David Cameron today presents himself in the homely guise of a tradesman who calls at one’s house and offers to carry out essential repairs. He will declare: “Our plan is about fixing the roof when the sun is shining.” Mr Cameron turns out to be the boss of a well-known firm of roofers called Cameron & Osborne. While Mr Cameron does most of the tendering for new work, we understand that it is Mr Osborne who is supposed to ensure that the repairs are actually carried out.
On this occasion, Mr Cameron’s main concern is to ensure that we on no account give the major new contract we shall be awarding next May, for work to be carried out in the period 2015 to 2020, to the rival firm of Miliband & Balls. According to Mr Cameron, that would be “taking a massive gamble with our future”. He warns that he can see “a great, black, ominous cloud on the horizon”, which will burst over us if Miliband & Balls are allowed anywhere near this job. For they are the cowboys who “failed to put money aside for a rainy day”, with the result that “in 2008, when the economic storms hit, we were completely exposed”.
According to Mr Cameron, the same could all too easily happen again after 2015. He warns that his rival is trying to pull the wool over our eyes: “Last week, Ed Miliband spoke about the deficit – and wrapped it all up in a lot of jargon.” Mr Cameron claims to strip all that jargon away: he warns that when the deficit spirals out of control, and there is no credible plan to deal with it, confidence evaporates and “interest rates can get dangerously high”, which in turn would mean “people lying awake worrying about their mortgage payments…businesses closing down; jobs lost; homes lost”.
So it is only prudent to get the deficit (or in the Prime Minister’s homely analogy, the roof) fixed by 2018, after which we can start putting money aside for a rainy day, so we are protected against future storms. In its report this morning of the speech, headlined “Black cloud of Labour will wreck economy, PM warns”, The Times (£) rightly observes that this marks
“a sharp change in approach from Mr Cameron’s speech at the Conservative party conference in October, when he argued that speedy deficit reduction was necessary to fund tax cuts. ‘Our commitment to you for the next five years: we want to cut more of your taxes. But we can only do that if we keep on cutting the deficit. It’s common sense — tax cuts need to be paid for,’ he told the party faithful. Mr Cameron will argue today that deficit reduction is needed to provide a shock absorber in case of a future economic crisis, as he seeks to remind voters of the impact of the financial crash.”
Labour cannot be trusted. To vote for Miliband & Balls – who worked for and in 2010 took over the business which had been run in to the ground by Blair & Brown – would be far too dangerous. Those people would once again wreck everything. That in a nutshell is the case Mr Cameron is making today.
One rather painful difficulty for Cameron & Osborne is that they have been working on the roof ever since 2010, and it is very far from fixed. Mr Osborne started out with a great show of activity in May 2010, and assured us the job would be done by now, but it certainly isn’t. He claims Blair & Brown left things in such a mess that it is going to take longer than originally expected to clear it all up.
Mr Cameron is going negative: he wants to stop Miliband & Balls building up any economic credibility. In 1957, the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, campaigned successfully for re-election on the slogan “Keine Experimente!” – “No Experiments!” That is part of the Prime Minister’s message now: that we should not endanger recovery by letting the other lot take over. It is a simple, unadventurous claim, well calculated to appeal to voters who feel their own economic circumstances to be every bit as precarious as the national finances.