by Martin Odoni

Well, that was a blundering start to the Election campaign, even by the standards of the modern Conservative Party.

Compare this; –

Iain Duncan Smith: “When we are right and we are ready, we will talk about what we plan to do… [Voters] know for certain that we are going to save the twelve billion pounds. We may, we may not, decide that it’s relevant to put something out there about some of those changes… it would be dishonest to say we’ve made decisions but we’re just going to keep it all secret, that’s not the case.”

To this; –

David Cameron: “[Voters] can choose the economic chaos of Ed Miliband’s Britain – over three thousand pounds in higher taxes for every working family to pay for more welfare and out-of-control spending. Debt will rise and jobs will be lost as a result.”

And now view the second remark in light of this; –

Grant Shapps: “[The three thousand pounds figure is] absolutely solid.”

So let me get this straight. According to Duncan Smith, the Conservatives have not yet made decisions on exactly how they are going to make the pledged cuts of twelve billion pounds to public spending, even though they announced them well over a year ago. They just have a nice, juicy-sounding target-figure to aim at, without even calculating whether it is a suitable target, and they are going to work out a budget to reach it ‘after-the-fact’? However, they have managed to calculate a budget for the Labour Party’s plans – and in such impressive detail that they can even tell us how much extra tax the average household will pay?

After four hundred and fifty days of not figuring out their own budget, that may go down as a disproportionately-rigorous examination of Labour’s plans.

I am humouring the Tories retroactively of course. In truth, the comments from Cameron and Shapps were debunked within hours by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, whose director, Paul Johnson, labelled the quoted figure ‘unhelpful’. Amusingly, in the face of this development, the current title-holder of Britain’s Most Perennially-Caught-Out Serial Liar (that’s the fella who holds the secondary title of Conservative Party Chairman) stood his ground with all his usual, impressive consistency, by clarifying that, by ‘absolutely solid’, his precise meaning was of course that the figure was ‘guesswork’. Ah, so the figure is ‘solid guesswork’, Shapps? That is an oxymoron worthy of Sir Humphrey Appleby. Last time I checked, making a statement that you know is baseless and presenting it as a certainty, in the hope of making other people believe it, was called ‘lying’. I would suggest we use that word instead. (Every time Shapps speaks? Possibly.)

It is always deeply satisfying to see one of the right-wing sociopath parties knocked back into a humiliating retreat, especially so quickly. Such shameless, dishonest scaremongering from Conservatives is a major issue, and entirely par-for-the-course at Election time in particular. But the secondary issue in this bears mentioning too; even if they had been making honest calculations (and do they ever?) the Tories are sidestepping their priorities and democratic duties by only commenting on Labour’s budget plans, while keeping their own – assuming they have any – under wraps. The original announcement that there would be twelve billion in spending cuts by 2018 was another that was more or less snatched out of thin air, but since then the Conservatives have still had about a year-and-a-quarter to put ‘flesh on the bones’, as it were. And yet they appear no readier to let us hear what the framework will be. The obvious assumption to make from that is that the Tories know no better than we do, as they have run out of ideas that they think people can stomach.

But there is another possibility. Just assuming for a moment that the Conservatives have put together at least an outline for the next few years of cuts: Most of the cuts performed during this Parliament have done more harm than good, and the ‘economic recovery’ of the last eighteen months is fuelled by household borrowing that is almost certain to lead to another banking crash fairly early in the next Parliament. Any further cuts George Osborne will make are likely to be so savage, so draconian, so unfair, and so cruel to the most vulnerable in Britain – while also creating fresh slowdowns in the economy’s performance and forcing more desperate household borrowing – that only the most blinkered and self-absorbed Friedmanite would endorse them. And most members of the public, whatever else they might be, are not Friedmanites. So it is hardly surprising that the Tories would be reluctant to spell out what they want to do next.

Whether they have a plan or not, it says a great deal about the arrogance and inflated self-importance of Cameron and his closest circle of colleagues that they see no need to explain to the country what they hope to do next. Make no mistake, these are people who see themselves as ‘above’ most of the rest of Britain, and as such, feel no compunction over lying to them, and sneer at the very thought of being ‘accountable’ to them. No, it is their innate ‘right’ to lead.

It is the nature of democracy, if it is ever to work, that the public are trusted with the truth, so that they can make informed decisions on whom to trust in turn with their vote. The Conservatives will not co-operate with that ideal though. Their priority is power alone, and they rightly fear that an informed public, aware of precisely what a Tory Government would do to them, would never trust them with that power.

To the Cameronite Conservative Party, democracy is an inconvenience, which means that voting for them is, by nature, an absurdity. Here is my solution therefore; –