Earlier today George Osborne joked (in remarks that did not appear in the text issued to the press) that anyone would be as cynical about human nature as Gordon Brown if they had spent so long working with Ed Balls. He then went to make a joke about Alistair Darling’s charisma. Later today, I understand, Chris Grayling – whose energy I admire – will call Gordon Brown a "liar". It’s not the biggest deal in the world but I’m not convinced that this sort of name-calling does us any favours – particularly when the personal jibes aren’t particularly funny. This is not to say that Labour doesn’t deserve a kicking. It does. But Labour deserves a kicking for its record – not because one or two Cabinet ministers lack charisma or have other personality failures.
Alan Duncan got it right this morning in his speech to Conference. Here are two key sections:
"Brown is the man who has doubled your council tax and destroyed your pension. He is the man who has presided over a collapse in saving and an astronomical explosion in personal debt. He is the man whose budgets – don’t ever forget – were an exercise in trickery and deceit. He is the man who will tax anything that moves and everything that doesn’t. He is the man who has turned the Revenue & Customs into a force for nasty aggression. He is the man in whose country 5.3m adults of working age do not have a job. And he is also the man whose personal decision has cost us billions because against all the best advice, he sold our gold reserves for tuppence, and has missed out on what are now the highest gold prices for 27 years. Gordon Brown has fiddled with the pension rules, taxed house sales, set up useless investment funds, complicated the tax codes, hidden PFI debt, concocted the bankruptcy of Railtrack, and demanded tax credit refunds from some of our poorest people in the country. He is the man who has squandered a decade of growth and has set aside nothing for a rainy day."
"But it’s worse. Over the last few weeks we have seen a shameless attempt on his part to pull every trick in the book to woo the voters of Britain. We are living in the world predicted by George Orwell. Gordon Brown was elected in 1983. I feel it all started in 1984. The central control of that novel, and the spooky allegory of life on Animal Farm, is being lived out for real, here, in Britain, today. We are witnessing government by propaganda of the most chillingly deceitful sort. Nothing is genuine; everything is calculated. Be it the blue tie, or the visit of Margaret Thatcher to No 10, everything is a cynical contrivance. For me politics is about what you believe in. For Gordon Brown it is what you can get away with. Gordon Brown is an utterly shameless peddler of propaganda. When things go wrong he just disappears. When world financial markets turn, he tries to commit the Governor of the Bank of England to the knackers’ yard like Boxer the horse. It brings a new meaning to ‘Not me Guv’. And even now, if you know your Animal Farm, there is an unsuspecting Snowdrop the pig sitting somewhere around his cabinet table. He crafts announcements for their headline but never for real action. He hides problems; he doesn’t solve them. We are being deluded by a wicked approach to government which believes that effective propaganda is more important than effective policy."