Part of the horror of Opposition is that one is pronged by a Morton's Fork. Make no policy commitments, and you've nothing to say. But make policy commitments, and the Government will merrily tot them up and reach some terrifying total.
The sorceror's apprentices in Grant Shapps's devil's kitchen have thus been able to tot up almost
£50 billion of Labour spending commitments, costing almost £3,000 for every working household. The rough breakdown of the bill according to Shapps is:
- £22 billion for six economic bills. (10p tax rate, cutting VAT to 17.5 per cent, reducing VAT to 5 per cent on home repairs, cutting NI for small firms, creating a British Investment Bank, providing adult and youth jobs guarantees.)
- £7.5 billion for tax credit changes.
- £10 billion for capital spending.
- £5.5 billion to repeali the Health and Social Care Act.
- £465 million from not implementing the Spare Room Subsidy.
Labour will say that they haven't made any commitments yet for the next election. Shapps & Co will answer that Labour has said what it would do were it in government now. And "all day long the noise of battle rolled," as Tennyson put it. (Sajid Javid puts the boot in in the Telegraph.)
Whatever you think, CCHQ has gone up several gears since Shapps arrived. This latest assault in the doldrums of August will remind David Cameron of the "Summer Heat On Labour campaign in which he played a part – back in the days when Lord Baker was Party Chairman.
The contrast between Burnham's off-piste Guardian interview earlier and CCHQ's on-message venture is very telling. Top marks to Shapps's team for energy and initiative. They must be scarcely be able to restrain their enthusiasm for tracking down that Party membership figure…