Alex Massie

Six Tory Promises: How Impressed are You?

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Actually, there seem to be rather more than six promises Still, the Daily Mail reports on a series of Tory pledges that Dave & Co will roll out this weekend as part of their Get Back on Track plan. Let's have a look at them:

Act now on debt to get the economy moving:

Deal with the deficit more quickly than Labour so that mortgage rates stay lower for longer with the Conservatives.

Get Britain working by boosting enterprise:

Cut corporation tax rates, abolish taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses, promote green jobs and get people off welfare and into work.

Make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe:

Freeze council tax and raise the basic state pension, recognise marriage in the tax system and back couples in the benefits system, support young families with extra health visitors, and fight back against crime.

Back the NHS:

Increase spending on health every year; and make the NHS work for patients not managers.

Raise standards in schools:

Give teachers the power to restore discipline and create new smaller schools.

Change politics:

Reduce the number of MPs, cut Whitehall and quangos by a third, and let taxpayers see where their money is spent.

Tim Montgomerie

Is this it?

Because what we have here is a) a pledge to act on the deficit that is accompanied by b) tax cuts and c) a raft of commitments to increased spending. If a) is the most important thing then how can b) and, especially, c) be sensible? All of these, remember, are billed as "immediate" changes that will be the first items on a Tory government's agenda.

Some of this is obviously a matter of political necessity. And not all of it is bad. It's sensible, for instance, to link the impact of the deficit to real-life concerns and stress that it's not simply a matter of esoteric accountacy. Cutting cororation tax is no bad thing either.

However, assuming the Mail is right, what we also have is massive commitments to spending increases - on pensions, on health, on schools (more schools = more money) and, implicitly, policing. And that's before you talk about tax breaks for married couples and the rest of it. So which budgets get cut and which taxes are going to rise? Because something, surely, has to give.

Of course this is nit-picking. On the one had the Tories are criticised when they stay quiet and then any tme they actually make some pledges, the nature of those promises simply invites additional questions. But that's the nature of the game and the way it's played.

And, looking at all this in terms of philosophy and consistency rather than from a purely political standpoint, there's at least one terrible promise here that contradicts the Tories' interesting, promising, commitment to localism and decentralisation. That's the commitment to freeze council tax. I've no doubt that this is politically savvy and likely to be popular but it's a rotten idea nonetheless. How serious can the Tories be about decentralisation when they seem to want to make local government more not less dependent upon central government? Where's the accountability and transparency in that? Nowhere, that's where.

Look, David Cameron can hardly be a worse Prime Minister than Gordon Brown but I'm not convinced that a combination of reducing revenue*, increasing spending and contradicting at least part of what's supposed to be your Big Idea is really terribly encouraging or magnificently sensible, regardless of the political imperatives that demand all of this.

*In the short-term anyway.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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