Unimaginative and tired, the Tories’ leadership is just reinforcing defeat
There is nothing worse, Wellington once advised, than reinforcing defeat. Yet the 2015 blueprint emerging this week suggests that is exactly what the Conservative leadership is doing.
Instead of pursuing bold policies on education or law and order, the Tories are refusing to move anywhere like enough away from the approach which denied them victory in 2010.
The economic debate has barely progressed since then. Throughout this long, long parliament the arguments have been repeated ad nauseam. Both sides have tried to force their own narrative in a dialogue like a conversation between a hectoring mother and a teenager ignoring her on the phone.
The unsightly result has been a form of political gridlock. This has suited the Tories: they want voters to remember it was Labour's fault for as long as possible. Ed Miliband, having made clear he will make the next general election about how expensive it is to buy things these days, has played right into his hands. Osborne's response is to remind voters how limited the alternatives are.
This is the 'choice' which forms the central theme of his speech at a Birmingham factory this morning. "Beware those who come along this year and promise you easy answers, no more sacrifices, just more spending on this and more spending on that, all paid for by more borrowing," Osborne states.
It is more of the same. And there is more to the continuity strand than just the partisan deadlock between Osborne and Ed Balls, who has been quick to point out Brits are on average £1,600 a year worse off "under the Tories".
What really marks out the Conservatives' lack of imagination is their decision to stick with the triple-lock on pensions, as confirmed by David Cameron yesterday. It is the "first plank" of the party's manifesto. The policy, which went down a treat on the doorstep four years ago, is obviously viewed as indispensable by Tory high command.
This might be a mistake – for the Tories must gain votes overall in 2015, not keep the ones it already has. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out, the prime minister's decision means the state pension cost to taxpayers is likely to rise from £60 billion to around £75 billion.
That is an uncomfortably large amount. With NHS spending also likely to be protected, it means other bits of government will have to be cut disproportionately more. That's bad news for the schools Osborne announced today he viewed as a key part of his economic plan. And not great for those who vote Tory because they think the party are the best bet on policing, either.
With the Ukip threat looming larger than ever now the latest wave of immigration to Britain is underway, this is far from the best approach. Cameron and Osborne have become so fixated with the importance of sticking to the plan they have become bogged down in the tactics of defeat.