I will forgive Jack Straw his little jibe at the expense of Burnley FC in his piece on the Tories in today’s Independent.
The Blackburn MP says he will donate two tickets to see Burnley reserves to anyone who can name a Tory councillor who has complained locally about the effect of the extra investment which has poured into schools, hospitals and other public services. Hoho.
He does however make a good point about the contrast between David Cameron and George Osborne saying Labour spent too much, and Tories around the country claiming credit for the effect of such investment at local level. He draws attention too, as Labour must never tire of doing, to the wrong calls D and G made when the global economic crisis first erupted, and to the wrong calls they are making now.
But the main purpose of his piece seems to be a warning of the avalanche of press and poster advertising which the Tories are in the process of launching. I saw my first of the posters this morning, a fairly average piece of work focussed on debt. I have to say that given the figures, and given the money they have to spend, they could have done a lot better.
The point however is less the quality than the quantity of advertising that the Tories will be sticking up on billboards around the country. Cameron is warning that there is an era of austerity ahead, although not for top earners who will be well protected by his tax policies, and certainly not for the Tory Party machine, fuelled by Belize billionaire Lord Ashcroft.
Contrary to their current message on government spending, the Tories clearly believe that if you have the money, you may as well spend it, and though there is a debate in politics about the effect of posters, the Tories certainly have a lot of money to spend. But where the money is coming from is likely to become a bigger issue as the election nears and Ashcroft’s tax status remains unclear.
Jack Straw says in his article that Cameron would rather conduct the debate of the next few months at the level of slogan and billboard message because ‘he knows that the substance of his policies will not stand up to scrutiny; that his policies stand principally to benefit the privileged few – and that the mainstream majority would end up paying the bill.
‘That is why, when Labour supports the aspirations of families from low and middle incomes, he wrongly accuses us of “class war”; and why, when Labour exposes the fact that the Tories want to spend billions on tax breaks for the three thousand wealthiest estates in our country, he criticises us for creating “dividing lines”.
‘These ridiculous claims are a deliberate Conservative smokescreen to conceal the unfairness of their policies. From record-breaking, expensive advertising campaigns to the phoney rhetoric about class war, it’s clear that Mr Cameron’s strategy is to do everything he can to deflect attention from scrutiny of what a Conservative government would do. Ultimately, regardless of whether it’s free flights from foreign companies or billboards bought ultimately from Belize, it doesn’t matter how much money Mr Cameron throws at this campaign. The closer we get to the election, the more the Tory policies will come under scrutiny.
‘And as they do so, we are confident that the choice facing the British people about the future of this country will become clear. The truth is that the Conservatives made the wrong choices on the economy: on Northern Rock and on help for businesses and families. Now they threaten to choke off the recovery. And all of this is at the same time as they pledge a tax giveaway to the three thousand wealthiest estates. Never before in the history of British elections has a political party spent so much – to help so few.’
By the end of his article, he has upped (sic) the prize to two tickets to see Blackburn Rovers first team. He calls this ‘an offer almost beyond price.’ Considering that Blackburn’s matches are regularly witnessed by thousands of empty blue seats, this is a piece of constituency-based spinology in an otherwise excellent article.