Newsnight : Tory Conference Day 2, The Economy and Grayling

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The Tories kicked off their election campaigning in earnest with the big speech on the economy today. Jeremy Paxman led Newsnight’s analysis of Osborne’s ‘We Are All In This Together’ speech tonight with a his usual scepticism. Not entirely a thumbs-up for the Shadow Chancellor. I was with Paxman, until he interviewed Chris Grayling MP, the Shadow Home Secretary.

A meek, quiet but relatively confident politician, I had never heard of him. Where have the Tories been hiding this guy ? He met Paxman’s probing well, and offered facts in response to questions. Good god, is this chap a political infant ? Yes indeedy, I have finally heard real numbers being expressed which make some kind of sense. Grayling said that tax rises could not be ruled out but maintained the line that the final numbers would only be known as the economic measures became clear. In other words, a Shadow Budget is needed and, whilst not stated, Grayling lent weight to measured thinking now with hard facts to follow. Above all, he kept to the refrain that cuts in waste are the preferred line to managing the budget deficit.

I found Osborne’s substance interesting, let down slightly by his delivery, but at least making me feel that the Tories are turning towards thinking instead of bitching. If they can get rid of this European blight amidst their rank-and-file then perhaps the week will have seen an about-turn from my criticism of Cameron at the weekend.

With chaps like Grayling in the group, again some cause for optimism amongst Tory supporters. This guy had the same quiet credibility that I would attribute to old hands like Clarke and – especially – William Hague. So much more convincing than some, more manufactured Blair-clones which perhaps remain essential in any party character arsenal in order to get media attention.

If one assumes that Conservative economic policy planning is coming along nicely, we might now look forwards to the Tory position on Foreign Affairs – especially the approach to be taken in Afghanistan and perhaps wider Defence and International Development Policies. Improving Britain’s standing in the world remains a secondary but important priority for me, alongside shoring-up the Union and stoking the domestic economy to increase GDP.

That leaves policy execution. In an earlier article, I made much of the lack of management skills in our existing government. Too early for the Conservatives to pitch this…..yet. One can only hope they remember that the same organisations Osborne and Grayling lauded (corporate Britain) in managing their way out of the slump, did so by skillful and efficient implementation of strategies to achieve their goals. We need politicians who can do, not just talk. Tonight was not the first time I felt one of the parties might have people who can deliver (Vince Cable, for one) but a strong day for the Conservative Party. Pass the champers, Dave !

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