Friday, June 12, 2009

Policy schmolicy

Policy schmolicy

Who needs policies?  I mean, really, everyone knows that Labour are finished, led by a man who is electoral kryptonite.  All the Tories have to do is watch, try and avoid shooting themselves in the foot, and sweep in at the end to victory.  The Fortinbras principle as I believe it’s known.  As a result, the Tories have no policies, and this complacency will cost them the election.

So the analysis goes at any rate.  We had the ludicrous Prem Sikka asserting that

The Labour government is doing badly in the opinion polls and the Conservative party thinks that it can sneak into power without explaining any of its policies

And we have the rather less risible Steve Richards saying that Cameron has the tone but he still doesn't have the policies and that the Tories are the least scrutinised opposition party in recent history.  To which the obvious response is ‘since the last one’.

But are they right?  Are the Tories particularly policy-light?  The Conservative website helpfully lists their policies here, and while it is certainly the case that much of it is aspirational stuff about making better schools and the like, there’s plenty of meat on the bones.  Short-term economic policy for example:

- We will freeze council tax for two years by reducing wasteful spending on advertising and consultancy in central government

- We will introduce a £50bn National Loan Guarantee Scheme to underwrite
bank lending to businesses and get credit flowing again
- We will provide tax cuts for new jobs with a £2.6bn package of tax breaks to get people into work, funded by money that would otherwise go on unemployment benefit

- We will cut the main rate of corporation tax to 25p and the small companies' rate to 20p, paid for by scrapping complex reliefs and allowances

- We will give small and medium-sized businesses a six-month VAT holiday, funded by a 7.5% interest rate on delayed payments

- We will cut National Insurance by 1% for six months for firms with fewer than five employees, paid for from the above changes to the company tax regime  

- We will abolish Stamp Duty for nine out of ten first-time buyers and raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1 million. Both of these changes will be funded by a flat-rate charge on non-domiciles.

It’s not all earth-shattering stuff, but it’s definitely policy.  One gets the impression that this is all an attempt at message-moulding: the Tories are shallow and superficial, compared to the grown-up and serious Labour Party.

But the problem is, that on the same basis that people claim to see no Tory policies, I don’t really know what Government policy is.  What grand policy schemes has Brown being promoting?  ID cards?  The privatisation of the Post Office?  What?  There’s a void in policy all right – it’s in Government.


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