Stop wallowing in the middle ground, Mr. Cameron

Wallowing in the middle ground achieved nothing in 2010. In 2015, it may well be a case of who dares wins

Thatcher and Cameron make their directions clear
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 19 April 2013 08:31

There has been much grand talk of legacy, of inheritance, of the future for Thatcher’s children over the last few days. It is becoming ever clearer that as we look to 2015 strategists from all parties – whatever their opinion on Thatcher and wherever their loyalties lie – will need to work along the dividing lines that she set, and that still exist today.

If you walk into your local bookies this morning, Ed Miliband is odds-on to become Prime Minister in two years’ time, most likely in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Far be it from me to argue with the wisdom of our high street betting shops, but there remain hope for Tory strategists looking to overturn this deficit – for them, sadly, the only deficit that really matters – and it is steeped in Thatcherism.

Maggie set herself apart from her socialist opponents along the lines of freedom versus statism, private enterprise versus common ownership, big bang versus heavy regulation, and determined leadership versus union subversiveness.

A YouGov poll on the day of her funeral found that the British public side still with Thatcher on all of these issues. 52 percent want free market competition and the freedom to make profit; 45 percent say no to regulation and oppose stronger trade unions.

The welfare debate gives us a glimpse of what the Tories can achieve if they embrace Thatcherite aims in 2015.  Cameron’s one major success of the moment – inspired behind the scenes by Lynton Crosby and Grant Shapps – is recognising that the public backs hard workers over free-riders. As far as the voters are concerned Labour is on the wrong side of the argument, and that is all that matters.

But Labour isn’t stupid and it is beginning to realise where the popular sentiment lies. The big political story of the week – understandably under the radar – is the growing dissent from Blairites against Miliband. A Sun poll has found that six out of ten voters believe benefits are too generous, with 79 percent backing the government's £26,000-a-year benefits cap. Ed’s obstinacy on the issue is feeding discord in the ranks.

The Tories can choose the dividing lines for 2015 not just on welfare but across the board. Knowing they have the public’s backing on welfare and on many of the battles that Thatcher fought, they should be confident to take the fight to Labour elsewhere.

Thatcher won these battles because the voters were on her side, but crucially because she believed in her ideology enough to fight for it. Cameron should know that if he fights those same battles along the same lines that she did, the public will back him.

Wallowing in the middle ground achieved nothing in 2010. In 2015, it may well be a case of who dares wins.

Alex Wickham is The Commentator's UK Political Editor and a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He is a contributor to their column in The Sun newspaper. He tweets at @WikiGuido

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