Despite Brown’s second honeymoon period the Tory position in the opinion polls remains strong. The latest ConservativeHome Poll of Polls is still pointing to a majority of 70. There is no cause for strategic concern, therefore, but neither should there be any complacency. Over the course of today ConHome will be suggesting ten next steps for the Conservative Party.
Although George Osborne’s ‘Yatchgate’ dominated last week’s news the most important event was David Cameron’s Today programme interview, given exactly a week ago. In that interview the Conservative leader decided not to change macroeconomic policy – an opportunity that the global crisis presented. Mr Cameron has effectively ruled out use of fiscal policy to beat the UK downturn – a policy Gordon Brown is set to commend today.
What the Conservative Party appears to be saying is that only by restoring discipline to the public finances will the Bank of England have the room to make large and sustainable cuts in interest rates. The Tory economic team has decided that further borrowing will make it harder for the Bank’s monetary policy committee to make those cuts. It is not the policy that ConHome would have chosen (we are attracted to the Lilico plan of large but time-limited tax reliefs) but it is a credible policy and needs to be explained.
The Tories are currently offering some sensible policies to help, for example, small firms cope with recession but the policies are inadequate to the scale of the challenge. We need our Treasury team to ‘get out there’ and explain how their thinking on fiscal responsibility is most likely to reduce the costs of borrowing. It is not a sexy policy but it it needs to be heard.