Peter Hoskin

The Tories are muddying their clear, blue water

The Tories are muddying their clear, blue water
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Front page of the Independent: "Vote of no confidence in Tory economic policies".  As headlines go, it's one of the worst the Tories have had for a while - even if, as Anthony Wells and Mike Smithson point out, it's kinda misleading.  Truth is, the Indy's ComRes poll finds that 82 percent of people want "Mr Cameron to be clearer about what he would do on the economy".  And 24 percent think the Tories would have ended the recession sooner, against 69 percent who don't.  They're hardly positive findings for CCHQ, but, by themselves, they don't quite add up that that two-line scarehead.

The main concern for CCHQ is how much these underlying attitudes are contributing to their declining poll lead over Labour (7 points according to this ComRes poll - and similar in other recent polls).  There's no real way of telling, but I suspect the issue of clarity will be having a major effect.  From being on the right side of Brown's self-defeating investment vs cuts dividing line, only a few weeks ago, the Tories have now muddied the issue (and Labour have played catch-up) until there's hardly any clear, blue water between the parties at all.  In the scope of their spending cuts, in the nature of their tax hikes, and even, now, in their language, there are all too many similarities between Labour and the Tories.

This situation is pretty astonishing when you consider how Labour have managed the economy and our public finances.  But it isn't necessarily a permanent one.  George Osborne is giving a speech today with the explicit aim of clarifying Tory economic policy, and we know his team have some radical ideas in the locker.  So the differences may emerge with the "fine print" that Cameron has promised.  In the meantime, they're relying, more than anything, on the public's dissatisfaction with Brown.