Sunday, 18 April 2010

Election Fever: a mild sweat

I didn’t watch Thursday night’s party leaders debate on ITV. I was down the pub, with two of my oldest mates, and, god knows, such opportunities crop up rarely at this time of life. Plus, I already know how I’m voting and why; and I know very well what I think of the Liberal Democrat party and of Nick Clegg, who nonetheless appears all of a sudden to be striking great swathes of the British people not as some mere potential kingmaker but, rather, the straight-talking force of common sense incarnate.
Seeking the upside... I suppose it makes a change from noting the main parties’ discreet wrangles over how to plug that £167 billion deficit in public finances. By contrast, for some voters, Clegg must indeed seem like a much-needed blast of honesty. And I have to admit that The Swing to Clegg is a more novel and welcome staging post in the course of this election than the previous week’s bleatings from all those Tory shopkeepers who (surprise!) don’t want to pay an extra 1% in National Insurance.
For me, the deficit is still the top story. The Treasury cannot be run in the manner of a private household, not is government a limited company, and so it still seems important to nail the Tories on their nonsense about efficiency savings, as did the excellent Oliver Kamm, quoting Nigel Lawson’s memoirs (‘Incoming Conservative Governments usually tend to be overoptimistic about the scope for ‘eliminating waste’ - a pledge which is always more popular than specific spending cuts...’)
John Rentoul also put it well last week in rubbishing Cameron’s 'Big Society' waffle:
"I am as opposed to the nanny state as the next person. I do not like Gordon Brown's statist assumptions on the economy and public services. But the helium at the heart of the [Tory] flying pig manifesto is the idea that if the Government stops doing stuff, people will organise themselves to fill the gap in ways that are equitable, fulfilling and tax-saving."

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