For news of an accident boding to happen, try today’s Financial Times leader, which starts:
There are active philosophical debates about what “fairness” means. The UK Conservative party has little time for such niceties. For the Tories, “fairness” is what they want to do. “Unfairness” is what the government does. Launching a campaign called “Unfair Britain”, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, has landed some solid blows on the government, but he has also highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
This, let it kept in mind, is the Pink’Un, no less!
This fine and upstanding journal goes on to make specific points, in a way and directness that Government ministers should well study:
- Mr Osborne complains about inflation, but he intends to keep the government’s monetary policy framework. He frets that pensioners are too poor, but has no intention of giving them more money…
- The most glaring weakness in the Tory critique concerns the tax credit system. The Conservatives rightly note that the system is impossible to administer and the ensuing effective tax rate on many poorer workers is far too high… Serious reform would mean the Tories deciding which group of people they want to keep in work – an unappetising choice.
- Mr Osborne complains that the UK is missing its targets on carbon emissions, that the cost of motoring has risen and that the poor are paying more tax than ever. If he is serious about climate change, he will need to introduce a carbon price. This would mean that driving would become more expensive and poor people would pay more tax. Which is it to be?
ideas, as Mrs Thatcher showed, do matter.
The Tories need to offer a greater sense of strategic direction rather than endless micropolicies.
There’s a degree of rewriting history there: for example, it took Thatcher some way into her first administration to achieve achieve full knee-biting mode, with any “ideas” or “strategic vision”.
On the other hand, the main thrust of the FT piece seems sound, not just in “philosophical” terms but also in terms of practical politics.
Malcolm’s recollection (which just stretches back to the 1959 calamity) is that the UK electorate has repeatedly sniffed out each and every incoherence in manifestos and platforms, election after election. In that tradition, the wheels could so readily be coming off the Cameroonie band-wagon, despite all the “implementation” committees, in the run-up to whenever.