spiked-geist: Day Eight

Letwin the outlaw; Demon eyes - The Return; Bread-and-butter issues

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Letwin the outlaw

A New Labour briefing booklet produced this morning represents Tory chief Treasury secretary Oliver Letwin as a fugitive from justice – ‘Wanted! Last wherabouts unknown’.

The ‘reward’ for Letwin is £20billion, the planned Tory tax cut figure that Letwin is thought to have leaked to the Financial Times.

But the grainy photo that stares out from the cover makes Letwin look more like a recent Ivy League graduate than a hardened outlaw. The quotes amassed from Letwin, which go back to 1990, can but confirm this impression.

So Letwin has said such shocking things as ‘I think it is an absolute duty of people who…are lucky enough to have quite a lot of money to try to relieve the public services of the strain’. Asking the rich to pay for their own healthcare, relieving services for the poor – can Letwin be the only person ever to have articulated such an idea?

In fact, on many issues Letwin is not a world away from Labour. In 1998 he praised Labour’s Budget, saying that ‘some aspects of the Budget are admirable. It is an immensely tough Budget in terms of the fiscal balance that it establishes’. He called the NHS a ‘bureaucratic monster’ that was in need of ‘radical reform’, such as ‘increased joint ventures between the NHS and the private sector’.

And in the places where he differs from Labour – he is an ardent Eurosceptic, he supports substantial tax cuts, he opposes the Climate Change Levy: these are just political opinions. They may be wrong opinions, but hardly the talk of an outlaw…. JA

Demon eyes – The Return

The Letwin ‘Wanted’ poster is the latest example of Labour turning the demon eyes from 1997 back on the Tories. In 1997 the Tories tried to tell the electorate that Tony Blair was not just wrong – he was evil. The electorate, not susceptible to such silly gimmicks, did not believe them.

Face is repeated as farce, as New Labour continues its series of economic policy posters based on horror movies (1). The poster ‘Towering Interest Rates’ is based on the disaster movie Towering Inferno, where a skyscraper is set on fire and panicking people have to get down to the bottom. Then there is ‘The Repossessed’, which features Hague and Portillo as the spooks staggering forward into the homes of the land.

The idea of these posters, according to a Labour source, is to use the ‘horror genre’ as a way of ‘reminding people what it would be like to go back to the Tories’, thereby ‘getting the economic message across in an interesting and compelling way’.

Don’t vote for the Tories, goes the message – they’ll spook you/burn your house down. And if you aren’t in bed before I count to three, the big, bad wolf will eat you up. JA

(1) See the poster series

Bread-and-butter issues

A sense of humour is not a commodity that one normally associates with the Tories, but perhaps there was a glimpse yesterday. Tim Hirsch, the BBC’s man on the Conservative battlebus, reports licking his lips at the prospect of a good breakfast courtesy of the party in blue.

Unfortunately, it was late. No coffee, no bacon rolls. Then just before the bus was due to leave, the food arrived: chicken tikka masala pastries, symbol of our multicultural society according to Labour foreign secretary Robin Cook. The Tories have always had the greatest respect for British tradition. But for breakfast? (1)

As it happens, the Tories know that an army marches on its stomach, even if it is the media brigade. So they have thoughtfully provided a lavish repast, as the Telegraph reported yesterday (2). Journalists can expect a four-course lunch with wine every day. The example menu includes dim sum for starters, smoked salad with a mushroom vinaigrette for main course, and cheesecake for dessert. To round it off, camembert and biscuits and tea or coffee.

New Labour, on the other hand, is relatively spartan. Sandwiches and pastries are the order of the day and strictly no alcohol until after the final day. The Liberal Democrats will be offering a light breakfast and a cold lunch. It’s a tough gig being a hack these days. They’ll be skinnier than Geri Halliwell by the end of the campaign.

Of course, the political parties should be able to afford to go to town on the food. A place on a battlebus isn’t cheap. New Labour is asking the media to cough up £9000 a place for their tour (3). A tasty little earner, then. RL

(1) Travelling with the Tories, BBC News Online 14 May 2001

(2) Hague aims for smooth ride with the press, Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2001

(3) Bremner’s worst impressions are confirmed, Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2001

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