Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Cameron's empty gimmick. But might it work?

It would appear that anxiety about the coming British General Election is intensifying in Tory ranks.

That’s odd, because frankly they’re not doing any worse than their main opposition, Labour. At times it looks as though they’re getting a tiny lead, at times as though Labour is. Basically, they’re tied. But I suppose that’s the trouble. Tories believe they have a God-given right to power; being tied with Labour is therefore an unacceptable dislocation to any kind of reality they can believe.

They’ve tried so many things. They tried personal attacks on Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, but those rather backfired. They’ve tried whipping up a panic over the prospect of Miliband forming a government dependent on support from the Scottish Nationalist Party, which at the moment looks like the only way he could, and presenting it as a pact with all the fiends in Hell.

Let me assure you, based on my many visits to Scotland, and conversations with SNP supporters, that they’re really not that fiendish at all. Indeed, compared to David Cameron and the Tories, they’re positively angelic.

None of this has dented Labour’s poll position.

So today we had the latest wheeze. Cameron proposed that, if returned, the Tories would legislate – legislate, mind: this is law they’d be making, not some kind of pious wish enshrined in a resolution – to rule out any kind of tax increase, on VAT, income tax or National Insurance, in the course of the next parliament.

It’s a glorious notion. The UK is a nation without a written constitution, unlike the US or Germany. So there’s no basic law that binds the legislators themselves. Law is made by Parliament and can be just as easily unmade by it. Or to put it in other words, the same body that made the law banning tax increases would also make any law to raise taxes. It can’t bind itself any more than a smoker can bind himself to keep his New Year’s resolution to stop smoking.

So Cameron’s pledge is nothing more than a promise to keep a promise. 

If we don’t believe his promise, which should we believe his promise to keep it?

Why wouldn’t we buy snake oil from this man?
Let’s not forget that before the last election he said he wouldn’t raise VAT. And then he did. He and George Osborne, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, as we quaintly refer to our Finance Minister, promised to eliminate the structural deficit on government spending in the last government (they’ve failed lamentably) and to be repaying debt by next year (there’s no chance they’ll be doing it, even if they get back in).

So, basically, the pledge is just an empty gimmick. It binds only anyone who believes it.

Sadly, those are precisely the people he’s aiming at.

Some have said that his empty promise shows disrespect for the electorate. It’s certainly disrespectful, but only to a small number of voters. The Tories and Labour are pretty well level-pegging, each with support hovering between 32% or 35% of the votes. Cameron wants to find 3%, though he’d be happy with 2%, and would settle for 1%. It’s only that small minority Cameron really treated with contempt. They’re the target of this latest hollow trick.

As I said, revealing his growing anxiety.

Let’s just hope he’s miscalculated. And there’s no voter out there weak-minded enough to fall for a deception so transparent. 

Though, sadly, I’m afraid there might be a few.

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