Following the budget, Matthew Paris of the Times has challenged the Conservatives to be more forthright about their differences with Labour on economic policy than they are at the moment.
Paris’s discussion is partially about tactics and partially about policy. He has framed the tactical-political issue as follows:
“It is said of Mr. Brown that his aim is to establish a clear dividing line with the Tories, and I think that is true. From this it is argued that the Tories should not be so foolish as to play his game. I reject that. There are times when, if a gauntlet is thrown down, one should pick it up and draw swords.”
Like most Tories, Paris does not have any conception that the Conservatives are going to lose the next election. He is concerned about mandate (and by implication the election which follows). He said,
“To break cover with such talk [about what they would actually do in office] only after winning an election would not only be dishonest, but rob them of the mandate that they will need”
I am not as concerned about this as Paris. The Conservatives are being careful not to show their hand. I would be concerned if, by the time the election manifesto was written, the Conservatives did not have anything new to “wheel out”. All the indications are that there is plenty of new thinking, which is still under wraps. In October 2007 speculation about a snap election was at fever pitch and Gordon Brown was riding high in the opinion polls. We saw then that George Osborne announced the new Conservative Policy on Inheritance Tax.
The Conservatives will certainly need to make spending cuts during their administration. So also would Labour, if they won another term. However, there is no need to emphasise the requirement for spending cuts, let alone say exactly where they will fall. Making a judgment about that can wait until the Conservatives achieve office.
On the question of taxation, I responded to the increase in the top rate of tax in my previous post. The Conservatives do not have to promise when to bring back the 40% top rate. I am slightly disappointed that Mr. Osborne said, in relation to the 50% rise, that he “could not promise to reverse it.” I would have preferred a different emphasis. As well as election considerations, the Conservatives ought to consider those that are making decisions about whether to continue to work or be based in Britain. All that said, Mr. Osborne’s words are still consistent with bringing the top rate back down at some point in the future.
Overall, the Conservatives have got their tactics right. They may just need to make some minor modifications.
Filed under: Alastair Darling, Conservative Party, Conservative Party Policy, Economy, General Election, George Osborne, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, taxation | Tagged: Alastair Darling, Conservative Party, Conservative Party Policy, Economy, General Election, George Osborne, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, Northern Ireland politics, Public spending, taxation | Leave a Comment »