Peter Hoskin

The Tories are having a great and terrible day

The Tories are having a great and terrible day
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So far as the Tories are concerned, today's brought news of both the extremely encouraging and extremely ominous variety.  The good news is all for the short-to-medium term.  For instance, there's been the constant drip, drip, drip of Labour leadership speculation, which undermines Brown's position within his own party.  And then, this afternoon, there's been a damning indictment of Brown's economic approach from the CBI's Richard Lambert.  Here's what he said:

"The government appears to have been fighting a series of forest fires rather than building a platform for economic recovery. There’s little sense of a coherent strategy about what’s happened to date ... It’s hard to remember – let alone distinguish between – the welter of initiatives that it has launched in the past couple of months. The big ones that could really make a difference ... have got lost in a thicket of much less ambitious announcements."

Ok, the CBI aren't especially friends with the government, but the sheer acidity of this attack is still pretty striking.  What will cheer the Tories is how closely it cleaves to their own "headless chicken" jibe against Brown; suggesting that their economic narrative is becoming more widespread, if not mainstream.  These tidal shifts make it that more likely that Cameron & Co. will be swept into power come the next election.

But then for the ominous news, which points to the long-term challenges the Tories face.  Brown's handling of the economy may inspire attacks like the CBI's, but it's also leaving the public finances in an almighty mess for future governments.  The extent of the mess is clarified by the ONS's statistical release today, which suggests that Brown's rescue schemes for the banks could add a further £1 trillion - £1.5 trillion to public sector debt.  It's a frightening legacy, not only for future taxpayers, but for the goverment which succeeds Gordon.  Realistically, there's no way of dealing with it that doesn't involve politically-difficult spending cuts and tax rises.

Thing is, the Tories can expect almost every day between now and the election to mirror today's cocktail of good 'n' bad.