SOMEWHAT after the event (Carolyn and I have just returned from a two-day break sans weans), but I can’t avoid commenting on Dave’s interview with Jeremy Vine, which we listened to on the way to our country retreat on Friday.
First of all, Dave made much of the Civitas study into the welfare system (pause while red mist descends in front of the eyes of most of my readers) which revealed that couples on welfare are less well off than they would be if they separated. Dave feigned surprise and outrage at this. This has been a part of the system for many years, under Labour and Tory governments – was he seriously unaware of it?
I assume this arrangement is in place because of the recognition that couples can live together more cheaply than can two single people living apart. That’s why the state pension for a couple is – and always has been – less than double the rate for a single pensioner. Dave presumably doesn’t believe that’s an injustice worth getting all hot under the collar about, but what’s double standards when there’s a headline to be won?
Secondly, he described the 2.5 per cent cut in VAT as “a scandalous waste of money”. Just consider that statement for a minute.
Let’s assume he’s right to claim that the cut itself had no discernible effect on pre-Christmas sales (not a judgment anyone can accurately make without knowing what they would have been in the absence of the VAT cut). Even then, that £12 billion (as Dave claimed the figure was) tax cut went directly into the pockets of British shoppers. And the Tory party reckons that that’s a “scandalous waste of money”?
I thought the Tory Party were, in principle, if not in policy terms, in favour of giving tax-payers their money back? It’s not the government’s money, they constantly tell us, but the public’s. And yet, giving us back £12 billion of our hard-earned is “a scandalous waste of money”.
There comes a point when putting headlines before principle becomes such a way of life, so second nature, that no-one even notices any more. So Dave is all style and no substance – so what? So he wants to “send a signal” rather than create policy – who cares?
Meanwhile, GB is criticised by the right for saying he want to create up to 100,000 new jobs. Yes, the actual number of jobs created will be hard to assess, and yes, the actual economic policy behind the plans should be scrutinised and, where appropriate, criticised.
But contrast the two approaches – Dave contradicts his own party’s principles and seeks to “send a signal” while at the same time refusing to say whether he’ll actually change policy, and if so, to what; while the Prime Minister seeks to use whatever power government has to make things better.
Dave’s certainly not “the man with a plan”, unless “becoming PM” is considered “a plan” these days.