Get Ready for a Deluge of ‘Royal’ Visits

Sexy Politics

Lancashire will be a key area in deciding who will form the next government, with a number of marginal seats to be fought in the county at the polls in May.

At this moment in time all the polling evidence suggests that we are heading for another ‘hung’ parliament with none of the two ‘big’ parties pulling up any trees at the moment; the Tories obsessed once again with the issue of Europe, and Labour being led by a man that is clearly struggling to impose himself in the minds of the electorate as a potential Prime Minister.

For the Liberal Democrats the Coalition agreement has proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and for all their protestations about their input into policies surrounding the low paid, the green agenda and, indeed, the economy, the perception voters have of Nick Clegg & Co is of a party that sold its soul for a whiff of the red ministerial boxes. The tuition fees U-turn effectively killed them.

Labour had hoped to pick up the majority of Lib Dem discontents, and win the election by simply adopting a more traditional social democrat, safety first approach that would enable them to hit the 35% of the vote mark, which would give them a small, but workable, majority.

They had not factored in the backlash to traditional politics that we are witnessing at the moment, nor the fact that they are likely to lose a significant number of ‘safe’ seats themselves north of the border to the Scottish Nationalists.

The Tories will lose votes, if not seats, to UKIP, that may lead to them missing out on some of their target constituencies, and who knows how other minority parties like the Greens and even Plaid Cymru will perform.

It all means that just seven months out from the election, we really have no clue as to the type of government we will have in place next year. The lack of genuine, consistent leadership from either Cameron or Miliband makes it a wide open race, and that means that every vote will count, particularly in this part of the world. Expect a series of high profile visits from Ministers and Shadow Ministers over the next few months – and then sit back and watch as Alex Salmond becomes the Deputy Prime Minister in the next Coalition that is cobbled together post May.

Labour’s 50% Gamble


Depending on your politics and point of view a 50% tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 per year may seem fair.

However, there is absolutely no economic sense in taxing the highest earners at this level as it leads to a fall rather than an increase in the tax take for the exchequer.

How can this be so? Well, at 45p in the pound a successful business owner or entrepreneur may wince a little, but psychologically they will live with it.

Once you tell someone you want half of their income, it is of little surprise that they start to aggressively investigate the many loopholes that exist to stop HMRC getting their mitts on their hard earned cash.

The other problem with the 50p rate though is that is does cap aspiration and ambition; it signals a culture of envy rather than enterprise; and most worryingly it prevents business owners from investing in growing their companies. What is the point of adding £500K to your bottom line if the return you get is likely to be less than 10% of that? It is a risk that is not worth taking.

That is why I think that Ed Balls announcement that a Labour government would re-introduce the 50p rate is wrong, and more ‘gesture politics’ than economically savvy.

Labour believes that the majority of us who can only dream of a salary of 150K support the measure and will vote accordingly.

I think it will enable the Tories to paint Labour as anti ambition, anti business and as the party of taxation. It was a road tried and tested by Neil Kinnock and John Smith in 1992, much to John Major’s delight.

It didn’t work for Labour then, and although scandals with banks and our big financial institutions means we are in a different place today, I doubt if it will work in eighteen months time when the country goes to the polls again.

Nonetheless, the battle lines have been drawn and it will be interesting to see if Cameron and Osborne take a gamble of their own by announcing a further cut in top rate tax to 40p; and how shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna convinces business leaders that Labour support his ‘British Dream.

Will the North ever love the Tories?


This week saw the three main political parties reshuffle their cabinet and shadow cabinet members respectively.

The key aim of such a process is not necessarily to replace incompetent or underperforming politicians with better people, but often about boosting your party’s appeal to the electorate.

Certainly, the spin coming out of the Prime Minister’s office this week was that he wanted the changes he made to signal a more inclusive Conservative Party, with the elevation of female MP’s and MP’s from northern constituencies.

Among the Northern contingent to get the call from the PM were Esther McVey, the formidable Wirral West Liverpudlian MP, who ticked both boxes, and was rewarded for her tenacious role in selling the welfare reform agenda with a job as Employment Minister, and Yorkshire MP and former Bradford council leader Kris Hopkins, who has been appointed as the new Housing Minister.

Overall there is certainly a more ‘northern feminine’ feel to the Cameron team, albeit none of those promoted will be sat at the top table of government just yet.

So, will these personnel changes make it more likely for the northern electorate to support the Tories at the 2015 General Election?

On a straw poll of about a dozen people so far, the answer is a resounding no. I accept that this is hardly a scientific sampling of voting intentions, but they were all the type of folk who the main political parties use as their ‘barometer’ – although I’m not sure all of them have or aspire to have conservatories, which apparently is the new ‘sweet spot’ as far as the politicos are concerned (I kid you not).

Without exception, and as I wrote last week, the key thing for all of them is the economy. If the recent upturn proves to be sustainable, the Tories will win. If not, then Miliband’s pitch to ‘the squeezed middle’ might just resonate – though, worryingly for Labour, he still fails to meet the ‘I can see him as a Prime Minister’ test.

Personalities in politics are clearly important, but anyone at government level outside of the PM, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Boris Johnson, not in the government per se, but more powerful than most politicians, just doesn’t hit the radar of most of us.

So it is the Prime Minister’s highest ranking (northern) Minister and colleague, Tatton’s George Osborne, who can deliver victory for him at the next election, rather than the smattering of female MP’s with northern accents who have climbed another rung on the slippery Westminster ladder this week. Oh, and by the way, even if we vote Tory in this part of the world, few of us actually love ‘em!