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Why have the Tories abandoned economic literacy?

April 13, 2015

For a generation the Conservatives’ strongest electoral card – apart from their ability to out spend their opponents – has been their economic prudence. This has been a double-edged sword they have wielded to great effect: swipe one way and they show they have fully-funded, costed and well-thought through plans; swipe the other way and they reveal their opponents’ lack of economic credibility with their flaky spending plans, over-promising and financial wishful thinking.

All this they have abandoned.

• £12bn more in welfare cuts: where are they going to fall? Answer: don’t know.

• £8bn more for the NHS: where is that going to come from? Answer: don’t know.

• Slashing of Inheritance Tax: how is that going to be paid for? Answer: don’t know.

Is Labour edging ahead in the electoral race?

Is Labour edging ahead in the electoral race?

Instantly, that old sword of past election campaigns is blunted on both sides. No longer do the Conservatives look like the party of economic prudence , just the people to guide the UK through the still choppy waters of the world economy. That alone significantly weakens their election campaign which, initially at least, was based on playing the “You can Trust Us with the Economy” card. That argument looks increasingly vulnerable as the attempts to break the electoral deadlock drive the Tories to throw economic caution to the wind.

It also severely blunts their ability to attack Labour for its economic imprudence. Goodness knows Labour has a very difficult position to defend on this, not least because it  kept Ed Balls, a senior Treasury minister last time round, as Shadow Chancellor. But today Labour is promising us a fully-costed manifesto and has, so far, not been drawn into trying to match the Tories with rash financial commitments. Alongside this Labour has made just sufficient noise about making the better off pay more that it has attracted back to itself some of its core vote that had drifted away to the Liberal Democrats last time and the Greens in more recent polls.

It might be too early to describe this as momentum but it does begin to look as if Labour is building itself a sound platform from which to press on in the final three weeks of the campaign. If only Scotland could be similarly charmed Miliband would home and dry.

From → Politics

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