Martin Bright

Are Big Ideas Back?

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I can't quite decide whether there really is a return of ideas to British politics or whether the political columnists have just grown tired of writing yet another piece about just how bad things are for the Prime Minister this week. 

Jackie Ashley's column in today's Guardian complements Janet Daley's in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday. From opposing political perspectives they say the same thing: the two major parties are beginning to develop distinct political visions, which will allow the British public to make a genuine choice at next year's general election. Ashley suggests that David Cameron's speech on the role of the state and Ed Miliband's grasping of the environmental nettle mean that we are beginning to see arguments of substance about the key political issues of the day. "For the first time in ages it seems that a real politcal debate is starting," she says.

Janet Daley gets very close to unfettered praise for Cameron when she suggests that he is developing at least the rhetoric for "a fully-fledged reassessment of the relationship between government and the individual". She is recognising what some on the left have realised for some time: that David Cameron is a conventional post-Thatcherite Conservative. It will remain to be seen whether his no-frills "EasyCouncil" approach to public services will appeal to the electorate when the local playground starts to fray at the edges or when consultation with local people suggests people want more police on the streets or smaller class sizes, but the money just isn't there.