Over the past few months, ministers have been using increasingly upbeat language about the British economy. ‘Britain is coming back’, ‘the economy is booming’, and ‘Britain, we did this together’ are examples of just some of the things George Osborne and colleagues have been saying. So why is David Cameron writingin the Guardian about ‘red warning lights’ on the dashboard of the global economy?
The first reason is that all that upbeat language has always been couched in warnings about the global economy. George Osborne’s Conservative party conference speech this year contained a long passage about the problems in the world economy, so this is not a change in tune.
But it is an attempt by the Tories to change the focus of the political debate, which even ministers who like talking about the subject think has lingered for far too long on immigration and Europe. The Tories need to return to the ground where they are strongest against Labour, which is the economy. Warning about the risks of abandoning the straight and narrow course will only strengthen the Conservatives. That’s why Cameron writes:
‘When we faced similar problems in recent years, too many politicians offered easy answers, thinking we could spend, borrow and tax our way to prosperity. Those were the wrong answers then; they are the wrong answers now. We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. Nor will be successful by listening to those who suggest we can hide away from the world.’
But though the Tories are miles ahead of Labour when it comes to polling on the economy, they know that they do not have an automatic right to this lead.