Howard Flight was MP for Arundel and South Downs between 1997 and 2005,
is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Chairman
of the Conservative Party, and is now chairman of Flight & Partners
The end is in sight for Gordon Brown, who will go down in history as the worst Prime Minister on record. From both my current canvassing experience and wider perceptions, I expect Labour to do very badly at the General Election, and deservedly. It is they who have wrecked our economy and wrecked the fabric of our society. People know this. Brown and Labour have forfeited any right to be taken seriously as a Government.
For those who have been disconcerted by the sudden eruption of “Volcano Clegg”, I comment, firstly, as we see happening, sudden volcano eruptions have a habit of spluttering out quickly, leaving only the embers behind; and secondly, that the Sterling exchange rate, which is a practical commercial measure of well considered probabilities, is forecasting a Conservative government.
From now until the election, what should we Conservatives be saying?
I would be sceptical of perceived focus group findings, that the British electorate does not have the stomach for the necessary economic belt tightening to sort out the British economy. One of the reasons for Clegg’s sudden, transient popularity was that he was the one who was the most blunt about the necessary cuts in public expenditure. People know the public sector has needed sorting out for a decade and know the extent to which Brown has squandered huge quantities of money (now 25% of which has to be borrowed), with little achievement to show for it.
People do not want their taxes to go up further and need to be reminded that they will be badly squeezed on their mortgage costs if a failure to rein back excessive borrowings leads to a sharp rise in interest rates. Higher interest costs also slow economic activity. Reducing the burden of debt to be funded and cutting excessive public spending should have an expansionary effect on the economy. Even the European Commission has found that for half the countries that cut their budget deficits, this promoted growth and that the greater the deficit, the more likely cutting it will boost growth. The UK must get a move on and cut its budget deficit by reducing spending, or we will become a Greece on a large scale.
Not surprisingly, many may be getting bored with the subject, but for better or worse, the election will be won on the issue of who the country has most confidence in to sort out the economy. As for the Liberal Democrats, in addition to stressing the economic disaster which could result from a hung parliament, I suggest the point is that while Clegg may not be a bad guy – he is a protégé of Conservative, Lord Brittan (albeit that the media has uncovered his hypocrisy on MPs' expenses) – the problem is his party, which is to the Left of Labour.
It must be abundantly clear to all citizens that the key task is to get rid of a failed and shameful Government, where whatever criticisms people may have of us, the only alternative is a Conservative Government.
I would like to see more Conservatives out there canvassing – ultimately to save our country. I would also like to see more business and other leaders speaking out – like Luke Johnson in the Financial Times – and warning the electorate that this country is “finished”, were Labour/Gordon Brown to cling on to power.
The harsh reality is that “Your country needs us”, to sort out the worst economic mess made by any Labour Government.
To the silent majority, I say wake up and get for real: we have less than two weeks to win this Election.