Labour is wise to target the Mumsnet vote

Attack ad highlights Tory plans to cut tax credits.

Unable to match the Conservatives' billboard blitz, Labour has taken to Mumsnet in an effort to woo female voters away from David Cameron. The attack ad (see screen grabs, below) targets Tory plans to scale back child tax credits and warns mothers that they'll "get less than they bargained for" if they vote Conservative.

George Osborne promised in his party conference speech to save £400m by scrapping "tax credits to families with incomes over £50,000". But the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week calculated that such a cut would save only £45m. For Osborne to save £400m, the IFS worked out, he would need to lower the threshold to £31,000, not £50,000.

Mumsnet 1

Labour's decision to target female voters through the campaign is a canny move. It was the defection of women from the Tories that handed power to Labour in 1997, and that secured the party's re-election in 2001 and 2005.

Mumsnet 2

At the last election, 38 per cent of women voted for Labour, compared to 34 per cent of men. Without female voters, Labour's majority in 2005 would have been 23 seats, rather than the 66 it actually won. Women are one of the key groups yet to be won over by Cameron: a recent ComRes poll gave Labour a 4-point lead among female voters.

Mumsnet 3

As the economy begins to recover, the Tories' plan to curb middle-class welfare could well turn out to be a vote loser. Expect Labour to use this line of attack repeatedly in the election campaign.

Mumsnet 4

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.