The Sketch: The Tories' attack plan isn't risible – it's pitiful

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The Independent Online

So, they say shadow leader of the House Sir George Young will be "needed in government" after the election and won't stand for Speaker, should another election come about. He's one of the few front-bench Tories with ministerial experience. He did the railways, I seem to recall. Any experience is better than none.

He gave us the first parliamentary shot in reply to Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report, the first prepared, crafted, powder-packed reply. He hinted that there would be costs to the NHS consequent on the 1 per cent increase in National Insurance. What was that again?

We didn't expect Sir George to fall on the Chancellor's statement and tear it limb from quivering, bleeding limb. He's not that sort of animal. But this was very short of what was needed. We voters are groping. We stumble forward in the darkness searching for guidance. We are infinitely suggestible, because no one knows what the hell is happening with the money.

Is this the Tories' attack plan? "That 1 per cent in NI is going to cost the NHS dear. Better play safe and vote Cameron." It isn't risible, it's pitiful.

Harriet Harman gave us the date for the second reading of their Fiscal Responsibility Bill. It commits the next government to halving the deficit in four years. Maybe it'll be down to £80bn, if Darling says it will be. But he also says that public debt in the same period is going to double to £1.3 trillion. So they're saving £70bn a year by running up £700bn of debt. Isn't there something in that?

George Osborne has failed to give his party the notes, the plan, the rhetoric, the sound bites necessary to assail and assault the Government.

Whatever we think of the PM and his apprentice, they are monsters compared with their opponents. Goliaths. Conans. Terminators. Look how they discredited Major's government – at the start of the longest boom in recent history. And having presided over the biggest crash they aren't even out of countenance.

Conduct the old thought experiment. Brown and Balls leading the attack on their own position. Soon it won't be a thought experiment, it'll be happening after the next election. Then we'll see how it should be done. It'll be a demolition derby as Gordon pins on the Tories the blame for everything he's done wrong himself.

If Ken Clarke isn't in the Treasury by then, God only knows what will happen to the Tories.