Peter Hoskin

Cameron should avoid dancing to Brown’s tune

Cameron should avoid dancing to Brown's tune
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One of the more frustrating aspects of the Cameron leadership is how its strategy is sometimes (overly) determined by what Labour will do or say.  Take what was their long-standing commitment to match Labour's spending plans.  This was made in fear of the "Tory cuts" attack, and ensured that the New Labour orthodoxy - that "spending = investment" - remained in place long past its use-by date.  Cameron now admits that he should have ditched the commitment sooner, and regards the failure to do so as one of his biggest mistakes.

Why mention this now?  Well, there's a similar air about George Osborne's statement on a 45p tax rate yesterday.  When this measure was announced in the PBR, it seemed little more than cyincal Brownite ploy to put the Tories in a spot.  Cameron 'n' Osborne should have steered well clear but, instead, they've dived straight into Brown's trap.  And for what purpose?  According to the Telegraph:     

"Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, are aware of the potential for irritation among core Tory supporters and MPs who believe in a low-tax economy, but the pair fear Labour will attack them for potential cuts in public services if they do not follow the Government's lead."

In which case, a "Tory MP" quoted in the same article hits the nail on the head: "Why are we so frightened of what Labour will attack us with? Their economic record is in shreds."

Now, let me stress, this isn't to ignore all of Cameron's good work - the poll leads the Tories enjoy are certainly not to be sniffed at.  But it is to say that the Tories aren't quite seizing all the opportunities before them.  The next few decades will require new orthodoxies to deal with the crisis in our public finances.  It's down to Cameron to set them, rather than dancing to Brown's tune.

P.S. Talking of "irritation among core Tory supporters and MPs", Boris has come out attacking the Tory stance on this issue.