Thought for the day – May 17th

This is purely my personal opinion. There is no corporate Cornerstone view

Is Brown ‘the Bear’ threatening Cameron ‘the Labrador puppy’?

These animal tags are apparently those that focus groups choose when asked to name an animal representing the two leaders.

Neither is particularly flattering, but the old association of the bear with soviet Russia seems politically apt, given the Chancellor’s core belief – shared with the Prime Minister – in the state as the optimum provider of all good things.

The now daily press conferences from Gordon Brown are putting pressure on David Cameron. There is a danger Brown will start creeping up in the polls. Indeed, The Times reported this week that one poll showed Brown was seen as a stronger leader than Cameron [The Times 15 May].

soviet-bear.gifToday Brown announces that by using yet more taxpayers’ money, (albeit money that has lain dormant in bank accounts for fifteen years or more), he will set up a “national network of sports, youth and arts centres”, with ministers said to believe that £300 million will enable at least one community sports, arts or youth centre to be built in every constituency [Telegraph p 14].

Today’s announcement comes hard on the heels of yesterday’s plans to give teenagers “personal mentors” and allow them to take a day per week out of school to train for jobs. Brown has also pledged to end innumeracy among 11-year-olds and give children a “world class” education. Currently 150,000 are innumerate when they start secondary school. One-to-one tuition is also to be offered.

These proposals look like a case of too little too late, patching up the victims of an education system which under this government has delivered escalating grade inflation combined with over half of all children leaving school with not so much as a C grade at GCSE in 5 subjects, including maths and English, while youth unemployment has risen significantly in spite of Brown’s beloved New Deal.

david_cameron1.jpgFor more evidence that the bear is wounded, read the recently published FantasyIsland by Larry Elliott, economics editor of the Guardian [sic] and Dan Atkinson (a former Guardian journalist now writing for the Mail on Sunday). This states that “Blair…leaves behind him a seedy dream world mired in debt and bankruptcy, facing a looming crisis of employment and employability.” No wonder, when many new graduates are “no better qualified than those leaving school with A levels a generation  earlier” [Telegraph Business news p B5 16th May].

Let us hope that when the furore over yesterday’s announcement by David Willets [see yesterday’s Thought for the Day] has died down, David Cameron will show the bear that the so-called ‘puppy’ can hurt him if it bites hard on his already wounded flank.

To do that will require a distinctively conservative approach. Sadly, we do not seem to have one yet as a Party, but I shall be offering a suggestion of my own at the beginning of next month.

Edward Leigh MP

Edward Leigh is Co-Chairman of The Cornerstone Group