Saturday, 24 April 2010

It's right, but it's not good. Cameron needs to clarify message on Ulster's economy.

Taking on Paxman in a no-holds barred, 30 minute interview was always a risk, but has David Cameron made a gaffe by singling out Northern Ireland and the North East of England as regions which are unsustainably reliant on the public sector?

No. But he might have made the Conservative task here a little bit harder with his remarks. Because, however incontrovertible their content, he has given his opponents a stick to beat him with.

The Belfast Telegraph, increasingly open about its left-statist bias, gleefully splashed this morning with ‘Cameron: I’ll target Ulster for cutbacks’.

Of course, there isn't even the tiniest doubt that what the Tory leader said was 100% accurate. Anyone with a shred of interest in Northern Ireland’s economy agrees that it is a basket case and the imbalance between the public and private sectors needs to be addressed, urgently.

But during an election campaign it is not enough simply to be accurate.

Cameron must have known how a special mention for just two regions in the United Kingdom could be interpreted. Even if they are the regions where the public-private imbalance needs correction most urgently.

He must also have known that, in those two regions, existing anxiety about cuts would intensify.

Danny Kennedy, the UUP deputy leader, and a candidate for the Conservatives and Unionists provided some context to the Tory leader‘s comments,

"David Cameron has set an ambitious goal for a Conservative and Unionist government - to see the economies of Northern Ireland and other regions, such as the north-east of England, flourishing as the private sector grows. This ambition is shared by the people of Northern Ireland, who want to see jobs, opportunity and enterprise in this part of the United Kingdom. This is the agenda which the people of Northern Ireland can support on 6th May by voting Conservatives and Unionists".

It is a fair commentary, but I believe that more might be needed. When David Cameron comes to Northern Ireland, he must make it clear that his economic strategy is twin pronged.

Yes, the inflated public sector must be addressed, but in tandem the Conservatives will provide concrete help in order to enable the private sector to grow.

Some of these policies are already in place, but, in the light of last night’s interview they need to be personally emphasised and explained to the people of Northern Ireland. Cameron allowed fear to predominate over hope, in the comments which the media highlighted. That is not an election winning strategy.

Because, however necessary and just Christmas, few turkeys will be persuaded to vote for it.


thedissenter said...

Where are these policies? Nothing in the election literature to date?

Chekov said...

Stopping the jobs tax, scrapping NIC for startups, reducing Corporation Tax across the UK, investigating likelihood of NI as enterprise zone. All this and the regional manifesto isn't launched yet.

Anonymous said...

With a command economy here and rampant statism Cameron can't win whatever way he puts it except he should point out how he agrees with the recorded remarks of Sammy Wilson and Peter Robinson on the same subject.

It is entirely impossible for the state sector to activate 'efficiencies' let alone cuts as promotion depends on ever more staff and interventionist policies.

Only budget reductions and staffing freezes will work.

Hopefully a victory for Reg and Mike Nesbitt not to mention FST will drown out an otherwise dismal result.