Anyway, it's not too often I am over on their site but I was tonight and Anatole has predicted that Labour are going to "do a 1992" and win the General Election, because the Tories have to measure the budget response right, and he feels they will not do this. He even says:
But next week’s Budget will be a pivotal political event, not because of anything Alistair Darling may or may not say, but because of the response he will elicit from the Tory frontbench.
This could be the best news yet for David Cameron and George Osborne, they may not realise it but it really is. Maybe in the last few years Anatole has turned it around and got a few right, and if that is the case it is I who will indeed be left with egg on my face.
His theory that the Conservatives must make more of the Budget than Labour is simply not true. Alistair Darling is about to stand up and say how he wants to buy Labour some extra votes on money borrowed off of the future toils of the tax payer. He wants to nudge the Conservatives into immediately replying with specifics about what they would cut after a General Election, and quite frankly even Cameron is not stupid enough to do that. Nobody believes what labour has to say on the economy the trust is gone. Nobody argues with crazy people in the street, they accept they are crazy and walk on... They certainly don't shout crazy back.
The Conservatives do need to shape up their policy announcements, but that does not mean they have to make specific pledges on cuts, the best weapon the Conservatives have between here and May 7th is that nobody believes Labour when they talk economics, nobody believes the numbers. Like the mob, they would appear to have two sets of books running, one for the public when they need election promises, and the other that tracks the real cost of their profligate failures. Talk cuts by all means, say that they will be robust and deep - people will appreciate that and take it as honest; but specific cut pledges in a budget week is not a good idea.
When Alistair Darling stands up and says he is going to add £5 to the winter fuel allowance David Cameron should throw Ed Millibands Energy Taxes back in his face, when Darling says he is raising the State Pension by £4 Cameron should remind everyone who raided the public pension purse. When Darling remarks about borrowing to spend on investment Cameron should repeat that we are spending more on debt repayment to banks than we do on our under equipped and under supported Armed Forces. And so on, ad nauseum.
What Cameron should not do is get dragged into a fight about numbers and projections that are probably not even true. Labour will be setting traps. He should insist that if the PM can't even tell if he has spend more money year on year on defence and if Liam Byrne is confused as to whether there will or will not be any new taxes there is clearly some work to be done to straighten out the books and only when after a Conservative Government has audited the books, and the bank statement, will they truly have an idea what measures are needed. It is Labour that has created this uncertainty but that the Conservatives are ready to roll up their sleeves and give people a straight picture.
Anatole tries for an observation:
The Tories made three closely related mistakes in devising their economic and electoral strategy at the nadir of the financial crisis in the winter of 2008-09
No not quite. The real problem is that the Conservatives, especially early in this Parliament began to believe the propaganda that was coming out of 11 Downing Street about such things as "ending boom and bust" and having developed some grand new economic platform that virtually did away with inflation. The removal of powers from the BoE and the setting up of the FSA allowed for the debt bubble to grow unfettered and was a big part of why there was a massive recession. It was all lies, they should have rejected the premise of Gordon Browns claims. Their language at the time regarding economics was to the line of "sharing the proceeds of growth" - they wrongly accepted the premise that there was unlimited growth to be had. It wasn't that they built it at the wrong time, it was that it was built on a foundation of sand. When the credit cards were being cut up and we hit our limits, the Tories were just as lost as Labour. When it went wrong, Brown claimed that "nobody saw it coming." With a little more Tory caution, Browns best defence line would never have been accepted.
Buying into Labours falsehoods will prove to be the Tories biggest problem. I have been saying for some time that the Conservatives need to disassociate from Labour. By accepting Labours lies and building their policies on those same falsehoods they not only validate the Labour Line, they set themselves up for their own failures and u-turns. The NHS, The EU, Public Schools, Devolution and Green Taxes are all areas where the Conservatives will have to unpick their position and set a new direction after the election, and all because they have built their policies, well defined or not on the New labour reality rather than the real world reality.
So how do I know the Conservatives will win and Anatole is wrong?
Assuming that the new Budget confirms these Labour plans for long-term fiscal consolidation, how should the Tories react? The answer is simple. Instead of quibbling about Alistair Darling’s figures and forecasts, the Tories should endorse his budgetary numbers and promise to carry out essentially the same macroeconomic programme.
All David Cameron has to do now is, not do what Anatole suggests and the election is his.