Nick de Bois is the MP for Enfield North. Follow him on Twitter.
I’m not an advocate of spending time in Government with our eyes on the next election. As I’ve seen first hand with the NHS reforms, short-term political advantage warps policy until it doesn’t go far enough in reaching its stated aims – rendering the legislative process unhelpful at best, and utterly useless at worst. Instead of trying to combat the politics of envy through political spin, we should be driving towards the politics of prosperity through consistent policy.
Let me explain what I mean by that slightly bloated and cliché-laden statement. Regarding the economy, the pressure to respond to short-term headlines and polls should be wholeheartedly resisted, even if we accept the premise that George Osborne’s gaze should rest firmly on 2015. This is due to the basic fact that when it comes to 2015 people aren’t going to be thinking about short-term distractions like "pastygate" or the fuel scare that never was. They’ll look at their bank accounts, their families and their future prospects and ask: "Am I better off with this government for another five years?" The only way to answer this question with a staunch affirmative is through a consistent, stable and ambitious direction from Numbers 10 and 11.
Admittedly, some scandals may be crucial if they creating a lasting image of the Government as out of touch, in the way the Granny Tax is shaping up to be. Yet again, the response to this is a long-term one. The question we need to be answering is not "How do we make these bad headlines go away?" but "What tax and benefits structure is going to ensure pensioners pay their fair share, and no more?"
Grant Shapps did a superb job over the Easter weekend of reminding viewers of the two driving principles of this Government: fixing the economy and reforming public services. Yet when it comes to the election they aren’t going to think about the interview they were watching over their Easter Sunday roast in 2012. They’ll look at the evidence. They’ll look at the budget, unemployment, the cost of living, crime levels, the state of schools and hospitals. They will, in short, make up their minds largely on the evidence as they see it on a day-to-day basis.
This Government will never seem like it’s in touch. A Westminster politician trying to seem like an average Joe, particularly one with the benefits of Cameron’s current cabinet, are running a fool’s errand. We need to accept that Francis Maude is going to talk about "jerry cans in the out building" and David Cameron is going to forget the last time he ate a pasty. These slip-ups, and the more overriding point that the governing class is becoming further and further removed from the average citizen, are symptoms of our current political class, not this Government.
At a local event recently, Oliver Letwin, when asked about the legacy of Alistair Campbell’s spin machine in Number 10 and it’s effects on the way this Government operates, delivered a response that puts what I am trying to argue much more succinctly. He said "I have never believed in running Government like a magazine. I believe in running Government like a Government". Frankly, Team Cameron needs to wake up to this abrupt advice and should look at important publications on policy, not polls. They should talk to industry experts, not exclusively to focus groups. Of course presentation is important, nay crucial, but you spin the policy – you don’t form policy based on spin.
It is absolutely true that the politics of envy is rearing its ugly head, but the way to counter Ed Miliband’s constant bleats about a Government out of touch isn’t to be seen hugging a hoodie, eating a pasty or emphasising that we really are "all in this together". These distractions are both patronising and pointless. The way to silence the lesser Miliband is to create the Britain in 2015 that we promised the electorate: a Britain that is socially mobile, has 21st century public services and boasts an internationally competitive economy. If the policy unit would like to see a blueprint, I believe I have a copy of the 2010 manifesto somewhere in my office.