What's on the PM's mind?

The cosy-up between Brown and Thatcher gets a mixed response from political bloggers as some ask if

As news broke this week that Margaret Thatcher was returning to Downing Street to take tea with the present incumbent, Benedict
Brogan
wondered – in the light of Gordon Brown’s recent appointments – whether there was an ulterior motive: "Mr Brown has already riled the Tories by claiming that he – and not David Cameron – is a conviction politician of the Iron Lady mold. Might he go one step further today and find a task force for her to chair?"

While, The
Huntsman
wondered if the meeting of minds was not for a simpler reason: "Perhaps he is asking what he should do with those pesky unions as he faces his very own ‘Winter of Discontent’."

The cosying-up of Thatcher and Brown was seen by some on the Right as a rallying call to a damning indictment of Cameron. Many on the left saw it as a betrayal of Old Labour by Brown, but Snowflake5
was more philosophical: "Some in Labour will raise eyebrows at this, given the hurt she inflicted on the country in the early 80s. But we’re comfortably in power now, and vengeance isn’t part of the Labour character.

"We can afford to be magnanimous and kind to a very old lady who is clearly still upset at events of the past."

In an interesting analysis of the political tactics at the heart of the meeting between the two "conviction politicians", Dizzy
Thinks
began: "The master strategist and tactician Brown does it again and has turned the lady who was not for turning they say. Brown has played Cameron for the pygmy chump that he is."

But concluded: "Gordon Brown may very well be a master strategist and tactician, but yesterday his ego and overriding desire to destabilise Cameron exposed his flank, and a superior master of the game exploited it savagely."

In a two-pronged attack on the Conservatives on the day they launched the Blueprint for a Green Economy, Labour announced they would be hiring Saatchi & Saatchi (of "Labour isn’t working" fame) for their election campaign.

href="http://www.order-order.com/2007/09/saatchi-saatchi-win-labour-advertisin...">Guido
Fawkes saw the move as a cynical reaction to the perception of modern
politics: “The Times reports Populus research which shows that Brown is perceived by voters to have moved to the right and Cameron’s Conservatives are perceived to have moved to the left. So with increasingly little difference between the brands, it may all come down to marketing.”

Meanwhile, Will
Howells
has suggested a couple of failed Saatchi & Saatchi campaigns which may have been taken to LDHQ (“Not merciless, just Ming”) and CCHQ (“Not anything really. Just Dave”).

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Jeremy Corbyn's opponents are going down a blind alley on tuition fees

The electoral pool they are fishing in is shallow – perhaps even non-existent. 

The press and Labour’s political opponents are hammering Jeremy Corbyn over his party's pledge/ambition/cruel lie to win an election (delete depending on your preference) to not only abolish tuition fees for new students, but to write off the existing debts of those who have already graduated.

Labour has conceded (or restated, again, depending on your preference) that this is merely an “ambition” – that the party had not pledged to wipe out existing tuition fee debt but merely to scrap fees.

The party’s manifesto and the accompanying costings document only included a commitment to scrap the fees of students already in the system. What the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are claiming as a pledge is the following remark, made by Jeremy Corbyn in his Q&A with NME readers:

“First of all, we want to get rid of student fees altogether. We’ll do it as soon as we get in, and we’ll then introduce legislation to ensure that any student going from the 2017-18 academic year will not pay fees. They will pay them, but we’ll rebate them when we’ve got the legislation through – that’s fundamentally the principle behind it. Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden. I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all of this – but I’m very well aware of that problem. And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”

Is this a promise, an aspiration or a target? The answer probably depends on how you feel about Jeremy Corbyn or fees policy in general. (My reading, for what it’s worth, is that the full quote looks much more like an objective than a promise to my eyes but that the alternative explanation is fair enough, too.)

The more interesting question is whether or not there is an electoral prize to be had, whether from the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, for hammering Labour on this topic. On that one the answer is open and shut: there really isn’t one.

Why not? Because the evidence is clear: that pledging to abolish tuition fees largely moves two groups of voters: students who have yet to graduate and actually start paying back the fees, and their parents and grandparents, who are worried about the debt burden.

There is not a large caucus of fee-paying graduates – that is, people who have graduated and are earning enough to start paying back their tuition fees – who are opposed to the system. (We don’t have enough evidence but my expectation is that the parents of people who have already graduated are also less fussed. They can see that their children are not crippled by tuition fee debt, which forms a negligible part of a graduate’s tax and living expenses, as opposed to parents who are expecting a worrying future for their children who have yet to graduate.)

Put simply, there isn’t a large group of people aged 21 or above voting for Corbyn who are that concerned about a debt write-off. Of those that are, they tend to have an ideological stance on the value of a higher education system paid for out of general taxation – a stance that makes it much harder for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats to peel those votes off.

The whole thing is a bit of a blind alley for the parties of the centre and right. The Tory difficulty at this election wasn’t that they did badly among 18-21s, though they did do exceptionally badly. With the exception of the wave year of 1983, they have always tended to do badly with this group. Their problem is that they are doing badly with 30-45s, usually the time in life that some younger Labour voters begin to vote Conservative, largely but not exclusively because they have tended to get on the property ladder.

Nowadays of course, that cohort, particularly in the south of England, is not getting on the property ladder and as a result is not turning blue as it ages. And that’s both a bigger worry and a more lucrative electoral target for Labour’s opponents than litigating an NME interview.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.