Thursday, 25 September 2008

Over to the Tories

Brian Crowe has marshalled a calm response to Gordon Brown’s conference speech, avoiding the spittle flecked apoplexy which it induced in me. Over at Burke’s Corner he has provided a thoughtful critique of its weaknesses, synthesising the most penetrating comment from newspapers and the web.

Brown’s speech was aimed primarily at repairing damaged morale within his own party. Brian’s view is that, consequently, it did little to speak to the country as a whole and where the Prime Minister bothered to address pressing issues at all, his rhetoric was heavy on platitudes and light on specific policy.

Burke’s Corner is eagerly looking forward to David Cameron’s response at next week’s Conservative party conference. Similarly, Gaby Hinsliff has turned her attention towards next week’s proceedings in Birmingham, asking ‘what does Cameron have to do to win back initiative?’ at the Guardian’s politics blog.

Although the article’s title somewhat presupposes the disputable thesis that Brown did wrest back the initiative with Tuesday’s speech, its content is rather more sanguine.

“The conference hall certainly bought Brown, although it's not clear whether the rest of the country is exactly filling its boots. But while a good speech boosts confidence it doesn't answer bigger questions about whether he can run a government.”


Hinsliff believes the Tories greatest challenge is presenting clear and tenable policy to tackle the economic crisis. George Osborne’s previous strategy, which rested on efficiency savings and pledging expenditure based on projected growth of the economy, has undergone subtle repositioning as the down turn has bitten. The shadow chancellor must explain how he intends to husband public expenditure in straightened circumstances.

The Guardian blog piece cites an article by John Redwood, who has been giving serious thought to how he might tackle the economic difficulties currently presenting themselves to Gordon Brown. His piece is a slightly counter-intuitive mixture, particularly for a Thatcherite. On one hand he wishes to free the hands of the Bank of England, which might be expected. On the other he advocates Keynesian counter-cyclical methods of stimulating growth and presents his thoughts on regulation.

In the present climate, and given Cameron’s centrist inclinations, this mix may well find favour with the Conservative leader and his shadow chancellor.

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