Sunday, August 27, 2006


Back to the Future

After months of policy vacuum, the Tories have had two ideas at once – steady, they’ll burst something! With an Observer-friendly policy for The Observer and a Telegraph-friendly policy in the Sunday Telegraph, you might think they’re facing two ways at once. Take both stories together, though, and they may be onto something: with an apology for supporting apartheid and a possible tax cut on shares, there’s more than a whiff of ’80s nostalgia in today’s initiatives. They form one message. Could their new pitch be, “Remember the economic good times, and don’t worry, we’re repudiating the nasty social policies”?

Of course, neither policy costs very much. “We got it wrong on apartheid” is hardly a risky argument a decade and a half after the fact, and if it upsets Norman Tebbit and Bernard Ingham, well, I imagine Mr Cameron will regard that as useful positioning to establish how ‘moderate’ he is. Meanwhile, abolishing stamp duty on shares apparently costs £4 billion – no doubt Labour will call this a crippling drain on public services, but really, it doesn’t take a lot of work to find should they ever commit to it rather than just ‘call for’ it – and allows them to say they’re being nice to pension funds, while also sending a dog whistle to everyone who liked making lots of cash through subsidised gambling on the stock market under Mrs Thatcher.

Not costing very much has its downside as well as its advantages. It does raise a question of how much you really mean it. Offering something to encourage greed tends to inspire people to ask for more – they’re greedy, you see – while more than a few people may be unimpressed by Mr Balloon’s mealy-mouthed fan letter to Nelson Mandela. Toby Philpott thinks it’s too little, too late, but the comment that made me laugh aloud is the first appended to Mr Cameron’s very own article.

Meanwhile, if the ’80s are back in fashion, will the Tories next be apologising for going to such extraordinary lengths to make these illegal?

I just thought I’d take another look at that article by Mr Cameron, and found that clearly The Guardian were shocked to their woolly-mittened core by the initial reply line containing a vaguely offensive term (imagine!) and have removed the comment.

Should anyone care at this juncture, I’m fairly sure the original first comment to Mr Cameron, bowdlerised in case those sensitive hacks at The Guardian are reading, was:

“It’s too late now, you t**t.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that random censorship has struck ‘Comment is Free’ – insert your own satirical remark – but this more recent one pointed out by Stephen Tall
suggests they’re not worried by plagiarism, but nervous of being sued…
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