David Blackburn

Under starter’s orders | 16 November 2009

Under starter’s orders | 16 November 2009
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The parties are limbering up for the longest, and possibly the bitterest, election campaign in living memory. Recent asides and statements indicate that Wednesday’s Queen's Speech will be the most political that New Labour has delivered.  This morning’s Times and FT give an amuse bouche of the package with which Labour intend to “smoke out the Tories”.

The FSA will be furnished with powers to punish those dastardly bankers, including the power to rip up contracts that encourage excessive risk. Also, Labour will provide free home care for 350,000 people; NHS patients will receive free private care if they are not treated within 18 weeks; and pupils will have the opportunity to take free on-to-one home tuition.

It is just as well that this parliament will not have the time to enact these initiatives because there is no way they can be afforded. The Tories’ hyperactive Treasury mole has revealed that the government are planning cuts across the board, so airily benevolent spending pledges must be regarded with scepticism. The emerging strategy is aimed squarely at rousing Labour’s core vote, nothing more. As such, the government acknowledges that it has lost the centre ground, and thus the election, to compassionate conservatism. Brown is fighting a rearguard action not to win, but to contain.