Cable’s attack on Thatcherism gets an airing

Scottish Lib Dem leader delivers the comments that Vince Cable dropped from a recent speech.

Vince Cable's recent call for a "progressive majority" of Labour and Lib Dem voters to support AV in order to end Tory dominance reminded us that most Lib Dems would be far more comfortable in coalition with Ed Miliband's party than with David Cameron's. If you want to get an idea of the loathing that some Lib Dems retain for the Tories it's well worth reading the interview with the Lib Dems' leader in Scotland, the aptly named Tavish Scott, in today's Scotsman.

Scott has previously put clear yellow water between himself and Nick Clegg by admitting that the Lib Dem leader makes him "grimace". Today, he launches a ferocious attack on the Conservatives ahead of the devolved elections on 5 May.

He declares that the Tories would have "burned Scotland at the stake" if they had entered government on their own last year and claims that Clegg has spared Scotland "the worst excesses of Thatcherism". He adds: "We all remember Thatcherism – the poll tax, Scotland being used as a guinea pig, mass unemployment."

But what is fascinating is that his comments are almost identical to those that Cable dropped from his speech at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce last week. A press release of the speech given to journalists suggested that the Business Secretary would argue that the Lib Dems were preventing the Tories from "behaving like they did" under Thatcher.

The Business Secretary was scheduled to say: "I remember the negative side of Thatcherism – the poll tax, mass unemployment and the claims that there was no such thing as society . . . That's why I'm glad the Tories aren't in power themselves at Westminster. We have stopped the Tories behaving like they did under Thatcher."

The similarities continue. Cable was also due to argue that "we stopped them from introducing their plans to cut taxes for millionaires". In today's interview, Scott says: "they [the Conservatives] wanted to help millionaires with inheritance tax, not help low-paid people out of tax altogether".

Until now, why Cable decided to remove those remarks from his speech has remained a mystery. Most assumed that he simply wanted to avoid further controversy after his attack on Cameron's "very unwise" immigration speech. But it now seems likely that Lib Dem strategists believed that the attack on Thatcherism would be more convincing if it came from Scott (who, of course, is not a member of the coalition), rather than Cable.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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