Is this going to be the core Tory theme?
Usually one of the most consistent Saturday morning political “reads” is Andrew Grice’s column in the Independent and today he speculates on what he think what the Tories are planning to make the election all about.
He suggests that Tory riposte to Brown’s “investment versus cuts” will be “to invite voters to choose between “Honest Dave and Dodgy Gordon”.
Grice goes on: “When Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, unwisely blabbed on Radio 4 about 10 per cent cuts in other budgets, the Tory machine went into panic mode. But Mr Cameron and George Osborne, while privately livid with Mr Lansley, decided not to treat his remarks as a “gaffe” but to go on the offensive about the need to curb state spending. They have been helped by Mr Brown’s stubborn refusal to admit budgets will have to be cut whoever wins the election, an outdated line that I would expect to change soon.
In adversity, the Tories suspect they have stumbled over a core theme â€“ honesty. No, Mr Cameron is not going to repeat Mr Blair’s mistake of promising to be “whiter than white,” which would only invite ridicule in the current climate. But the Tories may be on to something. In the last two sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron has chided Mr Brown for not being “straight” with the public about Labour’s spending plans. That will ring true with many voters.”
For to my mind Brown loses so much credibility when he seeks to deny the glaringly obvious – a character trait that could cost him dear. Who can forget the unconvincing Brown response after Tom Watson’s visit to his Fife home in September 2006 just before what amounted to the start of the coup to oust Labour most successful election winner, Tony Blair. Had they talked about Watson’s planned wave of resignations? Brown: “No”.
Then there was the infamous Andrew Marr interview in October 2007 on the general election U-turn. Had it anything to do with the opinion polls? Brown: “No”.
Then only this month there was the response to questions about the widely briefed plan to replace Darling as chancellor. Was such a change on the cards? Brown: “No”.
The great thing for Cameron about the approach is that it keeps the focus off Tory policy and makes the election about the incumbent. The only down-side is that it could add further to the pressure on Brown’s position and do the Tories want to be facing someone new and fresh?