Coffee House

Matt Hancock sketches an incumbent’s re-election argument

6 August 2013

Matt Hancock is both a competent economist (read his account of the Great Recession) and a keen political strategist. Where possible he has used his position as minister for skills to position the coalition on the compassionate side of the employment argument; for example, with his considered support for the minimum wage. Yesterday, in an article for ConservativeHome, he pre-empted Labour’s attempt to shift economic focus to the cost of living, now that hopes of a recovery are building.

He made two basic points:


1). Labour’s record on the cost of living is abysmal – wages did not keep pace with growth during the boom. He says that gross disposable income fell by 1.1 per cent per head between 2003-08. ‘The crash and its aftermath made a bad situation worse,’ he says. The upshot of this is that the Tories are cleaning up Labour’s mess. The coalition used the same argument to great effect with deficit reduction.

2). Can you trust Labour with your wallet? Hancock lists the government’s achievements on tackling the cost of living (income tax threshold raised, council tax frozen and so forth) and contrasts them with Labour’s pledges, such as they are. ‘Billions worth of unfunded spending commitments,’ he tells us vaguely, ‘meaning more borrowing and more debt.’

Hancock’s article is a sketch of the classic incumbent re-election argument: we’re cleaning up the other guy’s mess; and, by the way, the other guy hasn’t changed a bit, so you can’t trust him. Lynton Crosby, Jim Messina et al will push this simple message between now and 2015.

None of which is to say that the government’s policies are easing the cost of living (QE and inflation, anyone?); but it is to say that the Tories are looking sharp and organised at present. Meanwhile, Labour appears to have gone rambling in the wilderness: rarely can the opposition have been so quiet during summer recess. There are a number of reasons for this stasis: from Ed Miliband’s weakness, to the hangover following last month’s row over Unite and selections. The steady flow of stories damaging the previous Labour government’s record on the NHS can’t have helped either. The Berwick Review of patient care after the Mid Staffs scandal is published today. Its headline conclusion is that patient safety must become a ‘top priority in the NHS’, which ought to go without saying.

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  • HookesLaw

    ‘QE and inflation, anyone?’ Well yes some people have an opinion.

    ‘The problem with QE is that it doesn’t have a transmission mechanism to substantially increase aggregate demand.’
    People cannot have it all ways. If the banks are getting QE but not lending then the ‘printed money’ is not entering circulation and causing inflation.
    Perhaps the Spectator will supply us with an insightful article.

    On topic
    We have a massive deficit to reduce a massive structural deficit which requires spending to be cut. Its a squeeze and will feel like a squeeze even with a return to growth.
    But even with the economy statistically flat we have seen numbers in work rising and jobless falling (even with the loss of public sector jobs). So the squeeze is not as tight as labour are pretending.

    • alabenn

      Possibly the reason why there is no apparent large rise in inflation, all things during the Labour years were overpriced, now goods and services are standing still, now any inflation in the system is mainly driven by government policy as regards to carbon fantasies.

      • HookesLaw

        There has been inflation and it may be that some of it is due to QE, but how has that happened? Where is the mechanism?
        Inflation also clearly came from commodity price increases and this will not have been helped by a decline in the pound, but the devaluation of the pound also helped exports and would keep out overpriced consumer imports.
        I don’t think devaluation is a good thing and both it and QE must have a downside but it is a mechanism for propping us up whilst we recover from the disaster that was the massive recession. But such a recession is bound to cause us problems and suffering.

  • Chris lancashire

    You might have added to your list of Labour depressants the recovering economy which has blown Balls completely out of the water.
    Labour well know they have an horrendous record for 13 years in government and next to no believable policies now.
    Long may it last.

  • Emulous

    Yes but they still have to come over on immigration and Europe.
    Until they do Ukip will clean up.

    • BullDancer

      Enough of this Ukip bullshit please. They will do OK in the European elections but only a fool would bet on them to win many seats in a GE. I doubt they will outpoll the libdems.

      • Emulous

        The LibDems are finished. They have given up all pretentions of credibility with both the “I agree with Nick” fly by nights and the usual Swampy adherents.
        As the Guardian readership declines into the dust so goes the LibDem vote.

        • Portendorfer

          Talking of the Guardian they have just reported another example of foot and mouth disease.

          “A UKIP politician has been captured
          on film saying British aid should not be sent to “bongo bongo land”.

          MEP Godfrey Bloom was recorded telling a meeting of supporters aid was spent
          on things like sunglasses and Ferraris.

          He also claimed British aid was spent on fighter planes in Pakistan, which he
          called “treason” by the UK government.”

      • George_Arseborne

        The good thing is UKIP will kill Tories vote in some Con marginals giving advantage to Lab. You should be scared of that. So the Con needs more Migrants in their electoral machinery. Hiring Barack Obama is the next step to panicking Cameron failure in 2015. Con going left Hurray!!!!

  • Robert_Eve

    How is that some people still vote Labour???

    • GAM

      Because the Party has clients who depend on it to protect and increase their wage, whether it be in the public sector or those in receipt of benefits.

    • Shazza

      Because the successful Marxist education both in schools and universities has brainwashed the electorate. The most Left-wing of all the institutions is of course, the BBC and their relentless onslaught against the Tories continues unabated. The blind hatred that the Left displays towards the Right, is unfortunately the result of decades of outdated rhetoric thus resulting in informed and logical argument as is required for 21st century debate,being impossible to achieve.

      • davebush999

        And then you show your blind hatred for the left – pots and kettles?

        • Shazza

          I don’t hate the Left. I pity them.

          • HookesLaw

            Speaking personally i despise the left, they have ruined Britain.
            I also despise those who undermine the left’s main opponent and thus effectively work to see it re-elected.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Guilty as charged. I detest the mediocrity, failure, hypocrisy and sanctimony of the left which conspires to strangle at birth the aspirations of anybody wanting to ‘get on in life’. I detest the arrogance of the left and it’s fatuous conviction that “I can spend your money far more effectively than you can so hand it over” and then destroys the economy in the process. I detest the left and it’s “you will get what you are given” approach to health and education where choice is anathema and ideological purity and the sovereignty of the provider always trumps the consumer and a successful outcome. I detest the left and it’s loathing of people who have the temerity to work hard and succeed and then want to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. So no pots and kettles here, I simply loathe the left and it’s corrosive destruction of British society.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Hatred of the left is not blind at all. I hate you for a bunch of lying, canting bastards and I can see quite clearly.

    • Emulous

      Have you not heard of Andrew Neather?

      • huktra

        Speccie still owe us an analysis of this

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Because they have no interest in working and trust Labour to pay them excessive benefits.

      • GAM

        The Labour simultaneously bought and imported votes. They bought votes by expanding the public sector, in the process destroying the private sector in the regions that need it most. They imported them through an ‘open doors’ immigration policy knowing full well that some minority and ethnic groups are more likely to vote Labour – Mandelson has admitted as much. They then continued to buy these groups off once they were in the country. Shameless.

      • True Bred Pomponian

        Or they have a public sector sinecure. I used to be a civil servant myself, for a while. One of my more cynical colleagues viewed civil servants as recipiants of middle class dole money.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …because it doesn’t really matter, as the LibLabCon clones make them throw a blind dart every election?

      • HookesLaw

        No matter how many times you say that its still the same load of old cobblers as when you first said it.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, well, we’ll find out about all this in 21 months, when your boy Dave’s head is mounted on a spike.

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