Spot the difference. Last April, David Cameron strutted the stage at the Tory spring conference, talking tough. He declared an “age of austerity”, and boasted that the Tories would face up to the “incredibly tough decisions” on government spending.
But last week he put on a softer face, saying, “We’re not talking about swingeing cuts. We’re talking about making a start in reducing our deficit.”
Why are the Tories nervous about making their plans to wield the axe more explicit? It’s certainly not that they’ve had a change of heart.
British politics is dominated by a debate over how fast to cut public spending to bring down the government deficit of £178 billion.
The press put the Tory wobble down to the very weak signs of economic “recovery”. The economy grew by just 0.1 percent between October and December last year.
It is true they are worried sharp cuts might tip the economy back into recession. But they also know that slashing public services isn’t popular and risks creating serious resistance.
Cameron may want to emulate Margaret Thatcher, but he is in a much weaker position than she was.
Then, the working class had been put on the back foot by the betrayals of the Labour government of 1974-9.
But today we are seeing a revival
of resistance and a mood of anger
at over three decades of Tory and Labour free market policies.
Cameron has no fully worked out strategy like Thatcher did for taking on groups of workers.
Millions of people fear for their jobs, worry about keeping a roof over their head and are angry about cuts to the public services they rely on.
The popular mood rightly blames the bankers and greed of big business for the economic crisis.
Yet both Labour and the Tories accept that public services and public sector pay and conditions have to bear the brunt of the cuts. The only debate is about how quickly and how deeply to stick the knife in.
They do not mentions the vast cost of the bank bailouts, or how the free market policies backed by all the main parties have led to the worst recession in Britain since the Second World War.
And none of them admit that the money could be found by a massive redistribution of wealth.
Yet, as we show on page 10, the government’s own survey of inequality reveals the incredible wealth those at the top of society enjoy—while the rest of us struggle to survive.
The new 50 percent top rate of income tax and the one-off tax on bankers’ bonuses does little more than scratch the surface of their wealth.
That makes it even more important that our side takes advantage of their weaknesses and launches a fightback that makes the rich pay for the crisis, not the working class.
Last Saturday’s Right to Work conference showed the potential for campaigners and workers to create a powerful movement of resistance to the cuts, whoever wins the election.
We need to move now to build on that success in every town and city. We cannot afford to wait.