Downing Street is already pointing out that the Tory idea looks walks, talks, sounds and smells pretty much like the National Money Guidance Service proposed by Otto Thoresen in a Treasury review a few weeks back. He suggested the cost should be split between the banks and the government – the Tories say the banks should fund the whole thing.
The Tory proposal would be funded by a ridiculously-named “social responsibility levy”. If anything, this is more anti-capitalist as it is based on the idea of a wicked (and irresponsible) financial services industry atoning for its sins. And, of course, it seeks breathes life into my least favourite Cameroon slogan. The “social responsibility” idea may successfully be sold to gullible oil companies but is not a model for government. Yet every time I think it’s dead, it jumps up again.
One might argue that perception matters most: that people are more willing to believe that a good idea comes from the Tories than from a jinxed Brown administration. People are asking “well, Cameron, what would you do about the financial mess” – and the Tories have no answer, having signed up to Brown’s tax and spend module. Perhaps this is their attempt to answer the problem: ape another Brown idea.
It says much about the lack of clear blue/red/yellow water in politics nowadays that policies are so quickly aped by other parties. Often, such burglary serves Labour right – such as Darling’s calamitous decision to nick Osborne’s non-dom proposal. I hope the financial adviser proposal will not be the centrepiece of Cameron’s speech at 1pm on poverty. It’s an important topic to get right.
When he was campaigning in Cardiff, Cameron said they should vote Tory to “keep the bills down.” Precisely so. As the SNP is finding in Scotland, this is a simple, powerful and popular solution to the credit crunch. Less tax - this is the policy the Tories are searching for. Let’s hope they find it before too long.