So what can the Tories do for me?
Cole Moreton asks what the new, improved Tories have to offer this time round
Sunday 28 September 2008
The Conservatives are confident again under David Cameron, but, really, why should the rest of us care? The biggest force at the next election will be all those people who are totally fed up with politics. We're concerned about issues, but remain unconvinced that any politician has the answers. So as the chipper Tories hold their conference this week, we are entitled to ask: who on earth are you, and what can you do for me?
Young Dave is as smooth as Gordon is scowly. He's down to earth (for an Old Etonian). He's good looking (if a little jowly). He's full of promise (the only thing an opposition leader can be). He cares about the environment (and flew to Norway in a private jet for a photo opportunity to prove it). He does the washing-up (when the webcam is on). He's almost believable as the still-fresh new face of the former Nasty Party. There's only one problem...
They're not nearly as modern or liberal as Dave in the shires, and they're proud of it. They like his rebooting of their tired old party, but still distrust him a bit too. The membership of about 290,000 includes some very rich donors – but the party that claims economic competence is £12m in debt.
The theme song
No question: it should be "The Eton Rifles" by the Jam. Dave told Radio 4 it was his favourite song, since he was a member of the army corps at that public school. Paul Weller, who wrote it as a scathing riposte to Eton boys who jeered right-to-work marchers, was incensed: "Which part of it didn't he get? It wasn't intended as a fucking jolly drinking song for the cadet corps."
The sun will shine every day. Well, maybe not quite, but opposition parties can promise the earth. Here are some of the more realistic ways in which the Tories say they'll make a difference to you:
Good news for the comfortable middle classes. You won't pay inheritance tax on what Mum and Dad leave you if it's worth less than a million. Smug marrieds will get smugger, with increased tax breaks. First-time buyers won't have to pay stamp duty on houses costing less than £250,000.
The health service will be managed by an independent panel, just as the interest rate is now. District hospitals will be protected... although quite how that can be if the panel wants to close them is unclear. Beyond that, the gush of money will slow. They will honour Labour's spending pledges only until 2011.
The same goes for education, although charities, do-gooders and parents will be given state money to open new schools.
Fewer foreigners will be let in. We want only those with the right skills, apparently. The exact threshold is unclear. Identity cards will be scrapped. More prisons will be built.
Green taxes, better trains – the usual promises. We'll see what happens when big business kicks in.
Boris Johnson. Nothing funny about him any more. Not for Dave, anyway, as he tries to cope with BoJo's growing power base as Mayor of London. Cameron has talked endlessly of our "broken society". Boris says boldly that this is "piffle".
Sky newsreader Julie Etchingham's gaffe. Dave was talking about the impact of immigration and said: "Here our policy should be obvious..." Not realising her microphone was on, the presenter jokingly broke in with: "Extermination."
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