So the Big Idea is that we can run our own lives. Apparently it is going to lead to a Big Society. And that is going to be really really nice. Not nasty like Thatcherism. Not nasty like the manifesto David Cameron wrote for Michael Howard in 2005.
Like a lot that David Cameron says, it sounds fine. But strip it away, and there are two very big holes.
One is the lack of a plan for securing the economic recovery. We should never tire of saying this – they got every major call on the recession wrong. Had we listened to them at the time of the crisis, it would have become a calamity. If we listen to them now, the recovery will be put at risk.
The second big hole is the one that will be created in the lives of people by the kind of DIY public services vision the Tory manifesto is putting forward.
There is no dispute about involving people in the running of public services. All three of the main parties are in favour of that. The greater involvement of the patient in the planning of healthcare, the parent in the running of schools, is one of the reasons schools and hospitals have improved under Labour. It is not just about the investment we put in and the Tories opposed. And yesterday Labour’s manifesto had further proposals for taking on vested interests in the public services.
But the Tory plan for DIY public services will still have to rely on proper funding. And if the Tories are going to meet all their promises on cutting the deficit, cutting taxes for the very rich, and paying for their plan to recognise marriage in the tax system, then they are going to have to make some very deep cuts to get there.
The Big Society will always depend on a strong economy. Labour has shown it can manage the economy in the good times, and in the bad times that followed the economic crash.
Cameron is hoping that the anti-politics mood of the country will lead to people thinking anything which gets government out of their lives has to be a good thing. But where would Britain have been without a strong government when the economic crisis came? And where would we be now had we left it all to the markets as he and Mr Osborne wanted to do?
If you put together the economic black hole, with his sink-or-swim approach to public services, you have but the latest evidence that for all his talk, he has not changed his party from the one that stood on his first manifesto five years ago.
** Buy The Blair Years and raise cash to help stop the Tories http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.