Coffee House

Has anyone noticed Tory tanks rolling onto Labour’s lawn?

7 April 2014

It’s unfashionable to talk about the battle for the centre ground these days. The fight to win political credibility is conducted through a new prism. Populists versus the establishment, centralisers versus decentralisers, radicals versus those in favour of shrinking the offer. But the fundamentals remain the same, and much of the hard-fought credibility that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown earned during Labour’s three General Election victories is now the target of sustained Tory fire. And my worry is that Labour’s not taking it seriously enough.

The last Tory Government used to speak in strident, right wing terms. ‘Unemployment is a price worth paying’, ‘the homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera’ are some of the most memorable examples. So when Michael Gove calls the Conservatives ‘the party of social justice’, Grant Shapps attempts to rebrand the Tories as the ‘workers’ party’ and George Osborne champions the national minimum wage and full employment, this is a deliberate attempt to steal Labour’s clothes.

It’s easy – and right – to ridicule Grant Shapps’ patronising Bingo and beer nonsense. But this strategy, clumsy as it is at times, will eventually make inroads if it’s not smartly challenged. The sight of Tory tanks rumbling towards Labour’s turf is often derided as some sort of bad Dad’s Army joke, but they’re getting closer to parking on Labour’s lawn. And remember, even that most ridiculous of tank drivers, Oddball from Kelly’s Heroes, eventually made it beyond enemy lines.

It’s in this context that Tory manoeuvring should be seen. Osborne and Gove are challenging on issues that are home territory for Labour. They also have some policies to back up their posturing. The minimum wage rise combined with a tax cut for low earners demonstrate a tangible offer for many voters who would not normally consider voting Conservative.

We can’t be complacent about this. No one owns territory in politics. It has to be fought for.


There’s three ways to see off this assault. Defend our record in Government more – after 13 years most Governments run out of steam, but we achieved many great things. Strengthen, develop and build on our achievements – it’s not enough to trot out Blair’s ‘the many, not the few’ line. Soundbites need to be inextricably linked to policy that the public understands. And it’s time to send our tanks on to Tory lawns.

Immigration, welfare and the economy – particularly the fight to win small businesses over – is territory that the Tories think they own, but under any kind of scrutiny they’re weak on all these areas. We have to take the fight to them. Beyond the rhetoric their immigration policy is a shambles with huge Coalition divisions. How can you have a successful immigration policy when the Business Secretary continually undermines the Home Secretary?

The Tories talk about welfare quite a lot, but their record is abysmal. Universal Credit is a mess and the Work Programme an expensive failure. Labour understands the value and dignity of work better than any other political party. We have to get people into work that can work, and support those who are unable to work. The Coalition is often doing the opposite – and I’ve seen up close the damage they’re doing.

On small business, Labour understands the need to reduce the cost of doing business much more than the Coalition – who, let’s not forget, introduced the biggest increase in business rates in 20 years as we came out of recession. Many people would be amazed at the anger shown towards this Government by small businesses in even the strongest Tory heartlands. I’ve seen and heard it and that’s why I know no deal has been sealed with this hugely influential and important group. We know bankers and some of the corporates are not likely to be Labour champions, but small business is the backbone of this country and the lifeblood of communities. The fight for this vote is critical.

Labour has had considerable success on the cost of living agenda, as have many opposition parties over the years. It was used to great effect by Winston Churchill in the 1951 election. But I suspect it won’t be enough this time to win Labour the election on its own. That’s partly because many people expected to be worse off after the recession. The challenge now is to spell out how to build a fairer, sustainable economy not reliant on housing bubbles, cheap credit and a debt-fuelled consumer boom. This is the Holy Grail for all politicians and one where the Coalition offers very little other than some tired cliché about a long-term plan.

From re-designing high streets that have lost their sense of purpose, championing emerging new sectors, showing how technology can be better used to support communities and create prosperity to giving young people a proper stake in the economy and devolving powers to a local and sub regional level to allow smarter policies for growth, the vision to rebuild our economy anew has yet to be spelt out by any political party – and that’s why no one owns the future yet.

Of course, this is what the battle for government is all about. Who owns the future. And who’s best able to draw on their past to meet the challenges the next generation faces. Ultimately, though, it’ll be won on who’s boldest in terms of taking the fight to their opponents. To use a footballing analogy, no one can play safe. Grinding out results at home can only get you so far. Winning bravely away from home is where titles are usually decided.

Simon Danczuk is Labour MP for Rochdale.

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  • Cyril Sneer

    Simon, Labour are traitors to this country. I long for the day when you labourites get your just deserts.


    Miliband is a million miles from this (very intelligent & praiseworthy) sort of approach not to mention being seriously CONFUSED & way behind schedule.

  • HookesLaw

    Unemployment was only a price worth paying when whole industries needed reform. The car industry declined and also jobs went in the face of new technology, but it has risen again.
    Today jobs are being shed in local and central govt, but the loony right are not interested in facts and the sound work the govt are doing.

  • Shazza

    “Defend our record in Government more…”

    Do you have any idea of the long term damage your lot did to this country during your 13 year Reign of Terror. Let me just list a few regarding your deluded article.

    Brown destroyed private pensions.
    Education standards plummeted as a result of your duplicitous grade inflation.
    NHS- debacle of PFI, Mid Staffs hospital, GPs’ contracts, massive expansion of ‘management’, bungled IT programme, etc.
    Brown sold off the gold at rock down prices.
    Massive expansion of public sector with creation of ‘non-jobs’.
    The Co-op Bank and the crystal meth boss.
    Your lot nearly bankrupted the country. But all of this is financial, and money matters can be fixed with time and the right policies.

    But the real damage your lot inflicted was social. You have destroyed social cohesion in this country and the full results of your spiteful policies ‘to rub the right’s noses in diversity’ are yet to come to fruition and when they do, it is not going to be pleasant.
    The short term damage your rash immigration policy delivered has been the stretched resources of the NHS, schools, housing, road congestion, etc.
    The long term damage is the transformation from a 1st world country into a 3rd world country with the assurance that in the not too distant future, this once bastion of freedom of speech and democracy will be transformed into a country that more resembles one in the current Middle East and I’m not talking about Israel.

    The Labour Party is truly The Party of Mass Destruction.

    My fervent desire is that your traditional voter base will finally realise the depth of their betrayal and desert you in droves for UKIP.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Oh dear its that time in the Parliament again when worthless backbench lobby fodder starts getting ideas above their station and starts writing articles to impress their bosses……

    I realise Danczuk was a lobbyist before he was gifted a ticket to the gravy train but even so i’m amazed how thick this purile piece of superficial and meaningless drivel actually is. Where has he been for the last 8 years? Has he only just noticed that Cameron is a shallow and vacuous parody of Tony Blair? Has he not realised that Tory modernisation is little more than mimickry of Labour’s ‘Rotten Government’ of the noughties? Tory ‘modernisers’ [sic] (throwbacks) have been boasting of planting their tanks on Labour’s lawn for 5 years or more and seen their parties membership and support rapidly dwindle and seen the rise of UKIP as a result.

    If this is the level of intellect (stating the bleedin’ obvious 5 years too late) we can expect from Milband’s misfits in 2015 then they may yet lose that election or even if they win prove to become more unpopular more quickly than the current Coalition rabble did!

  • Lady Magdalene

    Oddball was a fictional character. This article is fiction as well.

  • CharlietheChump

    The only thing you really understand is the wonky electoral set up and the strength of your client vote.

  • Peter Stroud

    Sorry Mr Danzcuk, you will never succeed with any of these. Ideas under Miliband.

  • pcmcgurk

    “Labour understands the value and dignity of work better than any other political party.” Yes, and my dad can beat your dad at table tennis. So there.

  • Andy

    Yet another deluded Fascist spouting utter crap. Lets talk about ‘Immigration, welfare and the economy’.

    The Fascist Labour Party’s policy on Immigration was to ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity’, which was a ‘driving political purpose’, according to Andrew Neather. The fact that it also bolstered Labour’s vote and punished the white working class who had dared to vote for Lady Thatcher in large numbers and buy their council houses was an added bonus. And the attitude to any one who thought the policy was wrong was clearly revealed in Rochdale – ‘just some bigoted woman’.

    The Fascist Labour Party’s policy on Welfare could be summed up as ‘spend, spend, spend’, ‘claim, claim, claim’. It is all about buying votes. They have opposed every single reform to Welfare that has been proposed. well I got news for them: the public are in favour or Welfare reform and actually want more radical reform than is being implemented.

    The Fascist Labour Party’s policy on the economy, which they f*cked up big time has been to borrow yet more money and spend, spend, spend. Again they have opposed every single measure that might bring the deficit down, let alone under control. The mess the Fascist made of our economy will take a generation to sort out and probably more like 40 years. But what does an imbecile like Danczuk care. He was a director and majority shareholder in Urban Visions Ltd which traded as ‘Visions Twentyone. The company went into liquidation in June 2011 and was wound up owing £222000 to creditors, one of whom was H.M. Revenue and Customs who lost £113000.

    • Shazza

      Good stuff Andy. I’ve written a postscript to this below.

  • pcmcgurk

    Nothing, in other words.

  • Alexsandr

    Labour didn’t run out of steam. they became corrupt. Look at the number of labour MP’s who ended up in Jail for theft. And Blears, Jaqui Smith and bob Ainsworth should have joined them.
    They were the government with paedophile apologists Harman and Hewitt in their ranks, with Dromey waiting in the wings And the dreadful Margaret Hodge with her record in Islington. Her record on financial matters aren’t too squeaky clean either.
    Then there was the dysfunctional bullying Gordon brown who the PLP failed to remove from office.
    Let us not forget that many who were complicit in the 1997-2010 debacle are looking to be part of a possible 2015 government.

  • DWWolds

    Meanwhile, the headline for an article by Steve Richard in the New Statesman is: “The mood around Ed Miliband is one of paranoia and suspicion”. Apparently though some of his staff are so loyal – or brainless – they even applaud him when he returns after making a mediocre speech. It all sounds a bit like North Korea.

  • James Strong

    This article is mendacious rubbish.
    The Labour Party is not the party of work or the working class, except insofar as it is to Labour’s advantage to keep people poor because of the old, old tribal idea that the Tories are for the rich.
    Labour allowed mass immigration to reduce the market-clearing wage for lots of low-skilled jobs. Labour policies have led to tens of thousands trapped in a life on benefits with poverty of aspiration. Labour education policies have failed to help school leavers get to a level where they can offer a successful contribution to the outside world, and it is offering a contribution that others value that is the way to a satisfying life inside and outside work.
    Labour has done what it can to create a client state of : public sector workers, benefit recipients and third-world immigrants . Labour has deserted the respectable working class.
    The fact is that it is to Labour’s benefit if enough people always feel themselves to be disadvantaged, and Labour policies perpetuate that.
    Right-wingers want everyone to do well; Labour doesn’t.
    Don’t believe what Labour say; watch what they do.

    • telemachus

      You understand not
      It is not a question of believing
      The Tories, LibDems and Ukip care not about the social condition
      Socialists care and act
      Please see my reply to Mustard above

      • Makroon

        Obviously, nobody has told Danczuk that Blair is the Labour love that dare not speak it’s name, in the new model Marxist party of Red.
        – and the Labour lawn is so overgrown with weeds, that it is easy for anyone to hide their tanks there.

      • Kitty MLB

        The Tories and UKIP are the only parties who care. Telemachus,
        not Labour or your mini- socialist poodles the Lib Dims.
        The peoples party could not be further from its voters if it tried.
        I have noticed you have acknowledged UKIP.. well done old toad.

        • telemachus

          So what do Ukip care about beyond the xenophobic Eurosceptic agenda, a dreadful example to our youth

          • Kitty MLB

            I am a Conservative and ask what is Labours problem with UKIP. Why is sticking up or your own country against EU domination
            xenophobic? we can have a relationship with the EU without
            ‘ belonging to it’, we were a great trading nation once.
            Why is it xenophobic to speak up for English people,
            who you cannot mention for fear of being called a racist.
            The example Labour left our youth is years clearing up
            the mess you left, in which they will be paying for.
            Did Labour in their selfishness and irresponsibility ever think
            of future generations. And the example they left.
            Why can you not see it Telemachus.

            • telemachus

              Your reasonable exposition of xenophobia is not shared by the UKIP BNP and EDL conscripts

              • Kitty MLB

                Dear telemachus, how you link UKIP
                with the likes of BNP is utterly wrong.
                UKIP are nothing like those hate filled
                thugs.There is a woman who posts here
                who is clearly a member of the BNP
                hate drips from her tongue like poison
                and I can assure you UKIP like every
                other party that posts here finds her a
                disgraceful embarrassment.
                Mind you, telemachus I have noticed
                the spectator has been removing her

                • telemachus

                  One of the reasons for the collapse of the BNP and EDL is that their miscreants have been provided with a new home by Farage
                  Until he purges them he will retain the fruitcake epithet

                • Shazza

                  Kitty how right you are! The odious Left smears anybody who dares raise any reasonable argument against flooding a small island with immigrants when the services let alone the culture, can accommodate such an increase in such a short time.
                  During Labour’s Great Disastrous Reign of Terror 1997-2010 the label ‘racist’ was successfully deployed to shut down any reasonable argument as people, quite correctly were not keen to be associated with ‘hate filled thugs’.
                  Fortunately now, we can replace this dreadful ‘racist’ tag with the term ‘realist’ and can have an open, honest debate about the demographic future of this country which affects all of us who live here without being smeared as ‘racist’ and leave that label to those who really deserve it on all sides whatever demographic you belong to.

                • Kitty MLB

                  Yes. That is so true. The Left smear as a way of trying to
                  get the upper hand by manipulating the agenda.
                  And painting everyone else as the bad guy. I just get
                  so very cross when my party treats UKIP in the same disgusting manner. That is not way Conservatives are supposed to behave.

          • George McCarthy

   Quite a good read.

        • George McCarthy

          How you can say that Tories care, when they have crucified the disabled and poor, is the best joke I’ve heard in a long time. LibLabCon are pushing EU ideology. The TTIP will see us as a Corporate State by 2015 Parliament. This is a SELL OFF, of all our public service rights, hidden in a trade deal and triggered by an Health Act, sec 75, top be precise! All three support it, even though it will see at least 3 million more unemployed, as corporations don’t like to many wage packets!

  • Colin

    I can’t say I have noticed Tory tanks rolling onto labour’s lawn. Labour’s lawn is basically all about how do we continue to bribe the underclass that labour created with taxpayers’ money, in order to keep them exactly where labour needs them. Labour isn’t the party of full employment, hasn’t been, in practical terms for about forty years. It’s the party of despair, poverty of aspiration and mediocrity.

    • ButcombeMan

      Using the analogy.

      The Tories are able to roll onto Labour’s lawn because Milliband is not cutting the grass.

      Where are their policies? Especially their economic policies.

      Labour will not be taken seriously on economic policy while Balls is there

  • Colonel Mustard

    What an extraordinary article to publish in the Spectator, as if Labour need any more oxygen for their propaganda that it should be provided by a conservative journal already under siege by a rag tag coterie of Labour-sponsored trolls. And propaganda it is.

    “But the fundamentals remain the same, and much of the hard-fought credibility that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown earned during Labour’s three General Election victories is now the target of sustained Tory fire.”

    Ha! “Hard-fought credibility” is one way of putting it. I can think of some others. Brown was a ghastly imposition, more interested in his scorched earth policies driven by hatred of the Tories but it was the British people as a whole that he burned. Blair was a charlatan whose socialist sincerity now stands starkly revealed as his bank accounts engorge.

    As for unfortunate quips “A good day to bury bad news” springs to mind. But so far as I know the Tories have not yet set up an organisation to covertly defame members of the opposition cabinet by telling deliberate lies about their personal lives. In questions of moral repugnancy Labour mouthpieces would do well to remember Campbell, McBride and Draper and refrain from throwing too many stones from their glass house. Still, I understand that even a personally penned article must remain on message and be scripted from Borg HQ to include a few pejoratives about the “wicked Tories”. And of course whilst demanding that we celebrate New Labour’s “achievements”, New Labour’s has-beens are keen to distance themselves from the tales of corruption, oppression and filth.

    ” . . . after 13 years most Governments run out of steam, but we achieved many great things. Strengthen, develop and build on our achievements”

    To be honest I think the infliction of mass uncontrolled immigration for ideological purposes, the creation of an illiterate generation and the mass killing of the helpless elderly are not achievements that should be strengthened, developed and built on. Apologies would be more appropriate or preferably criminal prosecutions of those in the Labour party who were responsible for them. And wrecking a successful constitution, undermining the rule of law and politicising the public sector to create a bloated apparatchikery achieved the rare distinction of inflicting soulless East European bureaucratic tyranny on the English after centuries of keeping it at bay.

    The boast of who “owns the future” is typical coming from the party of staggering arrogance, the party that repeatedly fails to understand the difference between intentions and consequences and the party which has put the future in hock to debt and sectarian strife. “There is no money left” quipped Byrne.

    As to tanks on the lawn the “centre ground” has already been shifted leftwards such that Miliband can “lurch left” by invoking the barmiest lunacy from the days of Foot and the mildest right of centre can be characterised as “the far right” and the “extremist right”. But Cameron’s drive for that left of centre ground is certainly disconcerting as it robs the English people of much choice in the three main parties, two of which strive for social democrat and one for communist status.

    • telemachus

      The hard fought

      • Colonel Mustard

        My rebuttal of Danczuk’s tripe needs no feeble attempt by you to replay his nonsense. Your comments are a half-witted irritant of no merit whatsoever, the blog equivalent of meaningless graffiti applied to no greater purpose than “telemachus was here”.

      • Durham Dan

        Are you on crack?

      • Kitty MLB

        You are rambling away like a inebriated parrot Telemachus.
        What the devil are you spouting to the Colonel now.
        Gordon Brown left a NHS in a awful state, where the staff were more important then the patient and elderly people were just left to it,
        The NHS is not the property of Labour.
        A banking crisis. Are these the banks you did not regulate and allowed
        to become too big- as well as saying there will be no more boom and
        bust so therefore encouraging people to borrow too much and banks
        to become as reckless as Labour with other peoples money.

        • telemachus

          Listen Kitty
          Before Gordon 50%, yes 50%, of patients died on cardiac waiting lists
          Patients died at home bleeding for want of even access to care
          And if you were over 70 you were deemed too old to have an operation
          After Gordon’s visionary investment all waiting lists came down below 5 weeks and hardly anyone waited more than 4 hours in casualty
          Further if you were fit enough no operation was denied you whether you were 5 or 95
          How you can face to even mention health when half of you(the Tory half) is selling the NHS off to BUPA and the other half(the Faragian) has no policies other than to observe the coalition inspired decline from the high point of Gordon

    • andagain

      Frankly, I think it speaks well of the Spectator if it sometimes publishes articles its readers will disagree with, rather than endlessly telling them how right they are about everything.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Let’s hope you tell that to the Guardian and CiF.

        • andagain

          It’s a point I have made before.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Good for you. But there is a difference between disagreement and refuting lies.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        We conservatives disagree with almost everything the Speccie teenagers publish.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Oh look, tribalist claptrap!

  • Ulysses Returns

    I wasn’t taking you very seriously, until you wrote “Labour understands the value and dignity of work better than any other political party”, when I almost choked on my morning coffee and stopped taking you seriously at all. Yours is the Welfare Party that was only successful in creating low paid jobs for Polish and other Eastern European immigrants while keeping your benefits-addicted client state confined to their taxpayer-funded Sky TV and unemployment ghettos.For all its faults, this coalition has started the process of moving the welfare-wedded into work and their policies have created jobs for the young and long-term unemployed. We will take no lectures on these pages from those who conspired to destroy our British culture and wrecked our economy in pursuit of Labour hegemony.

    • Kitty MLB

      Yes indeed we shall never take any lectures from a party who
      always out themselves before country. Labour crated generations
      of people with no hope of a better life, just trapped in a life of dependency .Telemachus will turn
      up to defend this fellows inane balderdash soon. Ulysses have you been
      reacquainted with him. Just wish you could send these Labour dobbins
      on a boat to Ithaca and introduce them to a few Laestrygonians-
      and hope they have not turned vegetarian.

      • Shazza

        Kitty nothing would please me more than the one way ticket to Ithaca but it ain’t gonna happen.

        What is going to happen is the trickle of Labour voters defecting to UKIP turning into a flood and with Milibrain now promising to fast track ethnic minorities and ‘working class’ into the public and civil service will just alienate their white working class voter base even more. He is currying favour with the ethnic minority and he is so stupid he doesn’t even realise that he is preaching to the converted.

        When that happy day arrives, when Labour is the 3rd largest party in the country – then we can rejoice.

        • Cyril Sneer

          I’ll rejoice when I see Blair hanging by a rope.

      • George McCarthy

        He’ can’t be found, he has his invisibility mask on. I wish they would send me to Kefalonia.
        Miliband has blown it, he has dawdled for to long, the man in the street no longer believes and has jumped ship, his big mistake, not seeing the danger of the EU, he’s been blinded with the 30 pieces of solver.

    • telemachus

      What do you know of dignity
      What do you know of toil
      There are millions in this country working long hours just to ensure their kids have something for tea and shoes on their feet
      There are folks who worry daily about the rent arrears generated by this crazy coalition
      We will not take lectures from one who steps out of the opera onto the homeless
      It is good for the country that a party still cares and will begin to restore social justice soon

      • Colonel Mustard

        “We will not take lectures from one who steps out of the opera onto the homeless”

        You need a lecture on truth. I nailed that myth below. For you to repeat it shows just how dishonest you are. You peddle propaganda without a shred of integrity. How you sleep at night with the mountain of disgusting lies you have left here is beyond me.

    • Graeme S

      Nailed it

    • George McCarthy

      ” For all its faults, this coalition has started the process of moving the welfare-wedded into work and their policies have created jobs for the young and long-term unemployed. ”

      You are another who has fallen for the propaganda, where are the jobs? Cameron say’s they have created 1.5 million, where are they, as there are still 2.34 million unemployed? More than when they came to office! 2011 Census states, ‘Workforce 16-65, 29 million’, Cameron say’s full employment 30 million? 30 million + 2,34 unemployed +3.2 claiming ESA is 35.54 million, we seem to have collected 6.54 million immigrants in 3 short years? As for “this coalition has started the process of moving the welfare-wedded into work and their policies have created jobs for the young and long-term unemployed.”. All this ‘coalition’ has done is constantly feed the corporations with subsidies from the Welfare Bill? They have forced those that wont take a zero hour jobs, to become self-employed, both these positions pay ‘tax credits’, which includes ‘RENT’! The ‘Long Term’ unemployed actually grew, according to figures out last week? The only thing this coalition have done, with any aplomb, is, make the disabled and the poor suffer!

      • HookesLaw

        You are an idiot.
        The govt for instance is limitimg and reforming welfare to make it less of a career choice to live off benefits.
        The jobs are being created … Labours welfare and education policies were a disaster.

  • Kitty MLB

    I should like to point out that only that deceitful miscreant ( Son of the Witch Sycorax won, not Brown) with the help of their failed
    multicultural agenda, won elections.They never had any true credibility and they lost what ever smidgeon they might have had when they smashed the foundations of this country.
    And you even are trying to suggest that Brown and Blair were united, instead
    of Brown having a knife ready for Blair ( similar to Balls& Miliband)
    ‘Labour understands work’ – indeed. create a larger public sector so that everyone
    works for the state. For others its a case people leaving education unfit for work,
    creating a benefits system which was a way of life and a forgotten ‘ underclass’
    which was the working class Labour voter, before Labour destroyed and betrayed them. And these were the people that champagne socialists stepped over when
    leaving the Opera.
    Labour was never the party of social justice- through dealing with the economy,
    reforming education and welfare others will achieve where you failed.
    And the arrogance of Labour dismissing UKIP whom is the new party for Old
    Labour, they are the ones parking their tanks on your lawn, they will defeat
    the EU and nurture your ex grassroots in the Labour strongholds and
    your dangerous agenda will be confined to the dustbin of history..

  • MirthaTidville

    Its not Tory tanks parking on their lawn, they`ve run out of fuel anyway, but belatedly they have woken up to the real threat UKIP is posing to them. Labour are too frightened to even mention Farage. Politics has suddenly become interesting again!!

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