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By Peter Hoskin
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ShappsIn
a broad sense, Grant Shapps’ speech to Policy Exchange this lunchtime is
similar to Michael
Gove’s fiery article for the Telegraph
in May. Both make the personal
political, as it were. Shapps attacks Eds Miliband and Balls directly and
without remorse, but does so under cover of political difference. They’re not mad
or sad or odd, those Labour folk. They just don’t have the right ideas for
Britain. Whereas the Tories, the Tories have staved off a double-dip recession,
encouraged private sector jobs, reduced crime, etc, etc.

But
Shapps’s speech differs in one crucial way from Gove’s article. Whereas the
latter suggested that Miliband had created a “vacuum” where policies should be,
the former contends that Labour has too many ideas that would be dangerous for
the country. The Tory chairman directs our imaginations towards the possibility
of a Labour government after the next election. Some of his divinations are
realistic (“the deficit quickly begins to grow again”). Some of them involve a
bit of artistic license (he warns that incomplete
and unconfirmed Labour plans
to make benefits a human right “could allow
prisoners … to be entitled to housing benefit”). But they all have one thing in
common; they all say that too much Miliband would be bad for Britain’s health.

The
politics of this attack are pretty straightforward. It makes sense, for
instance, to start attacking Labour on its substance as more and more substance
emerges ahead of 2015. But I suspect that Shapps’ ulterior motive is to win
over any voters who are leaning towards UKIP, as well as to pacify any Tory
backbenchers who might be thinking of causing trouble for Cameron. Carry on
like that, he seems to be saying, and Miliband might end up in No.10 – and that
wouldn’t be pretty.

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