Attacking the Tories
I thought it was odd that an unnamed Cabinet Minister chose to criticise Gordon Brown's presentation to Cabinet about attack lines against the Tories to Anne McElvoy of the Evening Standard yesterday. Odd because I had the perhaps old-fashioned idea that the proceedings of Cabinet meetings were confidential to the participants, not leaked to Tory newspapers, but also odd because the account of the same meeting in the Independent presents a rather more balanced picture.
The Indie's account tallies more with what people present at Tuesday's NEC have told me about the PM giving the same presentation there. He was very impressive - so impressive in fact that it contributed to the unanimous vote, following a debate of just four minutes, to agree that procedurally there was no requirement on the General Secretary to issue nomination papers to Labour MPs.
At the NEC, Gordon said:
"The Tories know that their brand was deeply unpopular. Indeed their own chairman called them the "nasty party". So they set out to convince people that they had changed by saying that they now believed in "progressive ends". What we see, though, is that when they move on from PR to policies they show themselves not to be progressives but Conservatives. Take their flagship tax policy, which gives a £1billion tax cut to the 3000 richest estates in the country. Take their education policy: cuts in Sure Start, new school building plans, EMAs and a lack of commitment to staying on until 18. Take health where they would remove our commitment to GP weekend and evening opening hours and scrap targets for being seen for cancer in 2 weeks, getting your operation within 18 weeks and being seen in A & E in less than 4 hours.
What we see is that their brand may be new, their PR expensive and their rhetoric modelled on Labour's but when you look at their actual policy plans they are very similar to the old Conservatives of the past. They may be spending a lot of money on advertising but behind the PR lies a nightmare scenario of cutting public services to give 3000 of the richest people in the country tax cuts.
We face a tough, long road and there are no easy answers. People won't move instantly from feeling anger about the economy to embracing us with open arms but we can show that we are thinking ahead and endeavouring to protect them in a fair way and ensure that we come through these difficult times. Over the coming long eighteen month haul we will move from this being a referendum on us to people making a real choice between us and the Conservatives - real progressive values and the right answers for the future versus old Conservative attitudes masked by PR and branding".
Interestingly, the faux left/soft left Compass organisation is is more willing to give the Tories the benefit of the doubt, saying their policies actually aren't a threat to the country, and the leadership position is tougher and more "left-wing" than Neal Lawson's!