This week saw the Tories launch their better-value-lower-taxes manifesto. It took place at the opulent Institute of Directors and was notable mainly for poor old Ollie Letwin being forced by some dark media type to walk up the grand staircase. The telly cameras were positioned at the top so were able to zoom in on his distressing bald spot. The parallel with his policy announcements hardly needed to be spelled out, and the downbeat message was reinforced by the choice of venue, the IOD being the notorious old boys club that fired Ruth Lea for being too stridently free market.
The substance of the manifesto was pathetic. Despite getting that company undertaker bloke to run up a bumper book of facts on government waste, all Ollie could come up with was a promise to let us off four billion of the near half trillion that Gordo plans to grab from us next year. That’s about a quid a week each. No wonder he looked like he was attending his own funeral.
Now Letwin seems a decent enough cove, quite bright too by all accounts. He does come across as an unworldly Oxbridge don, but Jeez, rather that than a second rate polytechnic lecturer from the University of Social Inclusion (which is what we’ll get when Milburn becomes Chancellor in a few month’s time- you read it here first). Yet after months of huffing and puffing about waste and the scope for lower taxes, what came out was pretty well indistinguishable from Labour.
The Tories used to be a contender. Now they stagger towards a third disastrous election like a punched-out middleweight, lolling real close to the other guy in case they get hammered out of the ring completely. Competing with the present lot on the basis of who’s least managerially incompetent just isn’t what we want our politicians to be doing.
‘Choice’ is New Labour’s spinword of choice for the noughties. In their mouths it means nothing. Politicians of the centre-right should show they are the real promoters of choice by somehow finding the bottle to offer us a proper choice on tax and spend at election time.