The Sketch: Those poor Tories, they are just so magnificently unprepared

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"A young Apollo, golden-haired, Stands dreaming on the verge of strife, Magnificently unprepared

For the long littleness of life"

Rupert Brooke, inspired by a lovely youth fielding in the covers.

It's the nicest thing we can say about the Tories, magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of government. They're just not ready. They've been lurking around in the covers for a year with Oliver Letwin's policy review, fiddling around, dreaming on the verge of strife.

Where Blair and Brown were working 20 hours a day, Letwin does politics half time in favour of his day job at one of our more glamorousmerchant banks.

Take the inheritance tax row. George Osborne told us he'd finance his tax cut by taxing non-domiciles. Labour put out a rebuttal immediately and the Tories had nothing with which to rebut the rebuttal. Alan Duncan on Newsnight waved the questions away with a "Trust Me" defence.

And yet, a parliamentary question two months ago revealed that the number of non-domswasn't tracked centrally, Alistair Darling's own announcement suggested that Treasury civil servants were working on party political arguments, and the point about Filipino nurses is pure chaff. The 1990s New Labour apparatus would have predicted and planned for a government rebuttal and immediately called a press conference to rip it up. The Tories' lack of preparation really is heroic. They say they're going to change everything, but they're not. Maybe they've forgotten that they can't. David Davis said he was going to restrict the number of foreigners coming to work here. That's only possible by calling Poles British. He's going to recreate a culture of respect. That'll be a good trick. How, exactly? By more "pulling together". Of course, yes, we're all in this together.

Irwin Seltzer must have caused some indigestion in the high command. "I have never met a poverty action group that has ever supported an environmental project," he said. It's for people who can afford it. And his other message (which they will ignore): "Don't underestimate Gordon Brown." To have dissociated himself in 100 days from 10 years of government and to present himself as the candidate for change is an astonishing achievement.

John Redwood's bingo-calling address (to great cheers) was in that light, ridiculous. "This Government can't manage anything. All they do is spin." The poor man's so clever he's become stupid.

PS: A useful point from Osborne: The phrase "lurch to the right" was coined by Gordon Brown in the 90s to attack the Major government. When, therefore, newspapers repeat it they enter into a disreputable relationship with a political figure. And truth to tell, the phrase is only really applicable now to Gordon Brown himself.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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