Wednesday, January 04, 2006

We're not thinking what we used to be thinking, we're thinking of something else now

A few months ago, I seem to recall a certain David Cameron raising his voice in support of that daft 'patient's passport' scheme dreamt up by the policy wonks who wrote the last Tory manifesto. (One D. Cameron)

Now, that's all wrong and it wasn't really his fault anyway - he was only involved in the manifesto for a year beforehand and all these policies are decided much further in advance than that and he's a nice bloke and he was made to do it by all those nasty Tories that we don't hear about any more. He's even aimed a swift kick in the direction of Thatcherism by disowning the tax break for those who pay for private healthcare. I can't disagree when he promises an NHS free at the point of need, nor when he promises to nurture it.

I'm still reserving judgement on Cameron. He's been very slick in presentation, but we've still seen no substance. Although today was trumpeted as a major speech, it offered a broad outline of the journey ahead without specifically identifying a route. We know where the Tories seem to want to go, but not how they plan to get there. Is he going to try the Blair approach and prove to the world how unlike the old Tory party he is by trying to spark a fight with the Old Conservatives? At the moment, that fight won't come - they are all too cowed by the success of this young man and they're enjoying the strange sensation of being ahead in the polls, so Cameron has a lot of political capital in the bank to spend.

Of course, the real test will come over tax. Running a public service like the NHS costs money and that has to be raised through taxation, so what you do with tax defines what you can do with the services that it supports.

But Cameron is not without history. We all know about his past as an advisor to the great financial brain that was Norman Lamont - there is footage of Cameron skulking in the background as Lamont admits that his ERM policy has gone tits-up - and he's apologised for that. We know that he was a corporate communications wallah at Carlton. Jeff Randall at the Telegraph reminds us that he was lurking around the board just as Carlton were engaged in the farce that was OnDigital, which ended up costing the shareholders over a billion quid and cost 1000 people their jobs. (Hat tip to the Apollo Project). Add into that the suicide note that was the last Tory manifesto and this man doesn't have a great track record of turning base metals into gold.

At the moment, Cameron only seems to have one gear - reverse. He's apologising for the NHS policy, admitting he's learnt a lesson from Black Wednesday and is even prepared to stand up to 'big business' (buzzwords as meaningless and as universally used as 'hard-working families'). He's come out in favour of the environment and against global poverty - thanks for those no-brainers, Dave. But still no sign of moving forwards, other than trying to take over our territory - exactly the same tactics used by Labour in attacking the Tories.

Watch him with one eye on the recent history of Labour policy - they've often out-flanked the Tories on traditional Tory issues (asylum and crime) while investing in traditional Labour issues (like the NHS and education). Treat him like a dodgy magician and don't look at what he wants you to see - watch out for the sleight of hand.

A healthy dose of scepticism and mistrust is prescribed when dealing with Mr Cameron.

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