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Pressure needs to be kept on Tories over NICs

Posted on 9 April 2010 | 1:04pm

One of my rules of political communications is that just as the politicians are getting tired of saying something, and the media are getting bored of hearing them say it, is the point at which you have to keep going with an argument.

That is where we are right now in relation to National Insurance Contributions and the Tories’ claims to be able to fund tax cuts, deficit reduction and the protection of frontline public services by finding billions of pounds worth of largely unidentified waste.

I’m not quite sure why the charge is being made that they are back of envelope calculations. I think they were made on the front of an envelope, where most of the space was already taken up by stamps and an address, so they just had a tiny space left on which to squiggle a few words and letters like IT. Poor old IT. Always copping it and yet where would we be without it? And all these back offices they keep going on about. They can’t all be bad. I’ve been in a few front offices in my time in need of a bit of a clearout.

The Labour pressure on this is beginning to tell. David Cameron is continuing to duck difficult questions and also starting to give slightly different answers to George Osborne. Sir Peter Gershon, one of the waste gurus Cameron keeps quoting, as though somehow saying a name again and again will substitute an explanation, has risen to the challenge to start explaining, and created more unanswered questions, not least about jobs. The markets have started to worry that the Tories have dropped any seriousness of intention on the deficit, in favour of tax cuts, and and all the while George Osborne keeps his heads down as DC tries to smile and charm his way through the minefield they have laid for themselves.

So though I can see and hear the media getting very bored with this one, the argument has some way to go before it is fully unravelled. Yes, that’s the word I think.

** I see one or two of you were a bit alarmed to find I had counted the number of shots of BBC political editor Nick Robinson in his package on Nick Clegg last night, on which I tweeted after the 10 o’clock news. Fifteen! I can assure you I don’t make a habit of counting cutaways to Robinson, but someone texted me after the 6 o’clock news to say he thought it might be a record. So I counted. (I didn’t count the bits where only his hand was in shot.)

It does seem however, with every election, the focus on the reporters at the expense of the politicians appears to grow.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Nick

    What is apparent, and is even admitted by some of the more balanced and fair minded left wing commentators [sans Campbell] is that the Conservatives have “won” the campaign so far.
    Tony Blair would have described it as a catastrophic strategic mistake for Labour to be seen publicly in dispute with major buisness leaders. A quick glance at Peter Mandelson’s body language suggests he agrees.

    It is a bad sign for Labour that only a week into a four week campaign, one of their senior Cabinet ministers has had to resort to a public appeal to Lib Dems today. Perhaps their private polling is telling them something about their likely result under Brown on May 6th…

  • Cuse

    Alastair – what is it you keep saying about Dave ‘n’ Gideon?

    Tactics not strategy.

    The NICs debacle (for the Tories) is that in a nutshell. They’ve blown it and they know it. Their immature desire to control the newscycle with wheezes dreamt up in Gideon’s little head has exposed their fundamental lack of clarity. What scares me though – which no-one has yet commented on – is who’s running Tory economics policy and Tory campaigning? Yup – Gideon.

    Gideon Osborne is not only the weak link – he’s the area Labour should be naming, attacking + exposing as a man not fit to run a jumble sale, never mind an economy.

  • alex

    “The markets have started to worry that the Tories have dropped any seriousness of intention on the deficit….”

    And your evidence for this is what exactly? But then, evidence (the obtaining of and giving of) was never really your strong point was it…..all form over substance with a drop of deception to boot.

    Keep going though AC – your involvement, and the likes of Mandleson’s, will assist GB greatly in his forthcoming defeat. Its a credibility issue you see.

    Alex (former labour voter, for my sins).

  • Mark Wright

    When questioned by Andrew Neil on today’s ‘Daily Politics’ Theresa May could/would not rule out that the Tory ‘efficiency savings’ would result in job losses. GB/Mandy/Darling should push on that for all it’s worth.

    But hey, I’m sure Dave’s business chums aren’t too concerned. A few less people in employment would mean fewer NI contributions on behalf of their former employers. Much better for those that lose their jobs to be on benefit and let the government pick up the bill eh?

    Re: Nick Robinson. I expect the man to have his own chat show by the end of the campaign.

  • Alex

    Just saw George and Alasdair on BBC news. George peevish and defensive, Alasdair all sweet reason and logic.

    Alasdair “why is Dave changing his story to “efficincies cannot close all of the gap””

    George’s justification: “If that’s the case how come all these businessmen don’t like tax rises…” ……. weak.

  • Chris lancashire

    Who do you trust to deal with the defecit? The Chancellor and the PM who ran a £40bn structural defecit during the good times and only last month stopped talking about “Tory Cuts versus Labour Investment”? Or the party that handed this clown the best economic situation ever seen by an incoming government.

    Credibility? Brown/Darling’s track record destroys their credibility.

  • Graham Jones

    The truth about NI cuts was completely unravelled last night on Newsnight, when they inadvertantly booked James Caan, as opposition to Liam Byrne.

    I’m sure Paxman was the most surprised, when James Caan agreed with the government on NI.

    The first part of the programme, therefore, unintentionally dismantled Tory economic policy.

    Caan said that any business, would atill hire new employers, as the NI rises wouldn’t hinder it.

    Alistair Darling has proven to be right, yet again, while Paxman’s ears will be roasting, from his dressing down at CCHQ.

  • Robert Jackson

    I think it right for Andrew Adonis to encourage LD voters to support their Labour parliamentary candidate tactically even though they might continue to view themselves as Liberal Democrats.

    Although swamped by the general election, there is an important set of local government elections going on at the same time. Particularly in London and the major cities and towns.

    It is perfectly rational for LD voters to split their votes. Electing their preferred LD councillors AND electing a Labour MP, not a Tory.

    A Tory government will utterly emasculate local government – they have done it before and will do so again. And that would hit LD councils very badly indeed.

  • S Chapman

    Alastair – I follow UK markets and am unaware of what you are going on about when you say the mkts are worried??
    Gilts and the FTSE are unchanged and sterling has rallied vs the euro and dollar??
    At least get the facts correct…here are a couple;
    Nat Debt doubled,sterling down 30%,1 trillion spent on the recovery thats only just moving ,debt-to-gdp a stagegring 12.8% and of course Burnley are going down

  • Patrick James

    I heard David Cameron being interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning and the pursuit of this NIC issue was effective.

    I also think the Lib Dems “20.5%” VAT bombshell is also having an impact.

    The simple message is: what the Conservatives promise to giveth, they must also taketh away.

  • John Malcolm

    We are being threatened by another climate change “Cameron Dioxide” with its dark clouds of old conservatism looming over our country like the Thatcher years with gaps allowing the sun to shine only on the rich and wealthy. Labour have to win this General Election for as well as being a party member I fear that a Tory win would cause more people to vote SNP in the Scottish Elections and leave us Salmond @ Co (who sound like they all spent years as comittee members in workmens clubs before adopting politics) to take Scotland back to Kilts Bagpipes Haggis and Isolation.

  • Charlie Reynolds

    Oooops – you’ve really bodged this one Ali.

    The Tories will stop a Labour incomes tax rise on the middle class (earning 20-50k) by cutting waste this year as identified by the government’s own waste guru. Why are Labour happy to raise tax and scared to cut waste?

    Any party which wins the election will need to cut spending. This will lead to job losses. There appears to be only one party capable of doing what all 3 say is necessary.

    Just imagine if Gordon and Labour had showed a little restraint in public spending over the last 13 years (maybe not raise it by quite so much each year – one percent a year?) and then the country would not have a huge debt and deficit now.

    Brown’s debt and he hasn’t got the balls to deal with it. He is without a doubt the worst prime minister and chancellor in history.

  • Djunfitforwork

    It’s unraveling for an increasingly Nasty Tory Party. Tough on jobs -tougher on public services -BRUTAL on those who lose their jobs -esp through illness.

  • Robert Jackson

    If I may go a little off topic, it seems David Cameron has finally put a value on marriage:

    £3 a week.

    Two very nice cups of coffee at my local Hudson and Mortimers sandwich shop.