Simon Carr: The Sketch

If the Tories want to lead, they need a sense of leadership
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The stature of our representatives is most obvious when measured against their responsibilities. Alan Johnson is more than equal to a post office box. Malcolm Wicks (Energy) compares very favourably with an Ever Ready battery. But the Ian Pearson twins are measured against India, China, World Trade and International Genocide. There is no scale relevant to the comparison.

The finance minister in China said earlier this year that the country had failed to meet its growth targets. "Our five-year strategy to keep growth under 8 per cent," he confessed, "has only made preliminary progress." Chinese growth is at 9 per cent, you see. It's a very different world out there, beyond Westminster.

The Tories don't seem to understand where they have come from, let alone where they're going. Michael Fabricant pointed out we had lost a million manufacturing jobs, prompting the furiously stupid response it always prompts, that a million such jobs were lost in Mrs T's first two years. But this is the fact that politicians cannot face: the reason we have just completed 50 quarters of growth is because we got rid of manufacturing. The Tories should have worked out a way of incorporating this into their narrative. But they haven't got a narrative, or even an anthology. It's not even a collection of quotations. The Tory Story is bits and pieces of old newsprint blowing around Whitehall.

Ian Pearsons' World of Trade, suspension rods cost £60 to make in Coventry and £2 in Hong Kong. How do we start thinking about that? Get our people into high-tech, creative industries? That's the Pearsons' answer. But what kind of answer is it? The graphic design company over the road quoted me £300 to Photoshop a series of photographs; six hours later I'd had the series done for $50 US (Bangalore is closer than it's ever been). Exactly what high-skill, high-quality, high-paying, high-tech jobs are going to emerge from our highly taxed, highly regulated economy when Indian programmers and graphic designers are living in shanty towns? It's back to the Tories, and the waste they've made of their precious time. Tielessness is not the answer to their problems.

If they want to lead us they need a sense of leadership. They need a pension and benefit policy so good and strong it can be sold by a chimpanzee. But they are still so inadequate. Beside them, Ian Pearson looks statuesque.