to carry out a survey of (c)onservatives and socialists it would reveal that a much larger proportion of the former were in work.
    The term workers has lost its meaning.

  • Reconstruct

    It’s a good idea – the Conservative party should be the workers’ party. If it isn’t, then it needs to change so that it is. Certainly, the Conservative seem to show far less fear and loathing of the working class than the Labour Party does.

    • Makroon

      Calling the Conservative party “the workers party” is pretty vacuous.
      But calling themselves “the workers party” as opposed to Labour “the benfits and special interest” party, might get some purchase if combined with actual evidence of help to the working population. The “party for strivers” (or “battlers”, as the Aussies would say), still sounds better though.

      • Conway

        Both the Conservative and Labour Parties are run by people who are about as far removed from the average worker that it is possible to get. Expensive houses, elite education and substantial bank accounts are common to Labour, Conservatives and LibDems. I only tag the LDs at the end because they, at least, are making no pretence that they care for the British working class – they are for the EU and free movement of workers regardless of what that will do to British workers.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Its risible. A bunch of Eton educated millionaires claiming to be the party of the working class. Give me a break. Last month Tories were sneering at UKIP for being the most working class party proportionately. This is the last throes of Tory desperation. They are almost certain to get crushed and now are clutching at any passing straw the wind blows by them. Its pathetic.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …notice the Speccie kid threw in a little talk of “an electoral pact with Ukip”. I guess Camerluvvie HQ wants to keep that in the mix somewhere, via the minions.

        Yes, they’re clutching and desperate, and they are pathetic.

        • dalai guevara

          …that pact is imminent after the Wythenshawe debacle. A pre-election pact is the obvious way to go. That is obvious to everyone, even you.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            You’re as dumb about politics as you are about everything else.

  • monty61

    I can actually see this ‘workers’ party tag coming from some – lots of ‘workers’ vote Conservative, both white and blue collar.

    But not from Grant Shapps, whose main claim to fame prior to becoming an MP was running internet-based get rich quick schemes under a false name.

    On the other hand, the speech-to-empty room caper is straight from Shapps/Michael Green’s dodgy geezer playbook. How on earth did this man become the successor to Ian McLeod, Willie Whitelaw, Cecil Parkinson, Norman Tebbit …. ?

  • swatnan

    Does speaking to an empty Hall constitute a ‘Public Meeting’?
    No doubt EdM will raise the IDS Shirkers Party theme today at PMQs just to rub salt into the wound, as well as Daves dismissal of Coalitions (his own) and the cut in real terms to Flood Defences..

    • swatnan

      The Tories never were laughing stocks under the sombre Sayeeda Warsi.