Tories must take Labour on NHS, UKIP on immigration

Labour mistakenly believe the NHS is "their turf". But the polling shows they are vulnerable to the Conservatives on this issue in the run-up to May. Conservatives can and must also take UKIP on immigration to secure an outright majority, says Andrew Rosindell MP

Tories need to expose Frage and Miliband
Andrew Rosindell MP
On 15 January 2015 07:46

Last week, The Commentator reported that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, had now overtaken Ed Miliband as the leader most trusted to manage the National Health Service (NHS), according to a recent poll by ComRes.

This will have come as a shock to Labour officials, who have attempted to portray Miliband as the leader with the most compassion for the nation's health. Labour have tried incredibly hard to put the NHS at the forefront of the election campaign, offering little substance on any other major voter issues, despite having made what feels like 100 botched relaunch attempts .

In his disastrous speech at the last Labour Party conference, Ed Miliband mentioned the NHS 19 times, while notoriously missing out sections of his pre-prepared notes on the deficit and immigration, indicating that he has no real intention to push these issues to the top of the agenda for the May election.

The current state of affairs for Miliband resembles that of former US President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign, when Democrats placed almost all their focus on peace, due to Reagan leading comfortably on almost every other issue. Carter lost to Reagan by 38 states, reminding us of the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket.

The polling is good news for the Conservatives, who have had difficulties in building national support for NHS management since coming to office in 2010. Although overall -- according to the same survey --  Labour as a party still hold a small lead over the Conservatives in the running of the NHS, these figures are extremely promising as the General Election drawers ever closer.

It reminds us of the need to monitor wider issue polling and leader tracking closely. Although it is important to monitor both party and leadership performance separately, one can make plausible inferences from both.

Currently, YouGov put the NHS as the third most important issue, as perceived by voters and their families (33 percent). Both immigration (49 percent) and the economy (49 percent) are ranked higher, by quite some margin.

The Conservatives and David Cameron continue to lead comfortably on economic competency, a finding that is unsurprising given the government's record of tackling the deficit and restoring growth following 13 years of shambolic mismanagement and reckless spending by Labour.

However, the surprising tie between immigration and the economy as the top concerns among voters demonstrates the need also to put immigration right at the forefront of the campaign.

Immigration has continually risen in terms of saliency in polls and UKIP have jumped at the opportunity to fill what they perceive as a vacuum left by the Conservatives as we attempt to strike a balance in demonstrating competency on other major issues facing the country.

As a party that has failed to make inroads on convincing voters of their stances on all those other major political issues, it is no surprise that UKIP have focused a huge amount of energy in a bid to become the immigration party. It is a move which appears to have worked, for now.

At a time when Labour and the Liberal Democrats continue to trail behind on the issue, it falls to David Cameron and the Conservatives to lead the narrative on immigration as the General Election approaches.

It remains vital that we place further emphasis on the need to reform border controls within the EU, whilst simultaneously reminding voters of the need to reduce immigration to ease pressure on our schools and hospitals. We must also press to ensure that those who are living here are both law abiding and hard working.

Although the Conservatives would be right to continue making the case for NHS reform in a bid to attack Labour on what has mistakenly become referred to as ‘their turf’ and to keep the economy at the heart of the discussion, we must pay greater attention to immigration if we are to shake off Nigel Farage, which Conservatives must if we are to win an outright majority on 7th May.

Andrew Rosindell is the Member of Parliament for Romford

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