Saturday, February 06, 2010

Cameron seeks to tone-down Tories' harsh message

There are some weeks as a political commentator when you can find yourself racking your brain for something to write about. On others, though, you find yourself somewhat spoilt for choice.

That the past week falls into the latter category there can be no doubt.

We’ve had Clare Short giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, telling us that Tony Blair’s real reason for going to war was that he wanted to be up there with the ‘big boys.’

It’s a pity she didn’t feel strongly enough about it at the time to join Robin Cook in resigning before the conflict. Who knows, by acting together they might just have prevented it.

Then we had Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused of having let down the armed forces while Chancellor by imposing strict limits on defence spending prior to the invasion in 2003.

And we saw the conclusion of the tortuous negotiations on Northern Ireland policing, paving the way to full devolution and, perhaps, a ‘hand of history’ moment for Gordon before he leaves office.

Meanwhile the MPs expenses row reared its head once more, with independent watchdog Sir Thomas Legg finding that more than half of MPs had made “inappropriate or excessive” claims.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer yesterday revealed that three of them – Elliott Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine – will now face criminal charges.

Also in the news this week was Labour’s plan for a referendum on proportional representation, a deathbed conversion that has something of the air of tragi-comic farce about it.

I remember getting terribly excited about all the Blair-Ashdown manoeuvrings in the late 1990s, and how they planned to create a progressive-left alliance that would keep the Tories out of power for 100 years.

Electoral reform was to prove the stumbling block. It was when Jack Straw rubbished Roy Jenkins' 1998 report recommending the Alternative Vote that Paddy Ashdown decided to quit as Lib Dem leader.

Yet here we are, more than a decade on, and Labour is now endorsing that very system - surely a case of too little too late if ever there was one.

But in terms of its likely influence on the coming election campaign, perhaps the most significant story of the week was the apparent Tory confusion over public spending.

For months now, the main dividing line between the two main parties has been over the timing of spending cuts, with the Conservatives arguing that the scale of deficit requires action sooner rather than later.

Yet here was David Cameron at the start of the week attempting to reassure us that there would be “no swingeing cuts” in the first year of a Tory administration.

Were the Tories ‘wobbling’ on public spending, as Lord Mandelson was swift to allege? Shadow Chancellor George Osborne says not - but with election day looming, they do appear to be trying to blur the edges somewhat.

We have already seen this Cameroonian tendency to try to face both ways in relation their policy on regional development agencies, which were widely assumed to be for the chop within weeks of the Tories taking over.

Yet when this newspaper and others went and reported that, on the basis of some rather too candid comments by frontbench spokesman Stewart Jackson, the Tory machine swiftly went into row-back mode.

Mr Cameron’s apparent determination not to frighten the horses invites further comparisons with Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 election.

It didn’t do Mr Blair any harm, of course – but the public is older and wiser now.

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Stephen Rouse said...

The right-wing commentariat made a lot of the recent British Social Attitude Survey, interpreting it as evidence we are an inherently Conservative nation wanting to see a shrunken state. My guess is that Cameron has seen private polling which suggests otherwise, hence the lurch back to the centre ground.

Robert said...

In the past four years I've been tipped out of my wheelchair by a bloke who though I could walk but was pretending, another women spent an hour interviewing me for a job, and she kept demanding for me to prove I was disabled because she knew lots of people who said they were disabled but she knew they were faking it.

I then had to go through a charity interview in which i had to show people my injuries and scares so that the Police would not arrest me for being a fake and pull the charity down.

Everyone now thinks the disabled are scroungers fakes and frauds mainly because of TV with benefits scroungers and of course the government.

When i wrote to my MP about benefits cuts, i was told that working was the way out of poverty not benefits, I wrote back saying did she think dying was the best way out of poverty I had no answer to that one.

I think without doubt in this country now the weak the poor and the disabled are seen as scroungers without doubt we have gone to wards the Conservative ideals

Wrinkled Weasel said...

What the public is older and wiser about is the ten years of lies and deceit we have had under Labour.

I believe Cameron is not a real alternative though, he is essentially, "not Brown" - which is bad for democracy. (remember Democracy?)

As for Clare Short, she seems to blame Blair for her lack of resigning at the right time - not something that has the ring of truth to me. She is hardly the shy retiring door mat type is she?

The "weak and the poor" now tyrannise us with endless demands for "yuman rights". There is a limit you know, to charity, especially when it comes out of the pockets of honest people.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Actually, it's not the "weak and the poor" we should worry about. Since they will always be with us and always have been, you would think we could have sorted that by now.

No, that is a stock Labour red herring. Us right wing bastards don't want to stuff the weak and the poor, what we want is an end to the billions spent on "Community Cohesion" and subsidies to Labour constituencies for building projects, and PFI and illegal wars and hundreds of Quangoes led by Labour supporters and all those things that should sink or swim based upon their ability to get public support directly.