“Who would have thought that a Labour government would abolish the 10p tax rate, increase taxes for the least well off and cut tax for the rich? We need to make Gordon Brown listen.”
So read a leaflet being distributed at the Crewe & Nantwich by-election this week by the Conservative Party.
It seems that New Labour has moved so far to the right that the Tories are seemingly attacking them from the left.
But anyone who thinks the Conservatives’ “caring” makeover is anything but cosmetic need only take a look at the Tory team that new London mayor Boris Johnson has installed in City Hall.
Three of Johnson’s senior appointments – Sir Simon Milton, lead adviser on planning and housing, Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor with responsibility for policing, and Nicholas Boles, interim chief-of-staff – are Tory councillors, or former councillors, from the London borough of Westminster.
Back in the 1980s the Tories of Westminster council, led by the now disgraced Dame Shirley Porter, rigged the council’s housing policies to try to ship poorer people out of the borough and bring in richer ones, who were more likely to vote Tory.
The “homes for votes” scheme was eventually judged illegal and Porter was ordered to pay back millions to the council out of her personal fortune.
She responded by transferring her considerable wealth to other family members and fleeing to Israel.
Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group on Westmister council and author of The Westminster Whistleblowers, a book detailing the “homes for votes” scandal, reacted with fury to news of Milton’s appointment.
“Simon Milton learned everything he knows about flogging off council housing when he was one of the Shirley Porter gang during the ‘homes for votes’ scandal, including housing the homeless in asbestos-ridden flats,” Dimoldenberg told a local paper.
Malthouse led the negotiations between Westminster council and Porter that saw her returning to Britain in 2006 after agreeing to pay the council a small fraction of the sum she owed them.
“Westminster residents are still £30 million out of pocket,” said Dimoldenberg.
Meanwhile the Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne has also revealed the Tories’ true colours by calling for more laws to stop workers from going on strike “at the drop of a hat”.
He warned bosses at the British Chamber of Commerce, “The series of recent strikes has increased the urgency of what we should do.”
And Tory leader David Cameron this week signalled his intention to stick to Margaret Thatcher’s economic values should the Tories be returned to power.
“Britain needs good housekeeping from the Conservatives. We need to start living within our means,” he told listeners in Birmingham – echoing Thatcher’s 1981 pronouncement that her spending cuts were motivated by the need to “live within your means”.