“The truth – you can’t handle the truth.” So responded Jack Nicholson to a question posed to him by Tom Cruise in the movie ‘A Few Good Men.’
It is a line that David Cameron and George Osborne would probably articulate to the great British public given half a chance, because it is the very fact that they have been telling ‘the truth’, as they see it at least, that they have not moved significantly ahead in the polls as they had anticipated by this stage of the General Election campaign.
The downbeat message of Osborne and the Prime Minister may paint an accurate picture of where the UK Plc’s finances are, but it is difficult to get anyone particularly enthused to support another five years of hard slog and austerity.
So, with this, the Tories, with almost gay abandon, decided to go on a bit of a spending spree this week, promising a host of positives including Rail fare freezes, £8 Billion extra for the NHS and a big announcement offering everyone in the public sector 3 days off to volunteer during the year, at a cost of – well who knows?
The Conservatives lead when it comes to ‘managing the economy’ is fairly healthy in all opinion polls; but even so these ‘bag of a fag packet’ commitments have allowed Labour to level the charge of a Tory Party scrabbling around for attractive goodies to hand out before the election, without having any clue as to how they will be paid for.
Labour itself is so paranoid about its reputation in managing the country’s finances, that they have put themselves into a ‘triple lock’ discipline over future fiscal policy that was spelt out on the first page of its Manifesto, launched in Manchester on Monday.
Other than protecting the NHS budget and overseas aid, you will go a long way to find any Labour spending commitment worth talking about.
Not quite ‘carry on regardless’ more ‘re -arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ would be a fairly accurate description of the oppositions approach to its economic policy offer to the electorate, with the usual rhetoric of hammering those with ‘the broadest shoulders’. An increasingly confident looking Ed Miliband and his would be Chancellor Ed Balls will be hoping that they don’t meet the same resistance to a very similar Labour message trotted out by Neil Kinnock and John Smith in 1992. History tells us that parties that promise tax rises have not fared particularly well in UK General Elections.
The lack of ambition contained within the Manifestos of the only two political parties who can form a government basically demonstrates a realistic view from them as to where we are in terms of public finances. But, it is not a particularly exciting message, and it is failing to turn the voters on.
Instead, for ‘vision’ and fantasy politics, those who have a wanton desire for radicalism over reality have opted to support fringe parties who, quite frankly, can say what they want and promise what you want with no fear of having to carry out their barmy policies. It was a trap the Liberal Democrats fell into five years ago but, unusually for them, it came back to bite them on the bum – no tuition fees anyone?
This time around it is the Greens offering billions of pounds of public spending; Farage’s mob promising to rid the country of pesky foreigners and the SNP building a whole nation’s economy on oil, despite the falling price of the black stuff in recent months.
Between them, the so-called minor parties are currently polling around 35% of the vote accumulatively, which tells me that a significant number of UK citizens do, indeed, prefer ‘sweet little lies’ to the brutal truth. Who would be a politician?