“Follow the money” is an old adage—and the money is flowing into the Tories’ coffers in the expectation that David Cameron will be installed in Downing Street next spring.
Business and financial bosses crammed into a reception that Cameron hosted in Westminster last week. “They couldn’t get through the door,” boasted one Tory spin doctor.
In July, Caledonia Investment’s shareholders voted to donate £75,000 to the Tories. Chief executive Tim Ingram explained, “We firmly believe that our shareholders will get greater wealth creation in the economic conditions created by a Tory government than by a Labour government.” He added, “Stock markets do better under the Conservatives.”
Cameron hailed the Tories’ success in winning the Norwich North by-election last week from Labour by a 7,000 majority as “historic”. The word is that senior civil servants are planning for a Cameron government with the same certainty they did prior to Tony Blair’s victory in 1997.
What do Cameron’s business backers want? The answer is cuts in government spending to reduce the budget deficit created by the bailout of the banks. Accordingly the Tories started talking tough in the wake of their by-election success.
Cameron told The Sun newspaper, “My message to union leaders who think they can take me on is simple: don’t do it.”
Labour chancellor Alistair Darling was quick to argue that a vote for the Tories is a vote for reduced services. He did not explain that he plans to cut welfare spending far more than the Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government did in the 1980s.
Darling and Brown are desperately hoping the scars of the Thatcher years will mean Labour voters will turn out on election day to keep Cameron out. It’s an argument we can expect to hear from trade union leaders keen to justify their continued support for this fading government.
But Cameron’s interview with The Sun had another message. “I want to have good relations with these people,” he said of those same trade union leaders. “They have an important part to play”.
That is far from Thatcher’s class war rhetoric. It explains why there is nervousness in ruling class circles about whether Cameron and company have the bottle for pushing through the sort of austerity measures being demanded in the boardrooms.
Cameron has, after all, modelled himself on Tony Blair rather than the Iron Lady in repositioning the Tory Party so that it can win elections.
These days when a Tory government is talked of it is inevitably that of Margaret Thatcher. And it has to be admitted our side took a hell of a beating back then.
Fewer people recall the government of Edward Heath, who was unexpectedly elected in 1970.
Today Heath is remembered for being a critic of Thatcher, a key “wet” who disputed her ultra-free market stance.
But when he was elected in 1970 he promised to cut government aid to “lame duck” industries and promoted a right wing agenda of his own.
By 1972 he was in full retreat after working class resistance forced him into a complete U-turn. First workers at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders took over the yards to stop closure. Then Heath picked a fight with the miners, and lost spectacularly. He was finally ditched from Downing Street when he picked and lost another round with the miners.
By then the working class was on a roll and the ruling class was in a tizz. In the end they relied on the Labour and trade union leaders to defeat the left.
History does not repeat itself identically. We cannot predict what the reaction will be to a Tory victory next year. But it does not have to be a re-run of the Thatcher years. It could be like the early 1970s.
What we can say is that the outcome of current fights like those at Vestas, Johnnie Walker and Royal Mail can shape the future.
We need to start demanding national action in response to cuts, knowing whoever scrambles into government next year will expect us to pay for bailing out the bosses.