James Forsyth

The Tories deploy their strongest weapon, the prospect of five more years of Gordon Brown

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If you had a fiver for every time a Tory speaker today has said ‘five more years of Gordon Brown’ you would soon be rich enough to start worrying about the 50p tax rate. All the speakers in the economy debate stressed how the country ‘cannot afford five more years of Gordon Brown.’

George Osborne talked about how the Tories had to win three battles---the battles over the past, the present and the future.  Ken Clarke, who looked like he has taken to visiting Boris Johnson’s barber, was charged both with boosting George Osborne and emphasising that ‘Brown played a major role in making this crisis worse than it needed to be.’ Clarke is the perfect person to deliver this message. He has the experience and the reputation for straight-talking that you need to make this message sound like more than just opposition politician criticises the Prime Minister.  Clarke also had a rather good mischief-making section urging Darling to produce the Budget he wants and dare Brown to sack him.

Overall, the Tory message on the economy was sharper today than it has been in a while. Osborne used the fact that people are worse off now than they were five years ago particularly effectively in his speech. But there is still something irritating about the Tory position on Labour’s plan to increase the tax on jobs. Ken Clarke called it ‘the worst possible choice for an increase in government revenues.’ I think he’s right about this which is why it so infuriating that the Tories will only commit to trying to ‘avoid or mitigate’ it. If it is the worst possible way to increase government revenue, they should scrap it. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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