I tell you it’s enough to shake a chap’s confidence in Her Majesty’s Press. It was barely a month ago that my trembling fingers reached for a Sunday paper proclaiming in huge type, all over the front page, that Gordon Brown was “on course” to win the election. So imagine my feelings of bewilderment yesterday morning when I went to the same newsagent to buy the very same newspaper. And there – on the same front page, in the same supersized font – was the news that David Cameron was “set to claim victory” in the very same general election.
What is going on with these headline-writers? Isn’t there some law against this kind of thing? One or other of these headlines must be false, and you would have thought that we innocent consumers were protected from such blatant deceptions. The reality is that Gordon Brown was never on course to win the election, as I pointed out at the time, any more than he is on course to win a gold medal for rhythmic gymnastics in the 2012 Olympics. Gordon Brown remains where he has been for the past two years, firmly on course to lose the general election, and lose it big.
What we have in yesterday’s paper is the belated recognition that the Conservatives are going to win, and that in so far as there has been a Wobble, that Wobble is over. The quivering has gone from the Tories’ ample frame, and rock-like confidence has returned. What was the pectin, what was the coagulant that helped to restore our rigidity? Was it the saucy snaps of SamCam? Was it Dave’s blouson? Was it the promise of some sort of extra dosh for married couples? Interesting though all of those things are, I don’t think they were decisive.
It was a big, broad statement of economic principle and priority – and it was the work of the shadow chancellor. One day, George Osborne’s children will climb his knee, and say, “What did you do in the Wobble, Daddy?” And George will tell them how some of his colleagues did indeed oscillate with apprehension at the apparent narrowing of the polls, while he, George, sat down and ran the numbers. He came up with a policy that not only encapsulates the difference between Labour and Tories, but also has the additional merit of being completely the right thing to do.
There was a particularly cretinous cartoon in one of the Sunday papers, in which the Tories’ proposed cut in National Insurance was presented as some kind of gift to the fat cats. Looking at that image, of corpulent cigar-smoking felines, you might think that cutting NI would promote boardroom greed or bankers’ bonuses.
What tosh. Labour’s decision to hike National Insurance is a direct attack on employment in all firms, large or small. It is sugar in the tank of the British economy; it is paraquat on the seedlings of recovery, and the Tories are right to cut that tax because, in the end, governments cannot end recessions, and chancellors cannot end recessions. It is businesses that end recessions when they have the confidence to take on more people and expand – and they will have that confidence only if they are not going to be hit with extortionate payroll taxes.
In the final month before polling day, the Tories are reminding the electorate that they may have changed under the Cameroons. They may have become altogether kinder, gentler, more eco-friendly and huskie-propelled, but they fundamentally understand and support the wealth creators of society, the people who have an idea, who see an opportunity, and who then get up at 5am every day to turn that dream into a reality – and into a profit.
We should see far more giving, of money and time, and I would like a Britain where everyone with enough money felt it was positively shameful not to be doing something – mentoring kids, reading in primary schools – to help. The message is simple. You can’t have wealth creation without a social mission, and you can’t have a social mission without wealth creation.
The Daily Telegraph for this column and further news and views.