TIM Montgomerie over at Conservative Home has proved to be a rather good judge of his own party’s weak points when it comes to policy.
Having successfully campaigned for Do-Nothing to adopt a more austere economic package (no longer committing to Labour’s spending plans), he’s now asking: “Do the Tories need a ‘No cuts here’ list?”
On Saturday’s ConservativeHome, Dr Rachel Joyce identified her public spending priorities. They included a promise to protect all doctors, nurses, police officers and teachers in “frontline” positions. She also called for special honopuring of the Military Covenant and investment in apprenticeships.
I have mixed feelings about such a list. Part of me says, yes, it will blunt the nastiest of Labour attacks but I also worry that it will just focus more attention on those areas that we might be vulnerable to economies. I’m also unsure whether we should make a commitment on anything. There may well be overstaffing in certain frontline areas.
He’s dead right on this one, and I’m not revealing any dark Labour Party secret by suggesting that “Tory cuts” will be the two most used words in Labour’s election campaign.
The Tories are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place: if they do ringfence certain budgets (as Andrew lansley suggests has already been done in health), that exposes every other area not specifically mentioned. And the more departments or services they identify as being immune from “savings”, the more their overall policy will be seen to be… (how shall I phrase this?) less robust than it ideally should be.