Battle-tested Tories versus the class warriors

The Conservatives and Labour kick off their campaigns ahead of the general election in May. Emily Hohler reports.

The general election isn't until 7 May and it promises to be a "very long haul", says The Sunday Times. Economic competence and David Cameron's opinion-poll advantage on leadership are "the Tories' two strongest cards".

In an effort to capitalise on this, the Conservatives have produced an 82-page dossier on Labour's "uncosted" £21bn spending plans, which Ed Miliband dismissed as "completely false".

Meanwhile, Miliband kicked off the Labour campaign with a speech promising to campaign door-to-door on living standards, the NHS and a new economy that works for everyday people. He painted the election as a "once in a generation fight about who our country works for" the "struggling worker or the villainous millionaire", says The Daily Telegraph.

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By itself, the "class-warfare rhetoric would be ludicrously misguided", but it also "fails to square with Labour's own agenda". On the big issue the deficit and public spending Labour is "grudgingly committed to a watered-down, slow-motion version of the Tories' own plans".

For both Cameron and Miliband, the big challenge is to reverse the forces that dominated UK politics last year, says Patrick Wintour in The Guardian. "Truculent" voters have to be persuaded that the "protest votes of Scottish nationalism, English nationalism or Green idealism might have suited the elections of 2014, but not the big choice of 2015".

If they don't succeed, every target seat becomes a "lottery". Last year was the "first year that saw the combined vote share of the main two parties in the UK fail to reach 70% in every single month".

So far, the debate has been "inconclusive and unsatisfying" for those of us engaged with politics and "depressing and boring" for those who aren't, says John Rentoul in The Independent.

Since Labour hasn't made any spending promises, the Tories have wasted a "huge amount of taxpayers' money" getting civil servants to add up figures so it can say Labour wants to tax, borrow and spend.

And the Tories didn't even bother to argue with Labour's "dishonest" poster saying that they wanted to "cut spending on public services back to the levels of the Thirties, when there was no NHS" (Tory spending plans actually allow for a small increase in NHS spending) as they know most people prefer Labour when it comes to the NHS.

In any case, most normal people will ignore all this until May when they will "consider proposition A (Labour loves the NHS'), proposition B (Tories run the economy') and proposition C (sideshow') and then decide".

Personality will play a big part too, says The Daily Telegraph. Cameron's "experienced, battle-tested" team includes George Osborne, the "architect of recovery", and Theresa May, the "tough-as-nails" home secretary.

Labour has Miliband and Ed Balls, "the men who helped drive Gordon Brown drive the economy and the public finances into the ground". In this respect, the Tories already have a "crucial advantage".

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.