I have just back from the launch of the Tories latest poster which attempts to bring home the extent of Labour’s Debt Crisis. There were two hundred party members and journalists lined up to hear what was said. The Ealing Southall PPC, Gurcharan Singh, was there too. A fifteen minute pitch and four or five questions and it was all over. You always feel a but used and dirty after these things. A whole morning taken up so that you can provide a backdrop to a 10 second clip on the evening news.
Both Cameron and Osborne were on good form although Cameron slightly fluffed his joke about the Prime Minister simultaneously launching another Conservative policy – a Â£2,500 incentive to businesses to take on the unemployed.
For once I had the chance to read the Telegraph on the Tube. Janet Daley is unimpressed with the Cameron message:
And yet Mr Cameron perseveres with his limp message. Interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday, he must have said at least three times (I lost count after that) that he had no intention of reducing public spending: he wanted only to slow the rate of its increase.
In his pitch I heard Cameron saying that his solution to the credit crisis was essentially to redirect Â£4 billion of a projected Â£30 billion growth in government spending next year to ending the tax on low rate tax payers’ savings. Great, but hardly red meat. As Roger Bootle says today in the same Telegraph we need to do what we can to maintain aggregate demand but for my money I would put more money in the hands of ordinary people rather than allowing the state to grow yet further. If we let the state ratchet itself up another notch in this downturn don’t think it will meekly shrink itself on the other side.
The Cameron project has been consistently strong on analysis but timid in its policy prescriptions. This is to be expected, as Brown has shown today, he will happily swipe all of the best Tory policies. Indeed Daley’s point is that in re-hiring Mandelson and Milburn Brown has shown his determination not to cede the middle ground in British politics. If the Tories are not to be outflanked they need to offer the real thing not the ersatz reforms promised by Milburn, et al.