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Friday, January 08, 2010

Whoops! There goes another one.

Having made a mess of explaining his party's policies on marriage earlier this week, the Conservative leader has now started dropping some of his key policies as the realisation dawns that they may not be deliverable in the current climate.

According to the Independent, David Cameron has embarked on a a "softly, softly" rewrite of his party's programme for government because of the economic crisis it might inherit.

The Tory leader said he was no longer committed to providing an extra 5,000 prison places or to abolishing income tax on savings for people paying the basic rate of tax.

Tory insiders admit that the party's draft election manifesto, which is being rolled out on an issue-by-issue basis this month, is being used to water down expensive policy commitments.

All that Cameron is succeeding in doing though is confirming claims by Labour on Monday that there is a £34bn "black hole" in the Tories' spending plans. Although the Tories strongly denied the charge, some of the policies being jettisoned did feature in a 148-page dossier issued by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling. They include a £2.6bn plan to reduce tax for savers:

Yesterday he said a long-standing Tory pledge to provide an extra 5,000 prison places, which Labour opposed, had been "partly done" by the Government. Instead, he promised to abolish the early release scheme for prisoners and for courts to set out a minimum and maximum jail sentence. The 5,000 extra places, promised in 2008, could have cost £170m. But 3,500 would have been funded by the sale of city prisons and property values have declined since.

Mr Cameron also conceded the Tories had downgraded a pledge to provide 45,000 single rooms in NHS hospitals within five years. He described it as "an aspiration" but added: "It is not a pledge we can guarantee for a [five-year] parliament."

However, Mr Cameron stood by plans for a two-year freeze in council tax, dubbed the most unpopular tax by the Tories, funded by cutting government spending on advertising and consultants.

The Tory leader admitted he had "messed up" this week over his party's commitment to recognise marriage in the tax system, but insisted it would be delivered within a parliament. "We have to be very careful about the commitment and pledges we make but that is a pledge we feel we are able to make," he told BBC Radio 4.

He said: "I give dozens of interviews every week and on Monday I messed up and there is no other way of putting it. I was thinking about all sorts of different things, and I misdescribed our policy. I immediately corrected that. But in my view there's only one thing worse than messing up, and that is messing up and not admitting to it."

Suddenly, David Cameron no longer looks so sure-footed.
I remember how the press jumped on Charles Kennedy when he made similar sorts of blunders in relation to the local income tax scheme during the 2005 campaign. Cameron is jolly lucky we're not right in the middle of the (formal) campaign now!
But the point is that he is treating it as the formal election period.
I think it does show how serious are the problems with debt. I just feel the one party that comes clean and tells the people how it is will get the voters trust, sadly none of them are able to do this.
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