New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
8 April 2015

Why are the Tories making so many mistakes?

The Conservative campaign has been error-prone and incoherent. But it's not a problem of tactics or personnel - they make the wrong choices because they have the wrong values.

By Tessa Jowell

What have non-doms and food banks got in common? Not much I grant you, but in politics they have shared centre stage in a defining two weeks in this General Election.

Labour’s plan to tackle the moral outrage of the non-dom tax loophole is so clearly the right thing to do it is a genuine mystery that anyone could oppose it.

The old system – from 1799 by the way – is so crazy that there are even some people who were born and raised and live in Britain can use it to minimise their tax, whilst the rest of us pay our fair share on everything we earn. But let’s come back to that…

Let’s begin two weeks ago and one of those moments in politics where things become clear.

Jeremy Paxman opened his bruising interrogation of David Cameron with a simple question about food banks. Not Europe, or immigration or coalition deals or any of the other issues that have dominated politics this year, but food banks.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

It was immediately obvious that David Cameron wasn’t prepared. It hadn’t occurred to him nor his team that food-banks might come up.

Underneath all the sound and fury of the last five years, Paxman’s first question unearthed a simple truth. We have become a nation in which almost a million families a year can’t afford to feed themselves.

Just give that a bit of thought. Whatever your politics that has to make you angry. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world yet hundreds of thousands of our children grow up in a home that can’t afford food.

In my own constituency as I step down, the local food banks helped almost 9,000 people last year – including more than 3,000 children.

I want to live in a country where we are utterly intolerant of child poverty; where we are utterly intolerant of child homelessness; where we are utterly intolerant of a situation where children and their families are forced to the food-bank to make it through the week. I’m sure you do too.

We have to be intolerant – there’s no alternative. It’s about our values as a nation. Which brings us back to nom-doms.

Today, Labour have taken a stand against something that is clearly wrong. Why should the global super rich enjoy tax perks that the rest of us can’t? It’s a basic issue of fairness.

So what of the Tories? For the second time in a fortnight this General Election campaign has left them badly exposed. That’s what these campaigns are for – to test politicians on their ideas and their values – and when faced with Labour’s plan to end the non-dom scandal the Tories have failed the test.

You will see them over the next few days find any excuse under the sun to oppose Labour’s plan, but behind all the bluster is a simple truth: Labour want to make things fairer, and the Tories want to stop them – and everybody knows it.

Two weeks ago, David Cameron couldn’t answer Jeremy Paxman because he cannot defend his record. Under his watch more children are in poverty, more children are relying on food banks, more children are homeless. That’s because his government have not prioritised righting those wrongs and they won’t prioritise it in the future.

That’s because of their values. Their values force them to make bad choices.

From food banks to non-doms the Tories have no answers because they don’t truly understand the problem. And so the real answer is clear – time for a change of government. Time for a Labour government.

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit