Last week our two main political parties lost their marbles. Labour
decided to spend, spend, spend and the Tories to listen, listen,
Neither will be the same again. Within the space of 24 hours, New Labour
cast to the four winds its carefully nurtured reputation for prudence
and the Conservatives, their long-esteemed ideological security. From
now on their presentation will be more complicated, their message more
Indeed, we have already seen that with Tony Blair desperately trying to
claim that, in chucking billions at health, education and welfare, they
have calculated the risks and can afford it and with William Hague
protesting that, while in listening mode, the Conservatives have no
intention of surrendering their core beliefs.
You have to ask yourself what they put in the water in Whitehall and
Westminster these days. After all, Labour won the election by
appropriating Thatcher policies wholesale and convincing the nation that
their spendthrift days were over and the Tories lost it, not because
they had the wrong philosophy, but because they had become an
embarrassing rabble. Now Labour is battling to convince us that it is
not on the usual Old Labour financial slide and the Conservatives to
persuade us that they still know what they stand for.
I can see why the Tories want to register with the two million-plus
voters who witheld their support at the last election, ensuring a Labour
landslide, that they are of humble and contrite heart. But the way to do
that is not to hawk themselves around the country as an itinerant
listening post, especially when the successful practice of politics has
always required a keen ear, but to demonstrate a new unity, a new
appetite for office and an old enthusiasm for Conservative principles
which Labour has lost after only 14 months.
It is conceivable that the Tories will get away with their PR pose in
the touchy-feely world bequeathed to us by Diana, Princess of Wales
Labour has increased their chances of doing so by the sheer rashness of
their spending plans which has had even their media slaves sucking at
It matters not, from my presentational point of view, that they will
actually spend another pounds 57 billion on health, education and
welfare over the next three years. I’m sure, as Ann Widdecombe claims,
that there’s a lot of hype and double and even treble counting in it.
Never trust the Treasury. The point is that Messrs Blair and Brown want
us to believe they are chucking vast riches at the public sector just
when the economic outlook is clouding over. This profligacy with their
one outstanding new PR asset - financial prudence - frankly grieves me.
I can only conclude their early success has gone fatally to their heads.