Oltep is doing quite brilliantly. David Cameron took every opportunity to praise Oltep. Tory backbenchers also hailed the success of Oltep on every conceivable occasion, and on some that were not conceivable. Oltep’s beneficent influence is seen in every wonderful thing the Government is doing.
Who or what is Oltep, you may ask. I confess that until today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, I was not sure myself. The word sounds rather Soviet, but that could not be what was inspiring such united Tory praise.
My best guess was that Oltep was an obscure but emerging Conservative intellectual: a philosopher of such profundity that I had not actually heard of him. It seemed likely that Oltep’s big break came in the 1980s when he, or indeed she, was invited to play tennis on Sunday morning in Regent’s Park with Shirley Letwin, and to join her salon at lunch afterwards, after which this mighty thinker’s insights were in due course rendered comprehensible and fed into Conservative Party policy by her son, Oliver Letwin, currently doing work of national importance in the Cabinet Office.
The truth about Oltep turns out to be less interesting. Oltep is an abbreviation. The letters stand for Our Long-Term Economic Plan. Mr Cameron referred over and over again to the wonders of Oltep, and so did just about everyone on the Tory side who asked a question.
We shall very soon become bored of Oltep. But this will just be taken as proof that Oltep is working to perfection. For one of the key convictions of modern political campaigners is that you need to become unbearably bored by your own propaganda, in order to be sure anyone else has heard of it.
The prospect of having to spend the next 16 months talking about Oltep is presumably why the Prime Minister continues to be so rude to Ed Miliband. Mr Cameron does this so that he himself does not either die of boredom, or else fall asleep.
Some of the insults heaped on Mr Miliband had been prepared in advance. When Mr Cameron accused the Labour leader of possessing “all the moral authority of Reverend Flowers”, one assumed that some genius in Number Ten had thought up the line.
But some of the insults are spontaneous. When Mr Miliband made a fool of himself by saying “a quarter of a million – sorry, 250,000”, Mr Cameron responded by mocking the Labour leader’s “grasp of mathematics”.
The Prime Minister also mocked the silence of Ed Balls, and suggested this meant the shadow Chancellor had been gagged. It is true that Mr Balls, who used to abuse Mr Cameron continuously during PMQs, and would also make insulting hand gestures, was today calmness itself.
Some of us hope Mr Balls remains like this. His previous act had become wearisome. But it must be galling for him to find his silence interpreted as an admission of defeat.
Mr Miliband attacked the Prime Minister on bankers’ bonuses and house-building, but got nowhere. For the Labour leader shows no sign of having constructed a Labour version of Oltep with which to bludgeon the Conservatives.