Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Echoes of what Keir said yesterday

I cannot help but think that if the Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party had such a murky tax status then there would be much more made of it than this. It seems that the new Conservatives are still in the middle of their honeymoon period with the media; and/or their communications staff are much more effective spinners than Labour at the moment.

From the Guardian today

They have been all over the place on the economy, repeatedly changing tack since the financial crisis exploded in late 2008. The voters are noticing. Witness the latest ComRes survey which showed the Conservative lead over Labour slipping to just seven points, with waning confidence in the Tories' economic plans a key factor: 82% of voters want Cameron to be clearer on his plans for the economy; and 69% reject the notion that, had they been in power, the Tories would have ended the recession any sooner.

The problem for Cameron is that his wobbling is not confined to the economy. There's a pattern here, in which the one thing consistent about the Tories is their inconsistency. "Vote blue, go green", the early, eco-version of Cameron urged; yet two-thirds of planning applications to build wind turbines are rejected by Tory councils. That's the policy equivalent of riding a bicycle followed by a car that carries your bags. (Further green embarrassment came yesterday, when Osborne announced that Lord Stern, an authority on the ­economics of climate change, was on board as an adviser, only for his lordship, moments later, to issue a statement denying any such thing.)

It's hug a hoodie one moment, build a floating jail the next. Cameron boasts of transparency out of one side of his mouth, only to stonewall questions about the residency of his party's ultra-generous donor, Lord Ashcroft, out of the other. Still, nearly a decade after he was ennobled, the Tory party won't say if their sugar daddy – who is helping to fund the Tories' big push in marginal seats – is resident in the UK for tax purposes. It has now emerged that Ashcroft is not only the Conservatives' deputy chairman, he is also a de facto member of the party's foreign affairs team. Last year he flew William Hague to Havana on his private jet, hosted him on his yacht, then accompanied him at meetings with Cuban government officials. Handy for Ashcroft, who has major business interests in the region. But an odd way for Hague, who could be foreign secretary in May, to conduct himself.

It goes on. Truly, the Conservatives are the gift that keeps on giving. If it isn't the revelation that would-be MP and pin-up Zac Goldsmith was until last year a non-dom, it's the clandestine Tory effort to merge with Northern Ireland's unionist parties – which would surely make a Cameron government ineligible for the vital role of peace broker between unionists and nationalists that London has played for more than a decade. (I'm told this has disquieted the Americans, who fear that if a prime minister Cameron can't do that job, they'll have to.)


Imagine what the British press would have done with equivalent revelations about, say, Neil Kinnock's Labour party in 1983. Just one of those stories would have been enough to shred the challenger alive. But barely a glove is laid on the Tories. The broadcasters don't insist that Cameron give them a straight answer on Ashcroft, for instance; most don't even ask the question.
Here here. Things can only get better.

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