It is the ultimate indictment of more than a decade of New Labour government that David Cameron’s Conservatives can pose as a cuddly, progressive alternative.
As the opening shots were fired in the election campaign this week, the Tories plastered the country with 1,000 posters of a giant Cameron face staring down at us.
The poster claims that the Tories would “cut the deficit, not the NHS”.
Cameron has spent his years as party leader trying to rebrand the Tories as “the party of the NHS”.
But this isn’t the first time the Tories have used this tactic. In 1979, just before Margaret Thatcher came to power, she said, “The NHS is safe in our hands”.
Then she spent 11 long years slashing and burning it.
And today, behind baby-faced Cameron and his scribbled tree logo, the same old die-hard Thatcherites lurk in the shadows.
In the small print, their real plan for the NHS is to scrap all spending increases – meaning the budget will flatline.
More disturbingly, at the end of last year Cameron held a private meeting with a group calling itself “Nurses for Reform”.
It calls the health service a “dystopian, Soviet-style calamity” and advocates no-holds-barred privatisation of the NHS.
There are many in the Conservative Party who agree with MEP Daniel Hannan, who last year called the NHS “a 60 year mistake”.
Tory rule could mean a concerted attempt to dismantle the health service.
Meanwhile Ken Clarke, shadow business secretary and former minister to Thatcher, wants to raise VAT to 20 percent under the Tories.
VAT, as a tax on spending, hits the poorest the hardest as they spend more of their income on essential bread-and-butter items.
Clarke claims the rise is to pay off the deficit – the one caused by the multi-billion pound bailout of the banks.
The truth is even worse – this tax on the poor will pay for the Tories’ plan to cut inheritance taxes for the super-rich and hand out “incentives” for marriage.
Labour chancellor Alistair Darling’s response has been to condemn the Conservatives – but not for their planned cuts or their other right-wing policies.
Instead he has criticised them for for making “£45 billion of promises” they can “barely explain how they can pay for”.
Both parties are stuck in the same discredited neoliberal consensus.
Both believe the only solution to the crisis is cuts, cuts and more cuts – for ordinary people that is.
That’s why it is no good just crossing our fingers and hoping Gordon Brown wins the election so things can carry on as they are. We need to fight back – now.