Fraser Nelson

Cameron is taking the fight to Brown

Cameron is taking the fight to Brown
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Here is my top half dozen points from Cameron’s angry, feisty, Brown’s-a-liar press conference today.


1.     GO AHEAD, BROWN, MAKE MY DAYWe can do this the easy way or the hard way. I can just go on and on, question time after question time, revealing the cuts that he himself is planning. Or he can recognise this is the wrong approach not only for his party but the country.” Cameron devoted the last two PMQs to cuts. Is he threatening here to keep doing it every week? I think he should, and agree with Matthew Parris that he should be ruthlessly boring about this topic. Not only because a Prime Minister in a democracy should not be allowed to lie as Brown is lying, but because this strategy deploys a little political jujitsu. It turns Brown’s weight against him, takes the debate from Tory cuts to Tory honesty v Labour lies. Every time the voters hear Brown going on about spending, they’ll think – Jimmy Nail style – ‘he’s lying’. Brown may very well will play into Cameron’s hands here.

2.     FOUR STAGES OF CUTS Cameron laid out the process: 1. Admit cuts need to be made. 2. Identify a few (ID cards, ‘regional nonsense’, government advertising, consultancy etc). 3. Go further: ‘tax credits being paid to people with relatively high salaries’ and 4. “Yes I accept we have more to do, more to say, but that’s compared to the government who haven’t even reached stage one.” Cameron did this in the reverse order, though. ID cards are not going to come up with the £26bn cuts (minimum) that he’ll need. So to rephrase his answer: “We admit to cuts, okay, and Labour don’t. But cuts where? Not health. Not DFID. But that’s all we’ll say.”

3.   NO TORY SPENDING REVIEW BEFORE ELECTION EITHER “I don’t believe in a full-on shadow budget.” A reference, I suspect, not to John Smith but to Letwin’s disastrous Medium Term Financial Strategy of February 2004 where he laid out spending plans that promised to outspend Labour. Brown’s decision to cancel the Spending Review has of course let Cameron off the hook – he will now face zero pressure to lay out his own spending plans.

4.     DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCEI don’t care what the government does anymore. They can announce cuts, they can announce increases, they can set the whole thing to music and do a karaoke. I have completely lost faith, as has most of the country, in anything this government says. You can see it every week in PMQs when the Prime Minister stands up and says ‘black is white’.” This may sound unremarkable, but consider Tory psychology. Fear of what Gordon Brown might say has stymied Tory intellectual development for at least a decade. Even now, some Tory policymakers will steer clear of policies that are needed saying ‘If we say x, Brown will say y’. They can bring this up in conversation, and you want to scream at them, ‘for the love of God, can’t you see he’s utterly discredited? Cameron is here explicitly declaring his party’s independence from fear of Brown’s mendacious attack lines – and rightly so. I hope this message goes right down the Tory machine.

5.    PANTS ON FIRE Q: “Are you calling the PM today a liar?” A: “I didn’t quite put it like that… I try to use my words.” Again, as Matthew Parris argued on Saturday, ‘lie’ is not a word polite people use. And it should never be used in error – that’s why we refer to ‘Brownies’ here on CoffeeHouse. But Brown’s line on spending is a lie. We have decided to call it by its name – but it is a vulgar word, that people shy away from as it can make the accuser sound hysterical. He said later: “There have been too many examples where the PM’s approach has been to say something he knows is not true, but he thinks he will get away with”.

6.     MOVING IN WITH OSBORNE Q: Do you recognise reports that you plan to

share a back office with Osborne? A: “There is not a shred or ounce of complacency in me or our top team… There is no time being spent on thinking who would sit where and, frankly, there won’t be.” I first raised this in my News of the World column yesterday, and I can tell you Cameron speaks with forked tongue when he says no one is thinking about sitting arrangements. He has started negotiations with the civil service, this takes up quite a bit of time. But the fact that such negotiations are taking place runs the risk of making him look complacent. The Tories are very sensitive about this, so Cameron denies what’s going on. He should think of a more honest way of dealing with this question, because it’ll come up again.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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