David Cameron’s Tories seem to have acquired a taste for tax-cutting after the apparent success of last week’s National Insurance pledge.
During intense negotiations between the Tories and Labour this evening (over the “wash-up” of Parliamentary business – horsetrading to see which bills will make it on to the statute book) the latter have been forced to drop three tax rises which were in the Budget.
Good riddance! Cynics have called it the rotten parliament. Britain has been governed by cheats and charlatans. The expenses scandal sees MPs leaving Westminster this week in disgrace: some justifiably so, many others unfairly tainted by the greed of colleagues.
Scarred by the experience of joining second car dealers, estate agents and journalists in the gutter of public esteem, about a quarter of MPs have decided to retire. Whatever the election outcome, the House of Commons that convenes after May 6 will bear little resemblance to its predecessor.
Many will have picked up the echo of Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” in David Cameron’s pledge to fight for the “great ignored”. But my colleague Richard McGregor reminds me of an even more striking parallel. The Australian prime minister Robert Menzies delivered a famous speech in 1942 on the ‘forgotten people”. Click on the preceding link to read the full text but here is a key quote:
Quite recently, a bishop wrote a letter to a great daily newspaper. His theme was the importance of doing justice to the workers. His belief, apparently, was that the workers are those who work with their hands. He sought to divide the people of Australia into classes. He was obviously suffering from what has for years seemed to me to be our greatest political disease – the disease of thinking that the community is divided into the relatively rich and the relatively idle, and the laborious poor, and that every social and political controversy can be resolved into the question: What side are you on?
Gordon Brown gave a speech this morning for all the political staff who are leaving No 10 Downing Street due to the election. His anecdote involved his very first day with Sarah Macauley, now Mrs Brown.
As the Downing Street spokesman told journalists this afternoon:
The media monitoring team at CCHQ have noticed a few changes in the official transcript of Gordon Brown’s election announcement.
Not sure how much we can read into the fact that “middle class” was dropped. But certainly a sign that the young Tory pointy heads are on the ball. Here is the Tory briefing:
SPEECH PUBLISHED – TEXT ALTERED BY SPIN DOCTORS – Labour HQ published a heavily doctored version of Brown’s speech outside No10, deleting a third of his text and adding new sections:
- Brown forgot to say the headline phrase “the future is ours to win”. His final lines were “It’s a future fair for all, now all of us let’s go to it” but these altered by Labour to “the future is ours to win, now let’s get to it”
- Brown claimed he was from a “middle class” family, but this disappears from the official version
George Parker, the FT’s political editor, talks about the key battlegrounds ahead of the election on May 6.
So what can be concluded from the opening skirmishes? Three messages stood out. Nick Clegg is new; Gordon Brown doesn’t want you to ruin the recovery and David Cameron is fighting this election “for the great ignored”. The BBC’s Nick Robinson has an interesting post on his blog about the images which stand out from the first morning.
One striking facet of the morning was the extent to which the leaders were protecting themselves from the public. It can’t stay that way of course, but the first hours were spent entirely among the faithful. Well, to be fair Gordon Brown was with the cabinet – so perhaps that’s not entirely true.
Some of the media maps have been unveiled over the past few days. There are some wonderful gadgets that often excel at doing very different things. Our award winners are:
Best overall map: Your licence fee has been put to good use. The BBC map does pretty much everything you might find useful and more. There is an excellent swingometer (not sure about the mug shot of Jeremy Vine). And the results page/profiles are pretty impressive. Shame they couldn’t combine the two.
The British economy is like Wayne Rooney. No, no, I’ve got one: the Labour government is like the Flower-pot men. Oh hell, this could get very depressing.
As I write this, the Sky helicopter is hovering above Downing Street, hoping to catch every moment of Gordon Brown’s scintillating four-minute drive to Buckingham Palace and trying presumably not to crash into the ITV and BBC choppers. I’ve never been clear why we need these expensive aerial shots . . . you may not like the prime minister but he’s not OJ. Is someone worried he might suddenly make a dash to the airport fly to Algeria and seek political asylum?
We’re insisting that Jim doesn’t show any bias towards the Lib Dems and submits this photo for both his Tory and Labour press passes.