The Tories are on a mission to brand themselves the Workers’ Party while Labour messes about with its leadership contest. The party has got the energetic Robert Halfon as its Deputy Chairman, and he is fizzing with ideas on how to improve the Conservative appeal to working class voters to the extent that they start seeing the Tories as their natural home, not Labour. Labour types might scoff, but if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that you cannot take ‘your’ voters for granted as staying ‘yours’, with Scotland being the prime example.
As I explain in the Sun today, the party has plans to get on with its blue-collar drive this autumn, including getting more working class candidates standing for seats. But this is all pointless if the policies that it introduces either hurt working people or don’t do enough to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds move up the ladder.
The Tories may already be hurting themselves with one particular policy. The Times reports today that there are growing concerns within the party about the impact of the withdrawal of tax credits. This is something a number of MPs do seem privately quite concerned about, along with worries that further cuts to local authorities will really hit services in a way that voters actually notice this time around.
Remember that the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the living wage announcement that George Osborne used to sugar the pill of these tax credit cuts in the Budget ‘simply cannot provide full compensation’ for those cuts and that ‘unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average’. As Guto Bebb tells the Times, those are ‘the very people we ought to be supporting’.
The Tory leadership’s instant response may be that people wrung their hands about the child benefit cuts and indeed the housing benefit cuts the first time around, but voters have been far more supportive than anyone could have predicted. But they might find that there is a bell curve of support, which tapers off at some point. The trick is knowing when you’ve reached peak support from voters and when you’re actually just doing the wrong thing.