Are there votes in putting up the cost of flying?
Judging by the responses this morning from the Murdoch papers, the Daily Telegraph and CONtinuityIDS the Tories have made a big strategic mistake by going so heavily on green issues in general and the air travel tax in particular.
It is not often that a Tory leader launching a new policy initiative comes under so much flak from the Times and the Telegraph – two papers that in former years used to be almost part of the Tory team in the way that the Mirror is part of Labour. Certainly the Conservative party is the first choice of readers of the two papers whenever surveys have been carried out.
The headlines and the comment are not good and the token support from the Independent is hardly a consolation.
The problem is that nobody likes paying more taxes and it’s easy to find travellers and airlines who are ready to attack.
Yet given Cameron’s high profile on green issues he was going to have to come off the fence sometime and announce a move of substance.
It probably seemed a good idea, as well, to capture some headlines on the day that Gordon Brown was speaking on the subject and in same the week of the budget. They also pre-empted tomorrow’s government bill that is due to be published.
But you cannot but think that the reason for the high profile attack on aviation is that this is a much easier target than going for one of the biggest polluters – private motoring. He can sound tough and as though the party is ready to make the hard decisions without interfering with voters’ close relationship with their motor cars.
The critical element, of course, is that the next election will be fought on the centre ground and “being green” goes down better with those ex-Tory supporters who switched to Labour in 1997 and Lib Dems – a factor that Gordon Brown is aware of as well.