Alarm as chancellor steals slogan from Nye Bevan
It’s worth remembering that however conservative a government appears, it could always be more so.
Furrowed brows at the Daily Mail betray a distinct dread that has been brewing since David Cameron began his (very successful) ‘detoxification’ of the Tory brand.
In covering chancellor and heir-apparent George Osborne’s speech to the Conservative party conference, the newspaper could hardly be more abject.
But its editorial gives voice to the Mail’s secret worry about Osborne’s bid for the centre ground of British politics.
After raising concerns about fresh scalp Lord Adonis’s National Infrastructure Commission, (‘another quango, under a former Labour peer’), the Mail sulks:
“What exactly did the chancellor mean when he said Tories should ‘extend the hand’ to those who voted Labour in May, and ‘understand their reservations’?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with showing magnanimity in victory (though was it necessary to borrow the theme of his speech – ‘we are the builders’ – from Labour firebrand Nye Bevan?).
But if he means his party should shift to the Left to occupy the ground vacated by Jeremy Corbyn, this will be a gross betrayal of Tory voters.“
Would this be the same George Osborne who is about to strip the poorest of £1,000 a year with cuts to tax credits? Who is cutting tens of billions from public spending in a naked attempt to shrink the size of the state?
Who is, in short, presiding over the most right-wing government for around 20 years?
Yet, so worried is the Mail about Osborne’s ‘shift to the Left’ that it sniffs the ghost of Nye Bevan lurking behind the conference podium!
This is a level of paranoia not worthy of a paper on the winning side of a general election.
But was it on the winning side? Or is today’s editorial a reminder of how Rightwards things can shift with good PR men at the helm, that a government such as this can be painted as too liberal?
The looming cuts to tax credits have put some light between the Mail and the Sun over the direction of this government. The Sun on Sunday launched a campaign calling for the ‘striving’ poor to be ‘protected’ from Osborne’s tax credit and welfare cuts.
Meanwhile, the Mail writes Osborne ‘should ignore self-serving stirrers such as Boris Johnson and David Davis, who call for a softer line on tax credits’.
The Sun is probably engaged in little more than a public relations exercise for the government, offering them a means to win points by watering down an especially harsh policy.
But it also suggests more support from Murdoch for a ‘modernising’ centre-right politics as compared with the old-style Tory growl in the Mail.
This is not a new development, but it is one to watch if you care to decipher the behaviour of the press.
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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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