Leading article: An optimistic message that does not quite add up

The Conservative manifesto is convincing only in parts

Share
Related Topics

Sunshine was back on the agenda at the launch of the Conservative Party's general election manifesto yesterday. Talk of an "age of austerity" was banished and in its place, David Cameron projected a vision of a Britain in which power would be devolved, citizens would be empowered and public services would improve (despite the lack of cash coming from the centre).

It was certainly an optimistic message, but does it convince? Only up to a point. The Tory leader delivered a compelling critique of Labour's top-down and statist approach to the delivery of public services. The Conservatives' alternative is to allow willing parents to form new schools, to encourage co-operatives of public sector workers and to introduce elected police commissioners, which, together, would add up to a revolution in the delivery and consumption of public services.

The manifesto provides no detail on what safeguards will be put in place in the event that this bold experiment in devolving power goes awry. The Tories' reply is that because this represents an entirely new way of doing things it would be unrealistic to expect finalised plans at this stage. But do the Tories deserve the faith of the British public as they seek a mandate to embark on this grand experiment? The answer depends on the soundness of the Tories' view of the proper role of the state. Mr Cameron is right to argue that there is too much enterprise-crushing centralised prescription in the public services. But there are worrying signs that the Tories still have an ideological aversion to firm government action in those areas where it is plainly needed.

The Tories' response to the 2008 economic crisis was confused and flat-footed. State intervention in the financial sector prevented an economic disaster, but the Conservatives found it an ideological struggle to come to terms with this, opposing, among other things, the Government's nationalisation of Northern Rock.

The Tories' macro-economic arguments have been unimpressive in recent years, too. First, they called loudly for cuts in public spending, and raised the alarm about the size of the deficit. But late last month they appeared to change their priorities with their promise to reverse in part the Government's National Insurance rise. Now, like Labour, the Tories are unspecific on future spending cuts, which is even more inexcusable given their past hysteria over public borrowing.

There are other aspects to Mr Cameron's agenda that do not add up. The Tory leader claims his party is committed to reducing poverty. But the Conservatives' pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m will help the already wealthy transfer their wealth down the generations, increasing inequality.

The Tory manifesto boasts that Britain has "a major role in the affairs of the EU". But by pulling his party out of the mainstream centre-right European Peoples' Party, Mr Cameron has put the Conservatives on a road towards marginalisation on the continent.

As for Tory policy on immigration, what could be more statist and top-down than an arbitrary cap on the numbers of migrants from outside the EU? Meanwhile, with their stubborn devotion to the discredited first-past-the-post system, the Conservatives have turned their face against serious reform of our political system.

Mr Cameron might have returned to a sunshine message, but it has yet to penetrate the clouds of doubt that still swirl around his party.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific