Leading article: Mr Osborne has given the voters something to chew on

Like his latest proposal, the shadow Chancellor is not to be underestimated

Share
Related Topics

With George Osborne's announcement that the Tories will use spending cuts to finance a reduction in National Insurance, a still unofficial election campaign is beginning to catch fire. True, the decline of the Tories in the polls and the loss of their earlier commanding double-digit lead had already turned a dull, predictable Tory shoo-in into a genuine contest whose likely winner was unclear. But now, with a fight on their hands, the Tories are having to abandon their policy of sticking to bland Obama-like generalities about the desirability of "change" and make some precise commitments about what they intend to do in government.

This is no happy place for an opposition whose strategy until now was predicated on little more than pointing out the evil ways of Gordon Brown's government. Instead, David Cameron's team is the one sweating under the spotlight and feeling pinned down on the economy. Both the Tory leader and his putative Chancellor, George Osborne, must be forgiven for feeling life is unfair. The recent Budget showed Labour is just as opaque and mysterious over what must be done to sort out the country's finances and reduce public debt.

Thus far, Conservative attempts to shed some light on their policies and put clear blue water between them and Labour on the economy have not borne much fruit, as the muddle over proposed changes to the marriage allowance demonstrated. To add to their nervousness, the economy has now let them down, obstinately declining to expire under Labour's supposedly disastrous care.

Cameron and Osborne were always going to have to tread carefully here, staying on the right side of a line that separates gloating from regret. Now they are having to hastily concoct a new script altogether: the latest economic figures indicate a slight improvement. Unemployment is lower than expected; debt has fallen, marginally. None of this plays well for the opposition. The Tories don't want to look like spoilsports, but nor do they want to credit Mr Brown or Alistair Darling for modest changes for the better that they believe have occurred in spite of their actions, not because of them. In the meantime, polls are starting to suggest more people trust Labour than the Tories on the economy.

Hence the latest initiative. Desperate looking though it may be, as an attempt to get the Tories off their defensive position, Mr Osborne's reform of National Insurance is still worth considering. He is right to say National Insurance is a tax on ordinary people not on the rich, and that it is a stealth tax and a tax on employment, when it is no time to make employment more expensive.

Above all we should welcome this debate because the more sensible discussion we have on tax reform and on the Budget in the next few weeks the better. Neither main party has been remotely honest on the economy. Each clearly hopes to delay the delivery of bad news until after the election, by which time the winner is in office, and has years to sort matters out.

This is the worst kind of cynical, strategy-driven party politics, and is ultimately subversive of the democratic process because it alienates people by being so patronising, insulting the intelligence of the average voter who does not want to be fed a diet on pulpy political platitudes.

We all need to be made aware of the difficult times that certainly lie ahead, not be shielded like infants. By throwing National Insurance into the ring Mr Osborne has done the country a favour by giving voters something to chew on. Let's hope this marks the beginning of a trend; it will make for a better election if it does.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee