Peter Hoskin

To avoid or to confront?

To avoid or to confront?
Text settings

Give Brown's government half a chance and they'll bang on about "Tory cuts" and "Same old Tories" like it's going out of fashion.  So, predictably, Labour figures have been making merry over three stories from the past couple of days: George Osborne's attack on "inflexible" public sector pay deals; Dan Hannan's remarks about the NHS; and, now, Edward Garnier's suggestion that the hunting ban should be repealed.  According to Liam Byrne, the "mask has slipped" from those nasty, old Tories.  

All this keys into an issue that the Cameroons will have to face up to over the next few days, weeks and months.  Should they go out of their way to avoid fuelling the Labour attacks?  Or should they say what they mean, say it proud, and dissect any objections that will be flung their way?  Sure, the observations of Hannan and Garnier may not be in line with the party leadership, but the official response still suggests that Team Cameron favours the first option.  Osborne's comments, in particular, have since been "clarified" in a manner which looks awfully like backtracking.

I've said before that I think the Tories sometimes dance too easily to Brown's tune.  To my eyes, they've got more than enough political capital to take the PM and others on, especially when it comes to tax and spend.  This doesn't mean that the Tories need to spell out all their public spending plans.  But it does mean that the "Tory cuts" attack shouldn't automatically be met with stutters and apologies.  Imagine if Osborne were saying, "Well, what spending would you trim, Mr Brown, to deal with the debt crisis you've created?"  That's the kind of approach which could save future taxpayers - and our economy - from a whole load of misery.  CoffeeHousers, your thoughts please...